Wisconsin’s defense shines in Homecoming win over Rutgers

The Wisconsin Badgers celebrated their Homecoming with a 24-13 victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers’ defense was the star of the show, limiting the Rutgers offense to two touchdowns and forcing three turnovers.

Badgers dominate the first half

Wisconsin wasted no time in taking control of the game, scoring on their first two possessions. Quarterback Graham Mertz connected with tight end Jake Ferguson for a 14-yard touchdown pass, and running back Chez Mellusi added a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Badgers a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

The Badgers’ defense was equally impressive, holding the Scarlet Knights to just 58 yards and two first downs in the first half. Wisconsin also intercepted Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral twice, once by cornerback Faion Hicks and once by safety Scott Nelson.

Wisconsin added a 22-yard field goal by Collin Larsh in the second quarter to extend their lead to 17-0 at halftime.

Rutgers rallies in the second half

Rutgers came out of the locker room with more energy and urgency in the second half, scoring on their first drive. Vedral found wide receiver Bo Melton for a 28-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 17-7.

The Scarlet Knights continued to pressure the Badgers’ offense, forcing a fumble by Mertz that was recovered by linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi. Rutgers capitalized on the turnover with a 37-yard field goal by Valentino Ambrosio to make it 17-10.

Wisconsin’s defense shines in Homecoming win over Rutgers

Wisconsin responded with a 75-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Mellusi, his second of the game. The Badgers regained a two-score lead at 24-10 with 10:36 left in the fourth quarter.

Rutgers refused to give up, driving to the Wisconsin 9-yard line with less than four minutes remaining. However, the Badgers’ defense came up with another big play, as linebacker Leo Chenal sacked Vedral and forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive end Matt Henningsen.

The Scarlet Knights got one more chance to score after Wisconsin punted, and Ambrosio made a 52-yard field goal as time expired. But it was too little, too late, as the Badgers secured their fourth consecutive win and improved to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten.

Key stats and players

Wisconsin outgained Rutgers 352-217 in total yards and had a 36:24-23:36 advantage in time of possession. The Badgers also converted 9 of 16 third downs, while holding the Scarlet Knights to 3 of 13.

Mertz completed 11 of 16 passes for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for 45 yards on seven carries. Mellusi led the Badgers’ rushing attack with 117 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Ferguson was the top receiver with four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.

Vedral completed 14 of 24 passes for 141 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for 49 yards on nine carries. Melton had five receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown. Fatukasi had a game-high 12 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery for Rutgers.

Chenal had nine tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble for Wisconsin. Nelson had eight tackles and one interception. Hicks had six tackles and one interception.

What’s next?

Wisconsin will travel to Evanston, Illinois, next Saturday to face the Northwestern Wildcats, who are coming off a bye week. The Badgers have lost their last two meetings with the Wildcats, including a 17-7 defeat last year.

Rutgers will host the Indiana Hoosiers next Saturday at SHI Stadium. The Scarlet Knights are looking for their first win over the Hoosiers since joining the Big Ten in 2014. Indiana is coming off a 38-35 loss to Michigan State.

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