Penn State will need to stop Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor if they plan on winning Saturday’s game against the Badgers.
How do you stop a running back like Jonathan Taylor who is averaging 6.6 yard per carry, has 1,363 rushing yards on the season and 11 rushing touchdowns?
This is the question that Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry will try to answer this Saturday when the Wisconsin Badgers and their star player come to Beaver Stadium to play the Nittany Lions at Noon. It won’t be an easy feat for a defense who let up over 200 yards on the ground against Michigan.
Taylor is coming off a big game against Big Ten cellar-dweller Rutgers.
Looking at Taylor’s game log, one team seemed to find the recipe to slowing down the Badgers star running back. Northwestern held Taylor to 46 yards on 11 carries. Taylor didn’t score in that game, and Wisconsin lost.
There are a few things to take into account: 1. Wisconsin didn’t have their starting quarterback, which may be the case this Saturday, and 2. Northwestern capitalized on mistakes. Taylor fumbled twice against the Wildcats.
In 2017, Taylor fumbled the ball eight times. His ball carrying issues came on later in the season last year. Penn State can only hope that the fumble bug is biting Taylor again as the season winds down.
It’s common sense that forcing and capitalizing on fumbles will result in a positive outcome for the defense. Penn State’s defense will really need to cause havoc, and can do so by getting to backup quarterback Jack Coan, if he does start. Taylor fumbled after receiving a handoff from Coan against Northwestern. Their chemistry isn’t that great.
The key isn’t just forcing a fumble; Penn State needs to do it early. Taylor is used to being consistently successful and finding his stride as the game goes on, but if he’s rattled early on, he can lose his mojo, just like he did against Northwestern.
There’s a lot of predictability to the Badgers’ offense, and hopefully PSU is aware of this. With Hornibrook, the offense is close to being multi-dimensional, but with Coan possibly starting, it will be as one dimensional as it gets. If given the chance, Jonathan Taylor will touch the ball 20-plus times. Setting the tone, creating that key turnover and squashing Taylor’s confident will be the key to stopping him, and forcing Wisconsin to dig deeper in the playbook. The Badgers are1-2 In games where Taylor touched the ball less than 20 times.
Another key to stopping Taylor is the ability to dominate Wisconsin’s offensive line. Going into this season, many regarded the Badgers’ offensive line as the best in the nation, but they’ve been inconsistent and underperforming at times. Look at their poor play against teams like BYU and Northwestern.
If the Nittany Lions’ defensive line can set the tone early on by dominating upfront against this unit, they’ll either create those previously mentioned big plays, or allow the linebackers to make those plays that will swallow up Taylor.
The Nittany Lions’ defense hasn’t shown much promise this season, but if they can dominate upfront somehow, force a fumble and keep Taylor under 20 carries, they can possibly earn some respect and build morale in the locker room. If all else fails and PSU can’t stop Jonathan Taylor, just keep Wisconsin under 210 total rushing yards (they’re 5-0 in every game they’ve rushed for 210-plus yards).