Last Saturday’s Big Ten matchup featured two teams with common offensive ideologies, but a difference in execution decided the game in its final minutes. Wisconsin defeated Iowa, 28-17, behind a fourth quarter 10-play, 88-yard drive in the waning moments. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:
14 D’Cota Dixon 5’10, 198 Wisconsin S-Senior
Dixon is the veteran leader of the secondary for the Badgers. Wisconsin uses Dixon in a variety of ways and his performance doesn’t dip no matter the role. Against Iowa, Dixon spent time as the eighth player in the box to help in run support, played as a single high safety and even contributed a forced fumble on the punt coverage team. If that wasn’t enough, Dixon shadowed slot receivers and split tight ends in man-to-man coverage on a few occasions. Dixon projects to be a middle round pick in the upcoming draft and what separates playing time for young players in the NFL is their ability to contribute in a variety of ways. He checks off that category, and look for him to continue his solid play across the board.
23 Jonathan Taylor 5’11 221 Wisconsin RB-Sophomore
There might not be a better marriage of offensive system and player in college football than Wisconsin and Jonathan Taylor. Taylor makes the Badgers downhill, grind it out possession-by-possession style work. Week after week, quarter after quarter, Taylor imposes his will on opposing defenses and rarely seems tired. Despite only being a sophomore, his technique stands out. The New Jersey native is patient with his pulling guards and rides their hip before exploding to the outside. Taylor is able to keep his body fresh and save his legs because he is astute with his reads and never gives opposing defenders “a clean hit.” Don’t let the fundamentals fool you, Taylor still has some open field make you miss ability in his game, and a good example was his side step of Iowa’s defensive tackle after the lineman went unblocked up the middle. The Wisconsin running back runs with knees high and his shoulders low, leaving little for defenders to tackle. Taylor finished with 113 yards on 25 carries.
Iowa’s sophomore wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6’1, 175) and Wisconsin’s junior wide receiver A.J. Taylor (5’11, 203) play similar roles on different teams. Both stretch the defense horizontally and vertically for their respective units and put the fear of the big play in the minds of opposing defensive coordinators, whose first priority is to stop the rushing attack. Taylor is used on deep passes to the outside and he can be a problem in the slot running across the middle of the field. Taylor caught the game-winning touchdown after he beat Iowa linebacker Jack Hockaday on a vertical route concept. Smith-Marsette was used on an end around, where he picked up 20 yards on the ground. In the pass game, Smith-Marsette is averaging 18 yards per catch and -as the numbers would indicate- he’s usually running routes for big plays. If you ever watch Wisconsin and Iowa and wonder why teams don’t put eight or nine men in the box at all times, matchup nightmares like Taylor and Smith-Marsette may be the answers.