The Wisconsin Badger defense got off to a good start, holding Western Kentucky to just three points in a 34-3 victory over the Hilltoppers in the season opener on Friday night at Camp Randall.
Wisconsin replaced seven starters on defense from 2017 but the Badgers looked comfortable from the start. The Badgers held the Hilltoppers to just three points on four trips inside the UW 20-yard line.
Overall, 12 players made their Badger debut and nine players made their first starts as a Badger.
The Badgers led 24-0 at halftime, thanks in part to a pair of Jonathan Taylor touchdown runs. Taylor finished with 145 yards on 18 carries to go along with the two scores. Taylor topped the 100-yard mark for the 11th time in his 15-career games. He now ranks No. 2 at UW in career rushing average, at 6.69 yards per carry.
Taylor also became the 17th player in UW history to eclipse 2,000 yards rushing for his career. Taylor reached the 2,000-yard plateau in just 15 career games, the second-fastest in UW history. Ron Dayne went over 2,000 yards rushing in only 13 games in 1996.
Junior QB Alex Hornibrook finished with 257 yards passing and two touchdowns, coming one yard shy of his career-best 258 yards vs. Miami in the 2017 Orange Bowl.
The screen pass is something that was hard to come by for the Badgers last season, but sophomore RB Garrett Groshek grabbed the first touchdown reception of his career on a 43-yard pass from Alex Hornibrook in the 4th quarter.
Wide receiver A.J. Taylor had 5 catches for 85 yards and redshirt freshman TE Jake Ferguson finished with 4 catches for 43 yards.
Kicker Rafael Gaglianone returned to action earlier in the week and Friday night made field goals of 39 and 42 yards. Gaglianone has now converted 28 of his last 31 attempts, dating back to the 2015 Holiday Bowl.
The Badgers return to Camp Randall Stadium next Saturday to host New Mexico (11 a.m.)