By GENARO C. ARMAS, AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jonathan Taylor keeps reaching impressive goals with every yard that he gains in an impressive freshman season at Wisconsin.
A whole new set of landmarks are within reach for the Big Ten’s leading rusher when the fifth-ranked Badgers host Maryland on Saturday.
Most remarkable of all: just 14 more yards will give Taylor 1,000 on the season in just seven games. This from a running back who wasn’t even in the conversation to see significant playing time when training camp opened in the summer.
“He runs physical. He’s hard to tackle. He finishes runs, he’s always falling forward, he’s got good speed, good vision,” Terrapins coach D.J. Durkin said. “He’s very in sync with the offensive line, with the blocking scheme.”
This could turn into a long afternoon for Maryland (3-3, 1-2) and its conference-worst defense . The Terps are allowing 174.3 yards a game on the ground, including 171 and two touchdowns last week to Justin Jackson in a loss to Northwestern .
The ugly totals for the Maryland defense from the previous two weeks: 99 points and 1,115 yards allowed.
“It’s not really a matter of scheme. I’m sure there’s always times where you can have a better call for a certain situation, when you go back and look at it,” Durkin said. “I just think guys have got to win 1-on-1s.”
About the only way the Terps could have a shot is if the Badgers keep having spurts of choppy play on offense. Last week in a 17-9 win over Purdue, Wisconsin scored on its first two drives, then had three turnovers before finishing off the Boilermakers by grinding out an eight-plus minute series on the ground.
In other games, the Badgers have started slowly with the ball. Coach Paul Chryst said it comes down to simply executing and being decisive.
“It’s something we can clean up, we can be sharper. That’s it, really,” left tackle Michael Deiter said.
Some other things to watch:
CLAMPING DOWN: No inconsistency at Wisconsin on defense, which has been stout all season. Withstanding a couple key injuries, the front seven has put consistent pressure on quarterbacks. A shutdown secondary gives quarterbacks headaches. Wisconsin in fifth nationally in scoring defense (13.3 points) and sixth in total defense (265.0 yards).
POCKET PASSER: Maryland quarterback Max Bortenschlager has proven to be effective when running the football, but that ploy won’t be on display often against Wisconsin’s athletic defense. Bortenschlager got the job after the first two quarterbacks on the depth chart, Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill, sustained season-ending injuries on running plays. “We’ve got to make sure that if we’re going to design quarterback runs that they’re going to be protected, they’re as safe as we can possibly make them,” offensive coordinator Walt Bell said.
Though his 34 yards on the ground led Maryland last week against Northwestern, Bortenschlager is better as a passer — he hasn’t thrown an interception in his three starts.
EFFICIENT PASSER: Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook has been efficient this season, completing 65 percent of his passes. He’s also 14 of 20 for 142 yards and eight touchdowns in the red zone. But he also has five interceptions over the past three weeks, all in Big Ten play. They’re not all his fault. But if a Terps defense that had two picks last week can force Hornibrook into a few more miscues , Maryland might be able to hang around on the road.
MOORE TARGETS: Maryland’s most potent offensive weapon is receiver DJ Moore, who last week had 12 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Moore leads the Big Ten with seven touchdown catches and 624 yards receiving, with most of them coming after the catch.
ROLE REVERSAL: Wisconsin excels in what the team calls “sudden change” situations, when the defense has to take the field after a turnover or special teams mistake. It was a point of pride especially last week, when the Badgers allowed just three points to Purdue off three turnovers and a blocked punt.
“The way that we handle adversity is so good,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “We all know someone is going to make a play and you want to be that guy to make a play to spark it.”
AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in College Park, Maryland, contributed to this report.
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