Football: Bowser shines brightest among running backs in Wildcats’ upset win over Wisconsin


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Isaiah Bowser rumbles toward the goal line during Northwestern’s win over Wisconsin on Saturday. Bowser carried the ball 34 times and out-gained Wisconsin star Jonathan Taylor.

Jonah Dylan, Managing Editor


Coming into Saturday, Jonathan Taylor ranked second in the country in rushing. Isaiah Bowser was tied for 463rd.

That didn’t matter. In a monumental win for Northwestern, Bowser outdueled the Heisman candidate, who rushed for just 46 yards on 11 carries. A week after a breakout performance at Rutgers, Bowser carried 34 times — the most for a Wildcat back since Justin Jackson carried that same amount in 2016 — for 117 tough yards against a respectable Wisconsin defense on Saturday.

“He’ll be sore tomorrow,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We’ve just got to run the ball down the stretch, and I thought he just ran real physical and we had some real good blocks. He had to run through some things and he did.”

Playing without starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook, the Badgers (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) clearly planned to lean on their impressive running game. But Taylor was held for under 100 yards for the first time this season, and rushed for the second-fewest yards of his illustrious career.

Sophomore linebacker Paddy Fisher said the Cats (5-3, 5-1) prepared for Taylor and the Wisconsin rushing attack like any other game, and emphasized that stopping the run is key to shutting down any offense.

“We just come in with that same mindset every week: Stop the run,” he said. “And that’s not gonna change. Whoever it is, running back-wise, quarterback-wise, that’s the mindset.”

Prior to last Saturday’s contest at Rutgers, NU’s biggest problem was its inability to run the ball. After Jeremy Larkin was forced to retire in mid-September, the Cats did not have a bell cow running back to turn to. That changed on Saturday.

After spending a few weeks atop the depth chart, Solomon Vault — who missed last week’s game with an injury — did not receive a carry. John Moten was inactive, while freshman Drake Anderson did not see the field. And for now, at least, NU’s current and future plans at the position seem to center around the freshman from Sidney, Ohio, who ran through Wisconsin defenders all day.

“Coach is always getting on me about running hard, so that’s what I try to do,” Bowser said. “Just try to move piles, try to pick up the extra yards.”

As a whole, NU seems to have figured out its running game, at least for the time being. Quarterback Clayton Thorson has had back-to-back lackluster games in terms of passing yardage, but the Cats have a found a way to win regardless. Thorson ran for 29 yards on eight carries — his most of the season — and scored on two quarterback sneaks.

The Cats rushed for 182 yards on the day, their highest total of the season, and Thorson was quick to heap praise on his freshman backfield partner.

“He’s playing great,” Thorson said. “He’s running really hard. That’s his strength. But he’s also got some speed…he’s playing really well, and we’ve got to continue to get him the ball in order to win.”

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