MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Tanner Mordecai ran for two touchdowns, Braelon Allen added two more and the Wisconsin defense forced six turnovers — including five interceptions — to help the Badgers beat Georgia Southern 35-14 Saturday.
Hunter Wohler, a junior safety who went into the game with one career interception, picked off two passes, while Ricardo Hallman, Jason Maitre and C.J. Goetz each intercepted throws by Georgia Southern’s Davis Brin. Wohler finished with 10 tackles, including a sack.
Brin, a Tulsa transfer, finished 33 of 53 passes for 383 yards and touchdowns for Georgia Southern (2-1) but committed six turnovers, including a fumbled snap recovered by Wisconsin’s Maema Njongmeta at the Badgers’ 14 in the fourth quarter.
Mordecai finished 19 of 30 for 236 yards passing. He had touchdown runs of 1 and 18 yards for Wisconsin (2-1) in its first meeting against the Eagles.
Mordecai, a SMU transfer, also had seven carries for 36 yards and two touchdowns.
Allen finished with 12 carries for 94 yards and two scores. He also had two catches for five yards.
Chez Mellusi had 15 carries for 61 yards and one touchdown for Wisconsin.
Wisconsin — which had five sacks, two by Darryl Peterson — became the first Big Ten team to record at least five sacks and five or more interceptions in a game since 2000.
Georgia Southern coach Clay Helton said that he was surprised that the Eagles held a one-touchdown lead despite four turnovers early in the second half.
“Anytime you have six turnovers on the day, it doesn’t matter how many yards you have or how you’re moving the ball, that’s going to end up being a loss,” Helton said.
“We’re a little sick in that locker room feeling like we gave away an opportunity to make it a close game going down the stretch. “
Georgia Southern outgained the Badgers 455-451 in total yards.
The Badgers had only 46 rushing yards in the first half. Allen was notably absent for most of the half with 17 yards on four carries in the second quarter.
Mordecai got the Badgers on the board first as he pulled down a high snap and ran 1 yard for the touchdown at 14 minutes, 18 seconds of the second quarter.
The Eagles evened the score at 7-all less than two minutes later on a 4-yard touchdown run by OJ Arnold.
The highlight on Georgia Southern’s first scoring drive was a 68-yard pass to the 4-yard line from Brin to Derwin Burgess Jr.
Wisconsin had three interceptions in the first half but failed to score on all three Eagles’ picks.
Georgia Southern’s Chase Folser missed a 48-yard field goal attempt with 2 seconds left in the first half that would’ve given the Eagles the lead.
The Eagles took a 14-7 lead as Jjay McAfee caught a 25-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter.
Allen got going with a 4-yard touchdown that tied the score at 14 at 10:53 of the third.
The game marked a turnaround for Wisconsin after last week’s 31-14 loss at Washington State. The Cougars held the Badgers’ running back duo of Mellusi and Allen to 69 yards on 19 carries.
Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell said finding “multipliers” or more than one player to contribute on offense at different points in a game, is still a work in progress.
Fickell said balancing Allen’s workload is a topic that the entire staff discusses, with Allen in the room.
“Braelon is an unselfish kid,” Fickell said. “We all have an unselfish nature to us but the key is can we not let it override us with what’s best for the team, and recognize what’s best for the team.
“Sometimes you have to be able to take what people give you. He’s got a lot of attention, not just from the media, but from defenses. That makes it a little more difficult.”
Georgia Southern: Davis shows flashes of confidence, and has many options on offense in Derwin Burgess Jr., Dalen Cobb and Jjay Mcafee but throwing five picks eliminated any Eagles’ momentum.
Wisconsin: Hunter Wohler had a standout performance on defense on Saturday. Wohler, a safety, had 10 tackles (six solo), two interceptions, a sack and a tackle for loss.
Georgia Southern: At Ball State next Saturday.
Wisconsin: Opens Big Ten Conference play at Purdue on Friday night.