Alex Hornibrook threw for 197 yards and a touchdown, settling down after two interceptions in the first half. Garrett Dooley had three of Wisconsin’s eight sacks.
Northwestern’s last drive was thwarted when quarterback Clayton Thorson couldn’t find a receiver out of his own end zone and was sacked by safety D’Cota Dixon for a safety.
Thorson was having a good quarter until then, throwing two touchdown passes in less than 2 minutes. The second to Garrett Dickerson with 2:53 left got the Wildcats within a touchdown.
But Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) stood up the Wildcats (2-2, 0-1) again late to seal the win in each team’s conference opener.
D’Ernest Johnson rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns, receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling took an end-around 75 yards for a touchdown and caught a four-yard scoring pass from Flowers, and Auggie Sanchez returned an interception 43 yards for a TD for USF (5-0, 2-0 American).
Thomas Sirk had two touchdown passes and two scoring runs to keep the Pirates (1-4, 1-1) in it for a while. He hit Davon Grayson for a 31-yard TD and Stephen Baggett with a jump pass for a two-yard TD on the final play of the first half.
Perine bookended two one-yard plunges around a 13-yard scamper as the Gators remained unbeaten in Southeastern Conference play and defeated the Commodores for the 26th time in the last 27 meetings.
Davis, a freshman, ran 17 times for 124 yards. Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks replaced Del Rio in the second quarter and completed 10 of 14 passes for 185 yards. Del Rio, the son of Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was 7-of-11 passing for 64 yards.
The Gators (3-1, 3-0 SEC) and Vanderbilt played a tight game for the third consecutive year. That was an improvement for the Commodores (3-2, 0-2) after a 59-0 home loss to top-ranked Alabama a week ago.