Finally! Badgers break through

(AJ Maclean/Badger Nation)

Wisconsin tops Michigan in dramatic come-from-behind 23-20 victory to improve to 4-0

MADISON — Playing in a city that loves to hate its team's quarterback, Wisconsin's John Stocco has never been, and probably never will be, loved more in Madison than he is right now.

Down four points to Michigan with less than one minute left in the Saturday's game, with third-and-goal to go from the four-yard line, the junior executed a quarterback draw play to a T, driving into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

The 23-20 victory came in front of 83,022 roaring fans who helped will the team to win.

This was not a win over a Bowling Green, a Temple or a North Carolina, this was the big one, Wisconsin's first over Michigan since 1994.

"It's a big win and we put a lot into it and it's a good team that we beat," UW head coach Barry Alvarez said. "It's one of the bigger wins we've had in our program, I think."

"Being a senior it is unbelievable, but showing that we can beat this team is a lot better," captain Brett Bell said. "It was the best game that I think I've ever been a part of."

How sweet it was for Alvarez to post a win against the No. 14 Wolverines. After coming so close so many times over the last 10 years, the head coach emerged victorious in his final shot against them.

Stocco's touchdown capped a drive that lasted more than four minutes as junior running back Brian Calhoun accounted for all but 13 of the 52 yards.

"I think it was a good situation to [run the draw] in and it was unbelievable," Stocco said. "I saw nothing but green in front of me."

There was no reason for Michigan to expect the draw from Stocco in that situation.

He had already gone to the air on first and second down from the same spot without success and the Wolverines had been getting a healthy diet of Calhoun all night long. Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr suspected Wisconsin would run the ball, but his players most likely were not expecting it to be coming from a Badger wearing the number 7.

"We expected them to run the football on that down because they had a [timeout] left," Carr said. "They just did a good job of executing a good play. It was a good call on their part."

The game-winning score capped off a great second-half turnaround from the Badger defense — a squad that gave up 13 first-half points, but it very well could have been twice as many after surrendering 263 yards.

"I thought the defense really set the tempo and swung the momentum our way when we started the second half with two three-and-outs," Alvarez said. "That's a dangerous group. I thought our defense really played super."

Michigan held a more than two-minute advantage in time of possession through the first 30 minutes, but the defense kept itself off the field for most of the second half, and by the end of the game swung that margin to nearly 10 minutes in their favor.

"The key was our defense was getting off the field," Alvarez said.

The Wolverine defense spent more than two-thirds of the second half on the field. Playing strong when they were fresh early in the game, it looked as if kicker Taylor Mehlhaff would provide the only points for UW.

Mehlhaff had a perfect night, hitting field goals from 35, 43 and 27 yards before the Badgers finally found the end zone.

The Badgers just kept bending the Wolverine defense, until finally it broke.

"We were out there too long," Carr said. "As we got into the second half, everything changed. We couldn't get a drive going."

Jump-starting the Wisconsin defense was the play of junior safety Johnny White. In the starting lineup to begin the season, White's play against Bowling Green sent him to the bench the last few weeks.

"He started the first game and for a guy to be able to come back and back up [Stellmacher] and lose his starting job and then come into a game like Michigan, that's nothing but character," Bell said.

When staring strong safety Joe Stellmacher went down with a stinger in the second quarter, White knew he had to get the job done.

"I wasn't really thinking about redeeming myself," White said. "I just didn't want to bring us down."

And he did not let the team down on any level. White forced a fumble early in the fourth quarter which, moments later, led to the Badgers' first touchdown and first lead of the game, 16-13.

Down 13-6 after three quarters, Wisconsin's defense knew they needed to keep the game within reach.

"We were looking for big plays," said Mark Zalewski, who recovered the fumble. "We knew that we had to get something going and the defense stepped up and made a couple big plays at the end."

On the Wolverines' very next possession, White came up with another turnover, this time an interception.

Michigan tried to swing the momentum midway through the final quarter, pulling off a 49-yard flea-flicker pass from Chad Henne to freshman Mario Manningham for the team's only score of the second half.

But the resilient Badgers would not be denied.

While hindsight is 20/20, the Wolverines need only look back to their first possession and think about what could have been. Rather than kick a field goal when it was fourth-and-goal from the one yard line, Carr opted to go for the six points instead of three.

Kevin Grady could not break the plane of the goal line, and in the end, the Badgers won by a margin of three points.

While Stocco's numbers were far from magnificent, he was as effective as he has been all year. He finished 15-of-32 for 147 yards and had one interception.

But it was Calhoun who continued to be the driving force of the Wisconsin offense. He had 35 carries for 155 yards and one touchdown and also had seven catches for 59 yards.

"It was a special performance by a really elite player," co-offensive coordinator Brian White said. "I talked to him before the game and said ‘Big time players make the difference in games like this,' and he did."

After three non-conference wins, the Badgers had done little to gain any respect from the doubters who had given them little credit going into the season. But this high-profile victory will undoubtedly turn some heads.

"I don't know how people wouldn't give us credit now," Zalewski said. "We're 4-0 and we've done all we could do. We're just going to keep on rolling."

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