MINNEAPOLIS — After a 19-play, 80-yard Minnesota touchdown drive that took 7 minutes, 48 seconds off the clock Saturday, the University of Wisconsin football team appeared to be in an insurmountable 34-24 hole with 3:27 left to play.
The Badgers, though, went on the offensive quickly on the ensuing possession.
“I think (Minnesota was) kind of confused,” UW wide receiver Brandon Williams said. “They still was in their base coverage and we was in obvious two-minute mode. We just kind of wham-bam-bam, everything happened so fast.”
Dywon Rowan fielded a short kickoff and returned it four yards to the UW 29. On first down, tailback Brian Calhoun ran for five yards. Quarterback John Stocco then scrambled for two yards, bringing up third-and-three at the 36.
As he did several times Saturday, Stocco looked for Williams, this time completing a pass to him for 24 yards to the UM 40.
After an incomplete pass intended for Williams, Stocco connected with Calhoun for a five-yard pass. On third-and-five, Williams caught a 14-yard pass from Stocco.
That set up Williams’ 21-yard touchdown reception, which drew the Badgers within 34-31 with 2:10 left to play.
“We had to get points and we just didn’t want to give up,” Stocco said.
After an onside kick attempt gave Minnesota the ball at its 8, the Wisconsin defense took the field and forced the Gophers to punt. After picking up 501 total yards prior to that drive, Minnesota was held to nine yards on three Laurence Maroney runs.
On third-and-three from the 15, linebacker Mark Zalewski stopped Maroney at the 17.
“I think it was a power right at me,” Zalewski said. “Or it was a strong-side zone I believe. I just tried to get in there and a couple guys got there at the line of scrimmage and just blew it up.”
During the Gophers’ long fourth-quarter touchdown drive, Maroney picked up three yards and a first down on fourth-and-one from the Badger 4. That set up tailback Gary Russell’s second touchdown run of the game. But Maroney ran for just 19 yards on his last nine carries. He had 239 yards on his first 34 rushes.
UM’s inability to pick up one last first down forced a punt attempt. UW reserve linebacker Jonathan Casillas blocked Justin Kucek’s try, and Ben Strickland recovered it in the end zone for the Badgers’ game-winning touchdown.
Wisconsin 38. Minnesota 34.
“We are always thinking that we have a chance,” Zalewski said. “It’s unbelievable what happened. But we thought going in if we could get a three-and-out that our offense or special teams could make a play.”
“That just goes to show what can happen if you keep fighting,” Stocco said. “Fortunately for us we got a couple plays at the end.”
“That’s just how this team is,” Williams said. “Our motto is ‘Finish’ and we play every snap, every play. That’s just how we go out there.”
Moving on up
Wisconsin’s win Saturday, coupled with Penn State’s loss to Michigan later in the day, helped create a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten standings, and a five-way tie in the loss column. Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa are all 3-1 in conference play, while Northwestern and Ohio State are 2-1. The Badgers and Nittany Lions have the best overall records at 6-1 each. Minnesota fell a game back at 2-2 in the conference and 5-2 overall.
“Coach (Barry) Alvarez said this was ‘Separation Saturday’,” Williams said. “We needed to get this win to kind of separate ourselves in the Big Ten and be in the top.
“We still got our invitation to the party, but we don’t know what party we’re going to yet…
“This was a very big game. We prepared like it was a big game. And now every week has to be like this.”
Another game-changing play
The dramatic punt block and touchdown that gave Wisconsin its 38-34 win Saturday has been nominated for Pontiac’s Game-Changing Performance of the Week.
Fans can vote on the award by following this link
This is the second time this season a Wisconsin play has been nominated. Brandon Williams won the award for his 85-yard kickoff return versus Bowling Green in week one.
Last year, Wisconsin cornerback Scott Starks’ game-winning touchdown on a fumble return versus Purdue was named Game-Changing Performance of they Year.
The Badgers face the Boilermakers (0-3 Big Ten, 2-4 overall) in Camp Randall this week.
Who wants the ball?
Saturday, for the first time this year, and just the third time in the past two seasons, Wisconsin had control of the ball for less time than its opponent. The Gophers dominated time-of-possession, 35:15-24:45, behind a running game that pounded out 411 yards on 63 attempts. The Badgers, however, won the game.
Coincidentally, in every Big Ten game Saturday, the team that won in time of possession lost the game. Interestingly, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Northwestern had been ranked first, second and fourth in the league in time of possession, but all three won Saturday despite losing in time of possession.
Michigan State held an incredible 40:59-19:01 time-of-possession advantage on Ohio State, but the Buckeyes won the game 34-24. OSU accomplished this on the back of three touchdown passes of more than 40 yards, and a touchdown on a 72-yard blocked field goal return.
Indiana also played keep-away but lost. The Hoosiers held the ball for 40:09, compared to Iowa’s 19:51. But the Hawkeyes claimed a 38-21 win. Big plays were also key in this result. The Hawkeyes scored on touchdown runs of 26, 31 and 30 yards, and a pass of 42 yards.
Northwestern topped Purdue 34-29, despite losing the time-of-possession battle 32:10-27:50.
Penn State edged Michigan in time of possession, 30:49-29:11, but lost the game, 27-25, on a last-second touchdown pass from Chad Henne to Mario Manningham. The Nittany Lions entered Saturday ranked No. 11 in the conference in possession time, at 27:27 per game.
Trouble before halftime
When Minnesota kicker Jason Giannini made a 25-yard field goal with no time left on the first-half clock, it marked the fifth time in seven games that the Badgers have allowed a score in the final two minutes before halftime.
Badgers move up in polls
As a result of their 38-34 win at Minnesota, Wisconsin moved up four spots in the Associated Press poll to No. 19. The Badgers are No. 17 in the USA Today coaches’ poll, up six spots from last week.
Other ranked Big Ten teams include Penn State (No. 12 AP, No. 14 coaches), Ohio State (14/13), Michigan State (22/22), and Minnesota (NR/25).