Wisconsin tops Maryland 31-24 for 5th straight victory
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) At halftime, Wisconsin's leading rusher was a linebacker and Joel Stave had 20 yards passing along with an interception.
If not for Natrell Jamerson's 98-yard kickoff return and a successful fake punt, the Badgers might have been in serious trouble against lowly Maryland.
Stave found his rhythm in the second half, leading two touchdown drives that carried Wisconsin to a harder-than-expected 31-24 victory Saturday.
''I don't think any area, any group or any individual was perfect,'' Badgers coach Paul Chryst said. ''But we found a way to fight and scratch and claw and get one.''
Stave finished with 188 yards through the air, and his 3-yard run on fourth down in the final minute sealed Wisconsin's fifth straight victory.
''I thought he was good,'' Chryst said. ''You saw his competitiveness and resiliency at the end of the game.''
At halftime, though, Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) had 94 yards in offense and was tied with a team looking for its first win since Sept. 19. More than half of those 94 yards came on a 57-yard run by outside linebacker Joe Schobert on a fake punt.
In the second half, however, the Badgers dominated.
Wisconsin took the lead for good in the third quarter when Alex Ingold scored on a 1-yard run to make it 24-17, and a 7-yard touchdown pass from Stave to Dare Ogunbowale with 14:01 remaining put Maryland in a formidable hole.
The Terrapins (2-7, 0-5) closed to 31-24 with 2:39 left and recovered the onside kick. But they were offside on the play and never got the ball back.
It was the sixth consecutive loss for Maryland, the last three under the guidance of interim coach Mike Locksley.
''Defensively, I think we played well enough to win,'' Locksley said. ''Offensively, we were a little inconsistent.''
Locksley used two quarterbacks, each of whom threw an interception, and Maryland totaled only 138 yards in offense after halftime.
The Badgers came in with the top scoring defense in the nation, allowing just 11 points per game, but Maryland had 17 at halftime after scoring touchdowns on drives of 32 and 33 yards.
In the second half, Maryland didn't cross midfield until the final four minutes.
''We just didn't finish and execute on plays that we knew we could make,'' receiver D.J. Moore said.
After running for 398 yards over the previous three games, Terps quarterback Perry Hills finished with minus-14 yards, a sum that included four sacks. He was pulled in the fourth quarter after going 6 for 16 for 107 yards.
His replacement, Caleb Rowe, threw Maryland's 25th interception of the season.
Later, Rowe connected with Levern Jacobs for a 27-yard touchdown to cap a 76-yard drive. But the Badgers recovered the onside kick following a penalty on the first attempt.
Early on, the Terrapins hung tight with a team that beat them 52-7 last year.
Maryland used a partially blocked punt and a 40-yard touchdown pass from Hills to Moore to make it 17-all at halftime.
Besides the kickoff return, Wisconsin's biggest play in the first half was the fake punt that set up a 21-yard touchdown run by Ogunbowale.
''We didn't throw the ball a ton in the first half because of the lack of opportunities,'' Stave said.
A 24-yard punt, a pass interference call and a 7-yard touchdown run by Wes Brown put Maryland up 7-0. The lead lasted for 13 seconds - the amount of time it took Jamerson to collect the kickoff and make his way down the right sideline into the end zone.
Maryland kicker Brad Craddock appeared to sustain an injury trying to make a tackle on the play. Backup Adam Greene handled the kicking duties the rest of the way.
It was 14-10 before Hills threw an ill-advised pass off his back foot and against his body that was intercepted by Tanner McEvoy, setting up a Wisconsin field goal.
The Badgers were without running back Corey Clement, who had lingering soreness from sports hernia surgery. Clement missed seven games before returning last week to score three touchdowns against Rutgers.
Ogunbowale carried 19 times for 47 yards and a touchdown.