Entering Saturday's matchup with Washington State as 17-point favorites, the Wisconsin Badgers came in expecting a dog fight.
In a game littered with costly penalties, turnovers, and missed opportunities, Wisconsin lost a heartbreaker 17-14 to Washington State.
After winning the toss, the Wisconsin Badgers opted to take the ball to open the game. After an early first down the Badgers would be forced to punt the ball away to Washington State.
The Cougars had a big 43-yard completion from Cam Ward to Renard Bell get into Wisconsin territory. However, a red zone interception by Max Lofy at the Wisconsin two yard-line would end the drive and give the ball back to the Badgers. The interception was Lofy's first of his career.
Graham Mertz would help move the chains for three consecutive first downs and move the Badgers to midfield on the next drive. However, penalties and some timely tackles for loss by the Washington State defense would halt the Wisconsin drive and force the Badgers to attempt a 51-yard field goal that missed wide-right.
Washington State would proceed to go three-and-out on the next drive, but a punt return error by Wisconsin would pin the Badgers back at their own 10-yard line. The two teams would finish the first quarter scoreless.
Wisconsin would string together several first downs through the air, but in the end would turn the ball over on downs after not converting on a fourth down and short.
The gamble to go for it on fourth down would not work in Wisconsin's favor, as Washington State would answer quickly with a four play drive that amassed 53 yards in just over a minute of game time. Quarterback Cam Ward would make a pair of pretty first down throws and then it was former Wisconsin running back Nakia Watson who punched it in from a few yards out to take a 7-0 lead.
The Badgers would have an answer of their own though. Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi would finally find some open running lanes, and Graham Mertz would cap off a six-play, 65 yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown throw to tight end Clay Cundiff. The touchdown toss was on the money and would tie the game up at seven points apiece.
After neither team could muster much on the next two drives, Wisconsin punter Andy Vujnovich would pin Washington State down at their own four. A terrific open-field tackle by cornerback Max Lofy would force the Cougars to punt the ball from deep in their own territory.
The Badgers would proceed to get the ball back at their own 45-yard line with under two-minutes remaining in the first half. Quarterback Graham Mertz would orchestrate a five-play 45-yard touchdown drive thereafter to give Wisconsin a 14-7 advantage. Mertz found wide receiver Keontez Lewis for a big 40-yard gain, and then finished the drive with a 10-yard strike to tight end Clay Cundiff for a second touchdown on the day.
Wisconsin would take a seven-point lead into halftime.
Renard Bell would take the second-half kickoff back 73 yards for Washington State to set up a scoring opportunity for the Cougars. The Badgers defense would hold Washington State out of the end zone though, and force a short field goal by Dean Janikowski. The attempt was good
On the following drive, a costly chop-block penalty by the Wisconsin would end the Badgers' drive. Andy Vujnovich would boom a 53-yard punt to push Washington State back, but the Cougars quickly got back in business.
After the punt, Wisconsin had a chance to get off the field with Jay Shaw coming up with an interception off Cam Ward, but he fumbled the return, giving Washington State another first down. From there, the Cougars would go the rest of the field on a 31-yard reception from running back Nakia Watson. The former Wisconsin tailback broke a Kamo'i Latu tackle and he found the end zone to give Washington State a 17-14 lead.
With the ball back on offense, Wisconsin would overcome multiple penalties on the offensive live to move the ball down the field and get into a scoring position. Graham Mertz completed passes of 23 and 22 yards during the drive. The Badgers would attempt a 43-yard field goal, but Vito Calvaruso missed his second kick of the game.
After the missed field goal to open the fourth quarter, Wisconsin outside linebacker Nick Herbig would come up with a huge sack to give the Badgers the ball back on their own 35-yard line.
Wisconsin would finally begin to get some movement in the run game with Braelon Allen and Isaac Guerendo each coming up with some solid runs for the Badgers. Guerendo had a 10-yard reception and back-to-back five-yard runs to move the ball down to the nine-yard line for Wisconsin.
Penalties and turnovers would ultimately doom the Badgers on the drive, however. Graham Mertz was intercepted by WSU defender Christian Mejia, who would later fumble the ball on the return, and Wisconsin recovered it to give the Badgers the ball back for a first down. But a few plays later, Mertz hit Clay Cundiff for a first down gain, but he fumbled the ball back to Washington State.
From there, Washington State would salt the game away on the ground and walk out of Camp Randall Stadium with the upset.
Players of the game
- Max Lofy (Wisconsin CB)
Lofy came up with a huge red zone interception to end a Washington State drive early in the first quarter and also had a crucial third-down tackle in the second quarter to end another WSU drive. He was Wisconsin's primary nickel corner and finished the game with four tackles.
- Keontez Lewis (Wisconsin WR)
Wisconsin struggled to run the ball against Washington State at times. As a result, quarterback Graham Mertz had to take ownership of the offense throughout the game. One of his favorite targets on the day was UCLA transfer Keontez Lewis. The 6-foot-2 wide receiver had multiple receptions of 20+ yards, and finished the day with two receptions for 62 yards.
- Nakia Watson (Washington State RB)
The former Wisconsin running back hurt the Badgers on Saturday. While he was not overly efficient as a runner with only 34 yards on 11 carries, he found the end zone twice in the game. The first came on a short-yardage run, and the second was a big 31-yard reception.
- Daiyan Henley (Washington State LB)
Washington State did a great job of bottling up the Wisconsin run game. Linebacker Daiyan Henley played a key role in the game plan, finishing with nine tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Play of the game
Photos of the game
Wisconsin vs. Washington State in pictures
Wisconsin will welcome New Mexico State to Camp Randall Stadium next weekend. The Aggies fell to Minnesota in Week 1 by 38 points and are one of the lowest-ranked teams in the FBS. The contest will take place at 2:30 p.m. CST and be aired on Big Ten Network.
- Wisconsin versus Washington State recruiting visitors list
- Live game thread: Wisconsin vs. Washington State
- Game recap: Wisconsin versus Illinois State
You can keep up to date on everything at All Badgers by liking + following our Facebook page and Twitter account:
You can also follow Site Publisher Matt Belz at @savedbythebelz on Twitter.