It's A Win
LAS VEGAS, Nev.- It must be something to do with being a Big Ten team and having the No. 5 national ranking stuck before your name.
For the second straight week, a Big Ten team struggled with that label, but unlike Michigan last week against Appalachian State, Wisconsin was able to take care of business at UNLV when it counted, pulling out an ugly 20-13 victory.
The Badgers arrived in the desert with 30,000 fans, and a 27-point favorite label stuck them as well. After a 9-7 halftime lead evaporated into a 13-12 deficit with seven minutes left, the Badgers offense methodically went down the field and scored the deciding touchdown.
Tyler Donovan struggled to get into a rhythm all night long, not to mention his receivers dropped a few passes, as he finished 14-for-26 for 138 yards and one touchdown.
But it was what he did with his legs, that will be remembered.
On 1st and 15 from the UNLV 29, and trailing 13-12 with two minutes to go, Donovan ran a naked bootleg, rolling out to the left and only one man to beat. Donovan did just that, reaching the corner of the endzone as he was being hit by Mil'Von James at the one yard line, but the Wisconsin QB was able to reach the ball across the plane and in for the game-winning touchdown.
He would add on a two-point conversion on a pass to WR Luke Swan to seal a 20-13 win.
Wisconsin star RB P.J. Hill finished with 147 yards on 30 carries, becoming UW's workhorse on that final drive. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said after the game, that he huddled Hill up with Donovan, and told him he's their guy.
"We talked to them in the huddle and told them this is their team," Bielema said. "P.J. put this team on his back there in the fourth quarter."
The Badgers' head coach also praised his whole team's effort, even though it was closer than he had hoped.
"We got ourselves into a dogfight because they made it that way by playing that way in the first half, but the way they handled themselves in the third and fourth quarter is a collective team effort to get our team a victory," Bielema said.
UNLV freshman QB caused a tremendous amount of trouble for the Wisconsin defense. Dixon's numbers don't show how versatile he was on the ground, finishing with only five yards rushing but it was what he did with his arm that caused the most.
Dixon finished 23-for-36 for 258 yards, and completed his first collegiate touchdown pass in the first quarter that gave the Rebels a quick 7-0 lead.
UNLV head coach Mike Sanford knows his team is a work in progress, but they aren't as bad as some make them out to be.
"There are no moral victories, and we won't walk away with one after this game," Sanford said. "But we have to take this and get better from it. We played with one of the best teams in the country until the final minute, and were one play away from doing it. We just have to take that next step, so we don't make that mistake."
No moral victories is one thing, but hanging with the No. 5 team in the country down to the final minute is something that should help the Rebels the rest of the way.
Even though this was Madison West this weekend. The Badgers go home with their No. 5 ranking, their 30,000 fans, and the longest winning steak in the FBS, at 11 games.
Play Of The Game:
It has to be Donovan's naked bootleg that scored the game-winning touchdown from 29 yards out, with a full-length dive that will make every highlight reel tonight and for the rest of the college football season. Donovan took over when he needed to, leading the team on a huge 61 yard drive to convert on the TD.
Player Of The Game:
Give a gameball to P.J. Hill, even though he didn't reach the endzone, he ended up being the workhorse that the Wisconsin offense needed so terribly. Carrying the ball 30 times, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, Hill personally got Wisconsin into position to score that final touchdown.
Coolest Sight Of The Game:
30,000 Wisconsin fans staying in their seats as the UW Band rolled out onto the field for The Fifth Quarter. It looked and sounded like Camp Randall. Insane. The only thing missing today was Jump Around before the 4th. But at that point, no one was in the mood to anyway. The way the fans traveled out here to Vegas for the weekend, is just incredible.
Next For Wisconsin:
The Badgers get a FCS opponent in Madison next Saturday, when The Citadel comes calling. They certainly aren't Appalachian State. But you know people will bring up that whole thing again. Sorry Michigan fans.
Next For UNLV:
The Rebels will face a whole new animal next Saturday when Hawai'i comes calling to Sam Boyd Stadium. Their high flying offense will be a change from what they stopped so well at times against Wisconsin, so Sanford and UNLV will have their work cut out for them with Colt Brennan coming to town.