As soon as the 2008 NCAA football schedule was released, many circled the week three matchup between Wisconsin and Fresno State, marking it as an early road trap for the Badgers against a tough WAC opponent.
Saturday night, the Badgers (3-0) went into a sold-out Bulldog Stadium and emerged with a 13-10 victory, ending Fresno State’s (1-1) hopes of becoming this season’s BCS buster.
During his weekly press conference Monday, UW head coach Bret Bielema discussed what the win meant to the team.
“[Fresno State] was the first non-conference opponent that we beat that was ranked in the last 50 years,” Bielema said. “It was a great accomplishment not only for our team, but for our program, and the University of Wisconsin.”
The last time the Badgers recorded a road win over a ranked non-conference opponent was in 1958.
When asked what this win meant for the remainder of the season, Bielema was quick to point out the team’s next road test in Ann Arbor.
“I think it’s just the phrase ‘been there, done that,’” Bielema said. “We are going to be going on the road to Michigan. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to win up there as a program. … I think there’s something you want to draw from the way our kids handled the road. They embraced the environment.”
Hill, Shaughnessy earn game honors from coach
Bielema handed off the offensive game ball to running back P.J. Hill, who rushed for 112 yards. “Although he didn’t get in the end zone, I don’t know if I’ve seen him play better,” Bielema said of Hill. “The way that he handled the game, the situations that came at him, he really did a good job to hang onto the football.”
Despite senior linebacker DeAndre Levy being named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week with an interception, a sack and nine total tackles, Bielema awarded the defensive game ball to senior defensive lineman Matt Shaughnessy.
“Matt Shaughnessy was outstanding in the game,” Bielema said. “He obviously created the big play.”
Shaughnessy only finished with two tackles, but the big play Bielema referred to was a deflection in which Shaughnessy got his hand on a pass from Fresno State quarterback Tom Brandstater. The ball was batted into the air and was intercepted by Levy.
Sophomore defensive back Aaron Henry has missed the first three games of the season, but Bielema is optimistic that he may be available for next Saturday’s matchup against the Wolverines.
“Our goal [for Henry] has always been to be back for Michigan,” Bielema said.
Junior linebacker Javery McFadden suffered an injury in Saturday night’s win and had to leave the game with a clubbed hand. He will undergo surgery this week and is expected to be back next Tuesday.
Both quarterback Allan Evridge and Jason Chapman experienced cramps during the game. Though Evridge did not return, Bielema said his signal caller is in good health and ready to practice. Bielema noted that Chapman, however, also “had some ligament damage to his hands. He will be casted and ready to play.”
The Badgers welcomed back senior tight end Travis Beckum and senior outside linebacker Jonathan Casillas from injuries. Beckum caught four balls for 51 total yards, while Casillas recorded seven tackles. Bielema said having Casillas and Beckum back was “huge.”
“I think just for the energy during the course of the week,” Bielema said. “A game on Saturday may have been won during the course of the week when Travis practiced the way he did.”
Effects of overturned fumble call still linger
The Badgers managed to hang on despite officials overturning what looked to be a Fresno State fumble. It appeared Levy recovered the ball on the Bulldogs’ 26-yard line, but a challenge resulted in the call being overturned.
“Obviously as a Wisconsin fan, a Wisconsin coach, anybody that has a W on their heart, they felt that was one that should have stayed with the ruling on the field,” Bielema said of the call. “But the officials, you’ve got to trust what they say.”
The ensuing drive ultimately resulted in a missed field goal attempt by Fresno State kicker Kevin Goessling.