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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Bulldogs’ bark scarier than bite in UW victory

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FRESNO, Calif. – The game had high expectations, but this one certainly didn’t disappoint.

The Wisconsin offense didn’t put up its usual numbers, but it took care of the football. The defense bent — as it gave up 343 total yards — but never fully broke; and the special teams — while benefiting from three Fresno State missed field goals — came up big down the stretch, as the No. 10 Badgers (3-0) left Bulldog Stadium unscathed, defeating No. 21 Fresno State (1-1) 13-10 in heart-stopping fashion.


After each team punted on its opening possession, the Bulldogs were given a heavy dose of UW running back P.J. Hill, who finished the day with 112 yards on 26 carries.

Senior tight end Travis Beckum made his first reception of the season on the drive, after missing the team’s first two games with a hamstring injury.

“I was ready to get back out there and play football,” Beckum said.

His quarterback agreed.

“It was very nice having Travis back,” Allan Evridge said. “He’s a playmaker, and we’ll continue to improve and get things going.”

Beckum finished with four catches for 51 yards.

The Badgers found themselves in a third and goal situation on the Fresno State 1-yard line, but both Zach Brown and Hill were denied on successive attempts up the middle, and the Bulldogs took over on downs.

“I wouldn’t change that [decision] to save my life,” UW head coach Bret Bielema said. “I believe we could have got it in. I’m disappointed we didn’t; obviously they did a good job [on defense], and we were able to rebound from it.”

The crowd erupted and the momentum began to shift in favor of the hosts, but the UW defense refused to let that last very long — a trend that would continue all night.

After a pair of Fresno State first downs, defensive end Matt Shaughnessy got his hands on a Tom Brandstater pass at the line of scrimmage. The ball shot straight up into the air and eventually fell into the hands of senior linebacker DeAndre Levy. Three plays later, Evridge found tight end Garrett Graham wide open in the middle of the end zone on a 2-yard play action pass to take an early 7-0 advantage.

“I think it’s resiliency. You think it’s coachspeak, but it’s not what happens in the game, it’s how you react to what happens,” Bielema said of UW’s defensive performance. “If you just understand that things are going to happen and if you just roll with the punches and figure out how to react to it, you can have success.”

After Bulldogs kicker Kevin Goessling missed a 47-yard field goal, the Badgers drove down the field behind a balanced attack featuring Hill and Evridge, who finished with 143 yards passing on 12-for-24, one touchdown and no interceptions. But Brown was stopped shy of the first down marker on third and six, forcing freshman kicker Phillip Welch to hit a 38-yard field goal in his first road attempt in a Badger uniform. His 50-yard attempt was later blocked to end the first half, but Wisconsin ran into the locker room with a 10-0 halftime lead.

The beginning of the second half looked just like that of the first. And after a Brad Nortman 36-yard punt, the Bulldogs were in business. Four plays later, Brandstater found wide receiver Devon Wylie for a 47-yard touchdown strike to cut the Wisconsin lead to three.

The Badgers looked anemic on the subsequent drive, going three and out. Nortman then fumbled a low Dave Peck snap, the punt was blocked, and the Bulldogs took over at the Wisconsin 37-yard line.

“The snap came back; I sort of took my eyes off it,” Nortman said. “When I finally caught it, the smallest bobble opened a window for Fresno State, and they took advantage of it.”

Again, the momentum began to shift heavily toward the home team. But once again, the tough Badger defense came up big, as safety Aubrey Pleasant delivered a blow on Wylie over the middle on third down, making sure the Bulldog wideout couldn’t hang on to the ball. Goessling then pushed a 51-yard field goal wide left, and the Badgers survived another scare.

“It’s awesome to have a defense like that you can rely on,” Evridge said. “It was fun to watch them play tonight.”

Evridge’s offense was lifeless once again on the ensuing drive, as his pass completion to David Gilreath came up just short of a first down, forcing Nortman back onto the field.

But the Badgers were given yet another gift from the Bulldogs’ special teams unit. Nortman’s low punt bounced off a Fresno State player, and Peck pounced on it at the Bulldogs’ 23-yard line.

“That was an incredible momentum swing,” Nortman said. “Anything to get a shorter field for the offense is great.”

But Evridge and company failed to capitalize and they were forced to settle for a 23-yard Welch field goal to take a 13-7 lead.

Then the fun really began.

After a Bulldogs holding penalty during an A.J. Jefferson kickoff return, UW safety Shane Carter hit Wylie over the middle after a short slant. The ball popped loose, Levy fell on it, and the Badgers’ defense had produced yet another monumental turnover.

Or so they thought.

The play was overturned by the officials after reviewing the replay, giving the Bulldogs the ball back.

“On the field, I thought for sure [it was a fumble],” Levy said. “It kind of surprised me.”

Four plays later, Brandstater hit Ryan Mathews for a 61-yard screen pass, taking the Bulldogs down to the 9-yard line. Mathews was dragged down from behind by linebacker Jonathan Casillas — who was making his season debut. After an O’Brien Schofield sack, the Bulldogs settled for a field goal, making the score 13-10.

“I can’t say enough about our defense,” Bielema said. “Obviously those big plays we’ve got to correct, but Jonathan Casillas, in my mind, might have won the game when he ran [Mathews] down and tackled him and turned it into a field goal. If he doesn’t do that, they score a touchdown, and we don’t know if we win this game”

Levy enjoyed having Casillas lined up across from him again, too.

“He chased down that guy and saved that touchdown, so it’s nice to see he still has speed despite the knee injury,” Levy said of Casillas. “That could have been the difference in the game. It was fun being out there with him again.”

But the excitement wasn’t over.

After a Nortman 50-yard punt, the Badgers defense gave up yet another big play: a 57-yard scamper by FSU running back Lonyae Miller. Once again Wisconsin was stingy in the red zone, forcing the Bulldogs to settle for a field goal attempt. But Goessling’s 35-yarder sailed wide right, preserving the slim UW 3-point lead.

On the ensuing possession, Evridge went down, grabbing his hamstring following a deep pass intended for Kyle Jefferson. Badger fans held their breath as their starting quarterback was carted off the field, unable to fight the cramping. In trotted junior Dustin Sherer.

“I had a head cold all week,” Evridge explained. “I was trying to fight [the cramping]; I didn’t want to go out.”

Sherer completed his only pass, a screen to Brown, but the Badgers once again turned things over to the defense after another Nortman punt.

Fresno State traveled into Wisconsin territory as the clock continued to run down. But Levy’s third down sack forced the Bulldogs to punt with about two minutes remaining. They would never get the ball back.

“Our coaches always preach to us, ‘Turnovers and sacks win the game,’ and once I got the sack, I was like, ‘Maybe this is the clinching thing, and the offense can carry it over,” Levy said.

The punt was downed on the UW 1-yard line. Sherer then ran a quarterback sneak for two yards and fullback Bill Rentmeester’s first down rumble up the middle ultimately sealed the deal for the visiting Badgers. Somehow, they were able to escape Fresno with a victory.

“I was pretty jacked,” Rentmeester said of his game-clinching run. “It’s nice to know you have your coaches’ trust in that situation, in a crucial situation.”

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