Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers outlast Hawkeyes to set up winner-take-all against Gophers


IOWA CITY, Iowa — With a first down needed to ensure Iowa would not get the ball back, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave dropped back to pass. After all, that’s what he’s in there for in this two-quarterback system, to throw the ball.

Except he ran.

Stave, who completed 11 of his 14 passes for 139 yards, tucked the ball after finding no open receivers, and picked up 12 yards on the scramble with 1:55 remaining in the fourth quarter to seal the 26-24 win for the Badgers (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) over the Hawkeyes (7-4, 4-3) Saturday.


“It was really, really well-covered downfield,” Stave said of his run. “They did a very good job covering everything up. So I just tried to work through my progression to the field and nothing was there.

“At some point that clock in your head goes off and says ‘I can’t stand here anymore,’ so I just took it down.”

Stave banged up his knee on the play and was visibly limping after the game, but insisted he was fine.

The victory means Wisconsin will play Minnesota Saturday at Camp Randall not only for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, but for the Big Ten West title and a trip to Indianapolis for the conference championship game.

The Badgers had a couple of opportunities to finish off Iowa before that final drive but were unable to do so. With 8:20 to go in the third quarter and UW up 16-3, Melvin Gordon broke his first big rush of the day from Wisconsin’s own eight-yard line. He bounced to the far sideline after right guard Kyle Costigan pulled and sealed off a defender, and Gordon took it to the Iowa three-yard line for an 88-yard gain.

Wisconsin couldn’t capitalize though. Gordon picked up a yard on first and goal, and quarterback Tanner McEvoy was stuffed on second down before Gordon was dropped for a loss the next play. Kicker Rafael Gaglianone booted a 23-yard field goal game to make it 19-3 with 5:33 to go in the third.

With circumstances looking bleak for the Hawkeyes, quarterback Jake Rudock led his team on a seven play, 78-yard touchdown drive and two-point conversion to make it a one-score game at 19-11. After running back Mark Weisman spun for a crucial fourth-down pickup, Rudock hooked up with wideout Taveaun Smith behind Wisconsin cornerback Darius Hillary for a 31-yard completion to the Wisconsin 28.

Following a Jordan Canzeri eight-yard rush, Rudock delivered a perfectly thrown ball to Kevonte Martin-Malley, who made a diving catch in the end zone for a 20-yard score. On the ensuing two-point attempt, a strong second effort from Canzeri cut Wisconsin’s lead to eight at 19-11.

With the Wisconsin defense on its heels, Rudock picked up right where he left off on the next Iowa possession. He found wideout Matt VandeBerg over the middle for a 28-yard gain, and on the next play, a wide-open tight end Jake Duzey on the right sideline for a 33-yard pickup to the Wisconsin 21.

A questionable defensive pass interference call on Hillary in the end zone set up a designed run for Rudock from three yards out, which made it 19-17. Iowa went for two in an effort to tie the ballgame, but UW linebacker Derek Landisch pressured Rudock as he rolled to his right, and his pass was knocked down by linebacker Joe Schobert, preserving a two-point Wisconsin lead.

“It feels good that the team could seal the deal, offense and defense,” safety Michael Caputo, who finished with a team-high 11 tackles, said. “We feed off each other’s momentum and energy. The way it swung today it just so happened that the offense came up and made some big plays that the defense kind of struggled to make.”

It was the Melvin Gordon show when Wisconsin got the ball back after Iowa’s failed two-point conversion. On a critical 3rd-and-12, Gordon slipped past a safety and Stave found him for a 35-yard completion that momentarily shifted the momentum.

Gordon finished with a career-high 64 receiving yards on the day, one week removed from a record-setting 408-yard performance against Nebraska.

“He made a huge play today at the end there,” UW head coach Gary Andersen said. “He caught a couple of balls that were big difference makers for us. He’s another weapon in the throw game, which is tough to deal with.”

Two plays later, Gordon rushed for the second of his two touchdowns from 23 yards out, and Gaglianone’s extra point made it a two-score game again at 26-17 with 7:44 left in the game.

But once again Rudock responded, leading his team to its third touchdown in as many drives on the next drive, this time on a nine-yard pass to Duzey. Wisconsin killed the final five minutes of clock thanks to the rushing heroics of Stave and Gordon, and sent the majority of the Kinnick Stadium crowd home disappointed.

Rudock finsished the day 20-for-30 and threw for 311 yards. The two squads had similar team numbers, as Iowa outgained Wisconsin 412-405 and the Hawkeyes ran two more plays than UW (58-56).

“We still got a lot of work to do, especially for the defensive side,” senior linebacker Marcus Trotter, who had eight tackles, said. “We really pride ourselves as the number one defense in the country, and today we do not show that.”

Wisconsin’s first touchdown of the game came with the score tied 3-3 in the beginning of the second quarter. UW trotted out McEvoy in a full-house shotgun formation, with Gordon to his right, Corey Clement on his left and Kenzel Doe as the tailback. McEvoy faked it to Gordon, and a band of Hawkeyes dropped Gordon in the backfield, unleashing a roar from the crowd.

Problem for Iowa was, Gordon didn’t have the ball.

Instead, McEvoy had kept the ball and was well on his way to the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown run before the majority of the Iowa defense realized what had happened. Gaglianone missed his extra point attempt though, only extending UW’s lead to 9-3.

“We needed a touchdown, we needed a score of some sort,” McEvoy said. “My number’s called, and we executed. Honestly it’s not like I made a spectacular play, it was pretty well blocked.”

In a close game, Gaglianone’s miss could’ve proved costly.

“My head came out too quick,” Gaglianone said. “It was a little mistake that was easily corrected and already went through with my coach.”

But it was his big boot that proved to be the difference maker between a win and a loss for the Badgers.

The freshman kicker drilled a 50-yard field goal attempt on UW’s first drive, which came after Caputo forced and recovered a fumble on Iowa’s second play from scrimmage, setting the tone for the hard-hitting, defensive battle the first half would be.

Gaglianone thanked his teammates and coaches for supporting him despite the missed extra-point.

“It definitely feels good knowing that the team has your back,” he said.

Wisconsin increased it’s 9-3 lead just before halftime, when Gordon scored for the first time on a six-yard run to cap off a 12-play, 73-yard drive, and the Badgers took a 16-3 lead into the half.

Gordon became the fastest player to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark in a single-season, as he needed only 241 attempts reach the feat. With his 200 yards on 31 carries Saturday, he tied Ron Dayne’s Big Ten single-season record of 2,109 but said it was a real battle against Iowa’s front seven.

“It’s a war. A bloodbath, man. Those guys are physical,” Gordon said. “Not only are they physical, they’re smart as well. They contained. They made plays today. We just made more.”

The victory marked the first time in more than two years Wisconsin has won a game by less than 10 points, and Andersen commended his players for pulling out the win.

“They found a way to get it done,” Andersen said. “Winning close games is maybe not so good for a coach’s health, but it’s good for a team to get in that situation and battle and fight. I never doubted that they were gonna be there.”

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