Corvallis, Ore. – Aspirations of something even greater than a Rose Bowl berth for Wisconsin football almost certainly came to a humbling end at Reser Stadium Saturday, as Oregon State defeated the Badgers 10-7.
Perhaps, based on postgame interviews, nobody informed UW transfer quarterback Danny O’Brien what exactly was expected.
“The one positive in all of this is that our guys did not stop fighting, and if we get that, we have a chance to tie or win the game,” O’Brien said. “We fought until the last second and felt good about it.”
Still, despite a five-point victory over Northern Iowa last week, few expected the Badgers to have to fight until the last second to simply have a chance against the Beavers.
Instead, the Beavers’ defense dominated the now-unranked Badgers, holding the powerhouse offense of a year ago to just 207 total yards and last year’s Heisman Trophy finalist, running back Montee Ball, to 61 yards on 15 carries.
Oregon State’s defensive performance also shattered two Wisconsin streaks – Ball’s 21 straight games with a touchdown and the team’s 33-game regular season nonconference winning streak, which was the second-longest active streak in college football.
“That is one of the best (defensive performances), probably that has ever been in that stadium,” Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said. “It was just a beautiful job, a great mixture of stuff, but the players played like crazy.”
The Badger’s best opportunity to get back into the game was dashed late in the third quarter. Wisconsin forced a punt and Oregon State punter Keith Kostol was unable to hold onto the snap and was tackled by David Gilbert deep in Beaver territory.
The Badgers drove all the way to the Beavers nine-yard line, but on second down, O’Brien showed poor pocket awareness and ran into OSU defensive end Dylan Wynn, fumbling the ball as he was sacked. The Beavers recovered the ball, making it the second turnover of the third quarter for O’Brien after an earlier interception.
Still trailing 10-0 with less than three minutes left in the game, the Badgers went 64 yards on eight plays and scored their only touchdown on an 11-yard pass from O’Brien to tight end Jacob Pederson, avoiding their first shutout since 1997.
Wisconsin, void of timeouts, had one last shot to recover an onside kick and did… or so it was first ruled.
UW kicker Kyle French dribbled the ball straight off the tee and appeared to allow the ball to roll exactly ten yards before jumping on the ball himself with 1:31 remaining, but the play went under review for several minutes and was ultimately overturned, securing the Oregon State victory.
The Beavers held the Wisconsin offense, which averaged 44.1 points and 469.9 yards of offense in 2011, to just seven points.
“There just wasn’t any room down there,” Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said. “We didn’t handle the pressure very well and they brought some pressure. They did a nice job of controlling the line of scrimmage.”
The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie, but Oregon State kicker Trevor Romaine gave the Beavers an advantage Wisconsin was unable to overcome with a 43-yard field goal less than two minutes into the second quarter.
After taking the 3-0 lead into the break, the Beavers marched down the field on the opening drive of the second half. The Beavers used an 11-play, 86-yard drive, capped off by a 20-yard strike from quarterback Sean Mannion to Brandin Cooks, to take the 10-0 lead.
“They were able to move the chains and pick (up) yards, and that was enough for them to win the game,” UW linebacker Mike Taylor said. “I wasn’t surprised. Oregon State has a good team. Last year was last year. Oregon State is a new team and they played well.”
The Beavers added injury to insult in the second quarter when OSU defenders Rueben Robinson and Feti Taumoepeau crushed Badgers No. 1 wide receiver Jared Abbrederis over the middle. Reports stated that Abbrederis, who did not return, was taken to a local hospital with a chest injury. The redshirt junior had just one catch for 26 yards in the game.
Jeff Duckworth became O’Brien’s primary target following the injury, catching seven passes for 55 yards. O’Brien finished the game completing 20 of his 38 passes for 172 yards with a touchdown and interception and was sacked three times. Ethan Armstrong led the Badgers defense with a game-high 10 tackles.
“A lot of credit goes to Oregon State,” Bielema said. “They did a lot of good things today to go out and get a win.”