After a convincing opening drive from the Oregon Ducks in which they drove 75 yards down the field for a touchdown, the Badgers appeared to be on their heels. A 95-yard touchdown kick return from Aron Cruickshank and an interception by Jack Sanborn flipped that narrative around in just a few minutes.
Even as the Badgers failed to advance the ball in their opening two drives, they found themselves with a 10-7 lead entering the second quarter. Jonathan Taylor began to find a rhythm as the contest progressed but multiple holding and false start penalties stamped out any offensive progress the Badgers were able to make.
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Nevertheless, the Badgers’ defense continued to stifle Oregon and maintain their lead through much of the second quarter. Then came the turnovers. The first — a fumble by Jonathan Taylor after the ball was stripped from his grasp — resulted in zero points as the Badgers came up with a huge fourth down stop.
They weren’t so lucky after Coan threw the first interception of the matchup. Justin Herbert strolled into the endzone for his second rushing touchdown of the game. Luckily, the Badgers still had enough time to mount an offensive effort that culminated in an 11-yard touchdown pass to Quintez Cephus with just 11 seconds remaining in the half. The Badgers headed into the locker room up 17-14.
Turnovers did not subside for the Badgers even as the second half began as punter Anthony Lotti mishandled a snap and coughed up the ball to Brady Breeze who took it back for six. Just like that, the Badger defense had given up just one touchdown yet found themselves down by 4.
But the Wisconsin defense remained strong and allowed for the Badgers to continue to move the ball offensively. After a 10 point swing courtesy of a Mason Stokke touchdown run and a field goal from Collin Larsh, the Badgers were back on top by 6. After another stalled drive from the Ducks, the Badgers’ defense had given up just 132 yards of total offense 5 minutes into the fourth quarter.
Then came yet another turnover. Danny Davis coughed up the pigskin on a jet sweep which gave the Ducks the ball at the Wisconsin 30. They capitalized immediately as Justin Herbert captured his third rushing touchdown of the game on the first play from scrimmage following the turnover. Despite his ability as a passer, each offensive touchdown scored by the Ducks was a result of a Herbert run.
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After a few changes of possession late in the game, the Ducks ended up with the ball with just over two minutes left in the game. After a first down, they were able to run down the clock with a one point lead.
Turnovers and penalties. That’s what killed the Badgers’ chance at avoiding a fourth straight loss in the Rose Bowl. The defense played an astounding game against a talented Oregon offensive unit but that will never be enough when 21 turnover points are handed to the Ducks.
Yes, there were multiple bad calls, most notably the offensive pass interference call that negated a crucial first down play down the stretch, but the Badgers shot themselves in the foot this game.
This one hurts. Out of all the times this season it was so clearly obvious the Badgers played below potential, this game was the most egregious. No matter the fact that the Badgers were able to climb the rankings from where they started in the season, this is a highly disappointing loss.