Wisconsin's first two drives Saturday night started at its on 3- and 8-yard lines, respectively. Naturally, when Joel Stave wasn't able to lead the Badgers' 90+ yards down the field, people grew antsy.
They're likely not calm right now, but Wisconsin at least heated up to the point of being able to take advantage of a few Arizona State miscues to build a 14-13 halftime lead.
ASU received the ball to start and drove 72 yards on 13 plays, but concerns about its kicking game prompted head coach Todd Graham to send the offense onto the field for a 4th-and-3 from Wisconsin's 3-yard line. Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly rolled right and passed into the endzone, where the ball was broken up. Badgers safety Dezmen Southward appeared to catch the ball off the deflection, though his left foot was very near the sideline and the play was upheld after a review.
Starting at their own three, the Badgers went three-and-out on their first drive. The Sun Devils did the same, and then the Badgers did again.
Arizona scored first, on a 34-yard field goal by Zane Gonzalez to cap an eight-play, 34-yard drive.
Wisconsin finally got moving on the next drive, traveling 73 yards on 10 plays and scoring on a two-pass from quarterback Joel Stave to tight end Jacob Pedersen at the 13:47 mark in the second quarter.
ASU once again struggled to a three-and-out, but this time special teams issues struck -- a bad snap sent the football rolling toward back toward its own endzone. All Wisconsin nose guard Beau Allen had to do was pounce on the ball, and he had a touchdown to put the Badgers ahead, 14-3.
The Sun Devils' second touchdown came on the next drive, of the 10-play, 75-yard variety, capped by a 1-yard Marion Grice run.
The rest of the half was largely back-and-forth, save for some intrigue when Stave was hit square in the gut by a Sun Devil defenseman on a third-down pass. Stave was down for a while, apparently with his wind knocked out. ASU star defensive lineman Will Sutton was also briefly shaken up on the play, though he quickly became more angered as he left the field. It was unclear what spurred his outrage -- he was sort of high-lowed by Badger linemen, but nothing that seemed illegal.
Stave returned on the next drive, seemingly without any injury.
ASU scored its final points of the half with 29 seconds remaining, as Gonzalez capped a 13-play, 94-yard drive with a 19-yard field goal.
Between being outgained 219-101 and out-first-downed 17-5 (time of possession 18:30-11:30), Wisconsin finds itself in a situation where the scoreboard could be painting a much less fortunate picture. Aside from the special team gaffes -- ASU head coach Todd Graham is also apparently unwilling to kick field goals with a lackluster kicking game, resulting in two fourth-down attempts, both unsuccessful -- Arizona State had at least three critical drops that would've otherwise resulted in big plays.
If Wisconsin cannot take better advantage in the second half, the slim margin might not hold.