CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Michael Deiter admitted after Wisconsin’s 24–10 win at Illinois that he had never heard of the Piesman Trophy, “the first award for college linemen who do awesome, rare, un-lineman, things.”
After a reporter explained to the redshirt junior what the accolade was, he quickly responded.
“So I’m in the conversation then?”
Deiter certainly should be as he hauled in a lateral late in the fourth quarter that turned into a four-yard touchdown run. His late-game score essentially secured a win on the road on Saturday afternoon.
Wisconsin capitalized on a Joe Ferguson interception and drove 53 yards down the field inside the Illinois five-yard line before being forced into a 3rd-and-Goal.
Admittedly, Deiter was nervous—“definitely super nervous”—when the play, and his number, were called.
“I’ve never had a football thrown to me in a football game,” Deiter said. “I was super scared because if I drop it, it’s a fumble. There’s a ton of stuff running through my head, but I knew that if I caught it, I’d have the whole o-line out in front of me and there was no way I wasn’t scoring. It was a lot of fun.”
Added on to the nerves was the simple fact Deiter and the UW offense could not simply run the play after it was called in.
“I thought the worst part was right when we called it, we had to wait about five minutes for a TV timeout, so I think he might have been a little bit nervous about that,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook said. “We all wanted to run it but when he got into the end zone, it was awesome, [we] just went crazy. It was like a dog pile on him.”
Candidly, Deiter expressed the extended pause in the game did not subdue that nervousness.
“Yeah, I think that was the longest TV timeout ever, knowing that we were running it and we just couldn’t get the play run,” Deiter said. “It was taking forever with the media so the nerves just kept getting worse and worse, but it worked out.”
Once the ball was finally snapped, Hornibrook rolled out right several steps, with the Illinois defense flowing towards the southpaw signal caller. He then spun quickly back towards the left side of the field and threw the backward lateral to Deiter, eluding Illinois defensive end Jamal Woods between them.
Though it was officially a four-yard run, Deiter actually caught it on the Illinois 15-yard line, then followed his convoy of fellow linemen and blockers—among them left guard Jon Dietzen, center Tyler Biadasz, and right guard Beau Benzschawel—into the end zone for Wisconsin’s final touchdown of the day.
“When it was in the air, everything slowed way down, and then when I caught it, I was kind of surprised I caught it,” Deiter said. “Then I had to evaluate where I was going to run, but I had six guys out in front. It was basically a walk-in, really. All I had to do was sort of run, but then the celebration was a ton of fun. To score a touchdown, it’s not common at all. It was just a ton of fun.”
After Deiter crossed the goal line near the front-left pylon, that celebration was on. Waving his arms in the air, ball still in his right hand, he ran over to his fellow Badgers. Benzschawel was the first to meet him, appearing to try to lift his fellow redshirt junior into the air as linemen normally do to such lighter wide receivers or running backs.
Wide receiver Quintez Cephus also attempted to do so.
“Yeah, we were trying to do the reverse celebration,” Deiter said, “but it’s hard when you’re trying to lift up a 320-pound guy.”
Overall, it was another inconsistent performance by the Wisconsin offense against an inferior Big Ten West division opponent. Without Big Ten-leading rusher Jonathan Taylor for a good portion of the game due to injury and only converting five of 12 third-down conversions, UW was held to 24 points and 303 total yards on the afternoon. Wisconsin came into the game ranked No. 2 in the nation in moving the chains on third downs.
This against an Illinois defense ranked among the conference’s worst in third-down conversions allowed (48 percent), points allowed (29.6), and yards allowed (409.4).
However, there were some bright spots. The offense did not commit any penalties, while certain players like running back Garrett Groshek and Alec Ingold stepped up with the injures to Taylor and Austin Ramesh by scoring touchdowns for the Badgers.
The trick play near the goal line resulted in Deiter’s touchdown on an overcast and chilly afternoon. It was as close to being perfectly executed as it could be on an imperfect day.
“I thought it had a good chance of fitting this week,” head coach Paul Chryst said. “The guys did a good job, it looked good in practice, so if the situation was right, and I thought it was kind of the situation you’re looking to have in something like that. The guys executed. It was good.”
B5Q’s Jon Beidelschies contributed to this report.