MADISON — The No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers (1-1, 0-0 conference) once again got off to a slow start in their game against, Washington State (2-0, 0-0 conference), but could not overcome their early troubles the way they had the week before, ending in 17-14 loss.
Just as Wisconsin did in the opener, the Badger defense thwarted a Washington State drvie that looked sure to put points on the board, as Max Lofy intercepted Cougar quarterback, Cameron Ward.
“I saw the quarterback drop back and scramble, we knew that was going to be a big part of his game and I just kind of flowed with him and I think he saw me and I was just kind of in the right spot,” Lofy said.
Wisconsin’s ensuing drive, saw the Badgers march down the field with an opportunity to put points on the board, but their drive stalled at the Washington State, 33-yard-line.
Vito Calvaruso, who made his only attempted field goal in the opener, missed a 51-yard field goal, wide right, leaving the score even at zero.
Calvaruso would also miss a game-tying field goal, in the fourth quarter.
Following a three-and-out by Washington State, Wisconsin once again mounted another drive, but came up empty once again.
Wisconsin was faced with a fourth-and-3 at its own 47-yard-line and chose to go for it, instead of punting it away and leaving it up to the defense.
“I do have confidence in our defense. You know, and I thought that, you’re in a position where if you feel good, too, and you want — offensively, you know, you just got to deliver. And I know a lot of it is result driven, right?” Paul Chryst said. “You go and — but, you know, I think that was the thought. I still do feel confident with our defense, certainly. And you want to put it on the offense. You know, this is — you got to go do something, too.”
Wisconsin ended up turning the ball over on downs, which led to Washington State’s first score of the game.
Former Badger, Nakia Watson, who played for the Badgers during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, was the one to cross the goal-line on a 2-yard score.
It was his first score since he last scored three touchdowns as a member of the Badger football team in 2020.
Watson finished the game with 10 rushes for 34 yards and the 2-yard score.
After falling behind for the first time this season, the Badgers mounted a 6-play, 65-yard drive that lasted just over three minutes and was capped off with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Graham Mertz, to Clay Cundiff.
The score was Cundiff’s first career score and he would later score again, this time from 10 yards out.
Cundiff finished the game with four receptions for 59 yards and two scores.
Mertz, was a 18-31 for 227 yards, two scores and an interception.
As the second half began, Renard Bell returned the opening kick 73 yards. However, Wisconsin’s defense was able to defend the short field and limit the Cougars to a Dean Janikowksi field goal.
Wisconsin got a break late in the third quarter, as Jay Shaw intercepted Ward, but Shaw could not hang onto the ball, fumbling it back into the Cougar’s posession.
Six plays later, Watson struck again, this time from 31-yards out on a short pass from Ward. Watson broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage and was off to the races, giving Washington State the lead for good.
Wisconsin’s best chance to come back in the game came in the fourth quarter, as Wisconsin was nearing the endzone. Mertz was hit as he threw the ball and it was intercepted, but just as with Shaw’s interception, Christian Mejia fumbled, giving the Badgers the ball back at the WSU 20.
However, Wisconsin was pushed back 15 yards, due to a personal foul, charged to Cundiff, who removed a player from the pile.
The penalty was just another one that derailed the Badgers, who had been penalized 11 times for 106 yards in the game. Most of which coming at inopportune times, coming on holding penalties.
With just over six and a half minutes left in the game, Wisconsin ran two offensive plays, ending in Cundiff’s 22-yard reception, which was fumbled into the arms of a Cougars defender, ending Wisconsin’s chances at a comeback.
Washington State was able to convert one third-down on their final drive of the game, which secured the victory. It was only the Cougar’s second third down conversion of the game, as they finished 2-for-11.
While Wisconsin outgained the Cougars, 401-253, their 106 yards of penalties and three turnovers were too much to overcome.
Wisconsin will host New Mexico State next Saturday, in their final non-conference game of the season.