The Wisconsin Badgers had everything going right against the LSU Tigers Saturday night at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX. And then Les Miles reached down in his bag of tricks in the third quarter, pulled out a fake put and momentum changed in the Tigers favor the rest of the way. LSU scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to complete the comeback, defeating Wisconsin 28-24.
Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen established a running game early, pounding LSU’s defense with a heavy dose of Melvin Gordon in the first half. Gordon made a statement, rushing for 85 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. But he only touched the ball four times in the second half (head scratcher I know) and besides a 63 yard run to open up the third quarter, Gordon found himself mostly on the sidelines.
After a Corey Clement touchdown with 12:34 to play in the third, the Badgers would be shut out the rest of the game. And it was that next drive that the Tigers shifted the momentum to their side and would take control of the game.
On their own 43 yard line, LSU found themselves faced with a 4th and 4 situation. I think everyone knew a fake punt was a real possibility in this situation. Wisconsin seemed to know what was coming and looked to have defended it well, but they just could not execute in stopping linebacker Kendell Beckwith who was able to run for five yards and the first down. The Tigers stormed down the field and hit a 30 yard field goal to bring the score to 24-10 as the comeback had been started.
Wisconsin went three-and-out on their next two possessions while LSU was able to hit another Colby Delahoussaye and quarterback Anthony Jennings connected with John Diarse for a 36 yard touchdown to bring the Tigers within five. After a two point conversion, the score was 24-21 and the Badgers needed to answer.
But it never happened.
Quarterback Tanner McEvoy was intercepted on their next possession. Three plays later, running back Kenny Hilliard scored on a 28 yard run, completing the comeback and giving the Badgers the 28-24 loss.
The second half saw the Tigers run the ball with more success, mainly due to injuries to two of the three Badgers defensive linemen. Defensive end Konrad Zagzebski suffered a neck injury in the first quarter colliding with Hilliard. Zagzebski laid motionless and was stabilized and transported to a nearby hospital. He was released from the hospital early Sunday morning and will make the trip back home with the team. Nose guard Warren Herring left in the third quarter with a right knee injury. No update has been given on his condition other than he left the locker room on crutches and his knee immobilized.
In his first start at quarterback for the Badgers, McEvoy had a game he would love to forget. He finished the night 8-of-24 for 50 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions for a quarterback rating of 6.8. Gordon led Wisconsin in rushing with 140 yards on 16 carries and one touchdown, despite being left on the sidelines for most of the second half.
The Badgers will look to bounce back at home next Saturday as they host Western Illinois. Game time is set for 11:00 a.m. CT and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.