Wisconsin Badgers keep championship hopes alive with overtime win over Nebraska


Although games in October do not usually come with major championship implications, Saturday night’s meeting between the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Wisconsin Badgers had more than just bragging rights at stake.

For the Badgers, it was more of an elimination game, as a loss to the Huskers would have put them in a near impossible spot to win the Big Ten West, in addition to knocking them out of the College Football Playoff race.

Entering the game undefeated and ranked seventh in the country, the opportunity was there for Nebraska to finally earn some respect in the national spotlight, after being criticized all year for their weak schedule.

The game started as expected, with each defense taking control, forcing a combined total of three three-and-outs within the first four minutes.

On the Badgers’ second drive, it turned out to be another quick possession on offense, but this time with a different result. Following a 30 yard pass from Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook to tight end Troy Fumagalli, freshman running back Bradrick Shaw took his first carry of the game up the middle almost untouched and scampered in for a 21-yard touchdown to give the Badgers an early 7-0 lead.

No points were put on the board until the beginning of the second quarter, when Nebraska scored the equalizer on a one-yard touchdown run from Devine Ozigbo on third-and-goal. The Cornhuskers offense converted 50 percent (9-18) of their third downs for the game.

An Andrew Endicott filled goal with just over three minutes left in the half gave the Badgers a 10-7 advantage at the break.

Wisconsin opened the second half with the ball and went on a monster 13-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a nine-yard touchdown pitch and catch from Hornibrook to Robert Wheelwright, putting the Badgers up 17-7. Dare Ogunbowale, who finished with a game high 120 rushing yards on just 11 carries, had 40 yards on the Badgers’ opening second half drive, averaging 10 yards per carry.

Wisconsin entered the fourth quarter with a 17-7 lead, but it was short-lived after a two-yard touchdown run on the third play of the quarter by Huskers’ quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. It was just the type of drive Nebraska needed to get back in the game, converting on all four third-down plays as part of a 14-play, 75-yard drive that took up six minutes.

The Badgers followed up the Cornhuskers’ touchdown with back-to-back interceptions, one each by their two quarterbacks Hornibrook and Bart Houston. The second interception by Houston turned out to be costly, leading to a Drew Brown 35-yard field goal with 3:43 left to tie the game at 17 a piece.

On the ensuing drive, the Badgers answered the call quickly, as a 41-yard run by Clement put the Badgers in Nebraska territory, but conservative play-calling cost them as Endicott came up no good on a go-ahead 45 yard field goal, ultimately leading to overtime.

Nebraska won the coin toss heading into the extra session, choosing to go on defense. It was the second straight overtime home game for the Badgers, who lost a heartbreaking battle to Ohio State two weeks ago 30-23.

Keeping the ball on the ground, the Badgers fed Clement three straight plays on the opening possession of overtime. On the fourth play of the drive, they went to Ogunbowale, which turned out to be a great decision as he took the shotgun handoff and scurried in for the 11-yard score.

Disaster ensued for the Badgers, as Endicott’s point-after attempt sailed wide left, leaving the door open for the Huskers to walk out of Camp Randall with a win with a touchdown and an extra point.

The Badgers defense would not let that happen, giving up just two yards in three plays on the Huskers’ drive, setting up a fourth down and one stop away from escaping with the victory.

Out of the shotgun, Armstrong gave a little pump fake before firing it to the end zone to a seemingly open Stanley Morgan Jr. That was until Badgers defensive back D’Cota Dixon made a play on the ball, breaking up Morgan’s attempt at the catch and securing a Badgers win.

“[I’m] extremely proud of the way our kids battled and played and overcame all the adversity that usually comes in a game,” Badgers head coach Paul Chryst said. “Guys have got to step up and they find a way to step up. It doesn’t matter what happens. They keep playing the next play.

The win keeps the Badgers alive for the Big Ten West division title and also keeps their outside hopes of a College Football Playoff Berth in tact. Previously ranked 11th in both the AP and Coaches poll, several teams in front of them fell this week, including undefeated West Virginia and Baylor in addition to Nebraska.

Wisconsin will take on Northwestern next week at Ryan Field. The Badges have not won in Evanston since 1999.