No. 14 Northwestern 34, Wisconsin 30
MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ Move over, Joe Pisarcik and Larry Csonka, for the Wisconsin Badgers, who earned a place in football’s infamous follies on Saturday.
In a bizarre ending reminiscent of the game 18 years when the New York Giants blew a victory on Pisarcik’s mishandled handoff to Csonka, No. 14 Northwestern pulled out a stunning 34-30 victory over Wisconsin.
In that 1978 game, Philadelphia’s Herman Edwards picked up the loose ball and ran for the winning touchdown. On Saturday, Steve Schnur’s 20-yard touchdown to D’Wayne Bates with 37 seconds left rescued the Wildcats (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) and sent the stunned Badgers (3-3, 0-3) to their third straight close defeat.
The Badgers led 30-27 when they took over at their 38 following Brian Gowins’ miss of a 55-yard field goal that would have tied the game.
Because the Wildcats had just one timeout remaining, it appeared all the Badgers had to do was fall on the ball, kill the clock and walk away winners.
But quarterback Mike Samuel twice handed off to freshman tailback Ron Dayne. Dayne gained seven yards on the first carry but defensive tackle Joe Reiff disrupted the second handoff and the ball squirted loose.
``I was hoping it would happen, but I didn’t know how,″ Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald said. ``It’s a gift. But we’ll take it.″
``I thought it was all right what we were doing,″ Dayne said. ``It was just a bad exchange. I don’t know what happened.″
Safety Eric Collier recovered at the Badgers 41 with 49 seconds left, and the boisterous homecoming crowd of 79,576, fifth-largest ever at Camp Randall Stadium, stood in sudden silence.
The clock showed 37 seconds left, but officials added 12 seconds to the game clock that they said mistakenly ticked away on the errant field goal attempt.
That raises the question of whether the Badgers would have been able to just take a knee three straight times to run out the clock or whether there might have been some time left, perhaps forcing a punt in the closing seconds.
``He couldn’t have taken a knee, there was too much time left,″ insisted Northwestern coach Gary Barnett. ``I felt we could get the ball back. They needed to get one first down. That’s how I read it.″
Badgers coach Barry Alvarez agreed.
``I didn’t think about taking a knee,″ he said. ``We gained seven yards on the first carry, and we didn’t want to give the ball back to them.″
Either way, the Wildcats (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) looked like certain losers when Gowins missed from 55 yards.
``You can’t get relaxed and you can’t get confident until the clock gets to zero,″ Badgers linebacker Daryl Carter said. ``That’s our lesson to be learned there. I don’t know if we relaxed or not, but we didn’t expect to have to go back on the field.″
After Schnur scrambled for 21 yards, he hit Bates with a fade pass in the end zone and the Wildcats had their 12th straight Big Ten victory.
``The guys feel gutted right now, and drained,″ Alvarez said. ``Obviously, they’re heartbroken. Because we had it won.″
Taking advantage of the depleted Badgers secondary, Schnur was 25-of-41 for two touchdowns, both to Bates, who caught 10 passes for 131 yards.
Wisconsin’s top cover man, cornerback Jason Suttle, was lost with a shoulder stinger late in the second quarter, and strong safety Giscard Bernard torn a knee ligament moments later.
After Bates’ go-ahead TD, the Badgers drove to the Northwestern 35 before Samuel’s desperation heave into the end zone was picked off by Josh Barnes as time expired.
The Wildcats won despite losing tailback Darnell Autry to a separated right shoulder in the first half, ending his streak of 19 consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
``I got hurt in the second quarter. I didn’t realize it at the time,″ said Autry, who finished with 58 yards on 10 carries. ``I went back in and took a hard shot and it got worse.″
Dayne, who carried 28 times for 139 yards, scored from the 7 on the first play of the fourth quarter to put Wisconsin ahead 23-20.
Linebacker Pete Monty intercepted Schnur’s pass at the Northwestern 26 on the next play from scrimmage and, four snaps later, fullback Cecil Martin took it in from the 2 for a 30-20 lead.
Adrian Autry _ no relation to Darnell _ made it 30-27 with a 2-yard touchdown run with 7:02 remaining. He ran 17 times for 82 yards and two scores.
``We’ve gotten back that feeling we’re never going to lose again,″ Wildcats linebacker Matt Rice said.