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Badgers football: Botched fourth-down play seals Cornhuskers' rally from 17-point hole

2012-09-30T00:45:00Z 2013-07-17T17:15:30Z Badgers football: Botched fourth-down play seals Cornhuskers' rally from 17-point holeTOM MULHERN | Wisconsin State Journal | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

LINCOLN, Neb. — Coach Bret Bielema has been saying all season that he feels like he has three quarterbacks who can win games for the University of Wisconsin football team.

He went through two of them on Saturday night, but the plan didn’t work out in the Badgers’ 30-27 loss to No. 22 Nebraska at Memorial Stadium.

Redshirt freshman Joel Stave played a strong first half, helping UW jump to an early 20-3 lead, but the Badgers couldn’t hold the momentum in the second half and dropped their Big Ten Conference opener.

Bielema went to junior Danny O’Brien on the final series in a 2-minute situation. It was a decision Bielema made prior to the game with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, based on O’Brien performing well in those situations in practices.

“It’s been impressive for me, even going to the first game Joel started, in discussions with Matt, if we got ourselves into a true 2-minute situation, that Danny was going to be the guy,” Bielema said.

The Cornhuskers (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) scored 20 unanswered points, culminating in a 41-yard field goal by Brett Maher that gave them their first lead of the game with 9 minutes, 41 seconds remaining.

The Badgers (3-2, 0-1) had one last chance, with O’Brien taking over at his own 10-yard line, with 2:55 left.

He completed his first two passes and also got a big pass interference penalty against cornerback Mohammed Seisay, giving the Badgers a first down at their 40.

O’Brien’s knee touched on a low shotgun snap on second down, forcing a third-and-11. Then came a completion to Jordan Fredrick that was initially marked as a first down. The play was reviewed and spotted a yard short, bringing up fourth down.

That’s when confusion set in.

Tailback Montee Ball wasn’t expecting a handoff, thinking it was going to be a bootleg, so he ended up fumbling after getting the ball from O’Brien.

“It was designed, the quarterback was supposed to pull it and run around the other side, so I wasn’t expecting the ball at all,” Ball said.

“I wasn’t looking at the handoff at all. I’m looking to dive over the pile to make a great fake and apparently the ball was in my hands.”

Ball said the play called was “lonesome,” which is a naked bootleg by the quarterback.

O’Brien said the confusion because of the look he got from the defense. He saw the cornerback and the safety to the outside, so he didn’t think he could run the bootleg.

“The confusion was whether it was an automatic keep, or the option to keep,” O’Brien said. “I think we saw a few times earlier in the game, they were crashing down on it. ... I just saw the corner and a safety wide, looking at me. I thought we were going to run the run.”

Even so, O’Brien took full responsibility for the miscue.

“You can say anything you want but I think any time there is a miscommunication on that front, it falls on the quarterback,” he said. “I told Montee, I take 110 percent of the blame here.”

It was a disappointing end after a strong first half by the Badgers. Stave, making his first road start, completed 9 of 14 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown.

“I felt like we played well in the first half,” Stave said. “Under the circumstances, I thought I did all right, handling the noise and everything. I’ve got to make better decisions at points. There’s lot of plays I could have been better at.”

It was a familiar problem for the Badgers, who have struggled to put together four solid quarters in a game this season.

“They did show me today, they had the ability to come into a hostile environment and play very, very well,” Bielema said. “For us to get as far as we want to get, you have to be able to play four-quarter games, you can’t play three quarters and 31⁄2 quarters, it’s a four-quarter game.”

The defense did a nice job containing Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez for most of the first half. But he got loose in the second half, finishing with 107 rushing yards and a touchdown. He also threw for 181 yards and two scores.

UW defensive end David Gilbert sacked Martinez in the third quarter and forced a fumble, which was recovered by linebacker Chris Borland and led to Ball’s third touchdown run, a 2-yarder that gave UW a 27-10 lead.

But the Cornhuskers scored the game’s last 20 points, including a 38-yard touchdown run by Martinez on a quarterback draw and a 10-yard pass from Martinez to Kyler Reed — both in the third quarter.

Nebraska also got field goals of 38 and 41 yards by Brett Maher, while UW freshman Jack Russell missed an extra-point attempt, as well as a 41-yard field-goal attempt late in the first half.

“I think we’re a good football team, we just got beat by a better team, at this point, on this day,” Bielema said. “But I’m not mad or upset about their effort or their intensity, or their preparation.”

O’Brien’s first snap came on the final play of the previous series, when Stave took a hard hit on a sack. Stave also was called for intentional grounding on the play, but that had nothing to do with O’Brien being on the field at the end, Bielma said.

“As a competitor you want to be out on the field every play,” Stave said. “But it’s not my call. Just got to live with it.”

If the Badgers had converted the fourth-and-1, O’Brien liked their chances of winning the game.

“I had a lot of confidence,” he said. “I thought the attitude in the huddle was great. We we were excited in there and we got rolling a little bit.

Ball was clearly frustrated by the fumble at the end, but said he didn’t want to point a finger at O’Brien.

“Very frustrating, because it looks like I fumbled the football,” Ball said. “Pretty much, I’m not sitting here pointing the finger at all. We just can’t put ourself in that situation.”

It has been that kind of a season so far for the Badgers, who must regroup again going into next week’s home game against Illinois.

“Nothing’s coming easy for us this year, that’s for sure,” Bielema said. “We’re a team that has gotten better every week, I think they got better today. We just werent’y able to come out with a win and we can’t accept that as coaches or players.”

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(30) Comments

  1. buckthorn
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    buckthorn - October 01, 2012 2:44 pm
    Same with me. But back then we didn't have to pay forced donations just to get seats, either. And the coaches didn't earn *bonuses* that dwarf my annual salary. It's more than fair to demand answers when a team drops this much this quickly.
  2. misterz
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    misterz - September 30, 2012 10:29 pm

    What a bunch of whiners. When I was a student at UW, I never saw the Badgers win agame in 3 years. The big event was when they finally managed to tie Iowa. We have been spoiled by success. Seems like everyone forgets the shellacking the Badgers game Nebraska last year and can only criticize and whine.
  3. Fflambeau
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    Fflambeau - September 30, 2012 10:18 pm
    The Badgers should have won this game and would have with better coaching. Nebraska, by contrast, made changes in the 2nd half turning to a hot back (A. Abdullah who gashed the UW for 70 yards and 7 per carry). UW's coaching staff stayed with an ineffective M. Ball who had far too many carries (32) and averaged only 2.8 yards per carry. They should have given White and Gordon more touches in the 2nd half. Also, this column indicates that the QB change was planed and not the result of an injury: if so, that's really stupid because it means you have no faith in your starting QB who had played well throughout. That too is bad coaching and so was the botched last play. It followed a time-out so the coaches should have made explicit who was doing what. I've seen enough of BB; he's only fit to beat up on cupcakes.
    Report Abuse
    TEDWINB - September 30, 2012 9:18 pm
    First, I am a big HUSKER FAN. You guys asking for BB's head are crazy. You were a play away from winning. (botched 4th & 1 you could make all night long). Not as much talent as last year, but were still kicking our butts. We were lucky to win. I hope you guys kick as$ the rest of the year!
  5. UWW79
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    UWW79 - September 30, 2012 5:36 pm

    I don't wear rose colored glasses. Paul Chryst at least designed offensive plays where defenders needed to decides which of two players to defend. The offensive plays had options. Not much of an option when you run the ball between the tackles.
  6. Runrunrun
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    Runrunrun - September 30, 2012 3:27 pm
    I was at the game and the Nebraska fans were so gratious. If you get a chance go to Lincoln for a game go it is a real treat. As to the fourth down call there actually were two of them and in both instance a QB sneak would have given them a first down. The stretch play did not work in either case because of the defensive shift. The QB just needed to audible and run thourh the opening as there no defender over the center.
  7. 2Logical
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    2Logical - September 30, 2012 2:25 pm
    Use the freaking naked bootleg. What the heck???
  8. BDTR
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    BDTR - September 30, 2012 1:52 pm
    BB's boys will beat the really Fightin' Illini on Saturday, but what kind of team are they??
  9. TSEliot2012
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    TSEliot2012 - September 30, 2012 1:08 pm
    College football teams need to stop with the uniform modifications. They're all ugly! --The coaching in Saturday's game was just plain awful. Time for BB to go! Iowa is playing better than Wisconsin. What the heck does that say???
  10. Maui Jim
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    Maui Jim - September 30, 2012 10:16 am
    I think you're remembering Chryst through rose colored glasses. I remember many games he ran the ball 10, 11, and 12 straight plays and I also remember the game Wilson was 17 for 17 in the first half and never got to throw the ball again in the second half. I can remember wtching games with friends and complaining "why don't they throw on first down...." Chryst did not stray too far from what Bielema wanted.
  11. Arnold
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    Arnold - September 30, 2012 9:13 am
    BB is only as good as those by whom he surrounds himself. I agree with others who post about the predictability of his play calling. Reminds me of Morton's creativity. Badgers got some breaks but foced some turnovers. Some guys really competed and made plays. BUT, second half adjustments by Huskers and no counter from the Badgers...100% on the coaches with the buck stopping on BB's desk. He let his players down and should be embarrassed by his coaching performance. He is lucky the game was even close. These kids work too hard to be thrown to the wolves by this unprepared flip-flop wearing child. He needs to grow up and show up every day!
  12. Rollandhand
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    Rollandhand - September 30, 2012 8:38 am
    No offensive lineman can block while standing upright. End of story,
  13. badgerfan1
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    badgerfan1 - September 30, 2012 8:37 am
    First of all they have to lose those ugly uniforms from the 60's and 70's. That block W gives me horrible flashbacks--it was ugly then and now. The motion W has become Wisconsins signature, like Michigans's helmet etc--do not try to change it. Next if that is the best that offensive line can do (and I fear it is) they need to find some new lineman with stones. The present group was totally manhandled AGAIN! I realise we lost a couple of top prospects when the offensive coaches all defected--but is this the best we can do?At the bottom of this developing mess of course is the head coach. Half way through the season and he has not figured out who the best kicker is and still has questions about QB. Bielema looks and is confused and appears and is on the brink of panic and collapse. Thanks Barry--when you stepped down we could have probably gotten a top notch replacement. The Badgers are now the 5th or 6th (Nebraska, Oh. State, Mich. State, Michigan and probably Northwestern) and the question now is how low will we go over the next couple years. Wake up Barry-- it does not take long for the season ticket renewals to fall off and gaps appear in the crowd--particularily with the financial status of this country now and in the future.
  14. Moles
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    Moles - September 30, 2012 8:24 am
    If the Nebraska team doesn't give the Badgers 20 points, it would have been uglier than it was. What a sad display by the offensive line. In addition the offensive play calling was atrocious. I could go on and on but to sum it up, it's going to be long season!
  15. PosterX
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    PosterX - September 30, 2012 8:01 am
    We would have won if 1) we scored more points! 2) The Corn scored less!

  16. Ronnie_P
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    Ronnie_P - September 30, 2012 7:45 am
    What a waste of time. I could have watched all my dvr's of Honey Boo Boo
  17. Hoople
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    Hoople - September 30, 2012 7:37 am
    Stave is not ready to be the starter. Put O' Brien back in and leave him there. Stave can not make the simple throws to keep drives going. He also missed a wide open Ball. His other long throws were more the result of good adjustments by receivers.
  18. Hoople
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    Hoople - September 30, 2012 7:35 am
    Russell is not anywhere near ready to kick in big games. Nor may never be. Should have been recruiting a big time kicker that could have stepped in this year. Evident on kick offs also.
  19. rodster8449
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    rodster8449 - September 30, 2012 7:32 am
    See what happens kids, when you don't finish high school.
  20. rodster8449
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    rodster8449 - September 30, 2012 7:31 am
    That's does it-I'm buying a Ford.....................
  21. badgerfaninflorida
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    badgerfaninflorida - September 30, 2012 7:27 am
    Once again unable to make adjustments in the second half. Me thinks it's time fo BB to find other work. Very poor showing and that's the coaches fault. Better luck next year Badgers.
  22. bob roser
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    bob roser - September 30, 2012 6:49 am
  23. jcboo
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    jcboo - September 30, 2012 5:29 am
  24. UWW79
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    UWW79 - September 30, 2012 4:11 am
    Is it just me or do the Badgers need a new Offensive Coordinator. I'm not the smartest football fan, but even I can guess the Badgers Offensive plays: 1st down - run Montee Ball between the tackles. 2nd down - run Montee Ball off-tackle. 3rd down try a desperation play. 4th down punt. Pretty simple - sure miss Paul Chryst.

    Hey Barry Alverez - please call Don Morton - he thinks he can solve your football problems. Thank God Badger Hockey starts soon!!!
  25. foodanddrink
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    foodanddrink - September 30, 2012 3:18 am
    Completely out coached in every facet. Got worked coming out of halftime. Coach B should be ashamed to lose a game like that when they were handing it to him on a plate. Where is any intensity from him on the sidelines? He sits there like a confused dufus. Darrel Bevel please.
  26. DaBigE
    Report Abuse
    DaBigE - September 30, 2012 2:38 am
    So what? As long as you're playing the "what if game", you might as well take off the rose-colored glasses, and look at the whole picture. We also would have won if we wouldn't have laid that huge egg after coming out of the locker room for the second half. In the end, we were lucky it was so close. We still haven't picked a ball off and were lucky not to have had any picks go against us this game. We were lucky Nebraska had the bone-headed roughing the kicker penalty early on. Our return team looks like they're playing pee-wee football, not knowing where to run. Had Nebraska played the first half like they did the second, things would have been MUCH worse. We may be seeing why so many on BB's staff ran for greener pastures.
  27. SCP
    Report Abuse
    SCP - September 30, 2012 1:32 am
    Excuse me please, but we would have won if we hadn't missed 1) the extra point and 2) the field goal. What about the decision to put in rookie kicker Jack russell?????
  28. WisconsinHusker
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    WisconsinHusker - September 29, 2012 11:58 pm
    Just a return message to you Badger fans paraphrasing you from last year:
  29. brown
    Report Abuse
    brown - September 29, 2012 11:24 pm
    It was no upset,badgers just suck their lucky to even had it close and to even have such a lead,what a joke.
  30. nufsenuf
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    nufsenuf - September 29, 2012 11:24 pm

    From among those watching a voice cried out, "Look they have no clothes".

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