Wisconsin Football: 7 Reasons Why the Badgers Fell to Michigan State
In a back-and-forth affair, the Spartans came out on top thanks to a last second hailmary from Kirk Cousins that ended Wisconsin's dreams of a national title appearance.
All of the credit has to be given to Michigan State for converting Wisconsin's miscues into points. However, Wisconsin's up-and-down play cannot be left unsaid. Mistakes were the name of the game and that final pass from Cousins was the story of the game for Wisconsin.
Here are seven reasons that contributed to Wisconsin's loss against Michigan State...
The First Quarter Interception by Russell Wilson
For the first 12 minutes of the game, the Spartans looked clearly overmatched. The defensive line struggled against a bruising offensive line that saw the Badgers march down the field in 11 plays and scoring on a Russell Wilson pass to Jacob Pedersen.
Michigan State's Edwin Baker fumbled on the Spartans first play from scrimmage and Wisconsin converted that turnover into a 9-yard touchdown run, courtesy of Montee Ball.
After forcing the Spartans to punt on their next possession, Wisconsin was once again driving the ball down the field and an interception halted any chance of making the score 21-0.
This was not a big reason as to why the Badgers lost, but another score would have likely buried the Spartans before the first quarter even ended.
The Intentional Grounding Penalty That Gave the Spartans Two Points
Russell Wilson made the mistake of throwing the ball out of bounds, in the end zone, and still inside the pocket. This sprung Michigan State and the crowd to life as they received two points and were poised to get the ball with a short field to work with.
Michigan State had no trouble scoring, as they ate up less than two minutes on the clock and scored on a 34-yard scamper to narrow the lead 14-9.
With all of the momentum on the Spartans side, Wisconsin desperately needed a score to widen the 14-9 score. With 70 yards of field, Wisconsin put together a drive of over five minutes and lined up for a 30-yard field goal.
Anyone affiliated with the Badgers was nervous as Philip Welch lined up for just his second field goal of the season. Nothing in the sequence of events during that play seemed good as Michigan State blocked the field goal and once again, had all of the momentum in the world.
With a balanced attack, the Spartans drove down the field and B.J. Cunningham made a beautiful run after the catch and put the Spartans on top, 16-14.
Wisconsin was forced to punt with 0:47 seconds left on their very next possession. Kyler Elsworth came off the left side of the line virtually untouched and blocked the punt, which was recovered in the end zone.
Michigan State exploited Wisconsin's special teams multiple times in a span of five minutes and saw themselves up 23-14 at the break.
Michigan State Converted on Third Down
The Badgers struggled mightily to stop Michigan State on third downs in 2010. Bret Bielema knew it and has carried it with him for over a year and said multiple times it would be key for his defense to make stops on third down in this year's contest.
To Bielema's disappointment, Kirk Cousins once again was integral to the Spartans third down success as they were able to keep the chains moving half of the time (8/16).
If the two teams meet again in Indianapolis with a Rose Bowl berth on the line, Bielema will continue to hammer it into his players heads that sending the offense to the sidelines on third down plays will be crucial to the Badgers success.
Bret Bielema's Use of Timeouts with Under a Minute Remaining
The big question in Madison after the game were the questionable use of timeouts by Bret Bielema in Michigan State's final possession.
At his press conference, Bielema told reporters he saw his defense force the Spartans to punt three possessions in a row prior and felt he could get them to punt again if he stopped the clock and was able to get his offense back on the field with time remaining.
Michigan State wasn't going to go for the win after Cousins fumbled and was sacked for a 10-yard loss. There was no reason for them to risk that type of play again unless Wisconsin gave them reason to.
Bielema stopped the clock, Cousins completed a 12-yard pass to Cunningham. Bielema again called a timeout and Cousins completed yet another first down pass.
The rest is history.
Bielema had confidence that his defense would make a stop and it didn't happen. Michigan State made Bielema pay for using those timeouts. Credit the Spartans players and staff.
Difference in Penalties
Although the refs missed some calls on Michigan State, it was the Badgers that lost this game with their play and mental errors, not the refs.
The Spartans had zero penalties (despite being penalized 13 times the week before), while the Badgers were flagged six times, which included a key false start by Kevin Zeitler in the fourth quarter that halted a Badgers drive.
It's hard to win in basketball when the opposing team isn't committing fouls and you are. Same issue here. The Badgers committed six penalties and Michigan State was able to stay disciplined enough to not have a flag drawn on them.
Knock It Down! Knock the Ball Down!
Bret Bielema put his 6-foot-3 wide receiver in Jared Abbrederis in the secondary to play as the third safety in the event that Michigan State threw a hail mary.
As Kirk Cousins let the ball fly, Bielema and his team had to be optimistic to see Jared Abbrederis positioning himself to knock the ball down.
He mistimed the jump and went too early as the ball sailed over his head and was deflected back out of the endzone where Keith Nichol was waiting.
Nichol caught it at the 1-yard line and attempted to get into the endzone. He was brought down and was originally marked down before the goal line.
After further video evidence, the call was overturned and Michigan State stunned the Badgers.
That hail mary told the entire story of the game for the Badgers.