Madison, Wis. • BYU’s opportunity to make a big splash on the national stage wasn’t just taken away on Saturday afternoon by the bigger, badder Wisconsin Badgers, it was pounded, squashed and pulverized in an overpowering display of Big Ten football.
Dominated for much of the game by the No. 21-ranked Badgers on offense and defense and outsmarted by an old nemesis, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, the Cougars fell 27-17 in front of 80,191 fans and a national television audience at windswept and chilly Camp Randall Stadium.
“It is disappointing,” said BYU senior defensive tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna. “We had a great opportunity to showcase what we do, and how we prepare, and it slipped through our hands. There were a lot of mistakes on our part.”
Added offensive coordinator Robert Anae: “We were not good enough, as indicated by the final score.”
But perhaps BYU quarterback Taysom Hill summed it up best.
Said Hill, after having to run for his life almost the entire game against a relentless, attacking UW defense: “We played a really good football team today.”
One that was simply better than BYU (6-3) in every facet.
The Badgers (7-2) set the tone by driving 76 yards for a touchdown after taking the opening kickoff, and never trailed despite a couple BYU surges in the second half.
Wisconsin only outgained BYU 425-370, but those numbers were distorted by a few long drives the Cougars mounted in the fourth quarter when the game was out of doubt.
The Badgers pummeled BYU’s defense for 229 rushing yards on 45 carries, with slippery tailback James White running for 147 yards and two touchdowns and catching a 5-yard pass for another.
“I was frustrated that they were able to run the ball the way they did,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said, noting that he expected a one-score game, 24-20, or something similar.
Mendenhall and Anae were also dismayed by the Cougars’ offensive output, while crediting Wisconsin’s front seven with making all the big plays and taking away Hill’s ability to run. Hill said Andersen had some tricks up his sleeve defensively for the Cougars, tactics BYU didn’t expect.
“Not one of our better efforts,” Anae said. “We left a lot out on the field, in terms of converting on third down.”
Oh yeah, that.
The Cougars were just 7 of 19 on the statistic that Mendenhall said would be the key to pulling off an upset as 9-point underdogs. Wisconsin was just 7 of 17, but 5 of 10 in the first half when it dominated enough to take a 17-3 lead at the break.
Hill, who finished 19 of 41 for 207 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception, was sacked four times and netted only 53 rushing yards. Still, he had some brilliant moments, connecting with Cody Hoffman for the 34-yard TD that made the score 20-10 with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter and seemingly giving the Cougars the momentum they had unsuccessfully searched for all game.
Hoffman became BYU’s all-time leader in career receiving yards with that catch.
But Wisconsin put it away with a 10-play, 92-yard drive after Scott Arellano’s 73-yard punt pinned the Badgers deep. When the Cougars really needed a big stop, they couldn’t get one, missing tackles on White’s sealing 14-yard touchdown run on third-and-1.
“For the most part, I felt we made a pretty good showing,” Hill said. “The opportunities were there, and we didn’t capitalize on it.”
Linebacker Spencer Hadley suffered a knee injury on the fifth play of the game and did not return. Tight end Devin Mahina (groin) and receiver Mitch Mathews (shoulder) also left the game due to injuries.
No. 21 Wisconsin 27, BYU 17
O In Short • BYU gets manhandled in the trenches at Wisconsin and falls flat in front of 80,191 at Camp Randall Stadium.
Key Moment • With two minutes remaining in the first half, Wisconsin converts several times on third down and scores with 14 seconds remaining to take a 17-3 lead.