Last-second FG dooms Huskers in 23-21 loss
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At some point, Nebraska is going to run out of ways to suffer a heartbreaking defeat.
For the fourth time in six games, the Huskers had victory snatched from their clutches in the final seconds, as Wisconsin drilled a 49-yard field goal with just four seconds remaining to pull off a 23-21 victory on Saturday. After watching a 14-0 halftime lead evaporate into a 20-14 deficit in the fourth quarter, NU (2-4 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) looked to have the game all but sealed up after Badgers' kicker Rafael Gaglianone missed a field goal off the upright with just 1:30 remaining.
But Nebraska couldn't muster a first down and UW got the ball back with just over a minute to play. The Badgers quickly moved the ball downfield to set up Gaglianone for a 46-yard attempt, and he drilled it through to seal the win.
The Huskers have now lost seven of their past 10 games going back to last season, including four of their past five Big Ten Conference matchups. Of their four losses this year, they have come by a grand total of 11 combined points.
It was slow sledding for both offenses out of the gates, as Nebraska and Wisconsin traded six six combined punts and a UW missed field goal in a scoreless opening quarter.
It wasn't until the final play of the first that Badgers finally found their footing, as a 20-yard pass from Joel Stave to receiver Alex Erickson sparked a 13-play, 77-yard touchdown drive capped off with a seven-yard scoring pass from Stave to tight end Troy Fumagalli with 9:45 left in the half.
On that drive, Wisconsin had three passes of 16 yards or longer and converted two third downs and a fourth down before finally reaching the end zone. Just when it looked like that Badgers had claimed the momentum, though, Nebraska came right back with a 14-play, 77-yard touchdown drive of its own that ate up nearly seven minutes off the clock.
After completing just 1-of-6 passes for three yards in the first quarter, quarterback Tommy Armstrong flipped the switch in the second period and completed five of his six passes - including a perfect 4-of-4 on third downs - for 54 yards and tied the game up with a seven-yard scramble around the right end with 2:40 remaining in the half.
The scoring drive was NU's longest of the season and also the longest allowed by Wisconsin's defense all year.
The Huskers forced a quick three-and-out by Wisconsin that left over a minute on the game clock, and with the help of a nifty one-handed catch by Stanley Morgan to convert a third down, Armstrong heaved a 41-yard touchdown to wide out Alonzo Moore, who came down with the ball over a UW defender with 31 seconds remaining despite defensive pass interference on the play.
That score would hold all the way until the final minute of the third, as Drew Brown missed wide right on a 52-yard field goal attempt on Nebraska's first drive of the quarter and then Gaglianone drilled a 52-yarder with 1:06 remaining to cut the lead to 14-10.
When the fourth quarter rolled around, Wisconsin's offense got going again and took its first lead of the day after churning out an 11-play, 84-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Alec Ingold with 10:08 left to play. On the drive, the Badgers converted two key third downs, including one that came via a pass interference call on Joshua Kalu that would have otherwise resulted in a UW punt.
A quick three-and-out by Nebraska gave UW the ball back, and Dare Ogunbowale broke loose for a 32-yard run on the first play of Wisconsin's ensuing possession to move the ball into Husker territory. The Badgers would stall out from there, but a 42-yard field by Gaglianone still increased the deficit to 20-14 with 6:17 to play.
Desperately needing a spark on offense, the Huskers turned back the clock and got the play of the game from one of the most unlikely of positions. Facing a third-and-one from their own 45-yard line, fullback Andy Janovich took a trap play up the gut 55 yards for a touchdown to put Nebraska back on top 21-20 with 3:36 remaining.
Wisconsin worked quickly when it got the ball back, as Stave got the ensuing possession going with a 31-yard pass to Erickson down the left sideline, and then Stave hit Wheelwright for a 16-yard pass to move to the NU 39. A 12-yard run by Ogunbowale moved the ball inside the 25, to set up Gaglianone for a 39-yard field goal attempt with 1:30 to go.
Gaglianone's kick was long enough but bounced off the right upright, giving the Huskers the ball with 1:26 on the clock. Nebraska ran the ball three straight times but was unable to seal the game with a first down, and Wisconsin had all three timeouts to regain possession at its own 30 with 1:03 to play.
Stave connected with Jazz Peavy for a 23-yard pass that moved the ball to the NU 28, but two straight incompletions ran the clock down to nine seconds with the Badgers facing a third-and-10. That set up a 46-yard attempt from Gaglianone, and this time he was right on the mark, drilling the kick to put UW up for good at 23-21 with just four seconds remaining.
Nebraska returns to action next week when it travels to take on Minnesota.
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