With Wisconsin finally finding the end zone and needing to recover an onside kick with 91 seconds remaining, redshirt sophomore kicker Kyle French appeared to recover his own kick, giving the Badgers the ball back at their own 46-yard line.
But after a lengthy review between Big Ten officials on the field and Pac 12 replay officials in the booth, it was determined that French touched the ball just before it crossed the 45-yard line, resulting in an illegal touching penalty and the ball going to Oregon State.
With no timeouts left, Wisconsin could only watch as Oregon State ran the rest of the time off the clock.
"I was honestly, completely shocked that it was overturned," said French.
A new rule to college football this season is that for any one-hop kick that flies into the air, the receiving team can wave for a fair catch. That's one of the main reasons, according to French, Wisconsin worked throughout camp on how to dribble the ball onsides.
"It was written up just like we wanted," said French. "I just wish it was a better result than what happened."
Replays showed to viewers showed French sliding around the ball while fullback Derek Watt rushed in to block safety Tyrequek Zimmerman. Obscuring the camera angle, the ball appears to change direction before French grabs it at the 44-yard line. By rule if an Oregon State player touched the ball before it went 10 yards and Wisconsin recovered, possession would go to the Badgers.
Either way, the camera angles weren't definitive, but the call was reversed in favor of the home team.
"I think if anyone touched it before, it was him," said French. "What are you going to do? We're going to have to watch film and see what happened."
This is the third time in the last year that Wisconsin has been done in by instant replay. At Michigan State, a video review ruled Keith Nichol crossed the goal line after being downed at the 1-yard line. At last year's Rose Bowl, video replay ruled that time had expired with Wisconsin driving in for the winning score.
"You know when it's long, it's usually not good when it rules in your favor originally," said junior linebacker Chris Borland. "I was in on that play and thought (French) had it."
Absent without Abbrederis
Wisconsin's depth at the receiver position was already classified as Jared Abbrederis No.1 and everybody else No.2. So with the offense already struggling to generate momentum, the loss of Abbrederis in the second half was a huge blow.
"It was big," said Danny O'Brien, who threw for only 172 yards without his top target. "I think the guys that came in did a good job and stepped up and competed, but when you lose your No. 1 guy it has a little bit of an impact. Just praying he's going to be healthy and able to come back."
With 8 minutes, 22 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Abbrederis took a huge hit on a crossing route, having Feti Taumoepeau put the crown of his helmet into the middle of Abbrederis' chest.
Slow to get off the field, Abbrederis was eventually carted off the field and taken by ambulance to a local hospital. He was later released and traveled back with the team to Madison, but missing his presence in the second half was noticeable.
"When Abby was out of there, kind of mixing some guys in new spots that hadn't been there," said Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. "That's not an excuse. It's next man in and my responsibility to make that guy prepared … We just get down to numbers there. We were going three wideouts at the end of the game in that hurry-up offense."
Although junior Jeff Duckworth led the team with seven catch for 55 yards, the Badgers consistently lined up Montee Ball and James White as receivers with both players receiving a fair amount of throws. With Wisconsin facing a lot of man-to-man pressure, the Badgers rarely had opening for big gains.
"Someone needs to step up," said Duckworth. "It's part of football. It's part of the game so you've always got to be ready … Whether it was blocking or in the receiving game, we definitely didn't do enough to make enough plays."
The Badgers had been often criticized for not challenging themselves enough in the nonconference season, playing weak home games and non-challenging road games against non-BCS opponents. Wisconsin proudly displayed its 33 game regular-season nonconference winning streak as the second-longest in the country, but only two of those wins came on the road at a BCS venue and neither of them under Bielema.
Now after its first road trip of the season, Wisconsin representing the Leaders Division in the Big Ten championship game is far from a certainty, but the head coach saw some positives among the rubble.
"I know they're disappointed," said Bielema. "I know everyone wanted to come out here and have a victory, but a lot of character in that room. One thing I did give them credit for. I don't think they ever gave up. ... I thought our guys fought their tails off, everybody, all of the coaches, all of the players, that part I was very, very happy with."
"I'm not in this profession to lose football games. Any loss absolutely disturbs me to no end." - Bielema