"Mistakes on special teams killed us," WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said disgustedly. "We gave them seven points right there."
The game didn't start well for the Mountaineers, as the offense took the ball and quickly went three downs and out, and were forced to punt. Then it got bad.
Todd James' punt was blocked by Wisconsin's Alex Lewis and the ball bounced back into the South endzone. After James wildly threw the ball back into play, linebacker Kareem Timbers recovered for the Badgers, and the Mountaineers were down a very quick 7-0.
WVU quickly bounced back when Adam "Pac Man" Jones returned the kickoff from five yards deep in the endzone all the way to the Wisconsin 19 yard line, quickly getting the Mountaineer crowd back to their collective feet.
WVU moved the ball to the UW three yard line before the drive stalled, and Brad Cooper came on to kick his first field goal in a WVU uniform to cut the Badger lead to 7-3.
Wisconsin seemed to be right back in business as they quickly moved the ball into WVU territory on their first offensive possession behind the arm of Jim Sorgi, and the legs of, surprisingly, Jim Sorgi.
Sorgi, who displayed respectable running ability, gained 47 yard on nine carries, picking up a couple of key first downs in the contest.
However, on third down and three yards to go from the WVU 36 yard line, Lee Evans went in motion and moved towards the line before the snap, and was called for illegal motion, moving the Badgers back to the 41 and forcing UW into a passing situation. Sorgi's pass to Lee Evans was defended well by Adam Jones, and the Badgers were forced to punt.
Things again turned ugly for WVU as Rasheed Marshall was knocked out of the game with a bruised abdomen after completing a 16 yard pass to Dee Alston that gave WVU a first down at their own 40. However, Charles Hales came in for the Mountaineers and quickly established his leadership, as he helped lead the Mountaineers to the red zone. Quincy Wilson then asserted himself as the WVU pace started to tire the larger Wisconsin playersWilson ran the last four plays for four, five, seven and ten yards, the final a tough run that ended in the end zone for a 10-7 WVU lead.
They're a very good defense," a banged up Wilson said after the game. "We had to earn every yard we got."
Wisconsin however, wasn't done as they again moved the ball into WVU territory on their final two drives of the half. But the Wisconsin special teams has let them down, as Scott Campbell has missed on two field goals, the first from 44 yards out and the second from 42 yards. Those miscues allowed the Mountaineers to hold their 10-7 lead at the half.
Wisconsin took the second half kickoff and WVU's defense quickly forced a three and out. Key plays in the drive were a fumble by Wisconsin QB Jim Sorgi, and a strong tackle by Mike Lorello on an Owen Daniels reception two yards short of the first down marker.
West Virginia wasted little time in capitalizing, as they marched 66 yards in seven plays, keyed by a 36 yard run by Quincy Wilson, who finished his day with 99 yards on 24 carries. The touchdown came on a second and goal from the Wisconsin two yard line, and Quincy appeared to be stuffed, but bounced out of a tackle and zipped around end for the TD, giving WVU its largest lead of the day 17-7.
Wisconsin started to show their might with 11:10 to go in the third quarter, again behind Sorgi and now Davis, who finished the game with 167 yards on 30 carries. The Badgers moved down the field, gaining 69 yards on 11 plays. However, WVU held the Badgers on third and goal from the Mountaineer 11, and Scott Campbell finally put one between the new yellow uprights to cut WVU's lead to 17-10.
Rasheed Marshall returned to the game for WVU to begin the next drive, but the Mountaineers were unable to move the ball on two straight drives and forced to punt. The defense was also up to the task for WVU as they held Wisconsin, but as the fourth quarter begin the bigger Badgers again began to assert themselves.
Wisconsin started to move the ball better on the ground than they had all afternoon, scoring on their first drive of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 17-17 on a 20 yard pass from Sorgi to Lee Evans, who was playing his first game in two years after suffering a knee injury in the Badger spring game in 2002. Evans finished the game with 70 yards on seven catches, and more importantly, recorded the game-tying touchdown as he wreslted the ball away from WVU defensive back Lance Frazier.
Wisconsin scored the game winner with just under three minutes to go in the game on a one yard run by Anthony Davis in which Wisconsin ran the ball on every play but the first. The drive was seven plays and 67 yards, and sent many of the Mountaineer faithful heading to the exits.
The big story for WVU was injuries and mistakes. After Marshall was knocked from the game in the first quarter with a bruised abdomen, he was cleared by the doctors to re-enter the game but threw up blood on the sidelines. After a trip to Ruby Memorial Hospital for tests, Marshall made it back into the game, but his rhythm appeared to be affected.
In addition, key players Quincy Wilson, Grant Wiley and Jahmile Addae were injured in the contest, causing the WVU offense and defense to spurt and start as they attempted to get into the flow of the contest. Wilson suffered a bruised knee and cramps and did not return to the game. Wiley had his left leg retaped after getting caught in a pileup, and Jahmile Addae appeared to reinjure the shoulder that has bothered him all fall.
WVU (0-1, 0-0) travels to Greenville, NC next Saturday to take on the East Carolina Pirates, while Wisconsin (1-0, 0-0) returns home to face Akron.