Three years ago, head coach Bret Bielema drew a lot of ire when his decision to try and freeze kicker Brett Swanson backfired, actually giving him tie to compose himself enough to kick a 44-yard field goal with 7 seconds left to give Michigan State a 25-24 victory.
This time around, it was three timeouts that set the stage.
No.4 Wisconsin had just tied the score at 31 with 79 seconds left when Bielema started using his timeouts to try and get the ball back for his suddenly refreshed team. The offense had just scored on an 87-yard drive, the defense held Michigan State in check for three straight series and there was enough time to get the ball back and prevent overtime. Too much time as it turns out.
Wisconsin never got the ball back, as Michigan State drove 34 yards to the Wisconsin 44 before heaving the game-winning Hail Mary with no time left to stun the Badgers, 37-31.
"We were trying to win the game," Bielema said. "No doubt in what we were doing."
After Michigan State converted a third-and-7 and lost 10 yards on a first-down fumble, Bielema burned his first timeout with 42 seconds left and his second one after a 12-yard completion set up a third-and-8. With the Spartans composed in a five-receiver set, Cousins shovel pass to Keshawn Martin went for 11 yards and a first down in at the MSU 47.
Three plays later, the Hail Mary highlighted the timeouts.
"I looked to their sideline to see if they were going to call one and I realize they were going to go no huddle," said Bielema. "We were trying to get our punt return unit back (on the field) … We were trying to get an opportunity to win the game."
It was a stark contrast to the end of the first half when Michigan State, up 16-14, used all three of its timeouts to try and get the ball back with 45 seconds left. As a result, the Spartans blocked the punt attempt and headed into the locker room with a nine-point lead.
"We felt the last few series at the end of the game that we'd been keeping them out of the end zone," said linebacker Chris Borland. "We felt pretty good, but they kept making plays."
Although people may question in hind set the moves of the head coach, his players appreciate the belief.
"I totally agree with him," said running back Montee Ball. "I would have done the same thing if I was in his position. You don't want to go into overtime if you don't have to."
• The loss snaps Wisconsin's nine-game conference winning streak, as well as its 13-game regular-season winning streak. The loss also stopped the Badgers' seven-game winning streak in night games.
• The home team has now won the last seven games in the series.
• The Badgers scored 31 points for the seventh time in 2011 and the 14th time in their last 15 games.
• Wisconsin gave up 23 points to Michigan State in the second quarter, this most points allowed in a single quarter by UW since surrendering 27 in the third quarter against Northwestern on Oct. 8, 2005.
• Kyler Elsworth blocked a Brad Nortman punt and it was recovered for a touchdown by Bennie Fowler. It was the first blocked punt for a touchdown given up by UW since Michigan State's Travis Key recovered a blocked punt in the end zone on Nov. 13, 2004. The last blocked punt by a UW opponent was Minnesota's Keanon Cooper on Oct. 3, 2009.
• The 37 points allowed by Wisconsin was the most since a 38-16 loss at Iowa on Oct. 18, 2008.
• With Russell Wilson called for intentional grounding in the end zone, Michigan State scored the first safety by a Wisconsin opponent since North Carolina on Sept. 17, 2005.
• Senior QB Russell Wilson has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 31-straight games, five short of the NCAA record.
• Wilson finished 14-of-21 for 223 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Wilson ranks 22nd all-time at Wisconsin with 1,780 passing yards, passing Ron Vander Kelen (1,582).
• Junior RB Montee Ball finished with 115 rushing yards, his third-straight 100-yard game and the 10th of his career. With 2,155 career rushing yards, Ball surpassed Carl McCullough (2,111) for 11th all-time at Wisconsin.
• Ball has now scored 114 points on the season, tying Billy Marek for fifth on the UW single-season list.
• WR Nick Toon became the sixth receiving in school history to go over the 2,000-yard mark in receiving yards. He caught two passes for 58 yards against the Spartans and now ranks fifth all-time with 2,026 career receiving yards after passing Lee DeRamus (1,974), Tony Simmons (1,991) and Chris Chambers (2,004). Al Toon, Nick's father, is next on the list at 2,103 yards.