A Chaotic Close Still Unexplained

It looked like a character-building victory for No.20 Wisconsin, a chance to build some more momentum heading into the start of conference play. Instead the Badgers are looking for an explanation on why they weren't given an opportunity to win in Sun Devils Stadium.

TEMPE , Ariz. - Gary Andersen never had seen an ending like the one that occurred to his University of Wisconsin football team Saturday night. Nobody had, and likely nobody would want to ever again.

Although in position to kick the game-winning 35-yard field goal with 18 seconds left, Wisconsin never got the opportunity, seeing the clock expire after a bizarre series of events that gave Arizona State a 32-30 victory Saturday night at Sun Devils Stadium, put Andersen up in arms and forcing UW players to take the high road in a game where they obviously felt cheated.

"It's a shame it went down the way it went down at the end," said Andersen.

The play, according to tight end Jacob Pedersen, was center the ball between the hashes to put junior kicker Kyle French at a better angle than the right hash mark where he made a 34-yard field goal earlier in the quarter and a play UW works on weekly in practice.

What happened next will undoubtedly be talked about and discussed for some time.

Stave took a quick run to his left, went down to a knee with 16 seconds left, but admitted he bounced up too quickly, and put the ball on the ground to be spotted.

"It wasn't like it was a stressful situation to get the ball down," said Andersen.

It got peculiar from that point on. The officials – a Pac-12 crew – blew the whistle with 15 seconds on the running clock, and the Arizona State players, thinking Stave fumbled the football, jumped on the ball with 12 seconds left.

Stave approached referee Jack Folliard with 10 seconds remaining, telling him he was going to spike the football and Folliard responded with a nod. Sun Devils senior Anthony Jones remaining on the ball until four seconds were left on the clock, as the umpire patiently waited for him to get up for him to spot the ball.

"There was obviously some miscommunication," said Pedersen.

The umpire spots the ball with three seconds left, but holds his hand for the Wisconsin offensive line to wait, despite Rob Havenstein and Kyle Costigan pointing to the game clock. Stave finally noticed with two seconds left that the clock was still running but the clock read zero before the ball was snapped.

Arizona State players celebrated, Stave became animated with Folliard and the Wisconsin sideline wanted an explanation.

"I was just asking if we could review it," said Stave. "I thought that maybe perhaps we could review it because I felt that I took a knee and we would have plenty of time to spike it."

Did he get an answer?

"Not a whole lot," he said.

After a brief huddle, the officials ran off the field, no explanation given.

"We played well enough to win," said senior linebacker Chris Borland, calling it the worst loss he's been a part of. "We put ourselves in a position to win, and it was taken from us. It's miserable."

After not being tested through two weeks of the regular season, the results were a mixed bag for Wisconsin.

Offensively the Badgers got 193 yards from Melvin Gordon, including an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half to give UW a 21-13 lead, but the passing game was inconsistent from Stave, who missed a number of open wide receivers that could of resulted in big hits.

"We put together a couple good drives," said Stave, who passed for 121 of his 187 yards on the final two drives. "That's a good all-around team we just played."

After a walk in the park the first two weeks of the season, the Badgers' defense didn't have to wait long to be tested by an explosive Sun Devils offense.

Arizona State came out moving on its first drive, slicing through Wisconsin's defense and advanced into the red zone, a first against Wisconsin this season. With his offense moving the ball so successful, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham decided against the chip shot field goal for a chance at seven.

The move backfired, as Kevin Ozier dropped the ball in the end zone, causing the Sun Devils to come up with no points on their 13-play, 72-yard drive to begin the game.

Arizona State didn't leave many points on the board after halftime, as Kelly threw for 246 yards and led scoring drives of 91, 76 and 60 yards by picking on Wisconsin's young secondary, as UW's starting cornerback were called for a combined five penalties and struggled to defend the back-shoulder pass.

"They caught two or three of them that were executed extremely well," said Andersen, as Kelly (352 passing yards) became the first quarterback to throw for over 300 yards against Wisconsin since Northwestern's Mike Kafka threw for 326 yards in November 2009.

"If you play off man, they are going to throw hitches off you all day long and then you have to rally the tackle. They executed at some moments and so did we."

Wisconsin's offense ran 28 fewer plays and managed only 101 yards (118 yards fewer than its opponents) in the first half, but took a 14-13 lead into the locker room based on one drive and one special teams mishap going its way.

Stave completed just 5 of 11 passes for 30 yards in the first half, but his 10-yard shovel pass to Jordan Fredrick on third-and-8, a pair of 19 yard runs by James White and Gordon and a 2-yard jugging touchdown catch by Pedersen got Wisconsin on the board following a 75-yard scoring drive.

Wisconsin landed another big hit 54 seconds later, as a low snap by Arizona State long snapper Easton Wahlstrom resulted in the ball skirting to the goal line, punter Dom Vizzare unsuccessfully trying to pick it up to get off a punt and Allen recovering the fumble at the goal line. It was a moot point afterword.

"I'd give that up in a second for a victory," said Allen.

Instead of signature early season victory and momentum heading into conference play, Wisconsin is left at a loss for words.

"It's devastating and guys will take it hard but dwelling on this game, that play in particular, isn't going to help us beat Purdue and not going to help us in Big Ten play," said Borland "We're going to have to work hard, have a great week of practice and just move forward. Dwell on the past isn't going to help us win games."

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