EVANSTON, Ill. - The funk for the University of Wisconsin continues in the passing game and at Ryan Field.
No.17 Wisconsin could get nothing going offensively in its Big Ten opener with Tanner McEvoy or Joel Stave and the Badgers’ defense was gashed for too many big plays in an ugly 20-14 loss to Northwestern, practically eliminating any hope UW had of making the four team College Football Playoff.
Melvin Gordon finished with a career-high 259 rushing yards, including two carries over 50 yards, and scored a two-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, but the Badgers (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) mustered very little outside their one-time Heisman Trophy candidate.
Stave made his first appearance of the season of the final drive of the second quarter after the Wisconsin offense managed only 122 yards on 23 plays and no points with McEvoy under center. McEvoy has thrown for a total of 85 yards in five combined first quarters.
Stave didn’t fare much better, finishing 8-for-17 for 117 passing yards and throwing three interceptions, one at Northwestern’s five-yard line with less than seven minutes to go. That proved costly after Wisconsin scored a touchdown on the very next drive to cut the lead to six with 4:16 remaining and got the ball back with less than a minute to go.
Comeback thoughts ended quickly when Stave threw his third interception of the half.
Northwestern (3-2, 2-0) ran a balanced attack with 203 rushing yards and 182 passing yards, including a five-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter that was the Cats first since week two and the first score the Badgers allowed in the red zone this season.
Wisconsin hasn’t won at Northwestern since 1999 and are winless away from Camp Randall Stadium this season.
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13 plays, 75 yards, 4:52 TOP, 4:27 left
FG Jack Mitchell 22
Key Play: Northwestern made it look really easy on third-and-four, as a coverage bust by Wisconsin allowed Jayme Taylor to be wide open for an 18-yard completion down to the UW 36.
15 plays, 80 yards, 6:44 TOP, 3:38 left
Dan Vitale 5-yard pass from Trevon Siemian (Mitchell kick)
Key Play: Derrick Tindl, playing in place of Devin Gaulden, with a 6-yard sack on first down, but gets beat off the line of scrimmage on the next play and can't catch up to prevent a 35-yard completion to Tony Jones at the UW 34.
7 plays, 76 yards, 4:16 TOP, 10:44 left
Melvin Gordon 2-yard run (Rafael Gaglianone kick)
Key Play: Sam Arneson sealed off the defensive end and Troy Fumagalli released to the linebacker, allowing Melvin Gordon to go 51 yards down the sideline to the NW 14
1 play, 16 yards, :07 TOP, 6:58 left
Miles Shuler 16-yard run (Mitchell kick)
Key Play: Rob Havenstein couldn't stop the speed rush from Ifeadi Odenigbo, resulting in the sophomore hitting Stave as he threw and creating an easy interception for the Wildcats
11 plays, 63 yards, 3:39 TOP, 14:14 left
FG Jack Mitchell 22
Key Play: Missed tackles galore for Wisconsin, who allowed Northweestern to execute three plays of double-digit yards.
2 plays, 43 yards, :32 TOP, 4:16 left
Kenzel Doe 19-yard pass from Stave (Gaglianone kick)
Key Play: A good throw and a good catch by a UW wide receiver in the corner of the end zone; what a novel concept.
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