ARLINGTON, Texas - Wisconsin could only hold on for so long.
With no semblance of a running game and senior safety and captain Michael Caputo going down after three plays, the 20th-ranked Badgers watched helplessly as No.3 Alabama pulled away in the second half to earn a 35-17 victory in front of 64,279 fans at AT&T Stadium.
Without Caputo in the middle, UW relied on two inexperienced safeties and inside linebackers to try to slow down senior quarterback Jake Coker and 242-pound running back Derrick Henry. It didn’t work. Coker completed 15 of 21 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown while Henry rushed for 147 yards on 13 carries and three touchdowns, two of which went for 37 and 52 yards due in part to missed tackles.
Senior quarterback Joel Stave was terrific for Wisconsin in the opening 30 minutes, going 14-for-16 for 149 yards and a touchdown, but things started to fall apart after Rafael Gaglianone bounced a 34-yard attempt off the upright at the end of the first half that would have cut the lead to 14-10.
The Badgers' first three drives of the second half consisted of 11 plays, 12 yards and one first down. On the flip side, Alabama’s first three drives generated 14 points and a missed field goal. Stave finished 26-for-38 for 228 yards, two scores and one interception, as the Tide ramped up the pressure against Wisconsin’s inexperienced offensive line.
Junior tailback Corey Clement and the Badgers’ running game was getting nothing going on the ground against one of the best front seven units in college football. At halftime, Wisconsin had 22 rushing yards on 13 carries and finished with only 40 yards on the ground. Clement ended with 16 yards on eight carries.
Wisconsin (0-1) returns home to open its home schedule against Miami (OH) Saturday at 11 a.m. CT.
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6 plays, 90 yards, 2:01 TOP, 5:54 left
Derrick Henry 37-yard run (Adam Griffin kick)
Key Play: Wisconsin had a chance to get the ball back to its offense facing a fourth-and-1, but the Badgers couldn't wrap up Henry at the line of scrimmage. With UW's best tackler - Michael Caputo - out with a head injury after just three plays, there was nobody to bring down the 242-pound tank on his rumble to the end zone.
6 plays, 90 yards, 2:01 TOP, 11:06 left
Alex Erickson 6-yard pass from Joel Stave (Rafael Gaglianone kick)
Key Play: It's a throw that usually doesn't end well for Joel Stave. Not so early on. Stave rolled to his right and threw across his body to the left, hitting an open Austin Traylor for 20 yards to get Wisconsin down to the Alabama 10.
8 plays, 88 yards, 4:22 TOP, 6:39 left
Robert Foster 17-yard pass from Jacob Coker (Griffith kick)
Key Play: Alabama's athleticism of his skill players was easy to see. Getting open near the sidelines, Kenyan Drake used a combination of speed, agility and some fancy footwork to dance along the sidelines for 33 yards - Alabama's longest pass play - down to the UW 41.
2 plays, 56 yards, :17 TOP, 11:42 left
Derrick Henry 56-yard run (Griffith kick)
Key Play: A missed tackle by Leo Musso opened the lane for Henry, who is becoming harder and harder for the suddenly inexperienced middle of Wisconsin's defense.
7 plays, 67 yards, 2:10 TOP, 5:17 left
Derrick Henry 2-yard run (Griffith kick)
Key Play: Coker is in a groove and Wisconsin can't get him out of it. The senior quarterback completed consecutive passes over the middle for 22 and 16 yards to get Alabama down to the UW 25.
9 plays, 42 yards, 4:03 TOP, 1:05 left
FG Gaglianone 43
Key Play: Gaglianone hooked a 38-yard kick but a false start penalty gave him a second chance, one that he banged through the uprights..
3 plays, 27 yards, 2:00 TOP, 8:02 left
Kenya Drake 47-yard run (Griffin kick)
Key Play: Alabama doesn't need many free yards but Wisconsin has been happy to oblige. After a 36-yard punt was returned to the UW 42, D'Cota Dixon's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave the Tide 15 more yards down to the UW 27.
7 plays, 75 yards, 3:20 TOP, 4:42 left
Rob Wheelwright three-yard pass from Joel Stave (Gaglianone kick kick)
Key Play: Wisconsin opened the drive running its first jet sweep of the game. The result was a 25-yard run by Alex Erickson to the 50. Up until that point, UW's longest run was five yards.
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