LINCOLN, Neb. – After his potential go-ahead 39-yard field goal bounced off the right upright in the closing minutes, sophomore kicker Rafael Gaglianone, with his head hung low as he returned to the sidelines, knew a lot of things had to fall right for him to get another chance.
If that didn’t happen, Gaglianone knew he would have to live with a crushing defeat for the University of Wisconsin.
“I was just devastated,” said Gaglianone. “Not just for me missing that opportunity, but knowing how hard my teammates had worked putting that drive together … me missing really made me feel I let my teammates down.”
But as teammates came over to him one by one to try to lift his spirits, the dominoes started to fall, and the Brazilian native started to get a little bit of pep back in his step. So when the opportunity arose with four seconds left, he was determined not to miss his chance at redemption.
Gaglianone’s 46-yard field goal with four seconds left, tucked just inside the same upright he clanked one off 82 seconds earlier, set off a wild celebration on the Badgers’ sidelines, a sense of euphoria following last week’s disappointment and winning the program’s first game in Nebraska – a 23-21 triumph in front of 89,886 fans.
“I thought a lot of guys just kept playing and picking each other up,” said head coach Paul Chryst. “It certainly didn't go our way at times, but we kept playing and that you appreciate as a coach.”
The momentum swings in the game were plentiful, most of which came in a wild fourth quarter. After Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) took the lead following Alec Ingold’s first career touchdown – a 1-yard plunge to put UW up 17-14, UW settled for a field goal on the following drive, less than ideal but nonetheless satisfying with 6:17 to go.
After all, Wisconsin’s defense has rebounded after struggling to close out the end of the second quarter, allowing two touchdowns in the final 2:40 to give the hosts a 14-7 lead at halftime. Take out those two drives and the Badgers had held the Huskers to only 137 yards on their other nine series.
But a dead stadium was suddenly brought to life when fullback Andy Janovich, who never had a run longer than 30 yards in his career, broke tackle attempts by safeties D'Cota Dixon and Michael Caputo and rumbled 55 yards to put the Huskers on top 21-20 with 3:33 remaining.
On the Wisconsin sideline, there was no alarm.
“The fact that we have had a lot of guys who had played in big games and a lot of close games like that, that helps a lot,” said senior quarterback Joel Stave. “There is no panic on the sidelines from the offense of the defense. We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football. We just have confident guys who believed we could win.”
Stave - who bounced back from a no touchdown, four turnover performance in the 10-6 loss to Iowa to throw for 322 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers Saturday - led a 70-yard drive in 10 plays, putting Gaglianone in position to make a 39-yard kick. He knew it wasn’t good as soon as he hit it.
Again, nobody missed a beat. Armed with three timeouts, Wisconsin bottled up Nebraska (2-4, 0-2) on three straight running plays, allowing only 12 seconds to tick off the clock.
“All we had to do was get a stop each and every play and give ourselves a chance to get the ball back,” said cornerback Darius Hillary. “I think that’s something we all rallied around.”
When UW got the ball back on the 30-yard line with 1:03 remaining, Stave completed three straight passes – including a 23-yard catch by tight end Troy Fumagalli – to put UW in position at the Nebraska 28.
“That was fun,” said Stave, referring to the last drive. “It was a drill that we work a lot. I think Troy was able to make some big plays and Jazz (Peavy) made that huge play for us (12-yard catch), so just being able to get us down there and give us another opportunity to kick was big for us.”
It was the fourth defeat for Nebraska this season in the final 13 seconds, another one in which UW’s running game inflicted damage. And while nobody ran for 408 yards like Melvin Gordon did a season ago, the Badgers wore down Nebraska’s front as the game went on. Having only 45 yards at halftime, Wisconsin finished with 147 yards on the ground, including 89 in the fourth quarter. UW did it without tailback Taiwan Deal, who lasted only four carries before being sidelined with an ankle injury.
All that redemption made it a satisfying triumph thanks to Gaglianone, who saved UW’s Big Ten title hopes along with himself.
“Vince Biegel is like, I love you now but I would have killed you if you would have missed it,” said Gaglianone. “I don’t blame him. It would have been a long ride home.”