The most significant play Saturday was a 10-yard run. Anthony Davis was just being himself, cutting to his right, kicking it into an extra gear to elude one tackler. After picking up 10 yards, he was in the process of breaking a tackle when a UNLV defender rolled up on his ankle. Davis limped off the field and did not return, leaving Wisconsin without its offensive catalyst. It is impossible to know how the Badgers offense would have played with Davis Saturday, and it is important to note that UNLV's best offensive player, Larry Croom, was also missing from the game, but Davis' absence undoubtedly left in indelible mark on Wisconsin's offense.
Other top defining moments Saturday, as they unfolded through the course of the game:
Setting the stage: Wisconsin's second possession of the game, midway through first quarter. On this drive, Dwayne Smith has replaced the injured Anthony Davis at tailback. The Badgers trail 3-0 and are faced with a third-and-10 from the UNLV 43.
How it played out: Wisconsin caught UNLV in a blitz, dumping a screen pass to Smith in the flats. With wide receivers downfield occupying two defensive backs, center Donovan Raiola and guard Jonathan Clinkscale are providing a caravan for Smith down the sideline. The sophomore tailback, however, gets a little ahead of himself and runs right up behind Clinkscale. The guard pancakes UNLV's remaining defender, but Smith trips over his fallen teammate and comes to a stop at the Rebel six-yard line.
The impact: Wisconsin picks up 37 yards on the play, but is haunted by its inability to cash in on a golden opportunity for a game-shifting, long touchdown play. On the next play from scrimmage, Smith takes a handoff running right and fumbles. UNLV defensive end Chris Eagen recovers the loose ball, ending Wisconsin's best scoring opportunity in the first half.
Setting the stage: Third UW possession, Badgers still down 3-0. A second-and-10 at the Wisconsin 49.
How it played out: Dwayne Smith fumbles on his second consecutive carry. UNLV strong safety Jamaal Brimmer picks up the loose ball and sprints 55 yards for the game's first touchdown, giving UNLV a 10-0 lead.
The impact: Wisconsin never recovered. Smith looked extremely hesitant from here on out and UNLV's defensive adrenaline, already on high, kicked into overdrive.
Setting the stage: Midway through the second quarter, UNLV ahead 10-5. The Rebels started this drive at Wisconsin's 14-yard line following an interception and picked up a first-and-goal on the seven via a defensive holding call on UW strong safety Joe Stellmacher. The Badgers defense is holding tough, and the Rebels face third-and-goal from the six.
How it played out: UNLV receiver Earvin Johnson, who stands 6-3 and weighs 200 pounds, runs a fade against 6-1, 178-pound Wisconsin corner Levonne Rowan. Rowan is in ideal position and manages to get a hand on the ball, but Johnson snags the deflected pass, secures it and manages to keep at least one foot in, with control, scoring the game's first offensive touchdown.
The impact: UNLV missed the extra point, but took a 16-5 lead. The play set up Johnson's second touchdown catch, on the Rebels next trip inside the red zone, early in the third quarter. This time, from nearly the same position, Johnson ran a slant on Rowan, gaining inside position and out-muscling him to make the play on the ball.
Setting the stage: Wisconsin still trails 23-5, but has moved as close as UNLV's three-yard line. Following a false start penalty, the Badgers have second-and-goal at the eight, early in the fourth quarter.
How it played out: Sorgi drops back to pass, but for the seventh of eight times Saturday the pressure gets to him. UNLV outside linebacker Reggie Butler comes off the edge in a blur and takes down Sorgi for a nine-yard loss.
The impact: Wisconsin's here-and-there offense Saturday could not recover, turning the ball over on downs two plays later. The Badgers last best chance to reach the end zone and potentially make a run at Saturday's game went for naught and the Rebels began to run out the clock.