Wisconsin had scored 14 touchdowns in the its last eight quarters heading into the second quarter of Saturday's contest with Iowa. The Badgers offense, though, disappeared for half the game after senior quarterback Jim Sorgi went down with a concussion early in the second quarter.
The Badgers' first drive without their starting signal caller went well enough, with a 30-yard screen pass to Anthony Davis setting up a one-yard Dwayne Smith touchdown run. Davis' reception, though, was the only play over 15 yards Wisconsin's offense provided with backup Matt Schabert in the lineup. In the second and third quarters, with Schabert at the helm, Wisconsin picked up 121 yards, just 85 yards after the initial touchdown drive. The Badgers had 138 yards and two touchdowns on five Sorgi-led possessions.
"It's just hard to lose your starting quarterback," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. "I thought Jim was very crisp in the game. I thought he really threw the ball very well, he knew where to go with the ball. I was confident he would have a good game. We hate to lose him."
In the fourth quarter, Wisconsin turned to redshirt freshman John Stocco, who prior to Saturday, had thrown just one pass, a five-yard completion toward the end of last week's 56-21 win over Michigan State.
By the time Stocco stepped under center, Iowa had erased a 21-7 deficit and led 27-21.
Stocco did what most players in his position would likely do, honing in on Lee Evans with his first six pass attempts. Three landed in Evans' hands including a 49-yard strike that set Wisconsin up at Iowa's 30 with about seven minutes left to play.
Stoco was "incredibly poised" according to Evans. "I was shocked, stepping into that type of environment and that game. He really ran this offense very well. I told him after the game he made me proud of him."
Another completion to Evans, though, was erased by a holding penalty, leading to an R.J. Morse punt with five and a half minutes remaining.
Wisconsin regained possession with three minutes, 38 seconds left, 48 yards from victory. On third and five from the Iowa 43, Stocco made a very good throw along the sideline to Darrin Charles, who fully extended for a 23-yard reception.
Four running plays later Wisconsin took its final timeout with 21 seconds left. On third and goal from the five, Stocco threw a swing pass to Dwayne Smith, who was tackled in bounds, keeping the clock running. Smith was the third option on the play.
"We had Lee coming across the goal line and (Jonathan Orr) in the back of the end zone and then Dwayne was the last resort on the swing there and I thought it was getting too bunched up in there and as a defense that is a tough play to make one-on-one with your running back so I just thought I'd give him a shot," Stocco said.
Wisconsin had called two plays from the sideline during the timeout, but with time trickling away, the final play became a rushed attempt.
"We were just trying to get lined up and just go," Stocco said. "We didn't really have time to get it set up the way we needed it."
Stocco took a short drop and rifled a pass over the middle intended for Jonathan Orr. Iowa safety Sean Considine, though, was there defensively, getting a hand on the pass to help guide it harmlessly to the ground.
"I tried to jam it in there to him, just trying to get something out of it because we were running out of time so I just wanted to try to make something happen," Stocco said.
It was an unfortunate regular season end for Sorgi, who had thrown for 685 yards and nine touchdowns in his last two games.
"Your run game stays the same, but your pass game—there are just some throws that Matt can't make that Jim throws so it scales down considerably," Alvarez said.
Schabert struggled mightily in his stead, completing just four of 11 passes and throwing three interceptions, resulting in 17 Iowa points.
Sorgi obviously wanted to re-enter the game, warming up the sideline for close to 10 minutes. Wisconsin's coaches and medical staff, though, could not allow Sorgi to return.
"He just did that on his own, Jim wanted to go back and play," Alvarez said