Things fall apart

Wisconsin's dream season collapses in East Lansing disaster

EAST LANSING, Mich.—Keeping with their "1-0" motto throughout the season, the Badgers had seemingly taken a step forward almost every week throughout the 2004 season. Every week, that is, until they entered Spartan Stadium Saturday and were manhandled 49-14 by Michigan State in every aspect of the game.

"I am disappointed in how we played," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "That is unlike how we played all year, we were beaten in all three phases and we didn't play well in any phase of the game and I have to give Michigan State credit. They played very well."

Wisconsin entered Saturday's game looking to go 10-0 for the first time in school history. The Badgers were ranked No. 5 in the BCS standings, No. 4 in the Associated Press and ESPN/Coaches polls and had the Rose Bowl in sight and the Orange Bowl not out of reach.

Those hopes were dashed Saturday. The Badgers fell to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten and now need to win at Iowa and need an Ohio State win over Michigan to make it to the Rose Bowl. Michigan State improves to 5-5, 4-3, keeping its own bowl hopes alive.

"It wasn't there today," senior defensive back Jim Leonhard said. "Fundamentals were a little off, we missed a bunch of tackles that led to big plays and we can't do that, we haven't done that up to this point. For some reason, it showed up today."

The Spartans overpowered Wisconsin up front and used a dominating rushing attack that accounted for 430 yards, 281 more rushing yards than UW had given up in any of its previous contests this season. Prior to Saturday's game, UW had allowed only one running back all season to break the 100-yard barrier, but freshman Jehuu Caulcrick and junior Jason Teague both eclipsed that mark with 146 and 112 yards, respectively.

"To actually put up those kind points on us, I was kinda mad, upset, but we've got to go back this week, stay focused and find a way to win," junior linebacker Dontez Sanders said. "I felt that just today our team, we didn't tackle well, we didn't play well as a group."

Teague scored his first of two touchdowns on a broken play that gave Michigan State the lead for good and broke the backs of the Wisconsin defense. After taking a handoff, Teague was nearly tackled in the backfield as he made a reverse handoff to junior wideout Aaron Alexander. After looking for help to his left Alexander regrouped and hooked up with a wide-open Teague to the right side for a 30-yard touchdown pass that broke a 14-14 tie.

"The third touchdown we had a 14- or 15-yard tackle for a loss and the guy kinda squivaled through his hands and then he flipped it up to [Teague]," defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said. "And [Teague] had actually been tackled for a loss and rallied for a touchdown and that is when things begin to confound you."

Wisconsin had plenty of opportunities to cash in following the Teague touchdown reception. The Badgers had first-and-goal on the one-yard line at the end of the first half and could not punch the ball into the end zone. Senior tailback Anthony Davis was stuffed twice in the four-down set including on fourth and inches when David Herron Jr. and Roderick Maples denied him the goal line, giving the Spartans a huge emotional lift heading into halftime, that proved to be the turning point in the MSU victory.

"They did a heck of a job," sophomore quarterback John Stocco said. "Fourth and one, that's something as an offense that you feel like you can get, but they did a good job and played us tough."

"We never gave up, but we figured that was just another hurdle that we have to overcome," Robert Brooks said of the momentum swing.

Michigan State followed through on that momentum swing, surprising the Badgers with an onside kick that the Spartans recovered on the MSU 46. The Spartans went on to drive 54 yards for a score, mostly due to the legs of Caulcrick, who broke a 31-yard run and punched in a one-yard touchdown run to give Michigan State a 28-14 lead. The deficit for Wisconsin would just continue to grow.

Michigan State poured it on in the second half, outscoring the Badgers 28-0 to the delight of the sellout crowd at Spartan Stadium.

The Badgers only offense transpired in the first half when Davis rushed for 126 of his 128 yards. He put the Badgers on the board first with a dazzling 45-yard scamper with 13 minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Michigan State answered quickly with a four-yard touchdown strike from Damon Dowdell to Eric Knott. The Spartans took their first lead of the game just minutes later when they blocked a Ken DeBauche punt and recovered it in the end zone.

"They blocked the kick, we can say that we did something poorly but they earned those," Alvarez said. "They fought their way back in and took the momentum."

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