Football: Close before halftime

Both UW and NU settled for field goals before their offenses kicked into high gear after halftime

In Wisconsin's 51-48 shootout loss Saturday in Evanston, Ill., both the Badgers and Northwestern settled for field goals in the final two minutes before halftime when they drove tantalizingly close to the end zone.

Wisconsin drove 37 yards and kicked a field goal on its last drive before halftime.

With a second-and-15 at its 48, UW quarterback John Stocco completed a screen pass to receiver Brandon Williams in the left flat. Left tackle Joe Thomas pulled on the play and decleated cornerback Deante Battle, springing Williams. The senior receiver cut back towards the middle of the field and burst into the clear for what could have been a 52-yard touchdown. However, as Williams planted his left foot near the sideline the grass slid out from under him, guiding his foot into the boundary and forcing him out of bounds at the NU 29.

On the next play, the Badgers pulled a rare trick out of the bag, calling a wide receiver reverse pass, with Williams sweeping around to the right and looking to throw the ball to Jonathan Orr in the end zone. Orr was able to create separation, but the pass was just a little too far ahead.

Three plays later a 19-yard screen pass to Brian Calhoun set up first-and-goal at the 10. Calhoun then picked up six yards on the ground to the left side.

On second down the Badgers lined up in a jumbo formation with reserve lineman Marcus Coleman in at tight end to the left of Thomas, but Calhoun lost a yard running to that side.

An illegal substitution call for breaking the huddle with 12 players pushed UW back to the 10, and an incomplete screen pass for Williams forced the Badgers to kick a field goal. Taylor Mehlhaff connected from 27 yards out to give the Badgers a 17-7 edge, their largest lead of the game.

Northwestern, though, answered, marking the fourth time in six games that the Badgers have scored in the final two minutes before halftime only to turn around and yield a score in the final minute.

With 1:06 left in the second quarter, the Wildcats lined up third-and-one from their 30. Tailback Tyrell Sutton took the handoff and broke several tackles on a 28-yard run, propelling NU to the Badger 42 and revving up the Wildcats' offense.

"It definitely did get me going," Sutton said of that run. "It sparked something in me. It probably brought (the defense) up a little more and expanded the game for Basanez to throw to whoever he wanted."

Basanez was then intercepted by reserve free safety Zach Hampton, but corner Jack Ikegwuonu was called for pass interference. A holding call on NU on the same play reset the down at first-and-10 at the UW 42.

Basanez then delivered a deep pass to Marcus Philmore, who beat corner Brett Bell on the play, giving NU first-and-goal at the 9.

The Wildcats, though, could not get the ball in the end zone. With 37 seconds left Basanez threw incomplete. On second down he completed a pass to Kim Thompson at the 5, but the Wildcats were out of timeouts and the clock ticked down to 10 seconds by the time the ball was snapped again. Still, NU could have gotten another play off. Rather, Basanez killed the clock, throwing the ball into the grass with nine seconds remaining. Facing fourth down, NU had to settle for a 21-yard Joel Howells field goal.

The Wildcats, though, would score touchdowns on their first six drives after halftime.

The Badgers scored on five of eight possessions in the second half, including four touchdown drives.

Mehlhaff's field goal with 1:59 left before halftime was the Badgers sixth score this season in the final two minutes of the second quarter. UW scored twice in that timeframe against Temple.

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