Head coach Bret Bielema often zings that the Badgers aren't known as a ‘sexy team,' and there were few things pretty about Wisconsin's 16-14 victory over Utah State under the Camp Randall lights Saturday night.
The Badgers (2-1) struggled throughout the game to develop rhythm on offense, but got the boost they needed when sophomore Kenzel Doe returned a third-quarter punt 82 yards for the touchdown. Doe was only in the role as a replacement for junior Jared Abbrederis (concussion) and he responded with the program's longest return in 12 years.
Wisconsin parlayed that momentum by handing the ball off to Montee Ball, who scored his second rushing touchdown of the season on the next drive to put the Badgers ahead for good. For the game, Ball rushed for 139 yards – his 18th career game of 100-plus yards – and one touchdown.
It almost came in a losing effort, as Utah State (2-1) marched 49 yards in 10 plays in the final two minutes to put itself in position to win. Lucky for the Badgers, Josh Thompson's 37-yard field goal with six seconds remaining went wide right, allowing Wisconsin to survive a second-straight disaster.
Junior quarterback Danny O'Brien struggled for the second straight week, completing only 5 of 10 passes for 63 yards and one fumble inside UW's 30-yard line that led to a score. Redshirt freshman Joel Stave replaced him in the second half, going 2-for-6 for 15 yards.
coverage from Badgernation.com, the Internet's No.1 subscriber site for UW sports
7-0 Utah State
3 plays, 52 yards, :51 TOP, 9:17 remaining
Kerwynn Williams 39-yard pass from Chuckie Keeton (Josh Thompson kick)
Key Play: For the third straight week, Wisconsin's defense has a coverage bust that leads to a wide-open touchdown pass. Mike Taylor was responsible for the initial coverage on Williams until he let him go past, thinking he had safety help. He didn't and the Badgers didn't touch Williams until he was in the end zone.
7-3 Utah State
10 plays, 62 yards, 5:23 TOP, 14:16 remaining
FG Kyle French 19
Key Play:Wisconsin receivers not named Jared Abbrederis had rarely made the big catch all season, but that changed with freshman Reggie Love 19-yard grab going across the middle. Instead of Drew Meyer punting for the fourth time in the quarter, UW got a first down at the USU 28. UW couldn't punch it in the end zone when Montee Ball was stopped for no gain on third-and-2.
14-3 Utah State
5 plays, 24 yards, 1:48 TOP, :29 remaining
Matt Austin 11-yard pass from Chuckie Keeton (Thompson kick)
Key Play: With a collapsing pocket and Danny O'Brien trying to make a play, Utah State successfully pokes the ball out, giving the Aggies excellent field position at the Wisconsin 24-yard line.
14-10 Utah State
Kenzel Doe 82-yard punt return (French kick)
Key Play: This might be the spark Wisconsin's offense needed ... and it wasn't even on the field. After a poor decision in the first half led to him fair catching a punt on the three-yard line, Doe made the first defender miss, weaved through traffic and cut upfield at the USU 45, avoiding the kicker and taking it to the goal line with 7:06 remaining.
6 plays, 42 yards, 3:03 TOP, 3:06 remaining
Montee Ball 17-yard run (kick blocked)
Key Play: This season may be an early struggle for him, but Montee Ball is still the workhorse of the Badgers offense. With Joel Stave having replaced O'Brien at the start of the half, Ball got all six carries on the drive, looking vintage with his runs between the tackles and his 17-yard scamper.
Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!
For more Badger sports news, notes and discussion, especially on game day, follow Badger Nation on Twitter @TheBadgerNation