Spartans Fall In Madison 37-34

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Maybe the Badgers don't need defense after all.
P.J. Hill ran for 155 yards and two touchdowns and No. 9 Wisconsin extended the nation's longest winning streak to 14 by holding off Michigan State 37-34 on Saturday despite giving up 564 yards.
"We don't get any style points for doing things pretty," said Badgers coach Bret Bielema, now 17-1 to start his career. "We are not a pretty football team."
Maybe not, but on offense, Wisconsin (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) was impressive, holding the ball for 34 minutes and gaining 461 yards, including touchdown drives of 85, 91 and 80 yards.
The Badgers will have to be spectacular if their defense continues to give up big plays. A year after having one of the stingiest units in the country, multiple breakdowns allowed Michigan State (4-1, 0-1) to stay close throughout until a pair of questionable offensive play calls.
"It's the plays that we didn't make that concern me," Bielema said. "I didn't expect to see 1,000 total yards of offense out there today."
Hill ran for his second touchdown from a yard out to give Wisconsin a 34-24 lead midway through the third quarter. But Michigan State rallied with 10 straight points, first off Brian Hoyer's 3-yard TD pass to Mark Dell to cap a 13-play drive with 13:54 to play.
Tyler Donovan, who finished 17-of-24 for 247 yards and two scores, had been sharp to that point leading the Badgers. But he didn't see safety Travis Key, who went right to the spot Donovan was eyeing for an easy interception. Brett Swenson kicked a 35-yard field goal to tie the game at 34-34 with just over 12 minutes to play.
Wisconsin, which has won a school-best nine straight in conference and 22 of its last 23 at home, retook the lead after Michigan State had three costly penalties, the final one a defensive holding call in the end zone.
Hill, who had 34 carries, couldn't punch it in from inside the 1 and Taylor Mehlhaff kicked a 22-yard field goal, his third of the day, to give the Badgers a 37-34 lead with 6:15 left.
The Spartans, looking for their best start in 10 years under first-year coach Mark Dantonio, moved back into Badgers territory. They called a run to Javon Ringer on third-and-7 that was stopped and set up a 53-yard field goal attempt that Swenson missed wide left.
"They were in the defense we thought they were going to be (in)," Hoyer said. "We thought we'd get a big play or at least 2 yards to set up a field goal try."
Ringer finished with 145 yards on 10 carries.
Michigan State's defense held for a final drive, and the Spartans took over with 2:11 to play on their own 40. They quickly moved to the Badgers 38 before the drive stalled on fourth-and-2 when Hoyer's first option on a screen pass was covered and he missed a leaping Ringer to end the Spartans' chances.
"Depending on one play out there, this way or that way, and we had a chance to win the football game," Dantonio said. "We're a little heartbroken, but not too bad."
Hill, running behind an offensive line that averages 314 pounds, had his fourth straight 100-yard game and 12th of his career. But Michigan State had an equally formidable combination of Jehuu Caulcrick and Ringer.
Ringer ran 70 yards on the second play of the second half, but Michigan State settled for a 19-yard field goal to cut the lead to 27-24 before Hill's final touchdown.
The first half was marked by more big plays, back-and-forth scoring and a fight.
Badgers receiver Marcus Randle El and Spartans cornerback Chris Rucker were ejected after getting tangled up in coverage. Each landed at least two punches to the other's helmet before being separated.
"You've got to back away from those things," Dantonio said. "You've got to know when to stop."
Rucker's backup, T.J. Williams, intercepted Donovan three plays later. Williams, a wide receiver, played cornerback for the first time last week in a win against Notre Dame.
But the Spartans couldn't capitalize when Hoyer, who was sacked five times, fumbled. That led to the first of Wisconsin's two field goals to give the Badgers a 27-21 halftime lead.
Hill opened scoring with a 5-yard TD run. Caulcrick, who finished with 73 yards on 17 carries, added two scores of his own, each from the 2, to give Michigan State a 14-7 lead.
Wisconsin answered with 14 consecutive points on a 2-yard pass from Donovan to Travis Beckum, who finished with 10 receptions for 132 yards, and a 64-yard pass to freshman Kyle Jefferson, who got behind the Spartans defense.
It took Michigan State one play to tie the game 21-21 when Hoyer, who finished 22-of-36 for 323 yards and two scores, threw a swing pass to Devin Thomas. Thomas made both of Wisconsin's safeties miss on the 80-yard touchdown.
"Take all those big plays out, and they had 300, maybe 200 yards," safety Aubrey Pleasant said. "You can't come out every week and give up big plays. Big plays are killing us."


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