MADISON, Wis. - The Michigan State Spartans came from behind to beat the Wisconsin Badgers Saturday, after Spartans quarterback Andrew Maxwell threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Bennie Fowler to seal up a 16-13 win in overtime. Michigan State's win snapped a 21-game home winning streak for the Badgers, and continued a streak of dramatic games between the two teams.
The Badgers held the Spartans to just three points until the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, and extended their lead to seven points after kicker Kyle French made a 39-yard field goal to put the Badgers ahead 10-3. However, Maxwell drove his team 75 yards down the field and tied the game with a 5-yard touchdown pass to tailback Le'Veon Bell. The Badgers kicked another field goal on their first possession in overtime, but it wouldn't be enough to seal up the win.
The loss overshadows what was a very good performance by Wisconsin's defense for most of the game, which held the Spartans to 277 total yards and just 61 on the ground. The Badgers sacked Maxwell three times in the game, but the redshirt junior still competed 24-of-39 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. Senior cornerback Devin Smith said he was upset after the loss, especially since the team came very close to finishing out a four-quarter game.
"It's really frustrating," Smith said. "We all played our hearts out. To not be able to capitalize and get a win at the end of the game, it's really devastating."
Wisconsin fell to 6-3 after the game, and has lost two games in Big Ten play this season. The Badgers accumulated just 190 yards against Michigan State's defense, which leads the Big Ten in points allowed per game and total defense. Running back Montee Ball finished the day with just 46 net rushing yards, and the Spartans forced the Badgers into 74 yards worth of negative plays on the ground, which hampered Ball and the rest of Wisconsin's offense.
"I believe that everyone, including myself, didn't execute everything correctly," Ball said after the game. "We're going to make sure we watch film and keep our heads held high because we still have everything to play for."
But while losing to the Spartans certainly stings in the immediate aftermath, the Badgers might have bigger problems to worry about after the game. Starting quarterback Joel Stave left the game with a left shoulder injury early in the second half after Michigan State defensive end William Gohlston sacked him for three yards, and Stave was unable to return to the game. The redshirt freshman was seen on the sidelines and after the game with his left arm in a sling, but the Badgers weren't able to update his status in the immediate aftermath of the game.
The Badgers subbed in former starting quarterback Danny O'Brien after Stave's injury, but the redshirt junior struggled to get the offense going, and took three sacks for 32 yards that prevented the Badgers from putting the Spartans away in the second half. O'Brien completed 5-of-11 passes during the game, but couldn't help the Badgers convert in the red zone.
"I think there are two things you can do," O'Brien said. "You can point to 'I didn't do this, I didn't do that,' but at the same time, that's the life of a quarterback. You've a play away at all times, and today showed that.
"Again, we just didn't execute, and we've got to score touchdowns in the red zone instead of field goals."
Even with the loss to the Spartans, the Badgers are still in good shape to reach the Big Ten title game as the Leaders Division representative. Ohio State and Penn State are both ineligible this season, leaving the Badgers as the overwhelming favorite to represent their division for the second year in a row.
The Badgers have their bye week up next, after playing for nine straight weeks in the regular season. The team will try to pick up the pieces next on Nov. 10, when they'll travel to Bloomington, Ind., to take on the Indiana Hoosiers.