Defense stops Denard, comeback
ANN ARBOR — It was like déjà vu all over again.
Through two quarters, Wisconsin dominated all facets of the game in its first trip to Michigan Stadium in more than two years. Entering halftime, the Badgers had shut out the Wolverines, leading 24-0.
As the two teams headed to the locker rooms, the Michigan players were booed off the field, just as they were in 2008, when Wisconsin led 19-0 through 30 minutes of play. Unlike two years ago, however, the Badgers weren’t celebrating anything in the locker room.
“We talked about it being 0-0, just like it was last week against Indiana,” head coach Bret Bielema said of his halftime speech. “That was part of the past.”
That past came back to haunt Wisconsin in the present as the third quarter kicked off.
Michigan took the ball first after the break, and quickly marched down the field for their first touchdown of the day. Capping a drive of 71 yards on 10 plays in just under four minutes, Denard Robinson found Darryl Stonum from 24 yards out, putting the Wolverines on the board for the first time in the game.
Three plays later, Isaac Anderson turned the ball back over to Michigan.
Robinson connected with Stonum again, for 34 yards this time, giving the Wolverines a 1st-and-Goal at the 4-yard line. On the next play, Robinson punched it in.
All of a sudden, the game went from 24-0 to 24-14, and things got very interesting.
“One thing about this team is we don’t let momentum just completely snowball effect and destroy us like that,” senior safety Jay Valai said. “We knew eventually we were going to make a play… and we locked it down from there on.”
One thing that helped was the offense answering quickly following the second Michigan touchdown. Whereas in 2008 the Badgers failed to move the ball effectively as they struggled in the second half, UW went 69 yards in eight plays and 3:52 to go up 31-14.
After another Robinson touchdown run six plays and 2:19 later, Wisconsin answered again, going 45 yards in seven play and 3:14 for the score. Then came the big defensive play that slowed the Michigan offense.
With the Wolverines threatening at the Wisconsin 32-yard line, J.J. Watt tipped a 2nd down pass and hauled in the interception, returning it 15 yards to the Michigan 40-yard line. While it only resulted in three points for the Badgers, it kept at least three, and more likely seven points off the board for the home team.
“We obviously screwed up a little bit in the beginning of the second half,” Watt said. “We know the third quarter wasn’t our best quarter, but the best part about our team is we regroup and we come back and we play strong. That’s exactly what we did.”
After a 40-yard field goal put Wisconsin up 41-21, Michigan answered with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Roy Roundtree. Unfazed, the Badgers went back down the other way for a 9-play, 40-yard touchdown drive to retain the 20-point margin at 48-28.
With Tate Forcier in at quarterback for Robinson, the Wisconsin defense made one final stop. After two kneel downs by quarterback Scott Tolzien, the Badgers secured their first win in Ann Arbor since 1994.
Fittingly, they did so by doing the exact opposite of what cost them a win in 2008.
“It’s huge,” said Aaron Henry, who led the team with 10 tackles. “It’s the Big House, everybody knows about the Big House. Everybody knows how hard it is to win in the Big House.”