Down 24-21 with :29 remaining in regulation, Ryan Colburn didn’t get enough air under a 24-yard strike to Darren Newborn for the go ahead score. In the second overtime, tied at 31-31, Colburn put too much air under a 25-yard pass to Chastin West, which resulted in a Chris Maragos interception.
Phillip Welch would kick a 22-yard chip to give Wisconsin the win, after trailing by 14 points in the first half on two different occasions. Fresno State out-gained the Badgers 468-413 and ran 10 more plays. But a combination of a few under-thrown passes and deflections gave way to three interceptions that would eventually be the difference in the game.
Colburn started slow, hitting just one pass for -1 yard and having another deflected in the Bulldogs’ first drive. But starting on the next possession, he completed eight straight, including touchdown strikes to West and Devon Wylie.
The Badgers would have no answer for Wylie until the second half.
He had 111 yards receiving in the first half alone along with a 34-yard punt return, which set up the touchdown drive. But after the break, Wisconsin held him to just one reception for three yards.
Colburn threw only one bad pass in the first half against a Wisconsin defense that had trouble covering the pass. He was 11-of-16 for 172 yards and three touchdowns in the first half but finished 22-of-36 for 289 yards with one more score and the three picks.
For the most part, Wisconsin neutralized the Bulldog run game in the first half holding them to 55 yards. In the second half, outside of a 55-yard run by Mathews, Wisconsin continued to stuff the Bulldogs’ rushing offense.
Ebahn Feathers entered the game with about nine minutes remaining in the first half. After a handoff to Rouse, on a quarterback draw, he rushed three yards on a key third down. He wouldn’t return, and Colburn would rush twice out of the shotgun read-option play. Mathews also would take one direct snap out of an empty formation in overtime. None of the plays proved to be effective in fooling the Badger defense.
But the Bulldog offense had its most success through the air with Offensive Passing Game Coordinator Jeff Grady calling a magnificent game.
Facing a soft Cover-3 zone in the first quarter, Colburn went 6-of-6 for 53 yards hitting West three times on the drive, including a 13-yard slant for the touchdown out of a five-wide empty set. When Wisconsin went man-to-man, Grady called on the long ball with Colburn hitting Wylie for the aforementioned 70-yarder that gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the game at 14-0, following Kevin Goessling’s extra point.
Wisconsin countered after a good return to their 44. Zach Brown would culminate the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run. But FS would answer back, it looked evident early that the Badgers might have trouble matching the ‘Dogs point-for-point.
With the ground game stagnant to this point, Robbie Rouse provided a spark with a 20-yard run on a zone read into Wisconsin territory. After a 15-yard gain by Wylie on a slant to the WI 28, Grady reached into his bag of tricks.
West got the ball on an end-around only to attempt a touchdown pass to Marlon Moore. It was incomplete, but it did set the tone that offense would be creative.
Building on the wide receiver pass, Feathers came into the game to give the Badgers another look. Colburn would hit a wide-open Seyi Ajirotutu for a 15-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-7 pushing the lead back to 14 after Goessling’s PAT.
However, after another poor job covering the kickoff, Wisconsin would get the ball at their 46. Three plays later, the Badgers had a first-and-goal. David Gilreath would score on an eight-yard end-around – a play that would be effective throughout the game – to cut the lead to seven after the PAT.
Bulldogs drove back inside the Wisconsin territory, only to fall short. Colburn threw his first two incompletes that were not deflections on this drive, including a high ball on 3rd-and-12 from the Badger 45.
Then came the turning point in the game.
After three John Clay rushes that resulted in a first down, FS called timeout with :59 remaining before halftime. Clay would rush on first down and on second down with the clock running Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien would launch a 44-yard bomb on play-action against the Bulldogs’ man coverage with :16 remaining.
With the ball at the Bulldog 33, Chris Carter would tally his second sack for seven yards. The Badgers called timeout and settle for a 57-yard Phillip Welch field goal, which was good, giving Wisconsin momentum heading into the break.
After halftime, the Bulldog defense held Wisconsin in check after the half forcing the Badgers into a punt instead of attempting a 55-yard field goal.
And Grady would pickup right where he left off in his diverse play calling.
With the Badgers in a two-deep zone, the ‘Dogs went with run. Mathews rushed twice for 12 yards setting up the pass. But Moore would drop a pass – the first on the day by any receiver. Colburn would turn around and hit Ajirotutu on a quick smoke pass for a short gain and a 15-yard facemask call would give the ‘Dogs a firs down inside Wisconsin territory at the 48.
Two plays later, facing a 3rd-and-3 at the WI 41, Colburn throws a slant to Wylie. But Wylie was picked on the play by a crossing Badger defensive back. Colburn didn’t see the pick, threw the ball to the spot where he expected Wylie to be, and was intercepted by Niles Brinkley.
It was the first of three wasted scoring opportunities inside Wisconsin territory.
The Bulldog defense would get another stop, but the offense couldn’t capitalize.
Starting inside their five, Mathews would rush twice for 64 yards, including a 55-yard run down the right sideline to the WI 30. But Colburn would make a bad read tossing the ball to Darren Newborn in triple coverage, the ball was batted up and the Badgers came away with their second consecutive interception on a Bulldog drive.
The defense would hold one more time forcing the Badgers to punt inside FS territory. Despite the ball being down on the one-yard line, FS would march down the field once again.
The ‘Dogs would covert four third down conversions marching the ball to the WI 28. Colburn a perfect 5-of-5 on the drive, would overthrow West on a 28-yard pass in the end zone on a 3rd-and-4. Goessling would push the 45-yard field goal attempt to the left. Again, FS is unable to capitalize on a sustained drive.
After failing to move the football on its first three drives, Clay busted through the line, on a fake end-around to Gilreath, for a 72-yard touchdown run. It gave the Badgers their first lead of the game, 24-21, after the PAT.
Fresno State would get the ball back in great field position, Ajirotutu takes a Colburn pass to the Wisconsin 46. Mathews would rush for 16 yards to the 30, but a Andrew Jackson holding penalty negated the run. The result cost the ‘Dogs 24 yards in field position, giving them a 1st-and-20 at their 44.
Mathews was stuffed for no gain, and Colburn scrambled on the next two plays instead of throwing the ball away. He gained two combined yards but wasted precious clock time. FS was forced to punt the ball with less than three minutes remaining.
Aided by a botched end-around play, and good clock management, FS forced Wisconsin to punt with 1:30 remaining. The ‘Dogs took over at their 41.
Colburn hit West on two pass plays for a combined 19 yards. The second pass to West was in bounds, but it resulted in a first down, stopping the clock at the WI 40. Instead of taking a spike, FS gave Mathews the ball on a delayed handoff resulting in a 16-yard gain setting up FS with a 1st-and-10 at the 24-yard line with :29 remaining.
Mathews had his second consecutive 100-yard game, finishing 107 yards on 19 carries. He did not score a touchdown. FS is 13-2 when Mathews scores a touchdown.
Seyi Ajirotutu tied a career high with two touchdown receptions.
Devon Wylie recorded his first career 100-yard receiving game. He had five receptions for 114 yards and one touchdown.
Robbie Rouse rushed six times for 46 yards. He is averaging 7.56 yards per carry on the season.
Ryan Colburn’s four touchdown passes is the most by a Bulldog quarterback since 2005.
Chris Carter had a career high two sacks.
Robert Malone punted four times for 189 yards for a 47.3 average.
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