Wisconsin missed a field goal to tie the game with 36 seconds left and BYU pulled off the upset of the year (so far) with a 24–21 win at Camp Randall Stadium.
No team outside the Big Ten has been able to beat the Badgers in Madison since UNLV in 2003. But due in part to some tricky mind games from Cougars coach Kalani Sitake, who called two timeouts to ice fifth-year senior kicker Rafael Gaglianone, Wisconsin missed a 42-yard field goal that would have forced the game into overtime.
The sixth-ranked Badgers, who played for a Big Ten championship and beat Miami in the Orange Bowl last season, were a popular preseason pick to make the College Football Playoff this year. Now who knows? It’s certainly a highlight in the Big Ten’s disastrous third week, with Nebraska losing at home to Troy, Maryland losing at home to Temple, and Rutgers getting blown out on the road against Kansas.
Wisconsin only led after its second possession, with BYU responding quickly to tie the game 7–7 on the ensuing series. The Cougars, a 22-point underdog, never trailed after that.
With the game tied at 21 to start the fourth quarter, BYU regained a three-point lead for good on a 45-yard field goal from Skyler Southam. Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who went 18 of 28 for 191 yards with no touchdowns and one interception, tried to lead a drive with just under 10 minutes remaining. But on third-and-3 at his own 31-yard line, he was sacked by Zac Dawe for a loss of eight yards and the Badgers punted. Hornibrook then led a 68-yard drive with 3:55 remaining, which included big plays from A.J. Taylor, Garrett Groshek and a 16-yard rush of his own. Ultimately, BYU held firm on third-and-8 to force the field goal attempt.
Sitaki was totally honest about his intentions in using two timeouts before Gaglianone’s kick that went wide left. It wasn’t a decision without risk. Had Gaglionone made the field goal, BYU would have had about 40 seconds to drive downfield and get into field goal range with one timeout remaining rather than three. Sitaki explained his strategy on the broadcast after the win.
“Just theatrics,” he said. “I wanted to use them and get our defense some rest. I believe in our guys and I was proud how hard they fought this game.”
Wisconsin, now 2–1, begins conference play next week at Iowa. It has a winnable remaining schedule, with its two toughest games coming on the road against Michigan on Oct. 13 and at Penn State on Nov. 10. It could still win the Big Ten West Division and perhaps the conference title, and and if that happens the playoff is still very much within reach.