Wisconsin safety Chris Maragos came up with an interception in the second overtime, and Philip Welch kicked a 22-yard field goal to give the Badgers a 34-31 victory over Fresno State at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.
It was an ideal end to a rough week for Wisconsin, which was able to field its starters despite an outbreak of flulike symptoms that spread through the team.
Badgers coach Bret Bielema said after the game that more than 40 players were sick as recently as Tuesday. Cornerback Aaron Henry was throwing up when he woke up Saturday morning, and was taken out of the game after some shaky plays early on.
Scott Tolzien threw a 6-yard touchdown to Nick Toon to take the lead on the Badgers’ first overtime possession. But Fresno State quarterback Ryan Colburn hit Seyi Ajirotutu in the back of the end zone to force a second overtime.
Maragos then picked off Colburn in the end zone, and the Badgers drove for the decisive field goal.
It was the second big play in as many weeks for Maragos, who broke up a pass on fourth-and-3 to preserve the Badgers’ shaky 28-20 victory over Northern Illinois last Saturday.
John Clay’s 72-yard touchdown run gave Wisconsin a 24-21 lead with 5:45 remaining in regulation. But Fresno State kicker Kevin Goessling – who missed a 45-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter and missed three field goals in a loss to Wisconsin last year – hit a game-tying 40-yarder with 20 seconds left.
Clay finished the game with 143 yards rushing. But before his big run, Fresno State was in control.
Leading 21-17 on three first-half touchdown throws by Colburn, the Bulldogs saw two third-quarter drives stall on interceptions. The Bulldogs put together another long drive early in the fourth quarter, but Goessling missed from 45.
Clay then took the ball through a big hole in the middle of the line and burst toward the right sideline for a touchdown to give Wisconsin its first lead of the game.
About the only thing that went right for the Badgers in the first half was the kick return ability of David Gilreath, but that was enough to keep them in the game.
Fresno State took a 14-0 lead on Colburn’s 13-yard slant to Chastin West and a perfect deep lob to Devon Wylie for a 70-yard touchdown.
Wisconsin answered with a long kickoff return by Gilreath that set up a drive for an 11-yard touchdown run by Zach Brown. Colburn then connected on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Ajirotutu.
Gilreath broke free for a 38-yard kickoff return, then finished a drive with an 8-yard touchdown run on an end around to cut the lead to 21-14.
Welch hit a 57-yard field goal just before halftime after missing a 47-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter to make him 0-for-3 to start the season.