Of the two teams who faced each other at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, the team that deserved to win did just that. Unfortunately for the Wisconsin Badgers that didn't mean them.
Sixth-ranked (but not for long) Wisconsin made several critical mistakes in all three phases of the game and lost the battle of the lines on both sides of the ball in being upset by BYU, 24-21. The loss snapped a 41-game winning streak over nonconference opponents at home, the fifth-longest such run in FBS history.
Wisconsin got another 100-yard effort out of Jonathan Taylor, but it was a quiet 117 yards on 26 carries, with a long of just 15.
Alex Hornibrook struggled to hit open receivers and made a couple of puzzling decisions, one on a scramble when he then cut back and tried to keep a pass play alive despite room to run, then subsequently pitching the ball as he fell pretty much right to a defender with no receiver in sight. He was fortunate it wasn't picked, but he did get an intentional grounding penalty.
The defense struggled early with BYU's ground game, largely on jet sweeps, and bit badly on a trick play -- dubbed "Bucky" by the Cougars in which a throwback to a wide receiver resulted in an easy touchdown pass to a wide-open tight end downfield. BYU also pushed around Wisconsin's defense, especially in the second half, when the Cougars were unafraid to rush it right down the Badgers' throats (and succeeded).
Special teams didn't go unscathed, either. Jack Dunn letting a short punt hit the ground and then bounce to the 8-yard line cost Wisconsin at least 15 yards before the Badgers’ final possession.
And then there were penalties -- six in all. A defensive offsides gave BYU an easy second-and-1 late in the game and allowed them to chew up more clock while a false start on offense moved Wisconsin from a fourth-and-1 to a fourth-and-6, which the Badgers couldn't convert.
Through all that, Wisconsin still had a chance to win or tie as time wound down, but, in a microcosm of the game, blew that chance, too.
It's not often a running back can have six carries for 15 yards and be considered player of the game. But Taiwan Deal scored two touchdowns -- and with no one else really standing out -- he gets the nod this week. Making it sweeter for Deal, who has been curtailed by injuries the past couple of years, it was his first score since Nov. 28, 2015 and his first at Camp Randall since Sept. 26, 2015. Deal now has a touchdown in four games at Wisconsin -- and in each he scored twice.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME
The tight end has always been a pivotal part of a Paul Chryst offense and it looks like this year will be no different. Zander Neuville was expected to be that guy in 2018, but he's missed one game and left this one early with an injury. Enter Jake Ferguson, who is quickly becoming a favorite target when Wisconsin needs a first down. Ferguson had three catches against BYU -- all of which resulted in a first down (he now has eight receptions, seven for firsts. Ferguson was targeted four other times Saturday -- two were incompletions on third down, another was a completion on second down for a first down which was wiped out due to a holding penalty and the other …. Well, see below.
After BYU went three-and-out on the first drive of the second half of a tie game, Jonathan Taylor rushed twice to give Wisconsin a third-and-3. Hornibrook went back to pass and looked to his right. There was Ferguson -- but also the Cougars' Zayne Anderson. Hornibrook obviously didn't see the linebacker, who easily picked off the pass and returned it to the UW 27-yard-line. BYU would eventually score to take a 21-14 lead. It was a poor pass, a bad decision and a game-changing play.
42 -- length in yards of Rafael Gaglianone's failed field-goal attempt to tie the game. Gaglianone entered having made 19 of 23 his attempts from 40-49 yards including nine straight, dating back to Nov. 7, 2015 at Maryland when he missed from … 42 yards. Gaglianone's last miss at home? That came Oct. 3, 2015 vs. Iowa and that miss was from …. 42 yards.
THEY SAID IT
"You win as a team, and everyone can own their part equally in a loss, and so we've all got to take a look at the things that we can control, and how can we get better, and we've got to take those steps to get better. That's the opportunity we have." -- head coach Paul Chryst
"I'm going to have to go back and look at it on film. It was disappointing letting the team down, but I'm not going to let one play define me – or define this season." -- kicker Rafael Gaglianone
"We just had a couple of missed hits, obviously the jet sweeps are eye candy and that can distract your eyes." -- linebacker Ryan Connelly
"It felt great to get back out there and score a touchdown. I couldn't have done it without the guys up front. It was a special moment getting in the end-zone and rallying with those guys." -- running back Taiwan Deal
It doesn't get any easier for Wisconsin. Coming off a lackluster performance at home, the Badgers must now head to rival Iowa and play at night in front of what will surely be a charged-up crowd. This game could be a determining factor in who wins the Big Ten West. The Hawkeyes will enter the game undefeated, having won three games at home, with blowouts against Northern Illinois and Northern Iowa and a 13-3 victory over Iowa State.