Badgers shock Huskies 18-17

By Todd McMahon

NIU football and the Big Ten—never a perfect match.

The Huskies (2-2) came within an inch of disproving that myth Saturday afternoon, but as has been the case with 17 of the previous 18 meetings, the Big Ten found yet another way to ground NIU. This time Wisconsin (2-1) followed league protocol with an 18-17 come-from-behind victory before 50,688 wet fans at Camp Randall Stadium.

The Badgers, who are NIU’s only career Big Ten victim (1988), shocked the Huskies with two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter to erase a 17-3 deficit.

Fullback Brent Moss proved to be the difference for Wisconsin with a two-yard touchdown run at the 7:21 mark of the fourth quarter to cut NIU’s lead to seven and an 11-yard TD scamper with 2:09 remaining. The game-winner came on quarterback Darrell Bevell’s keeper and dive just across the goal line for the two-point conversion.

“Obviously, everyone would like to point to the two-point play,” NIU head coach Charlie Sadler said. “Quite honestly, it should never have come down to that. We lost containment on the play, and if we don’t lose containment, he (Bevell) doesn’t get in.”

“Our football team is one that was really down a year ago. Had they been able to win today, it would have been a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous goal for those guys to achieve. I really feel sorry they fell short.”

Both teams were falling short for most of the game. Wisconsin jumped on the scoreboard first when Rich Thompson booted a 24-yard field goal with 21 seconds remaining in the first half.

The Huskies’ Brian Steger knotted the score at 3 with a 30-yard field goal on the Huskies’ first possession after intermission.

NIU then took advantage of a Badger fumble in the Huskies’ end zone. Rob Rugai’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Larry Wynn at the 13:38 mark of the fourth capped an 80-yard drive and gave the Huskies a 10-3 advantage.

After linebacker Gerald Nickelberry intercepted a Bevell pass on the Badgers’ next possession and returned it 24 yards to Wisconsin’s 25, the Huskies struck again for what appeared to be the game-clincher.

LeShon Johnson avoided a couple Badger tacklers and reversed to the left for a 24-yard gain to Wisconsin’s 1. Brian Cotton followed with a one-yard plunge into the end zone with 12:41 remaining to make it 17-3 before the Badgers worked their magic.

NIU had one last shot after Wisconsin regained the lead. Rugai drove the Huskies down to the Badgers’ 39 but a fourth-down pass to Wynn was incomplete with 33 seconds remaining.