Washington State 31, (19) Wisconsin: 22: 2-minute drill

PULLMAN — No. 19 Wisconsin couldn’t overcome three turnovers, falling 31-22 to Washington State for a second straight season on Saturday night at Martin Stadium.

Game Balls


Tanner Mordecai

A week after a disappointing debut, Mordecai bounced back with an effort that looked more like the quarterback we saw in spring practice and fall camp. His most impressive throw of the night came when he escaped pressure to his left and then unleashed a bullet to wide receiver Skyler Bell for a touchdown. It was the type of playmaking that the Badgers were expecting from the sixth-year senior. Mordecai also hit on a couple deep balls to Chimere Dike and Bryson Green for big gains, finishing the night with 278 yards and one score. He also showed off some of his athleticism, rushing for 43 yards before sack yardage was taken out.

Defense: Maema Njongmeta

The Badgers senior leader had a quiet Week 1, coming up with just a pair of tackles. He was a lot more active on Saturday night, finishing with 10 tackles, including five solo stops. Njongmeta also came up with three tackles for loss and a sack, while getting credit for one quarterback hurry.

What Went Right

The kicking game

It wasn’t ideal but when Wisconsin called on Nathaniel Vakos he delivered. The Ohio transfer drilled all three of the field goals he attempted, including knocking his first in from 49 yards. Again, the Badgers would love to have finished those drives, but Vakos made sure they got something out of them.

The fight

Some may have left Wisconsin for dead after Washington State largely dominated the first half and took a 24-9 lead to the break. But the Badgers responded by outscoring the Cougars 13-0 in the third quarter. Mordecai led a pair of scoring drives, with Chez Mellusi finishing off one with a 1-yard score and then Mordecai getting the second one done with his toss to Bell. The defense, meanwhile, answered a slow start by giving up just 13 yards over a five-drive stretch from the end of the first half into the fourth quarter.

What Went Wrong

Turnovers and penalties

Wisconsin lost the game to Washington State last year because of turnovers and penalties. Both played a huge role again on Saturday. Left tackle Jack Nelson gave up a pair of sacks that led to Mordecai fumbles, including one that was recovered for a touchdown. The offensive line was also hit with a number of pre-snap penalties, something that was not a problem a week ago.

Meanwhile, after Wisconsin fought back to get within 24-22, forced another punt and appeared set to get the go-ahead score with the ball at the Cougars 34-yard-line a few minutes into the 4th quarter, a personal foul penalty on Kaden Johnson pushed the ball back 15 yards. Two plays later, officials ruled Mellusi fumbled, Wisconsin’s third turnover of the game. The defense couldn’t get another stop, as Washington State, led by dynamic QB Cam Ward, went 57 yards in 10 plays to close out the game with a touchdown.

“There’s some discipline things that I’ll really fall back on that’ll haunt me for a while and will haunt this team and our program until we can get them fixed,” coach Luke Fickell said.

The Start

All offseason the talk was about going 1-4 in games decided in the fourth quarter last year. The message was focused on finishing and winning games at the end. Wisconsin was unable to accomplish that despite being in the position to do so. But they might not have had to be in that position if not for a horrendous start that saw its first five offensive possessions result in a punt, two field goals and a pair of fumbles. On the other side, the defense allowed touchdown drives of 62 yards, 87 yards and 46 yards on three straight drives. It allowed Washington State to build a 24-6 advantage that proved too much to overcome.

What They Said

Coach Luke Fickell when asked about not finishing the game out:

“Getting ourselves in a position where we have a chance to do what we want to do and not being able to finish is definitely something that is going to continue to haunt us until we can overcome some of those situations. But it’s hard. Yes, we didn’t finish. Yes, we didn’t win the fourth quarter because we had an opportunity. But it’s really putting ourselves in not a very good situation to start the game, especially in the way we played the first half.”

In Case You Missed It

— The game was a sellout, as the Badgers were the first Power 5 team from outside of the Pac-12 to come to Martin Stadium since 1998 and just the second ever.

— The student section showered Wisconsin with chants of “Fuck the Badgers” and “Fuck Wisconsin” throughout the pregame warmups. They also chanted “Fuck the Big Ten” just prior to storming the field after the win.

— Wisconsin has not beaten a non-conference Power 5 opponent on the road since 2005, with losses to Oregon State, Arizona State and Washington State.

– When Wisconsin scored a touchdown to get within 24-22, Fickell decided to go for the 2-point conversion. Mellusi was stopped short, leaving Washington State ahead. Fickell was asked about the decision afterwards, saying he felt like 24-24 would have changed the energy of the game completely and he didn’t feel like the Cougars gained energy back by stopping them.

Inside the Numbers

20 — That is how many yards rushing Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen had. It was the second fewest in a game he started and his seven carries were the fewest. As a team, the Badgers rushed for just 90 yards, a far cry from the 314 they had in the opener against Buffalo.

0 — That is how many turnovers Wisconsin’s defense has created in the first two weeks of the season. It’s just the second time since 2016 the Badgers have gone back-to-back games without forcing a turnover.

4 — That is how many sacks the Badgers racked up after not registering any in the win over Buffalo. James Thompson Jr. led the way with 1 1/2 sacks, while Jake Chaney had a sack.

3 — That’s how many straight seasons Wisconsin will not make it past week 2 without a loss. The Badgers fell to Penn State to open 2021 and then lost to the Cougars in each of the last two seasons in their second game.

212 — That’s how many yards Cam Ward threw for. It was just 12 more than he had last year in Washington State’s win in Madison, but he made several big plays with his feet, finishing with 70 yards on the ground before taking out sack yardage.

7 — That is how many players caught a pass for Wisconsin. It included Will Pauling going for 78 yards on five catches, Dike grabbing four passes for 75 yards and Green hauling in two passes for 54 yards. Bell also had 44 yards on five catches and a touchdown

What’s Next

Wisconsin (1-1) will come back home to face Georgia Southern (2-0) on Saturday. Kick is set for 11 a.m.