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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, June 19, 2024
After overtime thriller, Badgers improve to 2-0

football: Chris Maragos fights off Fresno State receiver Marlon Moore for an interception in the second overtime, taking away a touchdown.

After overtime thriller, Badgers improve to 2-0

For just a moment, it looked like senior Fresno State receiver Marlon Moore would pluck the ball out of the air in the Wisconsin end zone and take control of the game for his team.

And then with an inspired burst, Chris Maragos took it right back.

Minutes later the Badgers' sophomore kicker Philip Welch booted a game-winning field goal in the second overtime and gave his squad its second harrowing victory in as many weeks. The Bulldogs took a two-score lead early, but Wisconsin clawed back into the game and overcame a rough defensive day, winning 34-31.

""[Hitting the winning field goal] felt good, but the game was already won with Chris Maragos making that interception,"" Welch said. ""I just had to finish it off.""

But it was a long trip to reach those fateful plays.

The Bulldogs burst out of the gate, scoring the game's first 14 points and staked themselves to a 21-7 lead in the second quarter. Wisconsin's secondary struggled for much of the day, as Fresno consistently ran double-move routes that surprised the defensive backs plus top corner Aaron Henry was out for most of the game because of the flu.

""Henry woke up today throwing up, was sick,"" head coach Bret Bielema said. ""I guess he called Gary Johnson, our trainer, at about 1:30 2 a.m. and was throwing up and wanted to get something. Came down this morning, tried to eat and threw it up again. We IVed him, he tried to get up and take the field, but his body wasn't reacting.""

Over 40 Badgers suffered flu symptoms over the week, limiting the team's ability to practice, Bielema said. At least six had to get IVs before the game.

Wisconsin cut into Fresno's lead when junior receiver David Gilreath scored on an 8-yard-end around play. With 1:37 left in the first half, the Badgers appeared content to run out the clock when they started a drive on their own eight.

Then came a surprise.

After three straight running plays, junior quarterback Scott Tolzien dropped back and found his only receiver, junior wideout Isaac Anderson, open for a 44-yard pass and set up a 57-yard Welch field goal. Up to that point, Welch had not made a field goal this season.

""When I saw that call, the great thing about it was there's one option on that play, so if he's not open, just over-throw him and throw it out of bounds,"" Tolzien said, adding that throwing out of a running formation was probably key to the play's success.

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There was no scoring in the second half until sophomore running back John Clay broke through for a 72-yard touchdown run to put the Badgers up 24-21.

Fresno did not go quietly, as junior quarterback Ryan Colburn drove the Bulldogs for a game-tying field goal in the the final minutes of regulation.

The Badgers opened overtime with a 6-yard scoring pass from Tolzien to sophomore receiver Nick Toon, but Fresno answered when senior receiver Seyi Ajirotutu leapt over a UW defender for a touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.

The very next play, Maragos made his interception that all but sealed the game.

The defense for Wisconsin had a rough day overall, allowing over 450 yards, but came through late in the contest for the second straight week.

""[The second-half play just shows our resiliency,"" Maragos said. ""I think when you look at what we're trying to do and what we're trying to accomplish, we have a bunch of tough guys and guys who are willing to work. That's what I love about this team.""

Along with Maragos, senior defensive end O'Brien Schofield was key in stopping the Bulldogs late. Schofield was a terror, exploding into the backfield numerous times, finishing with a sack, four tackles for loss and a team-high 11 tackles.

Both Maragos and Schofield are captains for the Badgers and knew they needed to be leaders during the incredibly close game.

""We just have to be that spark for our team, for the defense when things are rough,"" Schofield said. ""Because guys look to you to see how you react. Your reaction can carry on and be contagious to other guys.""

With all the discussion of contagions during the week, it only seemed fitting for the players to catch something positive before the day was over.

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