MADISON – Three times the Wisconsin Badgers football team thought they had scored the go-ahead touchdown against Northwestern, but all three scores were taken off the scoreboard as the #21-ranked Badgers fell to the #20 Wildcats, 13-7, in UW’s home finale at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 21.
Darlington’s Alex Erickson was honored prior to the game along with the rest of the Badgers’ senior class on Senior Day, and the former Redbird appeared to put his team into the lead after returning a Northwestern punt 78 yards to pay dirt with the Badgers (8-3 overall, 5-2 Big 10) trailing 10-7.
However, it was ruled that Erickson had made an invalid fair catch signal while trying to wave his teammates away from the kick prior to the return, and the touchdown was wiped off the scoreboard.
“I figured when I waved my hands that the play was going to be done but I didn’t really wave them too much but in my mind I was about to stop, just avoid one tackle then he was going to blow the whistle so I stopped, and then they just kept coming so I just kept moving and next thing you know I broke it out and I still didn’t hear a whistle,” Erickson reflected. “But that’s the rule when you wave your hands, it’s signaling that you’re basically fair catching and giving up on it. So I just feel it was trying to save some yards there.”
The Wildcats (9-2, 5-2) extended their lead to 13-7 on a Jack Mitchell 37-yard field goal with 4:00 remaining, and things appeared bleak for the Badgers when they were forced to punt away their next possession with just 2:15 to play.
The Badger defense forced a quick punt, and the offense drove down the field with time running down. Tight end Troy Fumagalli hauled in an apparent go-ahead TD pass from senior Joel Stave with 28 seconds remaining, but it was ruled after a review that his knee had touched down at the 1.
On the next play, Stave connected with Jazz Peavy on a 1-yard TD pass, but once again the score was overturned in the review booth as it was ruled that he had not completed the process of the catch despite getting four steps down in the end zone as well as a knee and an elbow before hitting out of bounds and letting go of the ball.
Stave was sacked on second down and was forced to leave the game getting knocked woozy on the play. Running back Dare Ogunbowale alertly took the snap and spiked the ball for Stave on third down to give the Badgers one last chance at a victory with :06 to play, but back-up quarterback Bart Houston’s pass to Tanner McEvoy fell incomplete to end any hopes at a comeback.
“It was very emotional, just so disappointing. When I saw Troy’s catch, I had a good view of it, so I knew he was going to be short there, and then the Jazz play, it’s just disappointing. But it is what it is and we just didn’t make enough plays tonight,” he stated.
Erickson finished his finale game at Camp Randall with three catches for 27 yards and three punt returns for 10 yards with a lost fumble.
“Very disappointing, had so many opportunities on offense and we just couldn’t get it done tonight. It’s very disappointing but you’ve got to give them a lot of credit, they’re a good team and their game plan was well executed and they made more plays than us, bottom line,” said Erickson.
Erickson now has 66 catches on the season for 858 yards, which is the fifth-best season total for a senior in school history. Lee Evans leads the class with 1,213 in his senior year of 2003.
His 66 receptions passes former Badgers Lee Evans (64 in 2003) and Nick Toon (64 in 2011) for fourth-place on UW’s single-season list, and his 858 receiving yards places him 11th on the single-season yardage list ahead of Jared Abbrederis (837 in 2012) and Jonathon Orr (842 in 2002).
On Saturday, he moved ahead of Chris Chambers for seventh-place on UW’s career reception list with 130 catches. He also sits 12th on the all-time receiving yardage list at 1,753 yards.
UW closes the regular season at Minnesota (5-6, 2-5), on Saturday, Nov. 28, starting at 2:30 p.m.