It’s hard to believe it’s taken more than two years, spanning the better part of three seasons.But Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, the Wisconsin football team finally did something it hasn’t in 34 contests dating back to Sept. 15, 2012 against Utah State: it won a close game.Since that 16-14 victory over the Aggies, who, coincidentally, were coached by current UW head coach Gary Andersen at the time, Wisconsin has lost every game decided by seven points or fewer.The Badgers haven’t struggled by any means over the course of the last three seasons. They’ve lost just 11 games in that time, and two of those were bowl games. But of those 11 defeats, all but one of them came by more than a touchdown. The only one that wasn’t within seven points was a 34-24 loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl last January. That’s 11 losses by a combined 58 points.Wisconsin has been on the verge of some special victories in that time, too. They did finish 8-6 and 9-4 in 2012 and 2013, respectively, but just think if the Badgers had been able to finish games. They might have won the Rose Bowl in 2013 against Stanford, and they could have had a completely different season last year that maybe would have involved another trip to the Big Ten Championship game. But for a collection of different reasons, the Badgers just couldn’t get over that final hump. They could get close, but those maybes never materialized and close just didn’t cut it.And then there’s this year. The Badgers led 17-7 over LSU at halftime, but gave up 21 points in the second half in what could have been a signature win. Then in Evanston in the first Big Ten game of the season, the Badgers squandered a 259-yard performance from Melvin Gordon and threw away a chance to tie the game in the late going.The Badgers could be, and probably should be, undefeated right now, at least if they were able to win the close games. But instead of talking about a possible playoff berth heading into the final game of the regular season, it’s just about making the Big Ten Championship Game.But the fact that there’s even talk about going to the Big Ten Championship game has a lot to do with finally breaking through in a close game. Sure, Wisconsin still could have moved on to Indianapolis after next weekend, but the scenario would have been much more complicated if they had lost to the Hawkeyes. The two-point victory over Iowa kept UW in control of its own fate, and instead of having to rely on Iowa to lose to Nebraska next weekend along with beating the Gophers, the Badgers can just get a win and move on.Now, for once we can look back at how Wisconsin finally crested the hill rather than sliding back down it. And in doing that, the gaze doesn’t fall in just one direction because Wisconsin is no longer as one-dimensional as it once was.In the season-opening loss to LSU, you might remember that redshirt junior quarterback Tanner McEvoy started and was underwhelming at best with his paltry 50 yards through the air. When Wisconsin lost for the second time, again the quarterbacks cost Wisconsin the game, with redshirt junior Joel Stave throwing three interceptions in his first game back.The quarterbacks have continued to progress to the point of being using interchangeably, but in an important game against Nebraska last week, neither really factored into the outcome.But with Melvin Gordon slowed Saturday, Stave and McEvoy had the game in their hands for the first time since the loss to the Wildcats. And they both came through. Stave added his skill set, while McEvoy complimented the Wisconsin offense with his unique abilities. They did what was expected of them to keep Wisconsin in the game with Gordon struggling to do anything on the ground.That’s what kept Wisconsin in the game, but that’s not what won the game for the Badgers. The win came from McEvoy and Stave doing what they needed to, and then a little bit more. But it wasn’t just the two quarterbacks; Melvin Gordon seized the moment too. He made the most of a 200-yard game on the ground, and transformed into Wisconsin’s top receiver on the second to last drive with two grabs for 45 yards, leading UW to the end zone on what proved to be the winning score.And that’s the piece that had been missing in the 34 games Wisconsin went without winning a game that came down to one possession. It wasn’t necessarily missing a certain type of player like Gordon, Stave or McEvoy. It was related somewhat to not having enough balance, but it wasn’t that much either.It was about making the right play at the right time. That’s what Gordon did when he caught a 35-yard pass on a 3rd-and-12 to move the chains. It’s what Stave did too, when he scrambled for 12 yards to pick up the final first down of the game while absorbing a huge hit in the process. And despite struggling in the second half, it’s also what the defense did when redshirt senior Marcus Trotter and the Badgers denied a 2-point conversion to stay up 19-17 in the fourth quarter.The Badgers made the right plays Saturday to scratch out a hard-earned victory. The same will be required next Saturday when they take on Minnesota.
In an epic home opener at Merle Norman Stadium against a pair of beach volleyball powerhouses —Pepperdine and UCLA — the Trojans fell on the wrong side of both nail-biting matches 3-2. Freshman Haley Hallgren (above) won both of her matches with her teammate freshman Sammy Slater. Sunny Dong | Daily TrojanThe clash between three of the nation’s top programs was one to remember, as the Trojans fought hard but came just short. Both matches came down to third sets in the teams’ final matchups with both teams anxiously watching their final duos play. Unfortunately for the Trojans, both matches ended in losses leading to the end of their 16-game winning streak.Against UCLA, the Trojans split the fourth and fifth courts. On the fourth court, USC seniors Jo Kremer and Jenna Belton defeated UCLA freshman Mac May and sophomore Savvy Simo 21-12 and 21-15. The fifth court saw UCLA junior Izzy Carey and freshman Megan Muret defeat USC freshman Maja Kaiser and graduate student Alexandra Poletto 21-12 and 21-12.On the second court, USC sophomore Joy Dennis and junior Brianna Sizemore dropped their match 21-11 and 21-18, while freshmen Haley Hallgren and Sammy Slater won their match 21-19 and 21-18, setting up a showdown of both team’s No. 1s to decide the dual. In the deciding match, UCLA juniors Megan and Nicole McNamara downed senior Terese Cannon and junior Abril Bustamante 21-17 and 21-18 to lock down the victory for the visiting Bruins. Against the Pepperdine Waves, the Trojans started off strong with the fifth court team of Kaiser and Poletto defeating juniors Nikki Lyons and Kaity Bailey 21-19 and 21-16. However, soon after, the Trojans were put on the ropes. On the fourth court, Pepperdine’s junior Skylar Caputo and freshman Alexis Filippone defeated Belton and Kremer 19-21, 25-23, 15-12 and the first court match saw freshman Brook Bauer and junior Madalyn Roh defeat Cannon and Bustamante 21-19 and 21-18. After the third court duo of Hallgren and Slater were able to overcome the Waves in three thrilling sets (21-14, 16-21 and 17-15) and keep USC’s hopes alive, both squads turned their attentions to court two where Dennis and Sizemore were locked in a tight battle against Pepperdine senior Corinne Quigle and sophomore Deahna Kraft. After splitting two thrilling sets (21-18, 19-21), Sizemore and Dennis eventually dropped the third 15-13 and the Waves’ celebration began.After two tough losses, head coach Anna Collier said that today can be used as a learning experience“We learned a lot,” Collier said. “If we don’t learn from this and grow, this was all for nothing. You’ll learn more from losing than you ever will from winning.”Collier also said that while the passing of the team left something to be desired in her eyes, she said she was happy with how the team adjusted to their new roles and that one or two plays could have changed the result. “We have to pass better,” she said. “I think if we can do that better, we’ll be fine. I don’t think they did anything that was that special, we just have to finish better.”Despite the losses, Collier praised the team’s tenacity and their willingness to adjust to a new year. “We’re all playing different positions because we have new, young team,” she said. “That’s difficult to do and I thought they embraced that.”The Trojans will look to bounce back in Malibu on Saturday where they will take on both Pepperdine and UCLA again in the Zuma Classic.