Friday, December 13, 2002
No. 6 Wisconsin 27, Oregon 23
MADISON, Wis. -- Big Ten sprint champion Michael Bennett rushed for 290 yards and two long touchdowns as sixth-ranked Wisconsin outlasted Oregon 27-23 on Saturday.
The suspension-ridden Badgers got three interceptions from star cornerback Jamar Fletcher, whom coach Barry Alvarez had considered sitting out.
As it was, the Badgers (2-0) had to do without a dozen players who were suspended for receiving unadvertised discounts at a shoe store.
For two more weeks, against Cincinnati and Northwestern, the Badgers will be missing key components -- including Fletcher -- of a team that hopes to contend for the national title.
Alvarez got to choose which players had to sit out Saturday and he selected four starters, including cornerback Mike Echols, whose substitute, B.J. Tucker, was repeatedly burned by the Ducks (1-1).
But Fletcher and Bennett kept the Badgers' title hopes alive.
Bennett, held to 32 yards in the first half, scored on runs of 59 and 75 yards in the third quarter and set up another TD with a career-long 83-yard burst with 5 1/2 minutes left in the game.
Oregon had just taken a 23-20 lead on linebacker Matt Smith's 47-yard interception return _ Wisconsin's first turnover in five games _ when Bennett ran off left guard and didn't stop until Rashad Bauman dragged him down at the 1.
Brooks Bollinger, 10-0 as a starter, scored on a keeper on the next play to cap the scoring in a wild second half that had three lead changes.
Bennett's 290 yards on 28 carries is the fourth-best in school history.
Quarterback Joey Harrington, who lost for the first time in six games as Oregon's starter, was victimized by several drops, including two on the Ducks' desperation drive that ended when Fletcher picked off a fourth-down pass at his 11 with 11 seconds left.
Harrington, who completed 22 of 49 passes for 362 yards, hit Maurshan Tucker with a 71-yard completion against B.J. Tucker and found tailback Maurice Morris for a 17-yard TD connection on the next play that pulled the Ducks to 20-16 late in the third quarter.
Wisconsin trailed 6-0 at halftime but quickly got untracked afterward.
Bennett sprinted around left end and ran 59 yards untouched for a touchdown that gave Wisconsin a 7-6 lead three minutes into the third quarter.
Linebacker Ryan Marks burst through the line, blocked punter Kurtis Doerr's punt at the goal line and fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown and a 14-6 Badgers lead.
Two plays after Josh Frankel's third field goal, a 42-yarder, made it 14-9, Bennett broke a tackle in the backfield and rumbled 75 yards for his second touchdown and a 20-9 lead. A two-point try failed.
Even though the Ducks didn't know who was sitting out until kickoff, Oregon outgained the Badgers 199 yards to 45 in the first half.
Fletcher intercepted Harrington's second pass of the game, but he ran into a teammate or he might have scored. Afterward, the Badgers mustered just 6 yards on seven plays before Vitaly Pisetsky missed a 43-yard field goal attempt.
Fletcher's second pickoff killed a drive at the Wisconsin 21 with the Badgers clinging to a 20-16 lead and 11 minutes left.
|Wisconsin's Ryan Marks (30) blocks the punt of Oregon's Kurtis Doerr (34). Wisconsin recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.|