Wisconsin regrets wasted chances

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
9:20
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
 Allan Evridge and the Badgers know they let a few opportunities get away from them on Saturday.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A 2-point conversion attempt with 13 seconds left on the clock encapsulated the type of day Wisconsin had.

Opportunity presented. Opportunity lost.

And the Badgers could only blame themselves.

After wide receiver David Gilreath atoned for several dropped passes with an acrobatic touchdown grab, Wisconsin tried to tie the score at 27. The Badgers succeeded. And then they didn't.

All-American tight end Travis Beckum, a player the Badgers hoped to hold out of the game because of a lingering hamstring injury, hauled in the conversion from Allan Evridge. But officials flagged Wisconsin for having an ineligible man downfield. Beckum should have lined up off the line scrimmage rather than next to another tight end, Mickey Turner.

"It was improper alignment on our part, which was kind of the story for us all day," head coach Bret Bielema said. "We missed opportunities on our end."

Most of those opportunities took place in the first half, when the Badgers had chances to bury Michigan.

They converted only one of Michigan's five first-half turnovers into a touchdown. Twice they took over at the Wolverines' 27-yard line following takeaways and had to settle for field goals.

Those chances ended up costing Wisconsin its top 10 ranking, its undefeated record and its hope of ending a four-game slide at Michigan Stadium.

"There were so many opportunities lost," Evridge said. "It's going to be even more frustrating to see on film the opportunities you let go."

Leading receiver Garrett Graham missed the game with a foot injury, and Bielema wanted to hold out Beckum as well. But the wideouts continued to drop passes -- a theme since spring practice -- and Bielema had to use Beckum, who told coaches he was 100 percent.

Bielema and his players insisted they weren't looking ahead to the next two weeks, when Ohio State and Penn State visit Camp Randall Stadium for Saturday night tilts. Bielema brought up the missed opportunities at halftime, but he saw more of the same.

Several Michigan players attributed the comeback to their superior conditioning.

"There was one play and I ran down the field for an incompletion, and the linebacker that was chasing me, he was out of breath," Wolverines running back Brandon Minor said. "I came back a couple more plays and then scored. I still wasn't tired till my team beat me up on the sideline."

Perhaps most troubling for Wisconsin was a decrease in defensive intensity down the stretch. Badgers defenders made ball carriers pay on nearly every play during the first two-and-a-half quarters, but Michigan went right through a senior-laden unit for three touchdowns on four possessions in crunch time.

"We got up, but we didn't play four quarters," Badgers cornerback Allen Langford said. "That's the one thing we'll have to talk about. We had a chance to go out there and make history. We had a chance to go out there and beat a good team that we hadn't beaten here in a long time [1994].

"We had it right in front of our hands and we let that opportunity slip away."

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