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Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Poll: Should Wisconsin have used TOs?

By Adam Rittenberg

The Play of the Year in college football came courtesy of Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Keith Nichol, but Bret Bielema also played a role.

If the Wisconsin coach hadn't called timeouts in an effort to regain possession, Michigan State likely wouldn't have had an opportunity for the Hail Mary heave that beat the Badgers 37-31.

To recap: Bielema used a timeout with 42 seconds left after Wisconsin sacked Cousins to set up a second-and-20. After Michigan State gained 12 yards, Bielema used another timeout with 30 seconds left. The Spartans converted on third-and-8 with an 11-yard pass and added a 9-yard pass before calling timeout with 10 seconds left.

Bielema defended his decision after the game and elaborated on the topic Monday at his news conference in Madison.
"I thought if they were trying to go into overtime in any way, shape or form, that I wanted to get the ball back. We have the No. 1 offense in the country. We've got a quarterback who I’ve seen in four, maybe even five of our first [six] games, score at the end of a half. [Kicker] Phil Welch had hit a 50-plus yarder going that direction in pregame warm-ups. So if there was any way I could get the ball back I wanted to do that."

Bielema faced a tough decision, and he could be receiving praise right now had Wisconsin found a way to win in regulation.

Like Brian Bennett, my issue was with the second timeout, after Michigan State had set up a more manageable third down. The Spartans had converted several key third downs, and even if they didn't convert, Wisconsin would have had only 20-25 seconds. Sure, Wisconsin could have blocked a punt or had a long return, but Michigan State wasn't exactly backed up in its own end. Also, the Badgers would have had all the momentum going into overtime and an offense that's practically unstoppable in the red zone -- which is basically what overtime amounts to. Wisconsin has scored 32 touchdowns in 38 red zone opportunities, while Michigan State has scored 18 touchdowns in 29 red zone chances.

Again, it was a tough call.

Was it the right one? Here's your chance to weigh in. Hindsight is easy, but try to put yourselves in Bielema's shoes on Saturday and let me know what you would have done.