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Sunday, September 15, 2013
Wisconsin stumbles on bizarre play

By Kevin Gemmell
ESPN.com

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave's stumble led to one of college football's strangest finishes.

Trailing Arizona State 32-30, Stave executed the two-minute drill to near perfection, moving his team from its 17-yard line to the ASU 13 in the final minute to put the Badgers in position to kick the winning field goal.

Except when he tried to take a knee in between the hashmarks, Stave stumbled after being clipped by one of his linemen and plopped the ball on the Sun Devils 15, causing confusion on both sides of the ball.

With the clock still running, the Arizona State sideline erupted, screaming, "Fumble, fumble." Stave checked with the referee to make sure the play was dead, but Arizona State's players piled on the ball.

Wisconsin tried to reorganize quickly, but time ran out, giving the Sun Devils (2-0) a victory and bringing a bizarre end to the back-and-forth contest.

Stave and the rest of Wisconsin's players and coaches tried to argue the call, but the officials trotted off the field, leaving the Badgers stunned.

"It was a shame it went down the way it went down at the end and that's really all I want to say about it,"' Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. "It is a shame it went down that way. We (kneel) with 15 seconds left and never even got a chance to snap it again. I don't know how that happens.'"

The play appeared to be called correctly. It's what happened after that may be called into question.

Though the Sun Devils thought Stave's knee never hit the ground, replays showed it briefly touched the turf. The officials saw it and pointed to the ground to signal the play was dead, but Arizona State's players thought it was a fumble and frantically dived on the ball, costing Wisconsin precious seconds.

Even after the Sun Devils were pulled off the ball, one of the officials briefly held the Badgers at the line of scrimmage before they could snap the ball, costing them even more time.

After the play, Stave tried to grab one of the officials running off the field, but he kept going, and Andersen said he got no response after asking for an explanation.

The Pac-12 said Sunday that officiating calls are reviewed every Monday.

Asked whether he had ever seen an ending like that, Andersen replied: "Nope, never seen one."

He said his team practices those types of situations and that the quarterbacks are taught to spike the ball.

"The way it ended like that, we were trying to get a stop on defense," ASU cornerback Osahon Irabor said. "That was a crazy ending. I'm happy it ended the way it did."

The No. 20 Badgers (2-1) built a 14-3 lead in the second quarter behind an ASU punting blunder that resulted in a fumble and a touchdown, and the strong running of Melvin Gordon, who rushed for 193 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. But the Sun Devils eventually took the lead in the fourth quarter behind running back Marion Grice, who carried 22 times for 84 yards and four touchdowns.

After Wisconsin's defense got the ball back for the offense with 1:36 to play, Stave completed 4-of-6 passes for 70 yards, including a 51-yard pass down the sidelines to Jeff Duckworth that got the Badgers to the ASU 26-yard line. A 7-yard pass to Jacob Pedersen and a 6-yard completion to Jared Abbrederis set the stage for the end-of-game chaos.

The loss capped a disappointing day for the Big Ten, which fell in three of four head-to-head matchups against the Pac-12. No. 16 UCLA rallied earlier in the day to beat No. 23 Nebraska in Lincoln, and No. 19 Washington beat Illinois in Chicago 34-24. The league's only win against the Pac-12 was No. 4 Ohio State's 52-34 win at Cal.

"It's a great conference," ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly said. "We've got a lot of powerhouse teams. The Pac-12 is doing their thing on weekends and going to work."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.