MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP)—Jim Sorgi ran off the field waving his index finger, showing everyone that he finally won as a starter.
Sorgi brought No. 21 Wisconsin back from 10 points down in the second half, and Anthony Davis’ 1-yard touchdown run with 2:57 remaining gave the Badgers a 24-17 win over West Virginia on Saturday.
“That was for victory No. 1, and hopefully one of many this year,” Sorgi said. “This was a confidence builder to get a quality win on the road.”
Sorgi had been 0-5 as a starter dating to 2000, although he earned comeback wins before as a three-year backup to Brooks Bollinger.
In the last week, Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez instructed Sorgi not to answer “foolish” questions about his record as a starter.
Alvarez said Saturday the issue had been overstated.
“It was important for him to get a win for this season,” Alvarez said. “This is Jim’s team. This win gives our team a lot of momentum because we knew how hard this game was going to be.”
Last year, Wisconsin quarterbacks had great pass protection and found open receivers in beating West Virginia 34-17 in Madison, Wis. This time, Badger receivers weren’t always easy targets, so Sorgi improvised. He ran nine times for 47 yards.
“He’s no Bollinger or (Michael) Vick, but he can move,” West Virginia linebacker Grant Wiley said.
Davis carried 30 times for 167 yards behind an offensive line with three new starters. But Wisconsin had four drives past midfield in the first half without any points.
Davis and Sorgi helped the Badgers finish drives late in the game. Sorgi was 20-of-34 for 215 yards, including a 20-yard TD pass to Lee Evans that tied the score at 17 early in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t think we tired at the end. We just didn’t execute,” West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said.
Special team miscues and injuries to West Virginia’s top two offensive players kept Wisconsin in the game.
Alex Lewis blocked a punt on the first series that teammate Kareem Timbers recovered for a touchdown. Lewis also forced West Virginia quarterback Rasheed Marshall to the sideline for much of the game after a hard hit.
Quincy Wilson scored on runs of 2 and 10 yards for West Virginia, but he took a helmet on his right knee and left the game early in the fourth quarter. He finished with 99 yards on 24 carries.
It had already been a bad week for the Mountaineers, who were without starting right tackle Tim Brown. He ruptured an Achilles’ tendon in practice on Wednesday and is expected to miss the entire season.
Early in the third quarter, Wilson spun away from a tackle at the line for a 36-yard gain to the Wisconsin 5. Two plays later, he bounced off a defender for a 2-yard score to put West Virginia ahead 17-7.
Wisconsin’s Scott Campbell, a late replacement for Mike Allen, made a 29-yard field goal late in the third quarter after missing tries from 42 and 44 yards earlier.
The Badgers then finally found the end zone offensively. A short punt by West Virginia’s Todd James and Jim Leonhard’s 18-yard return early in the fourth quarter set up Sorgi’s 20-yard TD pass to Evans.
Evans, Wisconsin’s career receiving leader, was playing for the first time since injuring his left knee in the 2002 spring game.
“It was crunch time for our team, and I knew somebody had to step up and make a play,” Evans said. “I wanted to be the guy.
“That catch was a big statement play for me. Being strong to the ball, breaking tackles and getting into the end zone makes the statement that I’m back.”
After West Virginia turned the ball over on downs, the Badgers went 77 yards for the winning score, with Davis running for 45 yards on the drive.
“We worked really hard in the offseason to play stronger in the fourth quarter,” Davis said. “I noticed it. The line got real physical, started dominating and opening up some holes.”
Early in the game, Marshall was hit by Lewis after completing a 20-yard pass to Dee Alston and left the game with an abdominal injury. He spit up blood and was taken to a hospital as a precaution.
Junior Charles Hales replaced Marshall, who eventually returned late in the third quarter but was ineffective.
“Correct a few mistakes, and we’ll be back up and hopefully win some games,” Marshall said.