LSU was thoroughly outplayed for the first half of Saturday night's game against Wisconsin. But thanks to some errant passes by Tanner McEvoy and two key injuries on the Badgers defensive line, the Tigers came back to win 28-24.
It's the 46th consecutive non-conference win for LSU coach Les Miles.
In the first half, Wisconsin DE Konrad Zagzebski was carted off the field after he suffered a neck injury making a tackle. He was taken to a local hospital and ESPN reported that he had movement in his extremeties. Then, Warren Herring, the Badgers' starting nose tackle, went down with an injury.
The absence of the two was noticeable on what proved to be LSU's game-winning drive. With both integral pieces of the Wisconsin line missing, LSU RB Kenny Hilliard gashed Wisconsin on three straight runs up the middle, the last of which was a 28-yard TD.
Hilliard's run was sandwiched between two Tanner McEvoy interceptions. The first was a great play by Jalen Mills, who saw the route from his safety position and glided over towards the receiver to swipe the ball as McEvoy threw it.
The second, on a drive that was Wisconsin's last best chance at the win, McEvoy and Reggie Love must have had a miscommunication. Receiver and ball weren't in the same zip code and Ronald Martin had an easy interception.
McEvoy beat out Joel Stave, who started last season for Wisconsin, for the starting QB job in fall camp. And the second-guessing has already started among Wisconsin fans. McEvoy finished 8-of-24 passing for 50 yards and the two interceptions.
While McEvoy struggled, Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon shined. He ran for 140 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries. But there's the rub. While McEvoy couldn't find anything resembling a groove in the air, he threw the ball eight more times than the Heisman candidate ran it.
Gordon's carries seemed inversely proportional to LSU's success as well. He ran the ball 12 times in the first half as Wisconsin controlled the game. But as LSU crept back in the final 30 minutes, Gordon only got two carries in each of the final two quarters for reasons apparently unknown to coach Gary Andersen.
Gary Andersen said Melvin Gordon was fine. Doesn't know why he didn't carry the ball more than two times.
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) August 31, 2014
Had Wisconsin beaten LSU, the Badgers would have immediately vaulted alongside Michigan State as the Big Ten's pre-eminent College Football Playoff Contenders as Nebraska is the only ranked team remaining on Wisconsin's schedule.
Now, with the loss, the schedule works against the Badgers. Barring madness and an upset of a very highly ranked opponent in the Big Ten title game, the Badgers may already be on the outside looking in.
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