TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave ran to the left, started to put his knee down and placed the ball on the ground, thinking he had set up the Badgers for a potential game-winning field goal over Arizona State.
Instead, he set off a whirlwind of confusion.
Marion Grice ran for four touchdowns, but Arizona State’s 32-30 victory over No. 20 Wisconsin on Saturday night will be remembered for Stave’s play and the chaos it caused.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in college football, ever,” Arizona State cornerback Osahon Irabor said.
Here’s how it went down:
After struggling with miscues and missed opportunities most of the game, Arizona State (2-0) went ahead 32-24 after Grice scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the closing seconds of the third quarter and runs of 2 and 12 yards in the fourth.
Wisconsin (2-1) answered with a scoring drive of its own, setting up Melvin Gordon for his second touchdown run, a 1-yarder that pulled the Badgers within 32-30 after their 2-point conversion failed.
After an Arizona State drive stalled, Wisconsin took over at its 17-yard line with 1:36 left. The Badgers moved quickly down the field, thanks to a 51-yard completion to Jeff Duckworth, and had the ball at Arizona State’s 13 with 18 seconds left.
With the ball on the right hash mark, Stave took a snap and ran left toward the center of the field to set up the potential game-winning field goal. Stave started to kneel, but ran into one of his offensive linemen and awkwardly placed the ball on the ground before quickly bouncing back up.
Players from both teams stood around for a few seconds in confusion and Arizona State’s players tried to dive on the ball, but the officials pointed to the ground, appearing to say it was a dead ball.
Realizing the clock was still running, Wisconsin’s players scrambled back to the line of scrimmage with about 2 seconds left. They weren’t able to get a last snap off before the clock went off, sending Arizona State’s players streaming off the field in joy.
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 the way it went down,” Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said.
Gordon finished with 193 yards on 15 carries.
Taylor Kelly hit 29 of 51 passes — many of those on back-shoulder throws along the sideline — for 352 yards and a touchdown for the Sun Devils, who are 9-0 all-time against the Big Ten at Sun Devil Stadium.
Grice finished with 84 yards on 22 carries to help Arizona State kick off a tough stretch in the schedule with a big non-conference win.
That was all secondary to the play that had everyone still scratching their heads long after the final horn.
“We just jumped on it and I guess time ran out, so we won,” Arizona State safety Alden Darby said. “I was confused back there.”
The bizarre ending capped a strange night of momentum changes, missed chances and some huge performances.
Arizona State had most of the missed opportunities.
The Sun Devils failed on a fourth-and-goal from the 2 on their opening drive and had to settle for a pair of field goals on two other deep drives in the first half.
Arizona State also had numerous dropped passes and miscues, including a big one in the second quarter, when punter Dom Vizzare compounded a bad snap by failing to fall on the football. That gave Wisconsin’s Beau Allen a chance to pull it out of a scramble for a touchdown that put the Badgers up 14-3.
Grice had Arizona State’s only touchdown of the first half, a 1-yard score that kept the Sun Devils within 14-13.
“We have to play better than that,” Graham said.
Wisconsin rushed for three yards in six carries in the first quarter before finding a rhythm offensively on a scoring drive that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Stave to Jacob Pedersen early in the second.
That was about it for the Badgers’ offense in the first half, though; They had 101 total yards, but still led 14-13.
Wisconsin extended the lead on the first play of the third quarter, when Gordon took an end-around handoff and raced 80 yards for a touchdown. The Badgers’ sixth play of 50 or more yards this season put them up 21-13.
The Sun Devils finally got their offense going consistently late in the third quarter into the fourth, putting together three scoring drives — all capped by Grice — to go up 32-24.
But the Badgers kept fighting back.
Wisconsin followed Grice’s fourth touchdown by pulling off a fake punt on a 75-yard scoring drive capped by Gordon, but trailed by 2 after Stave was hit from behind by Carl Bradford and threw an incomplete pass on the 2-point conversion.
The Badgers forced Arizona State to punt on its next drive and seemed to be in position to pull out a tough road victory with a quick-hitting drive, but instead left with a tough-to-take loss punctuated by the strange ending.
“I do want an explanation,” Andersen said. “It’s gut wrenching when you have to learn some things and take away opportunities from these kids.”