MADISON, Wis. —Wisconsin's Jay Valai blocked a game-tying extra point try, and the 11th-ranked Badgers held on for a 20-19 victory over Arizona State on Saturday.
Arizona State's Cameron Marshall scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to cut Wisconsin's lead to 20-19 with 4:09 left in the game. But Valai, a senior safety, burst through the line to block the kick — salvaging what had been a miserable day for the Badgers' special teams.
Wisconsin's offense then converted a critical third-and-2 play, and the Badgers (3-0) ran out the clock. With that, Wisconsin fended off an impressive effort from an Arizona State (2-1) team that kept the Badgers confused for much of the day with their up-tempo spread offense and dangerous return units.
John Clay rebounded from a slow start to rush for 123 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter for Wisconsin. The Badgers sustained several injuries on defense during the game — including linebacker Chris Borland, who appeared to re-injure his left shoulder.
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Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien was 19 of 25 for 246 yards and a touchdown.
Deantre Lewis had 122 yards rushing for the Sun Devils, who were able to move the ball for most of the game but failed to capitalize on several scoring chances.
Steven Threet was 21 of 33 for 211 yards and nearly pulled off what would have been his second career comeback against the Badgers. Threet, a transfer from Michigan, led the Wolverines to a comeback victory over the Badgers in 2008.
With the Badgers thin at wide receiver, tight end Lance Kendricks caught seven passes for 131 yards.
With the game tied at 13, the Wisconsin running game asserted itself late in the third quarter. The Badgers drove 88 yards in eight plays, taking the lead when Clay scored on third-and-1 from the Arizona State 19.
Trailing 20-13, Arizona State stopped Clay short on third-and-2 to force a punt with 8:22 left in the game.
After a big run by Lewis, the Sun Devils converted a third-and-2 at the Wisconsin 14; and Marshall scored one play later, putting the Sun Devils in position to tie.
But Valai made the play of the day, blocking the extra point to preserve the win — and saving face for a beleaguered special teams unit.
Trailing and struggling for most of the first half, the Badgers took a 13-10 lead after Tolzien's 14-yard touchdown pass to Kendricks late in the second quarter — but the Badgers nearly allowed their second special-teams touchdown of the game just before half time.
Wisconsin's J.J. Watt came out of the game twice because of injuries and linebacker Culmer St. Jean also had to be carried off in the third quarter, but both players returned to the game.