September 16, 2013 at 2:15 am

Matt Charboneau

Big Ten report: Strange ending costs Badgers a win

Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave, right, reacts as he walks off the field in Tempe, Ariz., following Arizona State's 32-30 victory. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen took the high road late Saturday night in Tempe, Ariz.

After one of the most bizarre endings to a football game left his Badgers to make the long trek home after a 32-30 lost to Arizona State, Andersen was asked what he thought of the officials.

He decided saying nothing was better than trying to explain the final seconds and putting himself and his team in a bad spot.

He remained, for the most part, silent when an explanation was needed. However, it wasn’t needed from Andersen or even Arizona State coach Todd Graham.

No, the explanation was needed from the officials who had just completed one of the most inexplicable final few seconds in any game played.

Trailing Arizona State by two in the final minutes, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave executed the two-minute drill to near perfection, moving his team from its 17 to the ASU 13 in the final minute to put the Badgers in position to kick the winning field goal. All the Badgers needed was for Stave to roll to his left, take a knee, then spike the football in time for a field goal attempt. Instead, the Badgers never got another play off after Stave took a knee, watching helplessly as the clock ran out.

The problems began as Stave, when he went to kneel, placed the ball on the ground instead of handing it to the official. The whistle had blown and the play was dead, but instead of spotting the ball, the officials allowed an Arizona State defender to lie on the ball as the clock ticked away.

Time ran out, the Sun Devils celebrated and the Badgers tried desperately for an explanation.

They’re still waiting for one from the Pac 12 officiating crew.

Stave said he asked the officials about using replay at the end, but got no response. Andersen was also given no explanation about why so much time elapsed without the ball being spotted.

“I don’t know where it goes, we’ll just have to see,” he said. “I’d like to get an explanation. Wish I could have gotten one out there (on the field) but I didn’t. … It’s just gut-wrenching. We have to learn in these situations when you take something so special away from kids.”

It was far from a perfect day for No. 20 Wisconsin, but it had played well enough to win, getting 193 yards and two touchdowns from running back Melvin Gordon. However, Arizona State’s Marion Grice was equally impressive, running for 84 yards and four scores.

His final score put the Badgers in the difficult position of having to move the length of the field in the final two minutes.

But they did just that only to have it stolen in the end. That’s right, stolen. There is simply no other way to describe the final sequence.

Some say kick the ball on first down, but it still doesn’t justify the atrocious job the officiating crew did.

Some will cry the officials were homers, looking out for the conference team. That would be too simple. This crew was just incompetent.

“This is the worst loss I’ve ever been a part of,” linebacker Chris Borland said. “We played well enough to win, we put ourselves in a position to win and it was taken from us, so it’s miserable.”

Miserable for the team headed home with the loss, disgraceful for the group of officials who stood on that field Saturday and left without saying a word.

Penn State defenseless

Penn State has had little trouble scoring points this season and piled up 31 on Saturday against Central Florida. The problem, however, was the fact it allowed 34 and allowed Central Florida to roll up 507 yards.

It was Penn State’s worst defensive performance statistically since the TicketCity Bowl when the Nittany Lions surrendered 600 yards of offense. The 34 points were the most Penn State has given up at home since it joined the Big Ten.

To top it off, it was the first win for Central Florida over a Big Ten team in its history.

“Honestly, we thought we would be able to handle them better,” Penn State defensive coordinator John Butler said. “It’s a collective effort — coaches, players have to look at the tape and figure out what it was. We felt good going in that we knew what we needed to do to be able to stop them. To be honest with you, we couldn’t stop what we needed to stop.”

Cornhuskers, too

After Nebraska’s opening victory over Wyoming, the same questioned loomed about this year’s Cornhuskers.

Can they stop anyone?

The answer is getting much clearer and it isn’t good for the folks in Lincoln.

After opening up a 21-3 lead over UCLA on Saturday, Nebraska proceeded to give up 38 straight points in a 41-21 loss. The Bruins rolled up 504 total yards, including 210 on the ground.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com
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