Madison, Wis. — A sluggish start, two ejections and a brief delay caused by an errant fire alarm at Camp Randall Stadium made for an odd afternoon for No. 24 Wisconsin.
In the end, the Badgers restored order behind three touchdown runs and timely defense against an overmatched nonconference foe.
Two-way player Tanner McEvoy’s 32-yard score helped break open a tighter-than-expected game in the third quarter, and Wisconsin wore down Troy for a 28-3 win on Saturday.
“Two ejections, which I’ve never seen before, a fire alarm,” quarterback Joel Stave said. “Yeah, it was a strange afternoon.”
Stave and running back Dare Ogunbowale also ran for touchdowns, and the defense withstood the Trojans’ quick-strike spread offense to hold an opponent without a touchdown for the second straight contest.
Wisconsin (2-1) led just 14-3 at the half in a game that had a sluggish pace of play.
Starting inside linebacker Leon Jacobs was thrown out in the first quarter for targeting after tackling quarterback Brandon Silvers in the chest just after Silvers let go of a pass. Silvers’ helmet flew off after the hit.
Cornerback Derrick Tindal’s ejection followed late in the third quarter after he tackled Troy’s Ismail Saleem as the receiver was going down to the ground.
“The defensive player, when we have a defenseless receiver, cannot target to the head or neck area,” referee Jeffrey Servinski said to a pool reporter.
Both ejections were confirmed after official reviews, prompting boos from the partisan crowd, especially after Tindal’s penalty.
“There’s always the gray, and yet it’s been clear, the officials are always going to err on the side of player safety,” Badgers coach Paul Chryst said, “and knowing that there is some gray in it and I think that’s the right thing.”
The fire alarm — activated by a heat detector near the pizza oven in the stadium’s main kitchen — led to a brief delay with 8:56 left and Troy (1-2) driving.
“Ladies and gentlemen, there is not a fire,” the referee told the crowd, which cheered.
The alarm was turned off and a few plays later, Wisconsin’s Vince Biegel sacked Silvers on third-and-22 from the Troy 24 to help snuff out a last-ditch drive — Troy was trailing by 18 points — midway through the fourth quarter.
“Even in the fourth quarter, we were right there 21-3 with some opportunities to get back in the game and put a little pressure on Wisconsin,” Troy coach Neal Brown said.
The Sun Belt Conference team trailed 14-3 to the Big Ten power before Silvers fumbled on a sack by Joe Schobert on the opening drive of the second half.
Safety Michael Caputo recovered the ball. Seven plays later, McEvoy, who plays receiver and safety, took a direct snap on offense and ran right 32 yards for a score and a 21-3 lead with 7:16 left in the third quarter.
The Badgers held Troy’s fast-paced offense to 255 total yards, 84 below its season average. Silvers was 23 of 34 for 174 yards.
“I missed out on a few chances in the third quarter. I wasn’t happy about that,” Silvers said. “We needed to do a better job finishing our drives.”
Wisconsin’s linebackers had a big hand in that, even with the ejection of Jacobs. Schobert and Biegel were forces off the edge, while freshman Chris Orr led the team with a career-high 14 tackles after replacing Jacobs.
Schobert said the Badgers’ defensive scheme allows players to get after the quarterback, “make them make hurried throws, create turnovers. It all starts with stopping the run.”
The Trojans were held to 81 yards on the ground on 33 carries.
McEvoy had two carries for 41 yards, along with four tackles. Stave had another poised performance, finishing 13 of 17 for 202 yards and a touchdown pass.
With the win, Wisconsin became the eighth program from one of the five power conferences with 100 victories since 2005.