UW secondary redeems itself: Maragos gets key pick in 2nd OT
MADISON At some point, the law of averages just had to catch up with Fresno State.
All game, the Bulldogs had their way with the University of Wisconsin secondary. They beat UW with the short pass, then took some shots deep and spent the rest of the day mixing the two to keep the Badgers off-balance.
It seemed like a recipe for success, but in a sweet twist of irony for UW fans, the same unit that was on track to be the goat Saturday saved the day.
Specifically, Chris Maragos.
The senior safety from Racine Horlick ran down what initially appeared to be a sure touchdown pass, picking off Ryan Colburn's throw in the end zone on the first play of the second overtime. The turnover led to the deciding field goal in the Badgers' 34-31 double-overtime victory at Camp Randall Stadium.
The play probably would have been a touchdown if Colburn threw a better ball. Instead, he put just enough air under it for Maragos to catch up to the play.
''I did see the ball in the air for a while," UW coach Bret Bielema said, "but it seemed like something gave Maragos a little burst to make a play like that."
Despite the poor throw, Maragos made a nice play on the ball. His first responsibility on the play was to cover any outside routes.
But when Fresno State's Chastin West broke out of his pattern and headed to the post, Maragos turned and ran with him.
''I felt like I was running a post-route," said Maragos, a former receiver. "The ball was up there and I was like, 'I've got to go get this.' "
The interception was the third of the day for UW's secondary.
Cornerbacks Antonio Fenelus and Niles Brinkley also intercepted passes in the second half.
However, for much of the game, the secondary had a tough time adjusting to the double moves made by Fresno State's receivers. UW sophomore Devin Smith, for example, was beaten for a 70-yard touchdown when he bit on a short route and receiver Devon Wylie went deep down the sideline.
The Bulldogs also made a killing on third down -- converting 11 of 18 chances -- primarily by beating the cornerbacks on short routes, many of them slants.
But in the Badgers' defense, the past week wasn't typical.
The flu bug that ran through the team caught up with sophomore corner Aaron Henry early Saturday morning. He started but didn't make it through the first quarter. Brinkley, a junior, was hampered by a hamstring injury that kept him out of practice much of the week.
And Maragos had a touch of the bug Friday.
Saturday, he was feeling fine enough to save the day for Wisconsin. Again.
In UW's 28-20 victory over Northern Illinois on Sept. 5, Maragos deflected a fourth-down pass to turn away the Huskies' last scoring threat.
''I was joking with him in the shower: 'Man, that's two weeks in a row you made the game-winning play. You're a big superstar,' " senior O'Brien Schofield said.
''It means a lot to see that because they were attacking our secondary all day. Just to see how those guys bounced back and made those big plays when we needed it, that shows a lot."