Moments after time expired today at Camp Randall Stadium, Rafael Gaglianone stood just beyond the North end zone, apologizing to his teammates as they made their way into the tunnel towards the University of Wisconsin’s locker room.
BYU had just knocked the Badgers’ promising season off its axis, and it was Gaglianone’s missed 42-yard field goal with 36 seconds left that sealed their fate in the Cougars’ 24-21 victory.
“He’s sitting there telling everyone, ‘Sorry, sorry,’” UW left guard Michael Deiter said. “And he doesn’t need to be sorry. We could have put him in a way better spot by playing a way better football game up to that point. It’s just kind of the way it goes.”
UW committed penalties that killed its own drives and extended others for BYU. The Badgers defense surrendered chunk plays and missed tackles, while the Wisconsin offense became marred by inconsistency and failed too times on third down. They looked as if they were sleep walking through the entire game and the Alex Hornibrook Post-Orange Bowl honeymoon is over (if there ever even was one for him).
Gaglianone’s missed kick, however, provided an unexpected end to a shocking afternoon for the sixth-ranked Badgers, who saw their 41-game win streak in non-conference home games snapped.
Before Saturday’s miss, the senior kicker had converted 29 of his last 32 field goals dating back to 2015 and already holds a school record with four game-winning kicks in his career.
“I trust myself to make those kicks,” Gaglianone said. “I trust myself to be in those positions. I’ve been there before and made it. It is what it is. That’s kind of the business. Sometimes you make the play. Sometimes you don’t. It wasn’t the type of contact that I normally make, so I knew it was going to be a little bit off. I’m obviously disappointed letting the team down, but I’m not going to let one play define me or define this season.”
Earlier in the fourth quarter, it was a freshman kicker, BYU’s Skyler Southam, that broke a 21-21 deadlock with 9:58 remaining.
Running back Squally Canada began that drive with a 46-yard run, setting up Southam to connect on a 45-yard try two quarters after he had missed a 52-yard attempt from a similar spot.
“It was kind of a bad snap,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said of Southam’s game-winning kick. “(Holder Gavin Fowler) really won the game by taking an erred snap and letting Skyler kick if fully. It’s just plays like that. We made mistakes but the guys’ effort and everyone doing their job is what won the game for us.”
Canada finished with 118 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries, including a 44-yard run that set up his 3-yard touchdown on BYU’s second possession of the game.
While Canada gashed the Badgers between the tackles, wide receiver Aleva Hifo posed a threat on jet sweeps — confusing UW’s defense even when he didn’t receive the ball. The Badgers allowed 191 rushing yards on the day, the most they’ve surrendered in a regular-season game since their win at Nebraska in 2015.
“Just a couple misfits,” UW inside linebacker Ryan Connelly said. “Obviously the jet sweep’s a lot of eye candy, and that can kind of distract your eyes.”
Hifo also became the focal point of a trick play that handed BYU its first lead of the game with 12:17 left in the second quarter.
Quarterback Tanner Mangum threw a backward pass towards the sideline to Hifo, who then tossed a 31-yard touchdown to a wide-open Moroni Laulu-Patutau, giving the Cougars a 14-7 advantage.
“I had us in the wrong call,” UW safety D’Cota Dixon said. “That’s full responsibility on me. There was a lot of shifting and a lot of motion. I was too busy focusing on trying to make sure guys got my call rather than focusing on what I saw in front of me. That’s on me.”
Tight end Dallin Holker appeared to catch a 36-yard pass on BYU’s next possession, giving the Cougars a first-and-goal at UW’s 3-yard line, but the play was overturned after replay — leading to Southam’s missed field goal.
The Badgers then nearly stalled for the fourth time in five first-half series after a holding call on Michael Deiter. Danny Davis caught a ball over the middle on third-and-19 before taking it one yard short of the first-down marker. Jonathan Taylor converted on fourth down the following snap, and fullback Alec Ingold scored from 2 yards out four plays later.
Ingold’s touchdown tied the game at 14, capping a first half that quite frankly should have turned out even worse for UW.
Alex Hornibrook’s interception on the Badgers’ third play of the second half set BYU up at UW’s 27-yard line, and the Cougars capitalized with a go-ahead touchdown seven plays later. The Badgers had an opportunity for a stop on third-and-goal from the 5, but cornerback Faion Hicks was called for pass interference.
“I think it was B.S.,” Hicks said. “But the ref made the call. I’ve got to do better. I feel like I played football. I feel like I did the right things. Sometimes the refs are put in tough positions to make calls, but I don’t think that call should have been made.”
The Badgers managed to overcome a holding call on David Edwards to tie the game at 21 early in the fourth quarter. Tight end Jake Ferguson caught a 17-yard pass on third down following the penalty, and Taiwan Deal scored a 5-yard touchdown, his second of the game, five plays later.
UW had two opportunities to erase Southam’s game-winning kick, but BYU defensive lineman Zac Dawe sacked Hornibrook on third-and-3 from the Badgers’ 41-yard line before Gaglianone’s miss the following drive — cementing the Cougars’ upset nearly one year after UW’s 40-6 thrashing of BYU in Provo, Utah, last season.
“We knew BYU was a completely different animal from last year,” UW running back Garrett Groshek said. “You could tell on the film. You could tell from the previous games that they’re a really good team. They came out to play today. That’s kind of it. We respected them, knew they were a good team coming in, and they just played well.”