Badgers stunned as they fall to Washington State, 17-14

Washington State's Nakia Watson (25) runs past Wisconsin's Jake Chaney (36) during the first...
Washington State's Nakia Watson (25) runs past Wisconsin's Jake Chaney (36) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)(WSAW)
Published: Sep. 10, 2022 at 7:35 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Nakia Watson scored two touchdowns against his former team as Washington State beat No. 19 Wisconsin 17-14 on Saturday.

Watson scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter and put the Cougars (2-0) ahead for good by turning a short completion into a 31-yard score with 5:12 left in the third quarter. Watson rushed for 522 yards and five touchdowns at Wisconsin from 2019-20 before transferring.

“He represented himself and all the work he’s put in,” Washington State coach Jake Dickert said. “I’m proud of him.”

A game that featured three turnovers by each team and multiple bizarre plays produced a happy homecoming for Dickert.

Dickert was born in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, Wisconsin, about 65 miles east of Camp Randall Stadium. Dickert played for Wisconsin-Stevens Point from 2002-06, and about 200 friends and relatives gathered for a pregame tailgate Saturday.

“My grandma told me something today, your grandpa would be so proud if my grandpa was still here,” Dickert said. “That’s a special moment. Special people that just know me as Jake Dickert. That’s always what we’ve been. I’m just proud to be able to win this game with all of them here cheering us on.”

This game featured two separate plays in which one team intercepted a pass and then fumbled the ball away, creating a first down for the team that threw the pick.

Wisconsin (1-1) trailed 17-14 and faced third-and-6 from the Washington State 9 midway through the fourth quarter when defensive tackle Christian Mejia picked off a Graham Mertz pass before losing the football. Wisconsin recovered at the Washington State 20, but a personal foul on Badgers tight end Clay Cundiff after the play pushed them back to the 35.

Cundiff then caught a 24-yard pass, but Quinn Roff forced a fumble that Sam Lockett III recovered at the 12 with 5:14 left.

Washington State never gave up possession the rest of the way.

Wisconsin’s two touchdowns came in the second quarter on passes from Mertz to Cundiff. They connected on a 17-yarder and a 10-yarder, the latter coming 20 seconds before halftime.

These were Cundiff’s first touchdowns since the tight end dislocated his right ankle, broke a fibula and tore a foot ligament in a victory over Iowa last October. His first game back from that injury came in Wisconsin’s 38-0 victory over Illinois State last year.

Washington State rallied from a 14-7 halftime deficit. The Cougars capitalized on Wisconsin’s 11 penalties and two missed field-goal attempts.

“We didn’t help ourselves,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said.

The Cougars trailed 14-10 and had third and 10 from their 47 when Ward was hit by Kamo’I Latu just as he threw a pass that Wisconsin’s Jay Shaw picked off. Washington State receiver Lincoln Victor then applied a hit that knocked the ball loose, and center Konner Gomness recovered the fumble at the Wisconsin 49.

Instead of losing the ball on the turnover, Washington State suddenly had a first down just beyond midfield.

Six plays later, Watson caught a pass just beyond the line of scrimmage, made a spin move to get past Latu at the 30 and raced untouched the rest of the way for a 31-yard touchdown that put the Cougars ahead 17-14.