IOWA CITY - It was a game where UW had up to seven regular players miss game action with injuries, including key players like Nick Toon and Jordan Kohout.
It was a game where Iowa seemed to be getting all the breaks on its home field. It was a game that, considering all the circumstances, many didn't think the Badgers could win.
But they did.
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It wasn't always pretty, but in the end, UW walked out of Kinnick Stadium with a 31-30 triumph over rival Iowa.
"I'm very proud," UW senior Blake Sorensen said. "Coming into the game guys were banged up and during the game guys got banged up. It was a total team effort and I couldn't be more proud of our team."
Of all the guys that could have made a play in UW's shocking and nail-biting victory, not many would have bet on Brad Nortman.
Nortman, who said he wanted to score on the play, was called upon to get the Badgers a first down on a fake punt.
While he didn't find a way to cross the plane of the end zone, he did reel off one of the most important plays of the Badger season. That will have to count.
With his team trailing 30-24 midway through the fourth quarter, Ryan Groy made the call.
The fake was on.
"It looked like it did every time," Nortman, who rushed for 17 yards on the play, picking up a first down, said. "I just started out my mold so they would kind of buy that I was punting. Then I put my head down and ran right behind Ryan Groy. He bolted up a lane for me and I just took off."
The play was the turning point for a Badger squad that looked to be on the verge of letting one slip away against Iowa for the third straight year. It gave the Badgers new life and a new opportunity to continue its march towards a 7-1 start to the 2010 season.
From that point on, the Badgers mixed in a variety of runs and passes. John Clay, who finished the day with 91 yards rushing and two touchdowns, moved the pile and kept third downs manageable.
He also paved the way for his sophomore counterpart, Montee Ball.
The young tailback, who tallied 59 yards of total offense, caught a critical fourth and four pass from Scott Tolzien that extended the drive. While the clock was slowly ticking down, the Badgers momentum kept rising up.
Clay rushed for 11 yards over the next two plays before Ball capped the drive with consecutive eight-yard scampers, the second of which provided an emphatic touchdown run where Ball kept his balance and stretched the ball over the goal line.
"He's a serious kid," Bielema said. "He knew his day was going to come. He didn't know how it was going to come. We can't script it because we don't know when it's going to happen.
"Again, a really good job by the coaches to put him in that situation and a great job of him executing it."
Though UW's sideline smelled victory, its defense that had surrendered 30 points throughout the course of the game, still had to hold Iowa's offense scoreless for 66 more seconds.
"I was watching J.J. Watt a lot," senior left guard John Moffitt said. "I was hoping he would get a sack. I was praying for an interception and just a stop."
With three timeouts left and an offense the Badgers defense struggled to slow throughout the entirety of the game, it seemed as though Iowa had enough time to give itself a chance by getting into field goal range.
But like Moffitt envisioned, his defensive counterparts stepped up.
"I've always been told by a lot of people that big time players make big time plays in big time games," Watt, who sacked Ricky Stanzi for an 11 yard loss on the final drive, said. "That was a big time situation. I needed to come up with a sack to help our team win the game.
"Obviously that's a huge moment in the game for us."
Stanzi (25-37, 258 yards, three touchdowns) and company rallied from that setback and eventually crossed into Badger territory. But when Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz curiously called a timeout with 12 seconds left when his team could have just spiked the ball to stop the clock, the scene was set.
Just outside of field goal range, Watt and company pressured the senior quarterback and forced him into shoveling a pass to Allen Reisner in the middle of the field. With the clock ticking down, Mike Taylor and Antonio Fenelus were able to drop the tight end in bounds.
In doing so, the Hawkeyes ran out of time and the Badgers completed their second huge victory in as many weeks.
"It's been special," UW senior quarterback Scott Tolzien, who finished 20-of-26 for 205 yards with one touchdown and one interception, said. "It's a culmination from everything from last year, to workouts to winter workouts, spring ball and fall camp. This is when you realize that it's all worth it."
UW will have some time to feast on its performances over the past two weeks. It will also have some time to regain its health entering the stretch run with a viable shot at a Big Ten championship.
"I feel like the state of Wisconsin is proud right now," Watt said. "I sure hope they're proud because we're working our tails off for them. I can't say enough about our fans. We had so many fans down here traveling for us and cheering for us.
"Our team is extremely elated with where we're at," Watt said. "We're going to come out the last four weeks of the season and make everybody proud."