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Sports >  WSU football

Recap and Highlights: Washington State marches into hostile environment and takes down No. 19 Wisconsin 17-14

Sept. 9, 2022 Updated Sat., Sept. 10, 2022 at 5:26 p.m.

From staff reports

Nakia Watson scored twice against his old team and first-year Washington State coach Jake Dickert ensured his return to Wisconsin would be one to remember, leading the Cougars to a 17-14 win over the 19th-ranked Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

Watson, who recorded 127 carries in two seasons with the Badgers before transferring to WSU, punched in a 2-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter and scored the decisive touchdown on a 31-yard reception in the third quarter to give the Cougars a three-point lead.

It marked WSU’s first win over a ranked team since the Cougars beat No. 25 Iowa State in the 2018 Alamo Bowl.

The Cougars (2-0) return home for their next three games, starting next Saturday with a 3 p.m. kickoff against Mountain West foe Colorado State (0-2).

Trailing by three points, Wisconsin squandered an opportunity to take the lead or tie the game late in the fourth quarter when WSU edge rusher Quinn Roff forced Badgers tight end Clay Cundiff to fumble on the Cougars’ 22-yard line. Safety Sam Lockett, a Spokane native and Gonzaga Prep graduate, pounced on the loose ball to give WSU’s offense possession with 5:14 to play, allowing the Cougars to secure the victory.

WSU quarterback Cameron Ward overcame a pair of early interceptions to finish 17-of-28 passing for 200 yards and one touchdown. Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz was 18-of-31 with two touchdowns and one interception.

The Cougars’ stingy defense forced three turnovers, including two Wisconsin fumbles, and the Badgers failed to score on the ground despite 174 total rushing yards on 44 carries.

WSU’s win may have come at somewhat of a cost, however, as three defensive starters left the field with apparent injuries and did not return. Cornerback Derrick Langford returned to the sideline in the first half with a boot on his left leg, linebacker Travion Brown walked off the field in the second half holding his shoulder and safety Jordan Lee didn’t return following a second-half injury.

First quarter

11:45 – WSU 0, Wis 0: Wisconsin receives the opening kick and their drive stalls after six plays and 12 yards.

The Cougar defense stopped running back Braelon Allen on two consecutive carries and Derrick Langford made a good play on the ball to break up a third down pass from Graham Mertz to Drake Owen. WSU starts on its own 20.

10:14 – WSU 0, Wis 0: Cameron Ward throws an interception to Max Lofy at the Wisconsin two. Turnovers were an issue for the Cougars in their opener against Idaho and now their 6-play 54-yard drive will come with no points. 

Renard Bell sparked the drive on the first play, taking a bubble screen across the field for 43 yards. Ward opens the game 2 of 6 for 49 yards.

3:03 – WSU 0, Wis 0: Graham Mertz is forced to throw it away on third down and the Badgers’ 51-yard field goal attempt by Vito Calvaruso misses badly to the right.

Wisconsin drained 7:11 minutes off the clock on a 12-play 5-yard drive, which was aided by a pass interference penalty. WSU takes over at its own 33.

2:11 – WSU 0, Wis 0: Nakia Watson picks up seven yards between carries on first and third downs, but the Cougars go three-and-out with another Cameron Ward incompletion. 

Nick Haberer punts 51 yards to the Wisconsin 10.

0:00 – WSU 0, Wis 0: Armani Marsh has an interception wrestled away from him at the Wisconsin 21 by Chimere Dike, which is ruled a first down for the Badgers after a replay review.

Wisconsin faces a 2nd-and-8 to start the second quarter.

Second quarter

12:27 – WSU 0, Wis 0: Graham Mertz completes a 15-yard pass to Skyler Bell on 3rd-and-14 to move the chains. Badgers have had the ball for 12:07 minutes to start the game, while the Cougars have had it for 2:53.

10:29 – WSU 0, Wis 0: Chez Mellusi is dropped in the backfield by Andrew Edson for a 1-yard loss on third down and short. The Badgers elect to go for it on fourth down and Graham Mertz’ pass to the flat spikes off the ground.

The Cougars take over on their own 47 needing their offense to get something going after an impressive first half by their defense. Wisconsin is averaging 2.4 yards per rush.

9:10 – WSU 7, Wis 0: The Cougars strike first, and in lightning fashion.

Nakia Watson punches in a 2-yard score on his former team as WSU capped a 4-play 53-yard drive in just 1:19.

Cameron Ward got things going on the first two plays with a 8-yard completion to Ollie Donovan, followed by a 38-yard pass down the sideline to Billy Riviere.

6:05 – WSU 7, Wis 7: The Badgers come right back and score a touchdown on a 17-yard pass from Graham Mertz to Clay Cundiff. 

Wisconsin eased down the field on a 6-play 65-yard drive to tie it, leaning on its passing attack. Mertz is 10 of 14 for 89 yards.

1:33 – WSU 7, Wis 7: After a WSU 3-and-out, the Cougar defense comes up again with another stop.

The Badgers punt to the WSU 4.

1:06 – WSU 7, Wis 7: Cougars get into a 2nd-and-1 opportunity, but Cameron Ward is sacked and throws an incomplete pass for another 3-and-out.

The Badgers start on WSU’s 45. 

0:20 – Wis 14, WSU 7: Graham Mertz completes a 10-yard touchdown to Clay Cundiff to give the Badgers the lead going into halftime.

Mertz finishes the half 13 of 22 for 146 yards and two TDs.


Washington State was unable to move the ball for most of the first half, with 3 of 5 drives going 3-and-out.

Cameron Ward gave up an interception in field goal range on the first possession, but came back later with a deep pass to set up the Cougars’ lone touchdown.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s offense had the ball for most of the half. It had 22:51 minutes of possession to WSU’s 7:09 and ran 26 more plays. The Badgers gained 245 total yards, but were unable to score until the 6:05 mark in the second quarter.

Graham Mertz led the Badgers with 146 yards and two TDs, while its rushing attack gained 99 yards on 4.1 a carry.

Washington State will receive the second half kickoff.

Third quarter

14:46 – Wis 14, WSU 7: The Cougars get the second half started with a 73-yard kick return by Renard Bell who sets WSU up at the Wisconsin 27.

11:20 – Wis 14, WSU 10: Dean Janikowski’s 26-yard attempt is good. The Cougars had a fourth-and-1 attempt from the Badgers’ 4, but were backed up due to a false start penalty and opted for three points.

9:11 – Wis 14, WSU 10: Cougars force a 3-and-out, but a booming 53-yard punt backs them up to their own 27.

7:51 – Wis 14, WSU 10: The Cougars catch a major break.

Jaylen Jenkins starts off the drive with runs of seven and 13 yards before back-to-back incompletions by Cameron Ward. Ward then makes another poor decision with an interception, but Lincoln Victor forces a fumble and the Cougars recover.

5:12 – WSU 17, Wis 14: Nakia Watson finds the endzone again against his former team.

Cameron Ward steps up in the pocket and finds Watson in the flat, who makes a defender miss and runs 31 yards for the touchdown to put the Cougars back in front.

Lincoln Victor’s effort to force a fumble on the interception a few plays earlier becomes even more important.

0:00 – WSU 17, Wis 14: Wisconsin has converted on 3rd-and-17, but its 10-play 50-yard drive has stalled at the end of the third quarter.

The Badgers have the ball on the Cougars 25 facing a 4th-and-4 and will either kick a field goal to try and tie, or go for it when play resumes.

Fourth quarter

14:57 – WSU 17, Wis 14: Wisconsin’s Vito Calvaruso misses badly on a 43-yard attempt and the Cougars will hold onto the lead.

13:01 – WSU 17, Wis 14: Cameron Ward is sacked by Nick Herbig for a loss of seven on third down. Nick Haberer’s punt is called for a fair catch at the Badgers’ 35.

6:42 – WSU 17, Wis 14: Cougars defensive lineman Christian Mejia intercepts Graham Mertz’s pass, takes a few steps and immediately fumbles it right back to Mertz, who was down after being hit.

Wisconsin backs up after a personal foul and retain possession at its 35.

5:14 – WSU 17, Wis 14: Another. Fumble.

Quinn Roff pops it loose after a catch by Clay Cundiff and its recovered by the Cougars at the Wisconsin 12. Big chance for the Cougars now to take some time off the clock with the lead.

2:17 – WSU 17, Wis 14: Cameron Ward picks up a poor snap off the ground then scrambles forward to pick up only the Cougars’ second third down conversion of the game. 

The next play he finds Lincoln Victor for an 18-yard gain on a run-pass option. Wisconsin calls a timeout after a 4-yard run from Nakia Watson and the Cougars are in great position to pull of an upset on the road.

0:00 – WSU 17, Wis 14: Cameron Ward heaves the ball into the air to expire the clock and the Cougars come out of Camp Randall Stadium with an upset with over No. 19 Wisconsin. Jake Dickert starts his first season as head coach with a 2-0 record and a signature win in his home state.


While the oddsmakers weren’t impressed with the Cougars’ Week 1 win over Idaho, a 17.5-point line will be the least of Washington State’s worries when they march into Camp Randall Stadium.

The Cougars (1-0) face their toughest nonconference test at No. 19 Wisconsin (1-0) on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., in front of over 80,000 strong in Madison, Wisconsin.

The game will be broadcast nationally on FOX, following one of Saturday’s marquee matchups between No. 1 Alabama and Texas, stepping Cougars coach Jake Dickert into likely the largest spotlight since taking over for Nick Rolovich a season ago.

WSU is coming off a 24-17 rivalry win over Idaho last week, where three fumbles and a streaky offense gave the Cougars’ Football Championship Subdivision neighbors a chance to tie in the final minute.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin handled its season-opening FCS opponent, rolling Illinois State 38-0 behind 148 rushing yards from Braelon Allen, who broke off a 96-yard score early in the second quarter.

Series history

The Cougars and Badgers have met twice before – both in Madison and both resulting in Wisconsin wins – during the 1976 and 2007 seasons.

The Badgers rolled to a 42-21 win in the most recent meeting behind 284 yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Tyler Donovan.

Last season the Pac-12 lost 5 of 6 games to Big Ten teams, with Oregon’s upset of Ohio State the only win. The Cougars are 14-27 against Big Ten foes, with its 34.5 win percentage ranking third-worst in the conference ahead of Arizona (31.8%) and Oregon State (31.4%).

WSU’s last win over a Big Ten team was a 37-34 victory over Rutgers in 2015, before that it was a 33-27 Sun Bowl win over Purdue in 2001.

Team stats

Scoring WSU (1-0) Wisconsin (1-0)
Points Per Game 24 38
Points Allowed Per Game 17 0
Total Yards 366 440
     Yards Passing 228 219
     Yards Rushing 138 221
Yards Allowed 273 243
     Pass Yards Allowed 212 186
     Rush Yards Allowed 61 57

Individual leaders

PASSING Att.-Comp. Yards TD Int.
Cameron Ward (WSU) 26-41 228 3 0
Graham Mertz (Wis.) 14-16 219 1 0
RUSHING Carries Yards TD
Nakia Watson (WSU) 18 117 0
Braelon Allen (Wis.) 14 148 2
RECEIVING Receptions Yards TD
Donovan Ollie (WSU) 7 67 0
Chimere Dike (Wis.) 3 106 1

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