The first loss for Wisconsin was painful. The second was almost unbearable.
Braxton Miller lobbed a 40-yard touchdown pass to an open Devin Smith with 20 seconds left to give Ohio State a dramatic 33-29 victory over the 12th-ranked Badgers on Saturday night.
Dramatic losses are nothing new for the Badgers.
"It's pretty tough, especially two in a row," quarterback Russell Wilson said. "The Hail Mary from the week before, and then just throwing it up and finding a guy. That's kind of tough."
It was almost exactly seven days earlier that the Badgers were beaten 37-31 at Michigan State on a miracle pass on the final play of the game. The latest heartbreak, just like that one, wasn't confirmed until it passed a video review.
"The replay booth has definitely not been our friend the last two weeks," a glum Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said.
The Badgers (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) drove to the Ohio State 45 _ and got an extra play after time elapsed due to a defensive facemask call _ but linebacker Andrew Sweat hit Wilson as he was throwing to end the game. The ball fell far short of the target, touching off a wild celebration.
It was an incredible finish, with four touchdowns scored in the final 4:39. But the Buckeyes were the last standing after a series of knockout punches by both sides.
Much like a week before when the Badgers came back from a two-touchdown deficit to pull even, Wilson threw touchdown passes of 17 and 49 yards to Jared Abbrederis with 3:48 and 1:18 left to give Wisconsin a 29-26 lead.
But it wouldn't last.
Miller had given Ohio State (5-3, 2-2) a 26-14 lead with 4:39 remaining with his second touchdown run, from 44 yards out.
The Badgers answered with a quick score in just 44 seconds, with Wilson hitting Abbrederis on a 17-yard score to cut it to 26-21.
Wisconsin kicked deep and then held the Buckeyes on three runs, forcing a punt.
It took just four plays to cover the 68 yards, with Wilson finding Abbrederis all alone down the right sideline for a touchdown with 1:18 left. A 2-point conversion pass from Wilson to Ball made it 29-26.
"Unfortunately, we scored too fast," said Bielema.
After Jordan Hall returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards, the Buckeyes were in business again.
They picked up 12 yards on three plays before Miller took the snap on first down at the Wisconsin 40 with 30 seconds left. He floated right to avoid a rush, barely sidestepped a potential tackle and suddenly noticed Smith wide open in the end zone. Miller stopped and looped the ball to Smith who caught it just before two defenders closed on him.
A crowd of 105,511 went wild.
A video review confirmed that Miller had not crossed the line of scrimmage before arching the long pass that decided the game _ but it wasn't over.
The Buckeyes kicked off out of bounds. That gave Wisconsin the ball at its own 40 with 18 seconds left.
Wilson threw three incompletions _ twice off the hands of receivers who had chances to make huge plays.
As a mob of fans waited to rush the field, it was announced there was a flag on the final play of regulation. It was for a defensive facemask call against safety Christian Bryant.
That gave the Badgers the ball at the Ohio State 45 and one final play.
But the pocket closed on Wilson and Sweat hit him from behind just as he was releasing the pass, the ball fluttering to the ground while the field filled with running, jumping fans celebrating Ohio State's 90th homecoming.
The Badgers are hoping for brighter days.
"Obviously, it's another heartbreaking loss," Bielema said.
Wilson looked stunned as he assessed another one that slipped away.
"We kept believing that our defense was going to stop them," said Wilson, who completed 20 of 32 passes for 253 yards and three scores. "We just fell short. They made a nice play at the end."
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap.
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