12:00 PM ET, September 13, 2003
Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Jamaal Brimmer was a one-man wrecking crew for UNLV.
Earvin Johnson's TD catch helped UNLV make Wisconsin disappear ... like magic.
The junior strong safety returned a fumble for a score, set up two touchdowns with his first two career interceptions and had two sacks among his game-high 11 tackles as the Rebels stunned Wisconsin (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) 23-5 Saturday.
"Ronnie Lott had those same kind of instincts," said UNLV coach John Robinson, who tutored the former NFL star at USC. "He has a sense of the game. He is a wonderful player. He is one of the most instinctive players I have ever coached."
The Badgers (2-1) lost Heisman hopeful running back Anthony Davis to a sprained left ankle on their second series and fell apart behind quarterback Jim Sorgi's shaky performance in the rain at Camp Randall Stadium.
Sorgi was sacked eight times, overthrew eight receivers and had two of the Badgers' five turnovers -- their most in eight seasons.
Dwayne Smith, who replaced Davis, also fumbled twice as the Badgers failed to score an offensive touchdown at home for the first time since Nov. 25, 1995, when they tied Illinois 3-3.
"Anthony obviously is a big part of our offense, but there are no excuses in this game," Badgers coach Barry Alvarez said. "Their top tailback was out also."
"Their losing Davis early was a hurt to them," Robinson said. "But we lost our tailback even earlier."
Davis sprained his left ankle at the end of a 10-yard run in the first quarter, his second carry of the game. He hobbled off the field and was fitted with a protective boot on the sideline, then taken for X-rays.
Davis, the nation's leading rusher over the past two seasons combined, had rushed for 414 yards, second-most in the nation, in the first two weeks.
Smith replaced him and quickly made a trio of mistakes.
First, he tripped over his own downfield blocker six yards from the goal line after a 37-yard catch and run with the Badgers trailing 3-0. He fumbled on the next snap and end Chris Eagen recovered for UNLV.
After a punt, Smith fumbled again and this time, Brimmer, one of the best strong safeties in the nation, returned it 55 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
The Badgers looked as if they had recovered from the slow start when linebacker Alex Lewis blocked Gary Cook's punt out of the end zone for a safety and then Cook's free kick went out of bounds, giving Wisconsin the ball at the 50.
But after Lee Evans' 39-yard reception, the Badgers stalled inside the UNLV 6. Sorgi was sacked when he could have thrown the ball out of the end zone, then he overthrew tight end Tony Paciotti. They settled for Scott Campbell's 37-yard field goal that made it 10-5.
On the Badgers' next possession, Sorgi overthrew his receiver again and Brimmer returned his first career interception 37 yards to the Wisconsin 14, setting up the first Nantkes toJohnson scoring pass.
Johnson's juggling 6-yard catch over Levonne Rowan, a sophomore making his first start, gave the Rebels a 16-5 halftime lead.
The Badgers came out of halftime making the same mistakes. Sorgi overthrew Jonathan Orr and Brimmer was right there, returning it 29 yards to the Wisconsin 24.
Brimmer said he was just fortunate to be around the ball on his first interception and on the fumble return. But on his third takeaway, he wasn't where he wanted to be.
"We had blown coverage. Luckily, I got over there and the quarterback threw the ball up higher than he was supposed to," Brimmer said. "And I was there."
Just as he was all afternoon.
Johnson, who had five catches for 41 yards, caught an 8-yard TD pass from Nantkes this time, making it 23-5.
The Badgers hadn't lost at home with a ranking this high since 1959, when they were ranked seventh and lost to Illinois 9-6. All but a few thousand of the 78,043 fans had left by game's end.
"It's a real sick feeling seeing your fans walk out with eight, nine minutes left," safety Jim Leonhard said. "But I probably would have, too."