MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Jamaal Brimmer was a one-man wrecking crew
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
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."