9:00 PM ET, August 30, 2014
NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
HOUSTON -- Down 10 to Wisconsin already, LSU started the second half with a delay of game penalty on the opening kickoff. On the Badgers' first play from scrimmage, Melvin Gordon sprinted 63 yards up the middle to set up another touchdown.
Not a good start. But the Tigers still found the right way to finish.
Kenny Hilliard scored on a 28-yard touchdown run to cap a fourth-quarter rally for No. 13 LSU in a 28-24 win over No. 14 Wisconsin at NRG Stadium on Saturday night.
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The Tigers trailed 24-21 when Jalen Mills intercepted Tanner McEvoy's pass at the LSU 47 with 11:04 left. Hilliard ran for 53 yards on the ensuing drive, sprinting through a hole on the right side to finish off the improbable comeback.
The Tigers extended the nation's longest regular-season nonconference winning streak to 46 games by overcoming a 24-7 deficit in the fourth quarter.
"We played sloppy, we did everything to the latest possible time before we decided to play best," LSU coach Les Miles said.
The Badgers seemed to have the game in hand after Corey Clement's 2-yard touchdown run after Gordon's run in the third quarter. At that point, Wisconsin had a 290-136 edge in yardage.
"I can't tell you the number of missed tackles, I can't tell you the number of missed assignments," Miles said. "And then we started playing better."
Colby Delahoussaye kicked two field goals and Anthony Jennings threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to John Diarse to start LSU's rally. Jennings hit Trey Quinn for a 2-point conversion to cut the deficit to three.
"They battled. They hung in there," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. "I thought both teams fought like crazy. They made one more play than we did and won the game in the end."
The Badgers had dominated the game before the sudden turn of events in the final quarter. Wisconsin outgained LSU 182-16 on the ground in the first half and Gordon's long run to start the third seemed to continue the momentum. Wisconsin mustered only 65 yards in the fourth quarter.
"They've got a great defense and we've got a great offense," McEvoy said, "but we've got to make some plays when they're there and we didn't."
Hilliard finished with 110 yards rushing after being held to 11 in the first half. Jennings went 7 for 18 for 176 yards. He threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Travin Dural in the first half and for most of the game, it seemed as if it might be the lone highlight for LSU.
The Badgers' defense, which lost eight starters from last season, shut down LSU's running back trio of Hilliard, Terrance Magee and freshman Leonard Fournette. Wisconsin's offensive line, meanwhile, was having its way with LSU.
Gordon had nine carries for 64 yards in the first quarter, including a 20-yarder to the LSU 45. On the next play, McEvoy faked another handoff to Gordon and gave it to receiver Reggie Love, who weaved to the end zone. The Badgers have led the nation in 40-plus yard runs in each of the last two seasons.
A 22-yard scramble by McEvoy set up a 51-yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone and Wisconsin led 10-0.
LSU started a drive early in the second quarter with a false start penalty and then Travis Dickson took a short pass from Jennings and fumbled at the LSU 24. Gordon found another big hole and scored from 14 yards out with 7:36 left in the half.
Tight end DeSean Smith dropped an easy pass and Jennings badly overthrew Dural on the Tigers' next series. Miles turned to freshman Brandon Harris for a series and that didn't change anything -- he was sacked on third down and LSU punted again.
After Clement scored, Jennings found Dural for a 44-yard gain to the Wisconsin 8. But LSU settled for a 30-yard field goal by Delahoussaye. Delahoussaye tacked on a 47-yard field goal later in the third quarter to close the gap to 24-13.
Gordon finished with 147 yards on 16 carries. But Wisconsin still lost for the first time in 17 season openers.
"Pretty much since I've been here, we've been coming up short in big games," Gordon said. "Obviously, people will say, `Wisconsin can't win a big game.' I'm pretty sure we'll be hearing that all year."
Wisconsin defensive end Konrad Zagzebski left in the first quarter with an apparent neck injury. He was taken off the field on a stretcher and taken to Methodist Hosptial, but the team said early Sunday morning that he had been released and would travel home with the team.
ESPN.com's Sam Khan Jr. and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... LSU scored 21 unanswered points to close out the game, while Wisconsin struggled to move the ball on offense.
Gameball goes to... LSU wideout Travin Dural had three catches for 151 yards, including an 80-yard TD reception.
Stat of the game... 50. The passing yards managed by new Wisconsin signal-caller Tanner McEvoy, on 24 attempts.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||4-15||6-17|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||1-1|
|TD||9:05||R. Love run for 45 yds for a TD, (R. Gaglianone KICK)Watch Highlight||7||0|
|FG||5:07||R. Gaglianone 51 yd FG GOODWatch Highlight||10||0|
|TD||4:47||A. Jennings pass,to T. Dural for 80 yds for a TD, (C. Delahoussaye KICK)Watch Highlight||10||7|
|TD||7:36||Melvin Gordon 14 Yd Run (Rafael Gaglianone Kick)Watch Highlight||17||7|
|TD||12:24||C. Clement run for 2 yds for a TD, (R. Gaglianone KICK)Watch Highlight||24||7|
|FG||7:41||C. Delahoussaye 30 yd FG GOODWatch Highlight||24||10|
|FG||2:11||C. Delahoussaye 47 yd FG GOODWatch Highlight||24||13|
|TD||12:08||A. Jennings pass,to J. Diarse for 35 yds for a TD, (Two pt pass, A. Jennings pass to T. Quinn GOOD)Watch Highlight||24||21|
|TD||9:41||K. Hilliard run for 28 yds for a TD, (C. Delahoussaye KICK)Watch Highlight||24||28|
LSU had 14 designed rushes in the first half, its fifth fewest such attempts for any first half in the last two seasons. The Tigers had more than twice as many designed rushes in the second half, including a go-ahead 28-yard touchdown run from Kenny Hilliard.[+]
-The Tigers had seven offensive plays that gained at least 15 yards, five of which came in the fourth quarter, including both of their touchdowns.
LSU Designed Rushes by Half - Saturday vs Wisconsin
*Tanner McEvoy was ineffective when he took shots downfield. He was 1-of-13 on passes thrown 10 or more yards downfield with two interceptions.
- Only two Power Five quarterbacks surpassed McEvoy's ineptitude on deep throws last season. Of 246 instances when a quarterback attempted at least 13 passes of 10 or more yards downfield, only Texas' Case McCoy (0-14) at Baylor and California's Jared Goff (1-15) at Colorado were worse.
- Jared Abbrederis, who departed Wisconsin, had 32 of the Badgers' 62 receptions thrown at least 10 yards downfield last season.
Incredibly, LSU now has a winning record under Les Miles when trailing in the 4th quarter. Their 22 such wins are the most in FBS since he took over in 2005 while they are the only FBS program with a winning record in such games.[+]
Best Record When Trailing in 4th Quarter - Since 2005
ESPN Stats & Information