Watson helps Washington State beat No. 19 Wisconsin 17-14

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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MADISON, Wis. – Nakia Watson acknowledged having extra motivation this week facing his former team.

No wonder he was a little more emotional than usual afterward.

Watson scored both of Washington State’s touchdowns as the Cougars upset No. 19 Wisconsin 17-14 on Saturday. Watson rushed for 522 yards and five touchdowns at Wisconsin from 2019-20 before transferring.

“Normally, I’m not a person that cries,” Watson said afterward. “But I cried a little bit, I’m not going to lie.”

Watson scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter and put the Cougars ahead for good by turning a short completion into a 31-yard score with 5:12 left in the third period. Watson said he followed the counsel of Mark Atuaia, who continually reminded him to maintain his poise at all times.

He only let his emotions out once the game ended as he thanked Atuaia for the advice.

“The fireworks were going in my head when the clock hit zero,” said Watson, who had 10 carries for 33 yards.

Washington State (2-0) was about a 17-point underdog but survived a game that featured multiple bizarre plays to produce a happy homecoming for Watson and Cougars coach Jake Dickert.

Dickert was born in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, Wisconsin, about 65 miles east of Camp Randall Stadium. Dickert played for Wisconsin-Stevens Point from 2002-06, and about 200 friends and relatives gathered for a pregame tailgate.

Several of them hung around for a postgame celebration around the visitors’ locker room.

“I think a few of the are looking for some beers in the fridge that aren’t there,” Dickert quipped. “Just Gatorades and water.”

This game featured two separate plays in which one team intercepted a pass and then fumbled the ball away, creating a first down for the team that threw the pick.

Wisconsin (1-1) trailed 17-14 and faced third-and-6 from the Washington State 9 midway through the fourth quarter when defensive tackle Christian Mejia picked off a Graham Mertz pass before losing the football. Wisconsin recovered at the Washington State 20, but a personal foul on Badgers tight end Clay Cundiff pushed them back to the 35.

Cundiff then caught a 24-yard pass, but Quinn Roff forced a fumble that Sam Lockett III recovered at the 12 with 5:14 left.

Washington State never gave up possession the rest of the way.

Those two mistakes spoiled Cundiff’s day after he had caught two touchdown passes from Graham Mertz in the second quarter, a 17-yarder and a 10-yarder. Those were Cundiff’s first touchdowns since the tight end dislocated his right ankle, broke a fibula and tore a foot ligament in a victory over Iowa last October.

“I had a good first half, but none of that will matter unless you finish on the right foot,” Cundiff said. “I didn’t do that today.”

There was plenty of blame to go around for Wisconsin.

The Badgers were penalized 11 times for 106 yards. Vito Calvaruso sent a 51-yard field goal wide right in the first quarter and was well short on a potential tying 43-yard attempt to start the final period.

“We did some things today that make it hard to win,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said.

Another interception-turned-fumble led to Washington State’s go-ahead score.

The Cougars trailed 14-10 and had third and 10 from their 47 when quarterback Cameron Ward was hit by Kamo'i Latu just as he threw a pass that Wisconsin’s Jay Shaw picked off. Washington State receiver Lincoln Victor then applied a hit that knocked the ball loose, and center Konner Gomness recovered the fumble at the Wisconsin 49.

“I take this one on me, to be completely honest with you,” Shaw said.

Six plays later, Watson caught a pass just beyond the line of scrimmage, made a spin move to get past Latu at the 30 and raced untouched the rest of the way.

“When I spin off him, I see nothing but green grass and I see OP (Orion Peters), one of our receivers, blocking downfield,” Watson said. “He had his guy, and I knew it was going to be a touchdown from there.”

Washington State hung on from there and gave Watson and Dickert moments they’ll never forget.

“My grandma told me something today, your grandpa would be so proud if my grandpa was still here,” Dickert said. “That’s a special moment. Special people that just know me as Jake Dickert. That’s always what we’ve been. I’m just proud to be able to win this game with all of them here cheering us on.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Washington State: Ward went 17 of 28 for 200 yards but threw two interceptions. The Cougars still won thanks to a defense that limited Wisconsin’s vaunted rushing attack to 174 yards on 44 carries. Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen had 21 carries for 98 yards, just the second time in his last 11 games that he’s been held below 100.

Wisconsin: The Badgers controlled the ball for over 38 minutes, ran 25 more plays than Washington State and outgained the Cougars 401-253. But those penalties proved costly. Wisconsin had its highest totals in penalties and yardage since getting flagged 13 times for 125 yards in a 47-44 victory over Purdue in 2018.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Wisconsin figures to fall out of the poll, while Washington State should at least get some votes.

UP NEXT

Washington State: Hosts Colorado State on Saturday.

Wisconsin: Hosts New Mexico State on Saturday.

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.