One of the University of Wisconsin’s biggest plays in its 24-10 win over Michigan on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium — cornerback Nick Nelson’s 50-yard punt return touchdown late in the first quarter — didn’t come without a bit of luck to help it along.
A Wolverines gunner got his feet tangled with UW wide receiver Adam Krumholz as he closed in on the ball, which bounced in front of Nelson at the Michigan 48-yard line.
Without that incidental trip, a struggling Badgers offense would have started a drive at midfield.
“You don’t pick it up (in that situation),” Nelson said. “But when he tripped, I went and got it, and the rest is history."
That highlight kickstarted the Badgers and a big day for Nelson, who’s two pass breakups gave him 20 for the season, breaking a single-season program record.
He made Michigan tight end Ian Bunting miss immediately after picking up the punt, got a key block from Eric Burrell and juked out another player near the sideline at the 38-yard line before cutting back across the field into open space.
“Once I saw (Burrell’s) block of the first man, I knew I was gone then,” Nelson said. "I don’t even think I got touched."
Nelson’s 19th pass breakup of the season came on a third down during the first drive of the game, matching Mike Echols’ school record from 2000, and Nelson recorded another with 7 minutes, 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
Nelson said the record doesn’t mean much to him, although an interception record would be a different story. Nelson’s still looking for his first pick of the season, and he felt his second pass breakup Saturday could have been it.
"It’s just PBUs. Nobody notices PBUs,” Nelson said. "I should have got (the interception). ... I wouldn’t say I’m dying to get (my first one), but I’m trying hard. I don’t want to force it. Just let it come naturally."
Jacobs surprised at forcing fumble
UW outside linebacker Leon Jacobs wasn’t trying to knock the ball loose when tackling Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters inside the 5-yard line with 8:42 left in the first half.
In fact, it took Jacobs a second to even realize he had done so.
“I thought he scored,” Jacobs said. "I didn’t know I forced a fumble. I reached over and saw he didn’t have the ball in his hands and started celebrating. ... I was just trying to force fourth down. That’s all I was thinking."
Cornerback Derrick Tindal recovered on the 1-yard line, allowing the Badgers to preserve their 7-0 lead.
That critical play came one snap after Michigan nearly scored on a 5-yard pass from Peters to Donovan Peoples-Jones, who caught the ball in midair and nearly planted a foot in the end zone before his other foot touched out of bounds. The play was reviewed and stood as an incompletion.
“The punt return hurt us and the touchdown Donovan scored and (didn’t) get credit for, that one hurt us,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said.
Davis disagrees with replay review
UW wide receiver Danny Davis disagreed with a different video review that went against the Badgers.
On a third-and-14 play late in the second quarter, Davis caught a 15-yard pass in tight coverage at the Michigan 36-yard line. The ball hit the turf as Davis fell to the ground, but it appeared Davis may have had control of the ball the entire time.
Officials initially ruled it a completion before overturning it on replay, and UW punted the next play.
“I swear I caught it, but things happen,” Davis said. "I felt like when (the ball) hit the ground, it didn’t move or anything. ... I didn’t think they’d have enough evidence to overturn that. I just wanted to make sure I got through that and got over it."
Center Tyler Biadasz (left leg) started at center after entering the game questionable. ... Joe Ferguson started at safety in place of D’Cota Dixon (right leg) for the second straight game, but Dixon played limited snaps.