Wisconsin's BCS dreams dashed

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- Jaevery McFadden sighed as soon as the three letters were brought up, the ones that have dogged the Wisconsin football program despite sustained success since 1999.

A BCS bowl berth had been Wisconsin's top goal entering the season, and for good reason. The Badgers are one of only three FBS teams to play January bowl games in each of the last four years. But unlike the other two programs, USC and West Virginia, Wisconsin has fallen just short of the big bowls.

After dropping consecutive games to begin Big Ten play, the Badgers' BCS bugaboo likely will continue.

"A lot of stuff has just got to go our way," said McFadden, the junior linebacker who had eight tackles a fumble recovery in Saturday night's 20-17 loss to Ohio State. "We can't control what everybody else does. Honestly, we could control the last two losses we had.

"We had 'em, and we let 'em go."

Last week, Wisconsin experienced "extreme disappointment," according to head coach Bret Bielema, after blowing a 19-point halftime lead and falling to an inferior Michigan team in Ann Arbor. The Badgers lost their edge on defense in the fourth quarter, couldn't run the ball in the second half and wasted opportunities in the red zone.

Saturday night brought a different sort of distress. Wisconsin played well in many areas.

All-American H-Back/tight end Travis Beckum ignited the offense with six receptions for 60 yards. Redshirt freshman running back John Clay continued to showcase his immense talents with 69 rushing yards on only 10 carries. The defense made Chris "Beanie" Wells and the Ohio State ball-carriers pay the price on every play.

"I've never been in a football game where I was constantly getting hit hard, every play," Wells said. "It was incredible."

But when the Badgers needed a stop, they couldn't get one, as Terrelle Pryor led Ohio State on the game-winning 80-yard scoring drive. Wisconsin saw its 16-game home win streak end and dropped a night game for the first time under Bielema.

"It's a different disappointment," McFadden said. "We had the game. It's down to the last two minutes. This was ours, man, and we let it down the drain."

The most painful memory for Wisconsin will undoubtedly be Pryor's game-winning 11-yard touchdown run.

After marching down the field with passes, Ohio State switched into an option set, which confused Wisconsin. McFadden thought he saw a late Buckeyes substitution.

The bottom line? Wisconsin wasn't ready.

"Obviously there wasn't anybody in position to tackle the quarterback," Bielema said.

McFadden's recollection confirmed the chaos.

"Honestly, I didn't know what to do," McFadden said. "It was real fast, whatever. I didn't know what to do, and the next thing you know, it was a touchdown."

Wisconsin has maintained a "1-0 mentality" ever since Bielema became head coach in 2006. The philosophy will be tested next week as No. 6 Penn State comes to town.

The first team ever to begin Big Ten play with Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State is facing a daunting scenario.

"We're definitely in a hole," McFadden said. "We don't want to start 0-3. It is what it is.

"We have Penn State next week and we've got to go at it."