Joel Stave stumbled as he kneeled, plopped the ball on the artificial turf and hopped up like he had just completed a magic act.
The illusion left everyone confused.
Trying to set up his team for a winning field goal, Wisconsin’s quarterback instead triggered a wave of confusion that lingered long after Arizona State’s 32-30 win over the 20th-ranked Badgers on Saturday night Tempe, Ariz.
“I’ve seen some things tonight I haven’t seen,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said after the game.
Not many people have.
The final sequence was set up when Wisconsin, after forcing Arizona State to punt, got the ball at its own 17 with 1:36 remaining. Trailing by two, the Badgers quickly moved down the field, reaching the Sun Devils’ 13 with 18 seconds to go.
Hoping to set up kicker Kyle French in the middle of the field for the potential winner, Wisconsin called for Stave to run left from the right hash mark and take a knee, a play the Badgers had practiced many times.
But as Stave went to kneel, he was clipped by one of his lineman and went down a bit awkwardly as he emphatically placed the ball on the 15-yard line. Stave hopped up quickly and players from both teams stood around for a few seconds, trying to figure out what happened.
Stave checked with the referee to make sure the play was dead, but Arizona State’s players piled on the ball, thinking Stave’s knee never touched the ground and it was a fumble. Realizing the clock was still running, the Badgers tried to line up with 2 seconds left to spike the ball, but couldn’t get a play off in time.
Although the Sun Devils thought Stave’s knee never hit the ground, replays showed it briefly touched the turf. The officials saw it and pointed to the ground to signal the play was dead, but ASU pounced on the ball anyway, costing Wisconsin precious seconds.
Even after the Sun Devils were pulled off the ball, one of the officials briefly held the Badgers at the line of scrimmage before they could snap the ball, costing them even more time.
After the play, Stave tried to grab one of the officials running off the field, but he kept going, and Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said he got no response after asking for an explanation.
“I don’t know where it goes,” Andersen said. “We’ll just have to see. I’d like to get an explanation. I wish I could have got one out there, but I didn’t.”
HUMBLED HUSKERS DROP OUT; SANKEY TOP RUSHER
Nebraska has dropped out of The Associated Press college football poll after its latest humbling loss, and the top of the rankings was unchanged after No. 1 Alabama passed its first big test of the season with its 49-42 win over Texas A&M.
The Cornhuskers, No. 23 last week, were unranked the day after UCLA scored the final 38 points and won in Lincoln, Neb., 41-21.
The Tide received all but one of 60 first-place votes from the media panel. The rest of the top five is Oregon, Clemson, Ohio State and Stanford.
Washington, meanwhile, moved up two spots to No. 17 after its 34-24 non-conference win over Illinois.
Huskies running back Bishop Sankey is ranked first in the nation in rushing after his 208-yard performance against the Illini. His per-game average of 184.5 yards is 20 yards higher than second-ranked Paul James of Rutgers.
WOODS OUT INDEFINITELY
Oregon State running back Storm Woods is out indefinitely after suffering a concussion in the Beavers’ 51-48 overtime victory over Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.
Woods was hurt while blocking on a pass play midway through the fourth quarter.
BAMA WIN A RATINGS HIT
Alabama’s win over Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M has drawn the highest preliminary television rating for an afternoon regular-season college football game on CBS in 23 years.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide’s victory over the No. 6 Aggies earned a 9.0 overnight rating and a 21 share. The network said Sunday that was the best since a 10.1 for Miami-Notre Dame on Oct. 20, 1990.