MADISON – Wisconsin’s stunning 24-21 loss to unranked BYU on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium was painful for Paul Chryst and his players.
Losing senior outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel and senior tight end Zander Neuville to leg injures in the opening half merely made the day worse.
Van Ginkel came out after halftime with a protective boot on his right foot.
Neuville, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the 2017 regular-season finale at Minnesota and was slowed by a hamstring injury in camp, was on the sideline for the remainder of the first half but did not return.
Chryst said after the loss he had no definitive word on the severity of the injuries and it remains unclear whether either player will be ready to go for the Big Ten opener next Saturday at Iowa.
Based on the injuries affected UW against BYU, the Badgers will be in trouble if both players are unable to play against the Hawkeyes.
The loss of Neuvulle took away UW’s best blocking tight end.
GAME REVIEW: Sixth-ranked Badgers suffer worst loss of Chryst era
BOX SCORE: BYU 24, UW 21
REPLAY: UW-BYU game blog
Kyle Penniston and Jake Ferguson were left to pick up the slack and both players jumped the snap on a critical fourth-and-1 play in the third quarter.
The loss of Van Ginkel took away UWs most disruptive outside linebacker.
That left Zack Baun and Christian Bell to handle the bulk of the work at outside linebacker. Tyler Johnson, who opened the season as the No. 3 outside linebacker, was limited because of a leg injury.
Neither Bell nor Johnson recorded a tackle.
“Certainly we like Zander a lot in there,” Chryst said. “The same could be said defensively when we lost Gink.
“Yet there’s opportunity for others to step in and step up… We’ve got to find a way to overcome those two (losses).”
Davis shows signs of rust
Sophomore wide receiver Danny Davis, who made his 2018 debut Saturday after serving a two-game team suspension, had an uneven day.
Davis started as UW opened with two wide receivers, two backs and one tight end.
Alex Hornibrook hit Davis for what could have been a big gain but Davis dropped the ball.
Davis had another drop, though that was wiped out by a penalty, and finished with four catches for 40 yards.
His best play came late in the first half when he turned a short crossing route into an 18-yard gain to the BYU 38 on third and 19. UW converted the fourth-down play and eventually scored to forge a 14-14 tie.
Davis was not made available for interviews after the game.
“I think the first play of the game he had a chance to make a play and didn’t,” Chryst said. “He made a couple (later).
“There’s things he can build on. There’s things he is going to learn from. He got jammed up on a couple of releases. Everyone of us can get better.”
Third down conversions lacking
Third-down efficiency was one of the many stumbling blocks facing the Badgers, with conversion on just 4 of 13.
“For us to be our best, you need to be a little more efficient on those,” Chryst said. “It gives you more opportunities.”
The issue was particualrly troubling in the second half, when the Badgers converted just 2 of 7.
“Yeah, today was different,” receiver Kendric Pryor said. “Normally we’re money on third down. Today, we just didn’t execute. Things we executed the first week, the second week, we just didn’t execute them today, and we saw that come back and bite us.”
Gaglianone reflects on rare misfire
Rafael Gaglianone met his teammates as they exited the field, offering an apology for the missed kick that could have forced overtime with less than a minute to play. The senior has rarely misfired; dating back to the Holiday Bowl win over USC in 2015, he had converted 29 of 32 field goals.
Naturally, it’s an apology teammates didn’t feel like Gaglianone needed to offer.
“We’ve just got to let him know it’s all right,” linebacker Zack Baun said. “As a kicker, you have your ups and downs, obviously. You’ve just got to be there for him. It shows his true character, him being able to stand and wait for everyone.”
“Everyone in here knows it doesn’t come down to that one play,” Chryst said. “He had an opportunity and we didn’t make it. No one hurts more than Raf, but the whole team can own this one and needs to own it.”
Gaglianone spoke at length with reporters after the game.
“It wasn’t the type of contact that I normally make,” he said. “It was just a little bit off. I was obviously disappointed letting the team down, but I’m not going to let one play define me and define my season. I just have to back to work on Monday.”
Gaglianone said he wasn’t distratcted when BYU head coach Kalani Sitake elected to ice the kicker with two timeouts — but not an available third.
“I was just focused on my assignment and what I had to do regardless of how many timeouts,” Gaglianone said. “I was just ready to kick every time I was out there. That wasn’t what it was. I just didn’t hit the ball the way I wanted to.
“I think that’s just part of my position, being in that moment is kind of what I work for, kind of what we get judged on,” he added. “I had my opportunity and they put me in a good position, so I felt like I had to make a good kick for the team. … I know my teammates have my back, and that’s all that matters.”
Gaglianone came into the game as the second most accurate field goal kicker in school history, with an .808 percentage. Matt Davenport made 33 of 38 from 1996-’98, good for an .868 mark.