GREG SCHMITZ/Herald photoLAS VEGAS — For the second consecutive week, the first quarter wasn’t kind to Wisconsin’s defense.The Badgers gave up an 80-yard scoring drive on UNLV’s second possession of the game. The touchdown drive marks the third time this season Wisconsin has given up an 80-yard scoring drive in the first quarter.”I think we’re fully capable of going out there and getting the job done,” cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu said. “We just have to be more ready to play at the beginning of the game. It’s not any individual person. It’s a collective unit.”It’s frustrating to give up early drives like that, but we’ll get better.”One of the contributing reasons to Wisconsin’s early struggles was Rebels redshirt quarterback Travis Dixon’s play.He passed for 258 yards and a touchdown.”He was pretty good. He surprised us,” Ikegwuonu said. “From the film that we watched, we expected a lot more of the run game, and he came out and was just throwing the ball all over the place, so we woke up after that first scoring drive and really buckled down and made adjustments.”Dixon’s ability to run the spread offense opened up the offense for his receivers. Casey Flair caught 10 balls for 126 yards and a score.Like last week, the defense adjusted by going to more press and man coverage and made enough plays to give the offense a chance to win.”They were stopping us on offense so we just needed to respond on defense,” Ikegwuonu said.Dropped passesQuarterback Tyler Donovan managed just 138 passing yards and led the offense to two offensive touchdowns. Part of the problem was that his receivers at times couldn’t catch the ball. Even the normally sure-handed senior Luke Swan dropped a pass near the goal line at the end of the first half, a play which ultimately forced UW to settle for three points rather than seven.Tight end Travis Beckum dropped another crucial pass, this time over the middle, stalling an early fourth-quarter drive with Wisconsin down by one.In all, Wisconsin receivers accounted for nearly half of Donovan’s 12 incompletions. “It happens. It’s football,” Donovan said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m going to them next time. I got full faith in those guys.”Despite the missed opportunities, UW head coach Bret Bielema said he was pleased with how his players had short-term memory and went out and made plays after their mistakes.”I think there were some things that we weren’t especially clean on, but I liked the way they responded to the situation,” he said. “Travis was one of the guys who put one on the ground, and he responded positively after that, same thing with a couple of our other players.”Home game atmosphereThe only times UNLV has ever sold out a game have been when Wisconsin was in town. Given that the game was held in Las Vegas and Badger fans travel in swarms to any road game, Saturday’s game was almost a home game away from home.”That’s a good thing about Wisconsin fans — they travel a lot,” linebacker Elijah Hodge said.While it was difficult to distinguish between Badger fans and Rebel fans — both teams share cardinal and white as their team colors — it became quite evident that the Wisconsin faithful were on hand when Donovan laid out for the game-winning touchdown.”That’s good when you have a lot of support,” UW running back P.J. Hill said. “You got the momentum on our side. We just had to take their energy into the game.”Hubbard hurtWide receiver Paul Hubbard left the game midway through the third quarter with a right knee injury. The injury occurred when Hubbard got tangled up with some UNLV and UW players following a short Hill run. He left the field under the assistance of two trainers and did not return. Hubbard’s status is unclear and likely won’t be known for a few more days.Freshman Kyle Jefferson took most of the reps at the other receiver position in Hubbard’s absence.
After two goals gave Wisconsin the advantage 20 minutes into the game, it looked like the Badgers might finally win their first home game of the season. That wouldn’t be the case as UW-Green Bay roared back to score three unanswered goals to win the game 3-2.The Phoenix (2-5-2 overall, 0-1-1 Horizon League) picked up their first road win of the 2015 season while the Badgers (2-7-0, 1-1-0 Big Ten) lost their fifth consecutive home game.Wisconsin now turns their sights to Michigan as they travel to Ann Arbor for a game Saturday at 1 p.m. The Badgers will return home next week Wednesday to take on another in-state rival, Marquette.Penalty ProblemsComing into the game against UW-Green Bay, the Badgers were yet to earn a free kick. Wednesday night they were able to draw two. The first one came courtesy of a Phoenix handball in the box, but Drew Conner’s resulting penalty kick was saved by the goalkeeper. That would’ve put the Badgers up 3-1 right before halftime.The second penalty kick awarded to the Badgers came in the second half when Nick Jones was taken out by a Green Bay defender. This time, Christopher Mueller stepped up to take the kick, only to send his shot wide of the left post. Mueller’s miss proved to be costly as that penalty would’ve tied the game up 3-3.Captain ConnerDespite the senior midfielder’s penalty spot miss, Conner scored the opening goal of the game for the Badgers. This was the captain’s first goal and point of the season, as well as his first goal from open play since the 2013 season. If there’s any positive takeaway from this match it’s the fact that Conner finally got himself in the box score.A Phoenix RisesUW-Green Bay’s junior midfielder Audi Jepson was a menace all evening for the Phoenix. Coming into the match versus the Badgers, Jepson had netted the only two goals of the season for Green Bay. Jepson added to that number as he tallied his third goal of the season on a shot from 20 yards that UW goalkeeper Adrian Remeniuk was unable to keep out of the back of the net. Jepson then turned provider in the second half as he assisted William Nordenstrom on the goal that tied things up for the Phoenix.Cool Hand LucLuc Kazmierczak made his first start of the season for the Badgers, and he did so in impressive fashion. Playing as a right midfielder, Kazmierczak supplied the assist to Conner’s opening goal. That was his first assist and point of the season, as well as his second career assist as a Badger.QuotableUW head coach John Trask on the team’s performance:“We’ve gotta be better defensively. You gotta put away your chances, especially penalty kicks.”Trask on changing up the starting lineup:“I thought Isaac Schlenker came in and did a very nice job. I thought Luc [Kazmierczak] played a good game as well. I thought Nick Jones was dangerous tonight — created a penalty kick. So there were some bright spots out there.”Trask on how the team can put together a full game:“We don’t seem to be resolute for 90 minutes. We’ve talked about it many times with these guys. We seem to carry poor performances every game. I think some guys showed up tonight, like Isaac. We need some guys to step up. It’s a disappointing result. You get two penalty kicks — we had plenty of chances to make it three to one. And that’s a soccer game if you finish those chances. We didn’t do it and they hung around and just did enough to get back in the game and win the game.”