Photo by David Stluka/Wisconsin athletics
Over the years, LSU has had no problem taking on big-name programs in the non-conference.
For years, the Tigers not only played those games, but they won those games. From 2002 through 2015, LSU had won 52 straight non-conference regular season games.
That streak came to an end on this day five years ago. Rafael Gaglianone’s 47-yard field goal with less than four minutes to play was the difference as Wisconsin topped LSU in the 2016 season opener, 16-14.
Setting the Stage
The Sept. 3, 2016 opener between LSU and Wisconsin was played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Despite an obvious geographical advantage for the Badgers, LSU arrived as the favorite.
The Tigers were ranked No. 5 in the country and coming off a 9-3 season in 2015. Wisconsin was coming off a 10-win season, but unranked in the preseason for the first time since 2009.
The Waning Moments
For those who like offense, the contest at Lambeau Field was not a thing of beauty. The two teams combined for six turnovers and fewer than 600 total yards.
Since a touchdown early in the third quarter, Wisconsin had managed just 49 yards on four drives with two turnovers as it took over at its own 23-yard-line with more than eight minutes remaining. Down 14-13, Wisconsin quarterback Bart Houston moved the Badgers into LSU with territory with completions to Jazz Peavy and Troy Fumagalli.
After a 14-yard run from Dare Ogunbowale moved the ball inside the LSU 35, a holding penalty looked as though it would be a drive killer. Houston however, found Fumagalli for a gain of 11 on the next play. Following a pair of runs, kicker Rafael Gaglianone was brought on to try a 47-yard field goal.
Gaglianone was 2-for-2 for the day and calmly made it 3-for-3. His kick split the uprights and with 3:47 to play, the Badgers were back in front, 16-14.
The ensuing LSU drive reached the Wisconsin 30-yard-line, but quarterback Brandon Harris was forced to scramble before making a critical mistake. With less than a minute to go, Harris was able to avoid Wisconsin defenders, but his pass wound up in the arms of D’Cota Dixon as the Badgers sealed the victory.
For a half, all the scoring came from Gaglianone. The Wisconsin kicker connected on field goals on 30 and 48 yards to give the Badgers a 6-0 lead at the break.
Wisconsin’s lone touchdown came on its first drive of the second half. Running back Corey Clement carried the ball on the final four plays of the drive before scoring from five yards out to make it 13-0.
Before the third quarter was over, LSU led 14-13. The Tigers scored two touchdowns in a 67-second span. After Tre’Davious White returned a Houston interception 21 yards for a touchdown, a Wisconsin fumble led to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Harris to Travin Dural.
Running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 138 yards for an LSU team that managed just 257 total yards. Fumagalli led all receivers with seven catches for 100 yards.
Wisconsin would start 4-0 and ascend to No. 8 in the polls before opening October with back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Michigan. The Badgers reeled off six straight wins to close the regular season before falling to Penn State in the Big Ten Championship. Wisconsin closed the year with a New Year’s Six bowl victory, topping Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl.
LSU would part ways with head coach Les Miles after a 2-2 start before winning six of its final eight under Ed Orgeron to finish in the AP top 15. Prior to the loss to Wisconsin, LSU hadn’t lost a non-conference regular season game in 14 years. That streak came to an end on this day five years ago.