A somber scene as Brandon Peters was down on the field. [Patrick Barron]
Michigan led undefeated Wisconsin, 10-7, in the third quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Then Murphy's Law struck.
First, Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook shook off a shaky start to thread two inch-perfect throws to A.J. Taylor. The first victimized freshman Jaylen Kelly-Powell, who was on the field replacing injured starting corner Lavert Hill. The second was a touchdown up the seam to give the Badgers a 14-10 lead. Adding to the frustration, the drive only stayed alive due to a third-down pass interference call on Tyree Kinnel despite Hornibrook's throw hardly looking catchable.
Then disaster really struck. Facing third down on Michigan's ensuing possession, Brandon Peters took a hard hit from Andrew Van Ginkel, who stunted up the middle unblocked. Peters, who'd shaken off some huge hits in his last couple games, stayed down. As the team gathered around him, Peters took a cart off the field. According to MLive's Mike Mulholland, he was wheelchaired to the locker room, then transported to the hospital via ambulance. In postgame, Jim Harbaugh confirmed Peters has a head injury; he's expected to rejoin the team for the plane ride home.
That took the wind out of Michigan's sails. Wisconsin struck quickly, with a one-handed catch by Danny Davis setting up a 32-yard end-around touchdown for Kendric Pryor at the end of the third quarter. John O'Korn took over for Peters, and the offense never threatened to score. UW's Rafael Gaglianone eventually tagged on a field goal to provide the final margin.
A.J. Taylor's touchdown catch stood as the winning score. [Bryan Fuller]
Before it all fell apart, Michigan hadn't just scraped out a lead, but missed some opportunities to really put the Badgers on their heels. Wisconsin struck first when Nick Nelson picked up a punt off the bounce and worked his way past some poor coverage for a 50-yard touchdown. Peters had a chance to tie it up on the next series, but underthrew an open Zach Gentry, allowing Natrell Jamerson to recover for a pass breakup.
On Michigan's next drive, an apparent touchdown from Peters to Donovan Peoples-Jones was ruled incomplete, and despite replay showing that DPJ's left foot touched inbounds a fraction of a second before his right landed out, the call stood. On the very next play, Peters fumbled while scrambling for the end zone, and Michigan came up completely empty.
The young quarterback bounced back, though. Peters finally connected on a deep ball to Peoples-Jones, getting Michigan out to midfield, then made consecutive sharp throws to Chris Evans and Sean McKeon to set up a one-yard Ben Mason touchdown plunge. That knotted the score at seven heading into halftime.
After Devin Bush picked off Hornibrook to give the offense great field position, Quinn Nordin snapped his cold streak with a 39-yard field goal to give Michigan a short-lived 10-7 lead. Instead of compounding his prior error, Hornibrook morphed into Aaron Rodgers, and everything went terribly wrong in a hurry.
All other concerns at the moment are secondary to the health of Peters. If he can't recover in time to take on Ohio State next week, the odds stack even higher against Michigan unless Wilton Speight can make a remarkable comeback from his fractured vertebrae. As it stands, optimism for The Game is going to be hard to come by.