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Donovan, Hill lead Wisconsin over Michigan State

Sep 30, 2007 - 12:52 AM MADISON, Wisconsin (Ticker) -- Michigan State failed its first big test.

Tyler Donovan threw two touchdowns and P.J. Hill ran for two more as ninth-ranked Wisconsin withstood a second-half push from the surprising Spartans and held on for a 37-34 Big Ten Conference victory on Saturday afternoon.

Travis Beckum had 122 receiving yards and a score for the Badgers (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten), who thwarted two potential game-tying drives by Michigan State in the final minutes.

"It was another example of a four-quarter game," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "Playing in the Big Ten, you've got to be able to do those type of things. We didn't do everything right to get things done towards the end of the game.

"We knew coming in to today that (Michigan State) was a good football team and for us to be able to pull of the win speaks volumes of (Wisconsin's) character and what they're able to do in fourth-quarter games."

Spartans kicker Brett Swenson missed a 53-yard field goal with 3:17 left, and Michigan State turned the ball over on downs as Brian Hoyer's desperation fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 1:07 remaining.

"Brett had been pretty good all day," new Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "He made them in practice. We had the wind. I felt he was good from 48 yards out in pregame."

The Spartans had yet to taste defeat under Dantonio, but their non-conference slate consisted of Alabama-Birmingham, Bowling Green, Pittsburgh and winless Notre Dame.

In its Big Ten opener, Michigan State could not contain Wisconsin's offense, which racked up 457 yards and drove the field when it mattered most.

"(The Spartans) competed and we're a little heartbroken but not too bad," Dantonio said. "We'll move the process forward. I've said it before; we need proof to see where we are at as a football team.

"We were looking for proof in terms of how we would respond up here in Wisconsin, how we would play in a tough environment against the No.9-ranked team."

The Badgers embarked on a nine-play, 64-yard drive to set up the go-ahead field goal - a 22-yard boot by Taylor Mehlhaff to snap a 34-34 tie with 6:15 left.

On the ensuing possession, the Spartans advanced to the Badgers 36-yard line before Jehuu Caulcrick was stopped short of the first down on a peculiar play-call on 3rd-and-7 - setting up Swenson's miss.

But Wisconsin lost nine yards on three plays on its next drive, leading to Michigan State's failed final attempt.

The Badgers embarked on consecutive 80-plus yard drives in the second quarter - both punctuated by TD strikes from Donovan, who threw for 247 yards.

"My hat is off to (the offensive line)," Donovan said. "They did an excellent job giving me some time to get my eyes downfield and make some throws. Guys were just stepping up. I think it was a culmination of every position today on offense."

Hill, who rushed for 155 yards on 34 carries, started the scoring with a five-yard plunge at the 10:11 mark of the opening quarter. He also added a one-yard score to make it 34-24 with 9:14 left in the third.

Javon Ringer ran for 145 yards and Caulcrick had two scores for the Spartans (4-1, 0-1).