Madison, Wis. -- Georgia State led No. 9 Wisconsin 17-13 in the fourth quarter before the Badgers scored the go-ahead touchdown with seven minutes to play and held on for a 23-17 victory at Camp Randall Stadium.
Kyler Neal's 9-yard touchdown run gave Georgia State (0-3) its first lead at 17-13 with 11:36 left in the fourth quarter.
Neal's scamper was set up by Chandon Sullivan's interception and Glenn Smith's 60-yard reception. Sullivan, the junior cornerback, intercepted Alex Hornibrook on a tipped ball to give the Panthers possession at the GSU 32. On second-and-11, Conner Manning found Smith, who took a short pass over the middle and cut down the right sideline until he was brought down at the 9-yard line. Neal found the end zone on the next play.
But Wisconsin answered on the ensuing possession, which began at the Badgers' 41-yard line after Dare Ogunbowale's 41-yard kickoff return. Hornibrook, who relieved starter Bart Houston in the third quarter, completed passes of 11 yards to Wheelwright and then Kyle Penniston for 29 yards down to the GSU 17. The Panthers defense forced a third-and-goal at the 1-yard line, but Hornibrook found Penniston for the touchdown pass. That put the Badgers (3-0) ahead 20-17 with 7:25 left.
Georgia State had two more possessions, both starting deep in their own territory, with a chance to take the lead, but the Panthers could not rally. Wisconsin added a field goal with 3:36 left for the final margin.
"I'm very proud of our kids and the way they competed," head coach Trent Miles said. "We had some missed opportunities, but our kids fought every down. But there are no moral victories. We're very disappointed because we had an opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter and we didn't get it done. My hats off to Wisconsin and Paul Chryst and his staff and the job they did.
"We know we are better than our record, and we're getting closer to where we want to be, but again, our expectation is to win," Miles continued. "No one plays a perfect game, but knew we had to play hard and well and make plays when we had the opportunity. We knew that going in. This is a great environment to play in and that's a great football team we just played."
Manning finished 20-for-29 for 269 yards and one touchdown. Smith, the Panthers' starting running back who moved to the slot in place of injured Penny Hart, had five catches for a career-hgih 131 yards.
Senior receiver Robert Davis, who scored the Panthers' first touchdown on a 13-yard reception, had eight catches for 93 yards. That raised his career total to 174 receptions, one shy of Albert Wilson's Georgia State career record.
But the story was a Georgia State defense that managed to keep the powerful Badgers in check for most of the game, especially in the first half, despite playing without three of its four starting defensive linemen. On five Wisconsin possessions in the first half, the Panthers forced a fumble, two field goals, a missed field goal and a punt. The Badgers were 2-for-7 on third downs.
For the game, Georgia State forced two turnovers while committing none.
Georgia State trailed just 6-0 at the half. Using its patented power running game, Wisconsin put together long drives on its first two possessions, but both times, the GSU defense held the Badgers to field goals, the second one giving Wisconsin a 6-0 lead with 51 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Badgers looked like the might get into the end zone early in the second quarter after a fumbled snap on a punt gave them the ball at the GSU 23. But one third-and-goal at the 1-yard line, linebacker Alonzo McGee forced a fumble by Bradrick Shaw, which safety Bobby Baker recovered at the 6.
That led to the Panthers' best scoring chance of the first half as Manning hit Davis for 20 yard and then found tight end Keith Rucker for 15 yard for a first down at the Wisconsin 31. But three plays netted just three yards, and the Panthers' field goal try was blocked.
The Panthers got on the board in the third quarter on a 45-yard field goal by Rogier ten Lohuis. That is the first field goal in a football game at any level for the former soccer player from the Netherlands. The drive was highlighted by Davis' 38-yard reception and Kyler Neal's fourth-down run for a first down.
After Wisconsin scored its first touchdown on Ogunbawle's 2-yard scoring run, the Panthers answered. Manning connected with Smith for 40 yards to the Wisconsin 34 and then hit him again for 20 yards and first down at the 13. On the next play, Manning found Davis, who crossed the goal line just inside the pilon for his 13th career touchdown, pulling the Panthers within 13-10 with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
Georgia State now has a week off before opening Sun Belt Conference play at preseason favorite Appalachian State on Oct. 1.