Playing essentially a home game down in South Florida, the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers overcame an early 11-point deficit and defeated the No. 10 Miami Hurricanes 34–24 in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Saturday night in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Alex Hornibrook, who earned the game’s Most Valuable Player honors, completed 23 of 34 passes for 258 yards with four touchdowns and (most importantly) zero interceptions. True freshman wide receiver Danny Davis caught three of those four scores through the air, reeling in five receptions for 56 yards.
True freshman running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for 130 yards on 26 carries on his way to breaking the FBS single-season freshman rushing record.
After a rough first quarter, Wisconsin’s defense contained Miami’s dynamic offense to 377 total yards (203 passing, 174 rushing) and 2-of-10 on third downs, and it was the Badgers who forced the most turnovers (three)—all interceptions off the arm of Malik Rosier—to help seal their second consecutive New Year’s Six Bowl win.
It is the first time in school history Wisconsin has won 13 games in a season, as they gained 400 yards of offense (258 passing, 142 passing) and converted seven of 15 third downs.
The first 15 minutes did not go way Wisconsin’s way, however. On UW’s opening drive, a 14-yard run by Taylor was ruled a fumble after review, and though Miami drove down the field, its series ended with a missed 53-yard field goal attempt.
That gave Wisconsin the opportunity it needed to take an early lead. Eight plays and 47 yards later, Rafael Gaglianone connected on a 35-yard field goal gave UW a 3–0 advantage.
Miami would answer right back on a seven-play, 75-yard drive to make it 7–3. Rosier ran for 25 yards on the drive, and with the Hurricanes’ rushing attack in fine form, running back Travis Homer’s five-yard touchdown run gave “The U” a four-point lead.
Rosier and the offense then took advantage of a three-and-out and scored their second touchdown after just a two-play, 45-yard drive. DeeJay Dallas took the ball, and after UW defenders missed a couple of tackles, he took it 39 yards for the score and a 14–3 lead.
Miami gained 115 yards rushing in the first quarter alone, 148 total, and averaged 9.9 yards per play.
Wisconsin’s fortunes on defense changed in the second quarter, as the unit responded with the assistance of outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel. The junior college transfer read a Rosier pass, avoided a cut block, and intercepted a pass on a 2nd-and-15.
That would be the beginning of 21 unanswered points for the Badgers to retake the lead.
On a 3rd-and-7, Hornibrook threw up a pass to Davis, who reeled it in and found the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown. The lead shrunk to four at a 14–10 Miami advantage.
Put that chain on and rip it off! @BadgerFootball pic.twitter.com/b0IUL88pXW— Trent Keitel (@TrentKeitel) December 31, 2017
Wisconsin would rip that chain off again after taking the lead on its very next possession. A 12-play, 71-yard drive ended with a 16-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Taylor. Fullback Austin Ramesh contributed two first downs on two #FullbackDives, along with an athletic catch-and-run that included the versatile player hurdling a Canes defender.
As they did following the Davis touchdown, the Badgers “grabbed” the fake Turnover Chain off of Taylor’s neck in celebration.
NO CHAIN FOR YOU pic.twitter.com/6mnobGUz6K— Eric Buenning (@ericbuenning) December 31, 2017
Wisconsin was not done. Davis showed up once again, hauling in a five-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 24–14. This after the Badgers drove 62 yards in nine plays, and were helped by Mark Richt being called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for bumping a referee.
Hornibrook was 4-of-5 on the drive for 48 yards. For the first half, the southpaw completed 13 of 20 passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor rushed for 85 yards on 16 carries, and the combination of Taylor, Davis, and Kendric Pryor combined for 10 receptions totaling 128 yards.
According to UW, Davis is the first Badger to catch multiple touchdown passes in a bowl game.
Alex Hornibrook's 3 touchdown passes are the most by a #Badgers quarterback in a bowl game. #OnWisconsin— Brian Mason (@Brian_Mason) December 31, 2017
After giving up 148 yards in the first quarter, Wisconsin’s defense constricted Miami’s offense to just seven yards in the second quarter. The offense only ran eight plays in those 15 minutes compared to Wisconsin’s 24.
In the third quarter, Miami struck first with 10:52 left in the frame when Rosier found Lawrence Cager for a 38-yard touchdown to pull the game within three. Cager got behind all-conference cornerback Nick Nelson to make the contest a one-score affair.
The Canes came crashing down into Wisconsin territory on their next series, but another Rosier interception allowed the Badgers to maintain the lead. Senior cornerback Derrick Tindal, playing near his hometown, picked off the pass in the end zone to give UW the ball back.
Wisconsin capitalized thereafter to make it a six-point game, as Gaglianone’s 47-yard field goal capped off a 10-play, 51-yard drive.
In the fourth quarter, Miami forced Wisconsin to bend but not break, converting a 41-yard field goal by Michael Badgley.
Hornibrook went back to work, completing all six of his passing attempts for 74 yards on the ensuing series that extended the lead back to 10 with his fourth touchdown pass. While getting All-American tight end Troy Fumagalli into the receptions column, Wisconsin drove down the field, ending with Davis’ six-yard touchdown reception.
Miami again had an opportunity to put three points up on the board to pull within seven points, but Badgley doinked a 24-yard attempt off the right upright with 4:34 left in regulation.
From there, Wisconsin ran out enough of the clock to force Miami to attempt to make up a 10-point deficit with only 1:37 left.
Rosier, who completed 11 of 26 passes for 203 yards with a touchdown, threw his third and final interception off of a tipped pass that ended up in the hands of inside linebacker Ryan Connelly.
That sealed the win for a Wisconsin senior class that now boasts 45 wins and has now won four straight bowl games dating back to the 2015 Outback Bowl.