Despite a rough start, the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers answered the challenge in a rough road environment to the tune of 21 unanswered points in the second quarter and held on for a 34–24 win over the No. 10 Miami Hurricanes on Saturday night in the Capital One Orange Bowl.
A senior class that now has won 45 games over four years capped off a 13-win season on the arm of its southpaw quarterback, with some well-timed turnovers that changed the complexion of the highly-contested game (three to be exact, off of Malik Rosier interceptions). Wisconsin’s receiving targets made the necessary plays in the passing game, with the defense bending but not breaking against an athletic and dynamic Miami offense (377 total yards allowed, 2-of-10 on third-down conversions).
And yes, there was a hurdling fullback.
Marking the first time Wisconsin has won 13 games in a season, the players did not fold after the Big Ten Championship Game loss to Ohio State. Rather, they rose up, played for each other, and sent out their seniors like all programs want to at the end of each year—on top and in celebration.
As if there was any doubt. The redshirt sophomore played arguably his best collegiate game to date, completing 23 of 34 passes for 258 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He threw the ball where it needed to be placed and allowed his receivers to make plays. Wisconsin recorded seven “chunk” plays of 15 yards or more in its aerial attack.
As noted in our “four things we learned” post, he completed seven of 11 passes and five of those completions moved the chains or put points on the board.
The game’s most outstanding player, Hornibrook’s four scores through the air set a Wisconsin bowl record and is now 20–3 as a starter.
The wide receivers
Fifteen of Hornibrook’s 23 completions were to the trio of A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis, and Kendric Pryor. Taylor hauled in a game-high eight receptions for 105 yards with a touchdown, while three of Davis’ catches went for touchdowns.
With a combination of great route running and the ability to bring in contested balls, this group has only scratched the surface of its deep potential.
The former walk-on led the team in tackles (eight) and sealed the win with a tip drill interception late in the fourth quarter.
Andrew Van Ginkel
He earned my play of the game nod for his interception (see below) but he also tallied three tackles, one for loss, one sack, and one pass break-up. The outside linebacker contributed heavily to the success of the defense, and he will be needed to step up next season with the likes of Garret Dooley and Leon Jacobs exhausting their eligibility.
The redshirt junior converted both of his field-goal attempts, with his 47-yard attempt from the left hash a crucial kick that gave Wisconsin a six-point lead late in the third quarter.
For the season, the placekicker converted 16 of 18 field-goal attempts.
Big belly > mullet #kickers— Andrew Endicott (@andyendicott) December 31, 2017
He blocks, he runs, he catches. Ramesh did everything Wisconsin needed him to on Saturday night, with three first-down runs on third-down #FullbackDive opportunities, plus two more receiving. Yes, that includes the 18-yard catch-and-run that featured this hurdle:
#AirRamesh pic.twitter.com/shbdqVtrSP— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) December 31, 2017
Play of the game
Wisconsin hemorrhaged yards and points to a Miami offense (148 and 14, respectively) in the first quarter, but the turnovers started on the first play of the next frame when Van Ginkel read where Rosier was planning to throw, eluded a cut block by the offensive lineman, and intercepted the pass.
Wisconsin went on to score the first of its three unanswered touchdowns that ensuing series.
Honorable mention: Davis’s first touchdown reception; Derrick Tindal’s interception in the third quarter; Ramesh’s hurdle, Michael Badgley’s DOINK of a missed 24-yard field goal later in the fourth quarter
- Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State are the only three Big Ten programs to have won 13 games in a season.
- The second consecutive New Year’s Six Bowl win now takes Wisconsin above the .500 mark in bowl games overall at 15–14.
- With Saturday’s victory, the Badgers now hold a 3–2 all-time series lead over “The U.”
- Under head coach Paul Chryst, Wisconsin is 14–1 in true road games.
- As Jonathan Taylor broke the FBS freshman rushing record previously held by Adrian Peterson, his 130 yards marked the 10th time this season he has eclipsed the 100-yard mark.
- At 1,977 rushing yards, Taylor also recorded the fourth-best single-season total in Wisconsin history.
- Jacobs played in his 59th career collegiate football game, continuing his record streak for the most played by an FBS player.
- Behind him at No. 2 all-time, former walk-on safety Joe Ferguson, who saw playing time in his 58th career game.
- Hornibrook’s four touchdown passes gave him 25 on the season, the second-best single-season mark in Wisconsin history behind Russell Wilson’s 33 in 2011.
- Davis’s three-touchdown catch performance earned him the distinction of being the only Badger to reel in multiple touchdown receptions in a bowl game.