It’s not often that a team can gain nearly half as many total yards as their opposition, yet still win by multiple scores. However, that is exactly what the Wisconsin Badgers (4-3) did in their 42-28 victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-5 overall, 3-4 ACC), in the 2020 Duke’s Mayo Bowl.
The Demon Deacons amassed 518 total yards in the game, compared to the Wisconsin’s 266 total yards. Wake Forest’s four touchdown drives went for an average of 61.25 yards whereas Wisconsin averaged just 22 yards per scoring drive.
Wake Forest, who is one of the faster paced offenses in the college football, lived up to the billing early on against Wisconsin, scoring on back-to-back drives to start the game.
The Demon Deacons amassed a total of 136 yards on 15 plays over their two opening drives, both of which ended in Sam Hartman touchdown passes to Jaquarii Roberson. Their scoring drives lasted just 3:39 and 1:59 while Wisconsin’s opening two drives totaled seven plays for 15 yards.
The feverish pace to start the game was aided by the Demon Deacon’s going 4-for-4 on third down and Hartman going 6-for-7 for 124 yards. However, the Wisconsin defense clearly adjusted to the Demon Deacon’s pace, holding them to 3-for-12 on third down conversions for the remainder of the game (7-for-16 overall). Hartman also faltered late in the game, finishing 20-for-37 for 318 yards with three touchdowns and four picks, following his near perfect start.
Wisconsin scored twice in the second quarter, by way of rushing scores from both John Chenal, which capped off a 75-yard, 11-play scoring drive, and Graham Mertz. Mertz’s one-yard touchdown run, finished off a nine-yard drive, which was setup by a Jaylan Franklin blocked punt, which Franklin recovered as well.
Hartman and Roberson connected for a score once more on the Demon Deacon’s opening drive of the second half, as Wake Forest appeared to be replicating its fast start from the first half, going 50 yards in only 1:51 of game clock, capped off by an eight-yard Roberson diving catch in the end zone.
Roberson finished the game with eight receptions for 131 yards and the three touchdowns.
However, following the Roberson score, Wisconsin got a shot in the arm by way of freshman Devin Chandler, the Huntersville, N.C. native, who returned the ensuing kick 59 yards well into Wake Forest territory. Wisconsin turned the short field into a 33-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a Mertz rushing touchdown his second of the game, tying the game at 21.
Following the tie, the Wisconsin defense took over intercepting Hartman, who had thrown just one interception in eight games this season, on four-consecutive drives setting up three Wisconsin scores.
Noah Burks intercepted the first Hartman pass and returned it for 41 yards into Demon Deacon territory, setting up a 14-yard Mason Stokke touchdown reception from Mertz.
On the ensuing Deacs drive, Scott Nelson intercepted Hartman on fourth down, returning the ball 60 yards. Nelson appeared to have scored on the return, as he dove into the end zone, hitting the pylon, but he was ruled out at the two-yard-line which led to a one-yard Garrett Groshek score. Groshek led Wisconsin in rushing with 13 carries for 41 yards.
Jack Sanborn, who was named the Duke’s Mayo Bowl MVP, intercepted Hartman’s next pass attempt, but Wisconsin was unable to score, ending the drive in a Jack Van Dyke missed field goal. Sanborn finished the game with 11 tackles (two TFL) and the interception.
Collin Wilder then intercepted Hartman on the Deacon’s following drive and returned it 72 yards, before being tackled by Hartman, setting up a three-yard Jalen Berger rushing touchdown, giving Wisconsin an insurmountable lead.
The Wisconsin defense also bookended the four interceptions by forcing two turnovers on downs. Wake Forest was one-for-four on fourth downs in the game.
Wake Forest would later add a touchdown with six seconds remaining in the game, on a Christian Beal-Smith, one-yard touchdown run.
With Wisconsin concluding the 2020 season with a bowl win, Wisconsin has now finished six of its last seven seasons with wins in bowl games, dating back to the 2014 season.