Following a first half where the Badgers found the end zone twice and added two Collin Larsh field goals, including a new career long kick of 48 yards, the Badgers suffered multiple injuries to key offensive weapons. Wisconsin lost WR Kendric Pryor, TE Jake Ferguson and RB Brady Schipper all before the first half concluded, after already being without Danny Davis, who was announced as out prior to the start of the game.
Sophomore WR Chimere Dike also missed some time, after being shaken up on a play toward the end of the first half.
With so many players out, the Wisconsin offense showed the ill effects of being bitten by the injury bug as the second half began. The Badgers saw their 216-95 halftime total yards advantage evaporate, as Wisconsin tallied negative seven yards in the third quarter, while Arizona State was able to manage 90 during the same span. At one point, Arizona State was even outgaining Wisconsin 219-209.
While Wisconsin was struggling on offense, the Badgers defense was continuing it’s strong play that made it the No. 1 defense in the country during the regular season.
Despite a Daniyel Ngata third quarter touchdown, Wisconsin was still able to hinder the Sun Devils offense. Following the Ngata touchdown on the Sun Devils’ opening drive of the second half, Wisconsin drew a line in the proverbial sand that was the Allegiant Stadium turf.
Facing a one-score deficit, Arizona State could only muster up an 11-play, 26-yard drive and a 6-play, 29-yard drive — both ending in punts — the rest of the game.
Over their final two drives, Jayden Daniels was sacked twice, both coming on pivotal plays - second-and-17 by Jack Sanborn on the first of their final two drives and then third-and-8, by Nick Herbig on the Sun Devils’ final drive of the game.
Overall, Wisconsin sacked Daniels four times in the game, while limiting the dual-threat quarterback to 19 rushes for 40 yards and 11-of-21 passing, for 159 yards and an interception.
John Torchio intercepted Daniels on the Sun Devils’ opening drive, which led to Wisconsin’s opening score, an 8-yard John Chenal touchdown run. The interception was Wisconsin’s takeaway No. 21 in their last eight games.
Top Plays from last night in case you fell asleep! pic.twitter.com/dzcPSppZIR— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) December 31, 2021
Arizona State finished with 219 total yards, with 60 of them coming on the ground, as Wisconsin held it’s ninth opponent under 100 rushing yards this season.
Leo Chenal led the way for the Wisconsin defense with nine tackles (four solo), a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss, while Herbig recorded seven tackles (five solo), two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Following Arizona State’s punt with 9:57 remaining in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin was backed up against its own goal, starting its drive at its own three-yard line. The Badgers offense regained its footing over the last 9:57 and put together a 18-play, 90-yard drive, to close out the game.
Over the course of the final drive, Wisconsin converted on third down three times, including a 30-yard Graham Mertz pass to Dike, who had re-entered the game after a lengthy absence.
On the play, Mertz made one of his better throws of the season, as he was hit by a defender as he threw the ball to a wide open Dike.
This wasn’t Mertz’s only impressive throw of the game, as he also connected with Markus Allen on a 31-yard completion on the opening drive, which setup Chenal’s score and then completed a 15-yard pass to a diving Skyler Bell, as he was rolling to his left and being pursued by defenders.
fun start for the youth in the WR room. pic.twitter.com/ugVaupCWYh— Ben Kenney (@benzkenney) December 31, 2021
Both Allen and Bell were thrust into action with injuries at wide receiver. Bell’s reception was the first of his career. Mertz finished the game 11-of-15 for 137 yards with a touchdown pass to Ferguson and an interception.
However, the driving force on the game-securing drive for Wisconsin was freshman RB Braelon Allen, who carried the ball 10 times over the final 9:57 amassing 45 yards and converting two first downs in the process. Overall, Allen carried the ball 29 times in the game for 159 yards and was named Las Vegas Bowl MVP.
With the win, Wisconsin improves to 6-1 in bowl games under head coach Paul Chryst and have won seven of their last eight bowl games dating back to 2014.