Wisconsin RB Corey Clement couldn’t believe it.
No, not TE Troy Fumagalli’s one-handed catch. Clement knows Fumagalli can do that.
What surprised Clement was Fumagalli’s drop. He couldn’t believe it happened — Wisconsin’s only incomplete pass all game.
Fumagalli didn’t come down with a first-half reception on what could have been a touchdown. But Clement wasn’t worried.
“I was surprised when he dropped the first one,” Clement said. “I was like, ‘Damn, fool. You normally don’t do that.’ I’m like, ‘OK, you’re going to get the next one.’
“I told him that when he came back in, he’s, ‘All right, that was me.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, fool. It was you. You got to realize that we need you in those big-time moments.’ He definitely came back. It was big time.”
Fumagalli did finish big time, when his 8-yard TD catch from Alex Hornibrook in the fourth quarter extended the lead to 14 in what finished as a 24-16 Wisconsin win in the Cotton Bowl.
Wisconsin TE Troy Fumagalli’s TD:
In my second life I want to come back as Troy Fumagalli https://t.co/dq4MNVC2Pp
— Jack McGuire (@TailgateHeisman) January 2, 2017
The Cotton Bowl offensive MVP, Fumagalli caught six passes for 83 yards and that touchdown. No other Wisconsin player had more than two catches — and no one else finished with more than 28 yards.
Though he scored the touchdown, Fumagalli’s first-quarter grab may have been even more impressive. Faced with a third-and-13 on the Western Michigan 32, Fumagalli made a crazy one-handed grab for a 20-yard gain. Clement scored a few plays later to get Wisconsin on the board on its first possession of the game.
Fumagalli’s one-handed catch:
— Nick Canizales (@NickCanizales) January 2, 2017
It was the perfect bookend to the season. Fumagalli helped the Badgers jump-start an 11-win season with his seven catches and 100 yards in the 16-14 win vs. LSU at Lambeau Field in the opener.
On Monday, Fumagalli caught his second TD of the season (other vs. Iowa) and delivered with his third-best yard output all season.
Western Michigan really had no answer for the 6-foot-6 target.
“I tell you what. That tight end, he’s unbelievable,” Broncos coach P.J. Fleck said. “We knew he was really good, right? But we don’t have some 6-3 safeties that can contest him. You can see some of his catches were contested by Darius Phillips and we put our best cover guy on him at different times. But when you have a 6-6 tight end that has range like that, you got a quarterback as accurate as they have, two of them, that’s what happens. There were multiple catches he had that were contested. We just didn’t come down with it.
“That’s the best tight end we’ve faced in four years here. He’s incredible. Got to give him a lot of credit.”
Fumagalli interviewed postgame:
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) January 2, 2017
Early in the game, it looked like Wisconsin’s ground game would lead the day. The Badgers rushed for 104 yards in the first quarter alone on 16 attempts. But they ended the game with 184 yards on 38 carries.
Wisconsin passed the ball only 14 times, but QBs Bart Houston and Hornibrook completed 13 of those for 178 yards as the passing game led in key spots.
Fumagalli was often the target.
“I’ve been really fortunate. We’ve had a number of really good tight ends at Wisconsin,” Badgers coach Paul Chryst said. “They’re all different, but Fum’s got the ability to be a matchup problem for a number of teams, individuals. He’s big, he’s skilled and he runs well enough and has a great knack to separate. Our quarterbacks trust him. He’s got a big reception radius. He’s done a really nice job this year of continuing to develop as a blocker. He was big today. It was fun to see.”