Wisconsin rallied from an 11-point first-quarter deficit to beat Miami 34-24 on Saturday night in the Orange Bowl. The victory gives the Badgers their first 13-win season in school history and pushes the Big Ten to a 7-0 mark in bowl games.
What it means
Wisconsin was on the verge of a historic season and a College Football Playoff berth until it lost to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Badgers earned a trip to the Orange Bowl as a consolation prize and often motivation can be questioned in those situations. Instead, Wisconsin showed it was up for the challenge. After a rough first quarter, the Badgers rallied from a 14-3 deficit, scored 21 consecutive points, fought and pulled out the victory. Wisconsin joins Ohio State (2002, 2014) and Michigan State (2013) as the only Big Ten teams to win 13 games in a season.
3 things we learned
1. Showing some mental toughness: Bowl games are supposed to provide nonpartisan environments, but there’s nothing neutral about playing Miami in the Orange Bowl. After an early turnover and then trailing 14-3 in that atmosphere, it would have been easy for the Badgers to fold. Instead, they battled. On the first play of the second quarter, linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel intercepted a Malik Rosier pass that gave Wisconsin the ball at the Miami 23. The Badgers scored 21 points in the second quarter to take control of the game.
2. Taylor stands alone: Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor needed just 79 yards to break Adrian Peterson’s FBS freshman record of 1,925. That record went down and Taylor broke the 100-yard mark for the 10th time this season. Only Melvin Gordon (2014) had more 100-yard games in a season with 12. Taylor finished with 130 rushing yards and 1,977 for the season.
3. Wisconsin has some athletes: The tired, old narrative of the slow, plodding Badgers broke apart more quickly than a Miami turnover chain. Receivers A.J. Taylor and Danny Davis made fantastic adjustments on their touchdown receptions. Taylor caught his pass one-handed with his vision obstructed by Miami safety Sheldrick Redwine. In the second quarter, Davis tiptoed up the sideline and reached across the goal line for his touchdown. Even fullback Austin Ramesh got in the act by hurdling a would-be defender after catching a pass. By the second half, Miami defenders had switched from man coverage to zone, and Wisconsin attacked the middle of the field with posts and crossing routes.
Player of the game
QB Alex Hornibrook, who was named the Orange Bowl MVP. The much-maligned sophomore quarterback was ultra-efficient and had impeccable timing with his targets. Hornibrook threw 4 touchdown passes, including 3 to Davis, and was solid on many crossing routes. On an 8-play, 75-yard fourth-quarter drive, Hornibrook completed all 6 passes for 76 passing yards. He finished with 23 completions in 34 attempts, 258 yards and 4 touchdowns. Most important, he didn’t throw an interception, either.
Play of the game
On the first play of the second quarter, Miami faced second-and-15 from its 23. As Rosier dropped back to throw a screen pass to Braxton Berrios, Wisconsin’s Van Ginkel rushed Rosier then threw up his hands when the ball was released. Van Ginkel picked off the pass and returned it 2 yards to the 23. That led to a Wisconsin touchdown and immediately changed the game’s complexion.
Wisconsin now enters the offseason. The Badgers open the 2018 season on Friday, Aug. 31 against Western Kentucky at Camp Randall Stadium.