(Saturday, December 27th)
Final Score: Florida State 42, Wisconsin 13
Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - Christian Ponder threw two touchdown passes and the Florida State defense added two touchdowns as the Seminoles crushed the Wisconsin Badgers, 42-13, at the Champs Sports Bowl.
Ponder went 18-for-31 with 199 yards, and Dekoda Watson and Derek Nicholson each had a fumble return for a touchdown for the Seminoles (9-4), who had dropped three of their final five games in the regular season.
Greg Carr and Caz Piurowski each had a receiving touchdown while Carlton Jones and Antone Smith had a rushing touchdown apiece for Florida State, which was making its 27th straight bowl appearance, the longest active streak in the nation.
"The defense played really well; you can't win without defense," said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. "While our offense was struggling like mad for the first quarter and two-thirds of the second quarter, our defense and our kicking game held us in there."
P.J. Hill carried the ball 15 times for 140 yards while Dustin Sherer was just 9-for-16 with 132 yards and a score for the Badgers (7-6), who had won three straight coming into the game.
"It's frustrating, but we did it to ourselves," said Sherer. "We could never get the ball moving and we gave them a short field and they could punt us and pin us deep. Obviously it's not easy. We got in there a couple times and just kept shooting ourselves in the foot. You can't win ball games that way."
The first quarter featured nothing but punts as the teams battle for field position. The star of the quarter was Florida State punter Graham Gano, who punted one ball to the Wisconsin three-yard-line and had two punts go out of bounds at the one-yard-line.
Gano was named the MVP of the game as he averaged 48.2 yards on his five punts.
"I can't remember having a punting performance like today; I think this was my best game punting," said Gano. "It really has a lot to do with the other guys; Zach (Aronson) snapped the ball well and I didn't have any pressure so the guys blocked really well."
The Seminoles defense came up with a big play to put the team up on the board. With Wisconsin driving, Sherer attempted a backwards pass to the wide receiver on the right side. The ball was tipped by a defender and ruled a fumble. Nicholson picked up the ball and went into the end zone untouched from 75 yards out for a 7-0 lead with 12:33 left in the second quarter.
Later in the second, Wisconsin got a 31-yard field goal from Philip Welch to make it a 7-3 game with 4:46 left in the first half. Hill's 46-yard run on the first play of the drive set up the field goal.
Florida State got the ball back near midfield with 40 seconds left in the half and was able to take advantage of the short field as Carr's one-handed grab in the right corner of the end zone from 15 yards out gave the team a 14-3 lead heading into the locker room.
The Badgers started the second half with the ball and were able to cut into their deficit on Welch's 41-yard field goal. Hill again set up the score with a 43-yard run.
The Seminoles, though, responded with a 16-play drive that covered 85 yards and ate up almost eight minutes of the clock and took a 21-6 lead on Smith's six-yard touchdown run up the middle with 4:11 left in the third.
On Wisconsin's ensuing possession, Hill fumbled the ball and Nicholson recovered it at the Florida State 23-yard-line.
The Seminoles covered the 77 yards in seven plays and Jones' 14-yard touchdown run up the middle gave the team a 28-6 lead with 18 ticks left on the third quarter clock.
Florida State tacked on to the lead early in the fourth with its second defensive touchdown of the game. Sherer fumbled the ball when he was sacked, Watson scooped up the loose ball and took it into the end zone for a 51-yard score and a 35-6 lead just 32 seconds into the final 15 minutes.
The Seminoles added to the rout later in the fourth on Piurowski's 10-yard touchdown catch from Ponder for a 42-6 advantage with a bit over 11 minutes to play.
The Wisconsin offense finally found the end zone with a bit over four minutes to play as Sherer found Elijah Theus for a 20-yard score.
This was the first time these teams have met...Wisconsin had never lost to an ACC team in a bowl game...The Badgers are now 10-10 all-time in bowl games... The Seminoles own a 22-14-2 all-time mark in bowl games...Carr had eight catches for 78 yards.
12/28 02:36:43 ET