(Tuesday, December 29th)
Final Score: (24) Wisconsin 20, (14) Miami-Florida 14
Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - John Clay ran for a pair of scores, as 24th- ranked Wisconsin held on to beat No. 14 Miami-Florida, 20-14, in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Miami scored with 1:22 left to get within one touchdown before recovering an onside kick, but the Badgers stifled the Hurricanes' offense, forcing a turnover on downs to secure the victory.
Clay, the Big Ten's leading rusher and offensive player of the year, totaled 121 yards on a soggy field to provide a rushing complement to the Badgers' passing game. Scott Tolzien threw for a career-high 260 yards, with one interception, and was an efficient 19-of-26.
Wisconsin (10-3) lost this bowl last year to Florida State, but won Tuesday with a defense that limited Miami (9-4) to 249 total yards and recorded five sacks of Hurricanes quarterback Jacory Harris. With the victory, the Badgers got their first 10-win season since 2006.
"I think everyone realized that up to this game we had won the games we were supposed to win, but there wasn't a big win, per se, against a ranked opponent, you know, just a real like exclamation point really," Tolzien said. "I thought this game kind of provided that for us."
Harris was pressured the entire game, getting banged up to the point he wore a wrap on his left knee and walked with a slight limp. He completed 16-of-29 passes for 188 yards and a score, but the Hurricanes had little in the way of a running game, netting just 61 yards on the ground. Graig Cooper ran for a touchdown in the loss, but had to be helped off the field in the first half after suffering an apparent knee injury.
Philip Welch connected on a 29-yard field goal with 4:01 remaining in the contest, giving Wisconsin what seemed like a commanding 20-7 lead. But the kick turned out to be critical, forcing Miami to score two touchdowns.
The Hurricanes drove for one with the ensuing possession, going 79 yards in 10 plays, all of them passes. The last was a 14-yard connection between Harris and Thearon Collier for a score. Collier hauled in the nicely placed ball at the right edge of the end zone, getting Miami within 20-14 with 1:22 to go.
Miami then took another step toward completing the potential comeback, as the onside kick bounced off the hands of a Wisconsin player before going to the ground. The Hurricanes recovered, setting up at their own 41-yard line. But Harris was sacked on first down, nearly threw an interception on second, and threw incomplete on third. His fourth-down pass slipped through the hands of his intended receiver, and Wisconsin ran out the clock to seal the win.
"We had an opportunity late in the game to win it," Miami head coach Randy Shannon said. "That's all you can ask for more from guys when they come out and come from behind. And, you know, getting an opportunity to kick that on- side kick, recovered it, and we thought we had a shot."
The victory came after the Hurricanes jumped out to the lead in the game's first minute after a big kickoff return. Sam Shields took a lateral and ran to the end zone, but an illegal block call brought the ball to the Wisconsin 16. However, Cooper found the end zone on the next play as Miami took a 7-0 lead.
After a punt, Wisconsin forced Miami into a three-and-out and took over at the Hurricanes' 41. The Badgers then needed just three plays to reach the end zone. Tolzien found Lance Kendricks on a play-action pass to net a 37-yard gain, and Clay ran for one yard. On 2nd-and-goal, Clay paused at the line of scrimmage, then took off into the left side of the end zone after Kendricks' block cleared the way.
The game remained 7-7 moving to the second quarter, and Wisconsin went in front with another quick drive. After the Badgers took over at their own 36, Clay made two cuts in getting through the line to the right sideline for a 52- yard gain. Tolzien later completed a 13-yard pass over the middle to tight end Garrett Graham, bringing the ball to the three, and Clay across the goal line on the next play.
That gave Wisconsin a 14-7 lead with 8:07 left in the half, and Welch's 37- yarder with 12 seconds left put the Badgers up by 10 at the break.
The Badgers' defense made the lead stick, as Miami had little offensive success. Of the 10 Hurricanes drives between their two scores, six ended in punts, one ended at the half, another with a fumble and two in turnovers on downs.
Wisconsin held the ball for 39:15...Cooper and Damien Berry each had a team-high 29 rushing yards for Miami...Kendricks finished with seven catches for 128 yards, a career high...With his 19 completions, Tolzien increased his seasonal total to 211 and became the first quarterback in Wisconsin history to complete at least 200 passes in a season...The Hurricanes were aiming for their first bowl win since 2006 and their first 10-win season since 2003...Wisconsin improved to 11-10 in bowl games, while Miami fell to 19-16.
12/30 02:18:33 ET