The Big Ten championship game left a sour taste in the mouth of the Wisconsin Badgers. UW was determined to not let that happen again, and that’s exactly what happened in a 24-16 win over the previously undefeated Western Michigan Broncos.
It meant Wisconsin’s 11th victory of the season and its third-consecutive bowl game victory after downing Auburn in the Outback Bowl following the 2014 season and topping USC in last year’s Holiday Bowl.
The Badgers also secured their second 11-win season in the last three years and the sixth time in program history.
Wisconsin wanted to establish the run early and often, and it did just that in the first two drives of the game. The Badgers put the ball in the end zone twice on the strength of its ground game, with 106 yards gained as a team.
Corey Clement had 65 of his 71 yards on the day in the first two drives alone, before the Broncos defense shut him down. However, the Badgers threw enough at Western Michigan to put up 184 yards on the ground as a team and work the clock to their advantage when it mattered most.
However, it was Wisconsin’s passing game and a timely turnover that did the ultimate job against the Broncos.
Bart Houston, getting the start in his final game as a Badger, finished the game 11 of 12 for 159 yards. However, it was Alex Hornibrook that would get the only passing touchdown of the day.
The two combined to go 13 of 14 for 178 yards and a touchdown, with the only incompletion coming on a dropped touchdown pass from Troy Fumagalli.
Wisconsin’s sophomore tight end had himself a star-making day, catching six balls for 83 yards a touchdown. His 8-yard touchdown reception made a one-score game in to the eventual difference in the contest, putting UW up 24-10 with 12:26 to play in the game.
On the flip side, Wisconsin’s pass defense redeemed itself from the Big Ten championship game, limiting a Western Michigan offense that came in to the game averaging 259.7 yards per game to just 157 yards on the day.
Broncos quarterback Zach Terrell came in to the game with just three interceptions, but it was his fourth that gave this game its final score. With WMU needing to drive 97 yards early in the fourth quarter, Terrell threw one right to linebacker T.J. Edward and that resulted in Fumgalli’s touchdown.
However, after being dominating for much of the first half, Western Michigan adjusted on both sides of the football and began to hold Wisconsin’s offense in check and exploit some advantages against UW’s interior defense.
It resulted in a comeback that had plenty of people nervous, on and off the Badgers sideline.
After a long drive that resulted in a 27-yard field goal, Western Michigan was within a score at 17-10 early in the third quarter.
That was about it for Western Michigan, who got a controversial touchdown in the late going to make it 24-16. Corey Davis was credited with the score, but it came as Sojourn Shelton was pushed out of position by Davis in a comeback scramble in the end zone.
Wisconsin responded by taking the ball 41 yards on seven plays to bleed the clock and preserve the victory.
We’ll next see Wisconsin on the field Sept. 1 with Utah State coming to Camp Randall Stadium.