ARLINGTON, TEXAS | For the first time since Ron Dayne was in the backfield, the Wisconsin football team has won a premier bowl game. That’s after taking out previously unbeaten Western Michigan 24-16 in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl on Monday.
“It means a ton,” coach Paul Chryst said. “It’s the last time this team plays together. To be able to win against a good team, (I’m) really proud of them. It means a lot.”
The Badgers jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter in what looked like could be a blowout, but the Broncos made a game of it thanks to a 16-play drive — the longest against Wisconsin all year — and got a 3-yard touchdown run from quarterback Zach Terrell to make it 17-7 at the half.
After the break, Western Michigan went on another long drive, but had to settle for a field goal to make it 17-10. Following a Wisconsin drive that didn’t amount to anything, the Broncos had a chance to tie the game at the start of the fourth quarter. But backed up in their own end, Terrell threw a back-breaking interception to linebacker T.J. Edwards, who picked up defensive most valuable player honors for his day that included a team-leading 10 tackles.
Wisconsin capitalized on the only turnover of the game, with Alex Hornibrook hitting tight end Troy Fumagalli for an 8-yard touchdown.
Western Michigan wasn’t done, though. They marched down the field, and on fourth-and-4, Terrell chucked a ball up to wide receiver Corey Davis, who out-muscled Wisconsin’s defensive backs to grab it for a score. But when kicker Butch Hampton missed the extra point, and the Broncos were unable to recover the on-side kick, the Badgers were able to finish the game off.
Fumagalli was the star of the day, grabbing six passes for 83 yards and the one touchdown, picking up the game’s offensive most valuable player award. His first catch came with one hand, and it converted a third-down on a drive that would end with a 2-yard touchdown run by Corey Clement.
“(Fumagalli) was big,” Chryst said. “He was clutch.”
Playing in his final game, quarterback Bart Houston was fantastic, completing 11 of 12 passes for 159 yards, with his only incompletion coming on a drop. Hornibrook was 2 of 2 for 19 yards in a reserve role.
Defensively, the Badgers held Western Michigan 27 points below their scoring average, and the record-setting Davis had six catches but just 73 yards.
Wisconsin finishes the season 11-3 — its fourth 11-win season since 2010, and coach Paul Chryst moved to 21-6 — tied with Bret Bielema for the most wins in the first two years of a coaching career in Madison. The senior class also grabbed victory No. 41 — a new school record.
The win was the first in a BCS/New Year’s Six game since the Badgers took home the 2000 Rose Bowl trophy following a 17-9 win over Stanford, with Dayne being the Most Valuable Player.