ORLANDO – The University of Arkansas certainly had plenty of chances to take down No. 5 Wisconsin here Monday and outgained their big team foe by over 160 yards, but instead ended the season with its third straight loss after ripping off 10 straight wins.
Senior quarterback John Stocco was named the MVP while passing for 206 yards and two touchdowns and the Badgers – despite being held to –5 yards rushing – topped the Razorbacks 17-14 fans in the 61st annual Capital One Bowl before 60,774 fans at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.
"Well, I don't feel very good," Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said of the three-game losing skid. "It's not a good feeling. I love winning. It's much better and we all know that, but we had our chances. We had 60 minutes and we just didn't get it done."
Wisconsin (12-1), despite being outgained in total offense 367-201, became the winningest team in school history with the win.
"To play at the level we did symbolizes a tean that has great chemistry and great coaching," Badgers' first-year head coach Brett Bielema said. "We talked about three words all week. The first word was winning; they define themselves by being he winningest team on Wisconsin team history.
"The second was finish: we wanted to make the month of November mean something, but we had the ultimate finish today," Bielema said. "And the last one was respect. This program needs to have those three things to go where we want to go and I think those three things came out stronger than ever."
The Razorbacks (10-4) had numerous chances after going to halftime trailing 17-7, but could only dent the end zone once on Felix Jones' 12-yard run early in the fourth quarter despite spending the majority of the second half on Wisconsin's end of the field.
"Our defense came out; we won the field position (battle) in the third quarter," Nutt said. "We did an excellent job of pinning them down there...our punt coverage and our defense was excellent. But that is where we usually make points and it is frustrating."
Jones finished the game with a career-high 150 yards on 14 carries while injured Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden rushed for 89 yards on 19 carrries on a day when the Razorbacks ran for 232 yards total.
Arkansas had 368 yards total offense, 136 via the air with starter Casey Dick (9 of 21 for 98 yards) and back-up Mitch Mustain (5-of-10, 41 yards) both getting snaps while Wisconsin had just 201 yards total offense.
"We started out just like I told you," Nutt said in a question about playing Mustain only the third series in the first half and then starting him after intermission. "They (both) seemed a bit offer. A missed pass here and a missed opportunity there and you just can't do thatand beat a Top 10 team."
Robert Johnson, the converted quarterback, had his best day as a wideout with 4 catches for 46 yards, while senior Cedric Washington (3 for 46), Jones (4 passes for 2 yards) and Lucas Miller (1 catch, 18 yards) all catching passes on a day when Marcus Monk was held to one catch for 12 yards.
The Badgers (12-1) had just 33 yards of total offense after halftime and was such devoid of offense after intermission that Stocco – who was 14of-34 passing – was named the MVP despite being just 2-of-11 in the second half and missing on his first nine passes.
"They (the Razorback defense) did a good job of stopping the run," Nutt said. "We put a lot of emphasis on that in the time we had to prepare. We stoped a bacj who had rushed for over 1,000 yards. We didn't cover as well as we would have liked."
Travis Beckham had 5 catches 82 yards and Paul Hubbard 4 passes for 73 yards with both hauling in a touchdown pass.
The Razorbacks' defense had seven sacks on the day with lone senior defensive lineman Keith Jackson having three of those.
Stocco was pressured and hit throughout the game.
"We worked on (the pass rush) on it all week, just working with our hands and getting to the quarterback," Jackson said. "Our defensive ends make it so easy on the inside because of the speed on the outside. He was stepping up in the middle which gave me and Ernest Mitchell opportunities to hit the quarterback a little bit."
Arkansas had the chance to take a lead right off the bat after Dick hit Johnson with a 14-yard pass on the second play of the game and then McFadden ripped off a 45-yard dash to the Wisconsin 9.
What looked like it was going to be a touchdown at first was not as a Wisconsin defensive back hauled down McFadden from behind.
"I know that McFadden is a very fast football player and for us to be able to track him down and pull him down and then for us to put us in a position for success may have changed the landscape of the entire game."
But an illegal procedure penalty, McFadden being stopped for just a yard and then two incomplete passes, Arkansas had to settle for an field goal attempt.
Jeremy Davis' 30-yard boot was wide right.
That was not a problem for Wisconsin's Taylor Mehlhaff, who broke the Capital One Bowl record with a 52-yarder on the ensuing possession to put the Badgers up 3-0 with 10:01 remaining.
That lead lasted less than a minute as Jones took a handoff and dashed 76 yards, a jaunt that included stiff-arming one Badger would be tackler and having Monk take out the last threat.
"Felix Jones is a winner," Nutt said. "It is why he made freshman All-American as a true freshman. He is a ball player and he is a tremendous running back."
That run and Davis' PAT put Arkansas up 7-3 with 9:19 left in the opening quarter.
Mustain entered on the third series as previously announced and his 16-yard pass to Washington got the Razorbacks into Wisconsin territory at the 48.
Mustain also picked up a fumble by McFadden to keep the drive alive, but it stalled three plays later on what would be the true freshman's only possession of the first half.
Wisconsin took over at its own 9, pretty much abandoned the run and soon had the lead via its passing game.
The nine-play, 91-yard drive had Stocco throwing seven passes, including a key 3rd-and-11 pass early on to Luke Swan that covered 13 yards.
Stocco ended the drive and gave his team the lead by connecting with Paul Hubbard on a 22-yard fade pattern that combined with Mehlhaff's PAT pushed Wisconsin ahead 10-7 with 28 seconds left in the first frame.
Arkansas appeared all poised to regain control of the lead when Darius Vinnett, blocked a punt early in the second quarter, but Wisconsin punter Ken Debauche picked up the ball and completed a pass.
Although a penalty was called on Wisconsin for ineligible receiver down field, it turned out to be a bad break for Arkansas because the down had to be replayed.
Instead of the Razorbacks in business on the Badgers' side of the field, Wisconsin would instead lengthen its lead to 17-7 a series later.
Stocco's 13-yard touchdown pass to Travis Beckum completed a 7-play, 62-yard drive that pushed them ahead by 10 with 6:13 left before intermission.
Wisconsin 17, Arkansas 14
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
TCU vs Iowa State primerAfter falling in double-overtime to Arkansas, TCU looks to get back to their winning ways against Iowa State.
Horned Frog Insider09/15/2016
The Ultimate Midlands TeamThere is a lot of talent in the Midlands region, with a vast majority of the highest rated recruits playing high school football in the Lone Star State. Which prospects made the…
These rival helmet color swaps are revoltingSwapping rival teams' helmet colors? It shouldn't have been done, but someone did it anyway.
Post-July 2017 Top 100 Player RankingsWith the July evaluation periods, Nike Skills Academy, adidas Nations and Under Armour's Elite 24 over, Scout's basketball recruiting team has updated the 2017 top 100. DeAndre…