TAMPA, Fla. - Feeling his defense was starting to wear down against an Auburn offense in an up-tempo groove, senior linebacker Derek Landisch hoped that his offense would give Wisconsin’s defense one chance to redeem itself.
When they obliged and got the game to overtime, the defense was ready.
“Once we get to overtime, we flush everything that’s happened before that,” said Landisch. “We knew it was a whole different ball game.”
Taking the field in staked to a three-point lead, Wisconsin’s defense held the Tigers to minus-2 yards on their three plays and then celebrated when the game-tying field goal went off the uprights to give No.17 Wisconsin a 34-31 victory over No.19 Auburn in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.
“I’m not going to lie, we needed this bad,” said Landisch. “It feels great to get over that hump. Not winning (a bowl game) since 2009, to beat a great Auburn opponent, it’s just so great.”
Wisconsin’s defense held Auburn to six plays or fewer and no points on four of the Tigers’ six first-half drives, corralling the run game and, save for one busted coverage, managing against the pass. That changed after halftime, as Auburn’s offensive numbers were slowly rising.
The Tigers had 123 yards on 17 plays in the third quarter (7.2 per play) and 138 on 18 plays (8.1) in the fourth.
“Auburn was doing a great job of bumping people out of their gaps,” said Landisch. “If we were in a one-gap scheme and somebody gets bumped out of their gap, it’s going to go for a gash. To be honest, the gashes were more Auburn playing well than the pace.”
Auburn won the toss and chose defense first, the typical move in an overtime situation. The move ended up backfiring considering it gave the Badgers – who were trying to recover from a 5 minute, 3 second scoring drive near the end of the fourth quarter – extra time to catch their breath.
“We just emptied our minds about all the previous four quarters,” said junior safety Michael Caputo. “We said so what? Overtime is what matters right now.”
Given two extra weeks to prepare, Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda turned over plenty of stones, having the team practice gimmick plays he saw on film from previous seasons. That came in handy.
After Wisconsin stopped tailback Cameron Artis-Payne for minus-2 yards and Landisch teamed with Joe Schobert to tackle Sammie Coates on a reception for no gain, the Tigers tried the throwback pass on third down to quarterback Nick Marshall, a play UW had practiced and Schobert snuffed out for another loss of one.
“When the chips were on the table, this defense stood up,” said linebacker Vince Biegel.
Wisconsin’s big downfall in the Big Ten championship game was battered and bruised bodies on the offensive line unable to match Ohio State’s physicality. The bodies were still battered and bruised, but it was far from a weakness against the speed of Auburn.
Even with Dan Voltz out with a broken bone in his left leg and Kyle Costigan dragging his leg in and out of the huddle, Wisconsin paved the way for 400 rushing yards and three Melvin Gordon rushing touchdowns.
“Those guys are important and they’re a big part of my success,” said Gordon, who finished with an Outback Bowl record 251 yards. “They don’t get talked about too much, but if you ask me, I’ll talk about them all the time. They deserve a lot of the credit. Those guys perform every day and they work so hard.
“To lose your starting center and for a backup to come in, guys switching over, guys playing positions they hadn’t played before, and still go out there and do the things they did against a tough opponent like Auburn, it’s enormous. I respect those guys and I always will.”
Voltz proclaimed himself healthy after lasting only four plays against Ohio State because of a nagging ankle injury, but couldn’t avoid being rolled up at the end of the first quarter. Carted to the locker room, UW did the same lineman dance it did in Indianapolis, moving left guard Dallas Lewallen to center and putting Ray Ball in at left guard.
To make matters trickier, fifth-year senior Costigan – who, according to quarterback Joel Stave, is playing with “five season-ending injuries” – having trouble moving and executing combination blocks.
“Costigan was coming in and out of the huddle, he’s hopping on one leg and he wouldn’t come out of the game,” said interim head coach Barry Alvarez. “That’s how legends are made.”
Rushing for 141 yards on 25 carries in the first half, Wisconsin ran for 158 yards in the third quarter and 97 yards in the fourth quarter, not to mention keep Stave upright by not allowing a sack, to propel the Badgers to victory.
“We told each other we’re not going to lose this game,” said Ball. “This is the last game for the seniors. We’re not going to lose. This is what we came here for. This is a business trip.”
Gaglianone Ends Season on a Role
Wisconsin’s kicking game had been cellar dwellers in the Big Ten the last two years, pushing special teams coach Jeff Genyk to go out and recruit a kicker. He found Gaglianone and the decision has been a major pay off for the Badgers.
Ending his true freshman season making 14 consecutive field goals, Gaglianone hit a 29-yard kick with seven seconds left to force overtime and registered his first game-winning kick – a 25-yarder after UW went on offense first.
“I treat every single kick the same way,” said Gaglianone. “They felt good. I think the regular one was a little more intense just to get us into overtime. I felt once we were there it was our game.”
Gaglianone finished his first college season 19-for-22, an .864 percentage that is the second best in school history behind Matt Davenport’s .905 percentage (19-for-21) in 1998.
“My holder, my snapper, they are the ones that made it easy for me,” said Gaglianone. “I just put the icing the cake.”
Extra Points: The Badgers ran for an Outback Bowl and UW bowl game record of 400 yards today, their 12th game this season with at least 200 rushing yards and fifth with at least 300 yards on the ground. It was UW’s third bowl game with at least 300 rushing yards … UW’s 31 first downs were the second-most in Badgers’ bowl history, one shy of the school record of 32 set against USC in the 1963 Rose Bowl … Wisconsin scored a touchdown on its opening drive of the game for the fifth time this season and first time since playing Maryland on Oct. 25. The Badgers also scored a TD on their opening drive of the second half. It’s the third time this season UW has scored touchdowns on its first drive of the game and first drive of the second half (vs. LSU and vs. Bowling Green) … Wisconsin won a bowl game for the first time since a 20-14 win over Miami in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl. The Badgers are now 12-14 in bowl games.