SAN DIEGO - 2015 hasn’t been easy on Corey Clement and his final performance wasn’t any easier, but it was also cause for celebration.
Clement would set a career-high 19 carries before going down with a painful-looking injury to his left ankle in the third quarter of No.23 Wisconsin’s 23-21 victory over USC in the Holiday Bowl. As if the fates were conspiring against him, Clement was injured just outside the end zone on a drive he’d helped create.
“I was like, why?” said Clement, clearly flabbergasted by another setback. “Throughout the game I felt I was gaining an edge every time I got the ball. I had to realize every play wasn’t going to the house, so I had to earn my tough yards. I felt I was on pace for a 100-yard game if I didn’t get hurt.
“It’s just unfortunate. Once I get in the red zone, I am normally hot. I go in there and do what I do best, which is score. Unfortunately I got rolled up too bad.”
Even though he would not get another carry in the game, Clement finished as the game’s leading rusher with a very punishing 66 yards and a touchdown. Much of Clement’s success was found on the left side and he knew right where to direct the praise for his success in running the ball.
"We know Tyler Marz is our senior lineman,” Clement said. “He’s the focal point of our offensive line. He’s very strong and he takes pride in his technique. He’s a force when he’s blocking, and I take great pride running either to the left or right, but it’s just something different with Tyler on the left side. I just feel very comfortable running to his side because it’s always a positive gain.”
Mum on Clement’s health and availability in the weeks leading up to the game, Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said he was hopeful to get “some” out of him. What UW got was Clement helping the Badgers average 3.8 yards per carry, just the seventh time this season the Badgers have rushed for better than 3.5 yards.
“I thought we had a number of guys give us (production),” said Chryst. “I know Dare (Ogunbowale) had a couple of big runs. Derek (Watt) had a couple of big runs. Corey certainly gave us that, and what I liked best about this game was a ton of guys chipped in and that was fun to see.”
For Clement, who missed eight of UW’s 13 games, the matchup with USC was about showing their strength as a team and overcoming adversity. It’s meant to be the start of something positive heading into 2016 and a season-opening tilt with LSU - the start of a very daunting schedule..
“On a personal note, I think everybody knows the type of year I had,” Clement said after the game. “I had a lot of ups and downs — more downs than ups. It sucks, but I just tried to battle through and do what my team asks. I tried to come out here and be an X-factor, and that got cut short but we got the victory.”