No. 24 Wisconsin defeated the University of Hawaii 41-24 at Aloha Stadium here Friday night, giving the Badgers a 9-3 record heading into the bowl game, which will likely be the Capital One Bowl Jan. 2 in Orlando, Fla.
UW coach Barry Alvarez, who coached his last regular-season game Friday, said a representative from the bowl extended an invitation to Wisconsin following its win over Hawaii, contingent on Ohio State's receiving an at-large bid for a Bowl Championship Series bowl.
"That's what we strived for," senior receiver Brandon White said. "We thought we weren't going to make it but then when we heard that we could, everyone really wanted to play and win this game and win big."
Wisconsin got its ninth win with a strong offensive attack that took advantage of a porous Warrior defense that gave up an average of 426.7 yards per game prior to Friday.
Calhoun sometimes danced and dodged his way through piles and other times sprinted through sizeable holes, amassing 133 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries in the first half.
"It felt good (to establish the run)," Calhoun said. "Obviously that was our main goal after… our last two games, so it felt good. Obviously, I think the first four or five plays were runs. That was something that we wanted to do and we did that and I think we were pretty successful throughout the night."
On Wisconsin's opening two drives, the Badgers returned to its formulaic running game, handing the ball to Calhoun on nine of their first 11 plays.
That included a 10-yard sprint into the end zone to cap UW's second drive, which tied Calhoun with former Badger Ron Dayne with a school-record 21 rushing touchdowns in a season.
Calhoun finished with 149 rushing yards and seven receiving yards on two catches. He saw limited action after halftime and sat out the fourth quarter because Wisconsin had the game put away at 34-17 entering the fourth. Calhoun's backup, junior Booker Stanley, had 78 rushing yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.
Quarterback John Stocco and Wisconsin's receivers also had their way with Hawaii's defense. Stocco connected with senior receiver Jonathan Orr for two touchdowns in the first half and was 12 of 16 overall for 191 yards, including a nearly immaculate 6 of 8 for 118 yards in the first half.
"I gave John a game ball. I thought he was super," Alvarez said. "I thought when we threw, he knew where he was going. He threw it well. I thought he made a couple of good scrambles. . . He made the plays."
Wisconsin led 24-10 at the half and saw its fortunes continue early in the second half when sophomore right tackle Nick Hayden forced a fumble that was recovered by junior left end Joe Monty on Hawaii's 8-yard-line. UW sophomore kicker Taylor Mehlhaff kicked a 24-yard field goal to put UW up 27-10.
Hawaii struck back with a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, putting the Warriors within striking distance at 27-17.
But Stocco orchestrated a 12-play, 74-yard touchdown drive that ate up 6 minutes, 38 seconds. Facing a fourth-and-one situation from the 1-yard-line, the Badgers opted to try for the touchdown and were successful, as Stocco scampered into the end zone on a naked bootleg.
"I just felt like they were slamming things down so hard and they were jumping on first, on the flash, and John does a good job and gave a good fake so I felt it was a pretty good call (to go for it on fourth down)," Alvarez said.
Wisconsin snuffed out Hawaii's next drive when senior will linebacker Dontez Sanders intercepted sophomore signal-caller Colt Brennan's pass at midfield. Wisconsin marched down the field and junior tailback Booker Stanley scored six minutes later.
Although Wisconsin's defense held Hawaii to 24 points—under its season average of 29.5—the Badger defense gave up 446 yards, including 403 passing yards.
Hawaii sophomore signal-caller Colt Brennan evaded Badger defenders in the backfield before connecting with his receivers. But occasionally the Badgers' defense tracked down Brennan, sacking him five times for a loss of 39 yards. Brennan finished with 403 yards on 33-for-53 passing, with three touchdowns and an interception.
Brennan hit eight different receivers, including redshirt freshman Ryan Grice-Mullen, who finished with 11 catches for 139 yards. Junior receivers Chad Mock and Ross Dickerson finished with five catches each for 69 and 50 yards, respectively. True freshman Davone Bess had four receptions for 34 yards, including two touchdown catches.
"[Alvarez] said we've got a lot of work to do," senior cornerback Brett Bell said. "Our offense played well, defense could have played better but we've got a lot of work to do and the Capital One bowl is a great bowl. We achieved one of our goals. We want to play Jan. 2."