Football: Satisfying win

UW's final regular season game a strong encore for an impressive season; Badgers have momentum heading into bowl season

HONOLULU—The University of Wisconsin football team's win here Friday could not have been much sweeter.

The Badgers won their ninth game of the season in dominating fashion over host Hawaii, the 41-24 final score closer than the game actually was.

The victory set the stage for a Jan. 2 trip to the Capital One Bowl, contingent on Ohio State receiving an invitation to a Bowl Championship Series game.

Wisconsin sent coach Barry Alvarez out a winner in his final regular-season game, which was no small solace for a team that had lost its last two Big Ten games of the season.

"We let a couple games get away from us that we, down the stretch, we didn't finish and compete hard," senior cornerback Levonne Rowan said, "but we competed today and I'm happy with the victory."

The win came in the midst of a near week-long trip to the island of Oahu.

"An all expense paid trip to Hawaii," senior receiver Jonathan Orr said. "Just won a football game. Sitting at nine wins. Life is good. We are definitely fortunate and blessed. Just to experience all of this it does feel good."

Wisconsin had plenty to smile about after the game.

Following two weeks of woeful performances on offense, the Badgers clicked into gear again, effectively scoring on seven consecutive possessions to blow the game open.

"The past couple weeks it hasn't been going the way we wanted it to go," Orr said. "We were able to get rested and get healed and it just really all came together today."

Mostly, though, the Badgers were pleased with where this victory position the 2005 season: the sixth nine-win campaign in Alvarez's tenure as head coach in hand, preserving a chance to play in Orlando.

"That would be great," said special teams standout James Kamoku, referring to playing in the Capital One Bowl. "Right now I heard the weather's negative 10 in Wisconsin so I'm kind of loving it here."

Before the season just about any bowl game would have exceeded expectations.

"This is a very young football team… Most people thought a 6-6 season would be a good season going in," Alvarez said. "So to win nine with this group and have an opportunity to play in a Jan. 2 game, I feel great about it."

Wisconsin has built a 9-3 record despite an injury plague season that grew worse yesterday. Receiver Brandon Williams (hip pointer), defensive end Travis Beckum (knee) and fullback Bill Rentmeester (knee) did not play in the second half.

"Everyone counted us out at the beginning of the year," senior center Donovan Raiola said. "No one expected us to do anything. Some guys didn't even expect us to go to a bowl game. Guys bought into everything and took care of what we needed to. It feels good."

The Badgers had some time for sightseeing and enjoying the area before Friday's game but mostly focused on the task at hand. Afterwards, however, they had two days to soak in the Hawaiian sun before returning to frosty Wisconsin.

"The key to this is making sure your kids stay focused until the game and then, hey, we'll have some fun after that," Alvarez said. "We're going to take them snorkeling (Saturday) and then let them have a little beach time before we leave on Sunday."

After an overnight flight the Badgers will arrive in Madison Monday morning and have four days away from football. Conditioning will start anew on Friday, with bowl practices beginning Dec. 9.

"Next Sunday we find out who we're going to play and (then) back to work," Orr said. "Back to breaking down film and getting prepared for the team and the bowl game."

The BCS pairings are announced next Sunday at 4 p.m. on ABC. Unless No. 1 USC or No. 2 Texas lose next week, Ohio State should receive one of two at-large bids for a BCS game. The Capital One Bowl, which has the first pick of Big Ten schools after the BCS, would then choose Wisconsin.

"Wherever they put us will be fine…" Kamoku said. "We're just excited to play another game."

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