Badgers defy expectations

Wisconsin shocks heavily favored Auburn, 24-10, in Capital One Bowl

ORLANDO, Fla. — Very few people gave Wisconsin a chance to beat Auburn here Monday, but the Badgers believed in themselves and that is all that mattered.

They employed a three-man wrecking crew on offense and played their best game all year on defense to give head coach Barry Alvarez a perfect ending to his 16-season tenure with the Badgers.

"It's right up there," Alvarez said when asked if this was his best bowl game yet. "I told our local media the entire time that our kids were focused."

Brian Calhoun ran for more than 200 yards, John Stocco threw for 301 and Brandon Williams notched 173 receiving yards as the UW offense went over, around and through the Auburn defense for 548 yards en route to a 24-10 victory in the Capital One Bowl.

The Badgers were about the only one's who believed they could win, and Alvarez told them they were going to need to play well to do so.

They not only played well, they clicked on all cylinders.

"We played for a couple of quarters, they played for four and that was definitely the difference," Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville said.

It was clear that Wisconsin was much more prepared for the game.

The Badgers forced two turnovers in the first five minutes of the game, and even though they could not capitalize, they stuck to their aggressive offensive gameplan and jumped out to an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

"We wanted to be very aggressive in the gameplan … we wanted to attack," Alvarez said.

On UW's third possession of the game, the three-man wrecking crew began to take its toll on Auburn's defense, as Calhoun busted a 27-yard run and Stocco found Williams twice, including for a 30-yard touchdown score to cap a five-play, 75-yard drive and take a 7-0 lead.

Despite a 60-yard scamper by Calhoun on the next drive, the Badgers were kept out of the end zone and kicker Taylor Mehlhaff tacked on three more points.

The defense stood firm through the first half and Stocco found Owen Daniels in the end zone midway through the second quarter as the Badgers carried a 17-0 lead into the locker room.

"We all just wanted to be on," Stocco said. "We wanted to play our best football and everyone on offense and defense just played outstanding for us."

The Badgers held the Tigers to just 116 yards total offense in the first half and 236 yards on the game, the lowest for Auburn all season.

Calhoun (123 yards), Stocco (174 yards passing and two touchdowns) and Williams (75 yards and a touchdown) all posted numbers in the first half alone that would have been good game totals.

But they were not done there.

The Tigers got on the scoreboard with a field goal on their first drive the second half thanks to a fumble deep in Wisconsin territory and drove down the field late in the third quarter to set up a touchdown early in the fourth.

For a brief moment, it looked as though Auburn may have found a way to get back into the game, but that did not last long.

Instead, Calhoun capped a five-play, 65-yard drive with a 33-yard dash around the right edge before cutting back to midfield and diving in for the score.

"We've had three MVPs in the Rose Bowl and they have all been running backs," Alvarez said. "When we win big games, our running backs play well."

The junior was named the game's Most Valuable Player following a 30-carry, 213-yard performance.

The defense continued to get the job done in the second half and finished the season with its most consistent effort of the year. The Badgers forced two turnovers, held quarterback Brandon Cox to 137 yards through the air and kept Kenny Irons under the century mark—something that had not been done since Oct. 1.

"What you do on defense is try to take away the other team's strength, which is our running game, and they pretty much did that," Tuberville said.

There was another glimmer of hope for the Tigers when they pinned the Badgers at their own 1-yard line. Facing third-and-seven from their own 4, Stocco dropped back into the end zone and was very nearly sacked for a safety.

But Stocco got rid of the ball as he was hit and found Williams for a 36-yard gain that all but put the game on ice.

The junior quarterback would have been just as deserving an MVP, after finishing 15-of-27 for 301 yards and two touchdowns.

"He's had some very good games," Alvarez said. "John Stocco is tough and he's a competitor. The stage, the magnitude of the game, the quality of the opposition and how well he performed today should squelch any further criticism. I thought he was fantastic."

Stocco took a knee on the final play of the game as the Badgers took 8:58 off the clock and went 98 yards down the field to the very edge of the goal line, allowing linebacker Mark Zalewski to douse Alvarez with the water cooler.

"There's nothing like seeing a quarterback take a knee," Alvarez said. "I love that play. That is my favorite play in football when John takes a knee."

Tuberville and the Auburn coaching staff knew before the game that this was the best offense they had seen all year, but they never could have expected this.

Alvarez ended his 16-year tenure with his fourth 10-win season and his eighth career bowl victory. UW had only been to six bowl games in 103 years before he took over.

"Coach Alvarez is a classy guy and [his last game is] something that he just never talked about," Stocco said. "But it's something that all the players were aware of and we wanted to play well and thank him for everything he has done for us."

Play-by-play and complete box score (pdf)

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