Capital Perseverance

Despite Wisconsin's bread and butter rushing attack being stymied and not making a dent on the scoreboard in the second half, the Badgers find a way to win their second straight Capital One Bowl

ORLANDO, Fla. – Finishing 180 yards below their rushing average wasn't going to stop Wisconsin. After all, this season was already historic in terms of the Badgers winning more games than any other team in Wisconsin history.

But winning the Capital One Bowl with negative five rushing yards and not scoring in the second half against the second best team in the SEC? Nobody could have believed that, right?

Well, there was one person that did.

"[If you would have told me that], I'd still believe [we would win]," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "This program doesn't care about who gets the credit. They just care about wins."

For all the wining about the No.6 Badgers not beating a ranked opponent all season long and undeserving of the accolades they have received, many people are beginning to bite their tongues with Wisconsin getting the final laugh.

After playing his first game in nearly two months and final one of his career, senior and game most valuable player John Stocco led the Badgers (12-1) to 17 first-half points and Wisconsin's hard-nosed defense took care of the rest, as the Badgers defeated the No.12 Razorbacks 17-14 to win their second straight Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

"We came out here to the Capital One Bowl two years in a row and beat quality SEC opponents," senior Joe Thomas said. "I hope we get the respect nationally that we deserve."

Unlike last year's bowl triumph, Wisconsin's running game was hardly effective. P.J. Hill couldn't get anything going all day. Through three quarters, Hill had carried the ball 10 times for only 13 yards.

"They had five big fat guys stacked up against our five fat guys," Thomas said. "That's something you see in high school. There definite plan was to stop the run and they were successful doing that."

But when Wisconsin got the ball with less than two minutes to go and a three point lead, the Badgers needed to run the ball successfully in order to force Arkansas to burn their three remaining time outs. Hill did just that, running for 20 yards on Wisconsin's final possession to seal the Badger victory.

"We talked all year about a total team effort and that's just what we did today," Bielema said. "This truly symbolizes a team with great chemistry. I can't say enough about what this team has done today."

From the beginning of the game however, it looked like the Razorbacks (10-4) were going to run all over the Badgers with their two prized running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.

Arkansas' first drive showcased the speed of Heisman Finalists McFadden, as he sped down the left sideline for a 45-yard gain. McFadden narrowly missed breaking the run for a touchdown, but couldn't escape the grasp of sophomore Jack Ikegwuonu. Ikegwuonu's tackle proved to be large, as the Razorbacks went three and out and kicker Jeremy Davis pushed a 30-yard field goal to the right.

In retrospect, if Ikegwuonu doesn't make that tackle on McFadden, the course of the game, and future success, would be in jeopardy.

"I know McFadden is a very fast football player," Bielema said. "For Jack to track and pull him down to put us in possession to have success, it changed the whole landscape of the game. That play will be ingrained through winter, spring and fall camp. That one play could have effected this entire year."

Wisconsin's first drive marked the return of Stocco, who had missed the last two regular season games with a separated shoulder. Other than completing his first pass attempt to Travis Beckum, it was evident that Stocco still had some rust and the Badger drive stalled. That didn't stop Taylor Mehlhaff from making some history. Mehlhaff connected on a 52-yard field goal, a career long and a Capital One Bowl record, to put Wisconsin up 3-0.

"If I go out there thinking it's a tough kick, I am not going to make it," Mehlhaff said. "Coach B looked at me and I said lets go for it."

Unfortunately, the Badger lead lasted only 31 seconds. Arkansas' first play from scrimmage went to their other speedy running back Felix Jones. Jones took the handoff and bolted down the left sideline for 76 yards and the Razorbacks first score of the game. The big play has been Arkansas' crutch all season long, as the Razorbacks have scored 29 touchdowns in five plays or less.

But the quick play is not Wisconsin's style and the Badgers next drive showcased Wisconsin's patient offense. Stocco's rust began to wear off as he orchestrated a nine play, 91-yard drive that was capped by a 22-yard touchdown pass to Paul Hubbard in the far right corner of the end zone. Stocco was on target throughout the drive, completing five of eight passes and executing a perfect fade pass to Hubbard.

Stocco continued dissecting the Arkansas secondary in the first half, leading the Badgers to another 60+ yard scoring drive by using the fade route to perfection. This time, Stocco hit Travis Beckum for the 13-yard touchdown, giving Wisconsin a 10-point halftime lead.

"We knew that we were going to have to throw the ball with [Arkansas] using five down linemen," wide receiver Luke Swan said. "Beckum and Hubbard did great job on their corner routes and catching touchdowns."

As good as John Stocco and the Badgers' offense was in the first half, they were a complete opposite in the game's last 30 minutes. With Hill and the running game being ineffective, Wisconsin had to rely on their passing game, which was exactly what Arkansas was expecting. The Badgers failed to convert a first down on their first five possession of the second half.

Despite holding Jones and McFadden to only 10 rushing yards in the third quarter, Jones broke through the Badger defense one more time, rushing for a 12-yard touchdown to cut the Wisconsin lead to three.

That's a close as Arkansas would get the rest of the way, as the Badger defense held the Razorbacks to negative nine rushing yards the rest of the game.

"For the most part, our defense played pretty well against those guys," Zalewski said. "They had some big plays that hurt us early on. We hadn't seen those plays in practice but after we corrected those things, we played really well."

When the clock struck zero and the party began, nobody was happier than Coach Bielema who could be seen hugging his players and wearing a grin that stretched from ear to ear.

The same goes for MVP John Stocco, who caps his career with another signature win with, who he calls, the best teammates a quarterback could ask for.

"This is the best group I have ever been around since I have been here," Stocco said. "There are so many great younger guys in this program and I think they are going to take it to the next level. The future is bright for Wisconsin."

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