Although they stumbled twice in the past, the duo wasn't going to let another bad performance send UW into another post season with another sour taste in its mouths.
Clay finished with 22 carries for 121 yards, his ninth 100-yard gain of the season and sixth straight, and two scores while Tolzien finished the game 19-of-26 for 260 yards, helping UW's offense rack up 428 yards in a 20-14 victory over No.14 Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl Tuesday.
Averaging 5.3 yards per carry during the season and having 53 percent (140 runs) go for four or more yards, Clay had been the offensive force all season for UW (10-3), but struggled against No.9 Ohio State (59 yards) and No.11 Iowa (75).
He was a warrior against Miami (9-4), especially after he was banged up early in the second half after rushing for 89 yards on 13 carries. After spending most of the third quarter on the sidelines, allowing freshman Montee Ball to carry the load (15 times for 61 yards), Clay returned and helped the Badgers' milk the clock.
Moreover, Clay's 52-yard run in the second quarter was the longest in Champs Sports Bowl history and tied for the fifth-longest run in a bowl game by a Badger running back. His two rushing touchdowns also equaled what the Hurricanes defense had given up in their last seven games combined.
Similar results go for Tolzien, who had a combined five interceptions and no touchdowns in his two starts against ranked opponents this season. Although he didn't throw for a score, Tolzien was effective, finishing 19-of-26 for 260 yards and an interception off a deflection.
The majority of those passes went in the direction of junior Lance Kendricks, who will take over for senior tight end Garrett Graham next season. Kendricks, who had 22 receptions for 228 yards during the regular season, registered career highs with seven receptions for 128 yards and delivered a key seal block on safety Randy Phillips that sprung Clay for his first of two 3-yard scores.
Don't Run Here
The Badgers held Miami's offense, which entered the game ranked 36th nationally in total offense (412.5 yards per game) to 249 total yards, 76 of which came in the final four minutes. As the theme had been all season, most of the yards came through the air, as UW held its 10th straight opponent to less than 100 yards rushing.
The Hurricanes, averaging 144.4 yards per game, only managed 61 rushing yards, averaging 2.7 yards per carry. Another constant was senior O'Brien Schofield, who ended his career like he began the season: in the opponent's backfield.
Schofield recorded two more sacks to give him 12 for the season, tying him for third place on UW's single-season list, and 24.5 tackles for loss, good for second on UW's single-season list and finishing his career with 126 TFLs, second-most in school history.
His replacement next year, sophomore J.J. Watt, finishes his season with 14.5 TFLs.
In Need of Rest
If anyone could write a book about injuries this season, junior left tackle Gabe Carimi would be the likely author.
Missing roughly half of fall camp after suffering a sprained right knee, Carimi battled back and started the opener despite still dealing with the after effects. Carimi didn't waver either after suffering a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder at Ohio State on Oct. 10.
So when the junior was rolled over on a John Clay run at 12 minutes, 1 second of the opening quarter, chalk it up to another bump and bruise on the season. Carimi was able to walk off on his own power, getting his leg re-taped and a new brace while junior Jake Bscherer filled in for a series.
Carimi returned on the next series and didn't miss a beat. Lined up against junior defensive end Allen Bailey - Miami's leaders in tackles for loss (11) and sacks (seven) – for the majority of the evening, Carimi limited him to two tackles, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.
Weather Effects the Status of A Hurricane
The temperature in Orlando has resembled anything but South Florida for the duration of both teams stay. From pouring rain and howling wind on Thursday that turned the practice fields muddy and sloppy to chilly temperatures in the 50 over the weekend, it wasn't a welcoming change from Miami for the Hurricanes.
With the temperature at 49 degrees, many Miami players retreated shivering to the locker room after pre-game warm-ups, only to return with long sleeves on and crowded around the heaters on the sidelines.
Ninety-five percent of UW's players had on short sleeves, comparing the temperatures to a nice Madison spring. No heaters were spotted on UW's sideline.
Out with Style
With members of the ‘21' club coming as far as Italy for his final game, senior Chris Maragos wasn't about to have his final collegiate be one where he needed to be helped off the field. Injuring his ankle in the final four minutes, Maragos limped off the field under his own power, being surrounded by all his defensive teammates as he exited to get taped up.
Sophomore Aaron Henry came in to play safety and was indirectly involved in Miami's passing attack finally finding a pulse, as quarterback Jacory Harris completed 9-of-10 passes, including a touchdown, to get Miami within six.
Maragos promptly returned to the field to help recover the onside kick and when that didn't work, he remained in the game to watch the Hurricanes misfire on passes on second, third and fourth down to clinch the victory.
Once he got to the sideline, Maragos and fellow senior Tyler Holland grabbed the ice water and promptly deposited it on UW coach Bret Bielema's head, resulting in the head coach running after the seniors for a bear hug.
By the Numbers
57: Jacory Harris' first-half passing yards on only five completions.
1,517: rushing yards for Clay, the second-most by a UW sophomore. Only Anthony Davis (1,555) had more. Clay also tied Billy Marek for fourth on touchdowns for a season (18).
56,747: announced attendance, which was a bowl record at the Citrus Bowl Stadium.
52: the number of offensive plays between Miami's two touchdowns against Wisconsin.