Champs Sports Bowl: 'Canes Dominated by Wisconsin, Comeback Falls Short

Carlos PinedaCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 10:  Running back John Clay #32 of the Wisconsin Badgers hops away from the grasp of Ross Homan #51 of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The No. 15 Miami Hurricanes' last second attempt at a come-from-behind win came and went through the hands of sophomore wide receiver Thearon Collier on fourth down.

It was Bucky Badger and the 25th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers that exorcised their demons on a frigid night at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl with a 20-14 victory, avenging last year’s loss in the same bowl game and venue, a 42-13 loss to Florida State.

The game set an attendance record for the bowl game with 56,747.

For Wisconsin (10-3), the win came with power running as well as a consistent and effective passing game. Sophomore running back John Clay carried the ball 22 times for 121 yards and scored the team’s only two touchdowns of the game. Clay averaged 5.5 yards-per-carry.

"That's Wisconsin football, just wearing a defense down," Clay said in a news release. "The third quarter, fourth quarter, I could just see them sucking wind and holding their waists."

Wisconsin rushed for 170 yards and held possession of the ball for nearly 40 minutes.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out if you got the ball longer than they do, you have a better chance of scoring more points," Badgers head coach Bret Bielema said in a news release.

Junior quarterback Scott Tolzien was the better of the two starting quarterbacks, going 19-of-26 for 260 yards. His favorite targets on the evening were a pair of tight ends. Junior Lance Kendricks and senior Garrett Graham combined for 205 receiving yards. The tight ends singlehandedly converted on many third down plays that kept the Miami offense off the field.

"The way we were running the ball, I had it pretty easy," Tolzien said in a news release. "I just had to find a way to get a few passes to our receivers."

Miami (9-4) entered the game with hopes of winning 10 games, the first time since 2003. With a win Tuesday night the Hurricanes were looking to start the 2010 season with a preseason top 10 ranking. 

Throughout the game, though, the offense never settled in and looked uncomfortable, while the defense struggled to contain the run and pass and looked out of place all night.

The Hurricanes opened the game with a touchdown on a 97-yard kickoff return from senior defensive back Sam Shields. Junior running back Graig Cooper fielded the kick at the three-yard line before handing the ball off to Shields at the 10-yard line for the reverse. The score was overturned due to a block in the back penalty.

With the ball placed at the Wisconsin 16-yard line, Miami sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris handed the ball off to Cooper, who scored the touchdown on the first play from scrimmage to give them a 7-0 lead. Cooper would leave the game late in the second quarter after returning a kickoff 27 yards before going down with a knee injury. 

Wisconsin tied the game on a three-yard run from Clay on a three-play drive with 7:12 still to go in the first quarter. Tolzien connected with Kendricks for 37 yards.

The Badgers took the lead midway through the second quarter on Clay’s second touchdown of the game, another three-yard score. Clay had a 52-yard gain on the second play of the drive, putting the ball deep in Hurricane territory. They added a 37-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining, taking a 17-7 lead at the half.

For Miami, Harris never found his rhythm, overthrowing and underthrowing his receiving group. Harris went 16-of-29 for 189 yards with a touchdown in the game. 

"We just couldn't get in a rhythm up front like we thought we should have and we thought we were going to be able to," Miami head coach Randy Shannon said in a news release. "We had negative plays. You can't take negative plays.

“When we were trying to run the football, we had miscues up front. The communication factor finally got us."

Harris was sacked five times for a loss of 25 yards, and for much of the game the Wisconsin front set had him scrambling around the pocket. Midway through the fourth quarter the pressure forced a fumble when Harris was sacked from behind.

"Against this type of team, you got to put up points and put them up fast, because they can hold the ball for so long," Harris said in a news release. "They had a lot of defensive pressure, but at the same time, I got to get the ball out quicker."

With 4:01 remaining in the game, Wisconsin tacked on a 29-yard field goal to extend its lead to 20-7. With the game out of hand, Miami took the ball at the 21-yard line and marched down the field for a 14-yard touchdown from Harris to Collier with 1:22 remaining in the game. The drive took 10 plays and 2:32 off the clock. Harris completed nine passes for 79 yards.

Junior kicker Matt Bosher then attempted the onside kick, which he covered himself after it touched Wisconsin players at the Miami 44. With the ball at the 41, Harris was sacked for three yards before failing to make a completion and turning the ball over on downs.

Miami began the season facing four ranked opponents to start 2009, winning three of the four in the toughest four game-stretch in college football.