Everyone came in to the Orange Bowl expecting the Miami Hurricanes and Wisconsin Badgers to get in to a defensive slugfest. Instead, everyone was treated to an offensive explosion, one that ended up favoring the Badgers in a 34-24 win.
It gave Wisconsin a record 13 wins on the year (13-1) and a fourth straight win in a bowl game.
Speaking of records, it was UW quarterback Alex Hornibrook setting records and making people forget about the Badgers run game. Hornibrook tied his career high with four touchdowns and most importantly didn’t throw a single interception.
Instead, it was Miami quarterback Malik Rosier Jr. who’s turnovers mattered most. Rosier threw three interceptions on the night. He was just 11 of 26 for 203 yards and just one touchdown.
However, you wouldn’t have seen it coming after the first quarter.
Miami put up 14 unanswered points in the first quarter, looking like it was going to run away with things.
Then Andrew Van Ginkel happened and all things Miami momentum went away. On the first play of the second quarter Van Ginkel picked off an attempted wide receiver screen and UW went on to score 21 unanswered points of its own.
Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook rebounded from a bad first quarter as well, hitting on 10 of 11 passes in the second quarter alone. That included three equally impressive touchdown passes to Danny Davis and A.J. Taylor.
— Brad McDaniel (@DFF_BMack) December 31, 2017
Taylor’s may have been the most impressive, but it was the least controversial. That belonged to Danny Davis’ TD effort that started Wisconsin’s 21-unanswered point streak.
He caught a pass along the sideline while twisting around and appeared to be out of bounds before going over the pylon. However, the official ruled it a touchdown on the field and no angle was good enough to overturn it.
After that it was all Wisconsin in the second quarter. UW allowed virtually nothing the rest of the way en route to a second-straight New Year’s Six bowl game victory.
Miami appeared to snatch back momentum with some big defensive play and a timely throw from Mike Rosier Jr., catching a defense believing he was running the ball and making an easy pitch and catch for a 24-21 scoreline.
However, defense would matter in a major way from then on.
It resulted in the Badgers up 24-14 at the half and allowing just 10 more points while forcing two turnovers in the second half of action.
Lost in all the good things the pass game did was the fact that Jonathan Taylor got the single season freshman rushing record. He had 133 yards on 26 carries in the win, but it seemed like a quiet night compared to what his quarterback was doing throwing the football.
It didn’t matter much to Taylor though, as the win was what mattered most and a record-setting season for individuals and the team was capped off in a perfect way.
After starting the game just 3 of 9 passing in the first quarter, Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook went off in the second stanza and ended the half completing 13 of 20 passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns.
In fact, Wisconsin’s usually front and center run game took a backseat to an impressive passing attack in the second quarter. Hornibrook hit Davis for a pair of touchdowns and had a second highlight reel touchdown throw to A.J. Taylor as well.
That was certainly a highlight of the half, but also the game. Hornibrook finished the night 23 of 34 for 258 yards and those 4 touchdowns. It was a night that helped him shut down some critics and make you wonder if he can build on it going forward.
Oh, and we’ll give a secondary mention to Wisconsin’s touchdown celebration of ripping a chain off. #SnatchThatChain
Wisconsin with the turnover chain snatch TD celebration pic.twitter.com/T3524epE6d
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) December 31, 2017
That was all in the second quarter, and as we know Hornibrook was far from done. It was easily his best performance of his career, coming at exactly the point they needed it.
Wisconsin’s defense giving up 24 points? I guess that would be bad considering the lofty standards they have set for themselves this season. The Badgers came in allowing just 13.2 points per game and gave up 20 or more points just twice prior to this contest.
So, from the Badgers history in 2017, this wasn’t their best defensive day.
Even then, it is hard to be too mad at UW’s defensive performance, because they allowed just 10 points after having their backs against the wall in the first quarter and forced three interceptions out of Miami’s quarterback.
This was a great game, a great win and a statement made to the rest of the college football world. So, we’ll be not too mad about 24 points given up.
What it Means for 2018
If there’s one area that showed up in a slightly unexpected way for the Badgers, it was the wide receiver group. Whether it was Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor or sophomore A.J. Taylor, the trio was on fire for Wisconsin.
All three made huge catches, important ones and the easy ones too(minus that brutal third down drop by Pryor in the third quarter). It added up to the three young receivers combining for 15 receptions for 191 yards and all 4 touchdown receptions.
No position group has shown more promise over the final five weeks of the season than UW’s wide receivers have and they put it all together for their best game in the final game of the season.
Oh, and that was done all without the Badgers No. 1 wide receiver for most of the season — Quintez Cephus.
Now, if only they had a consistent quarterback to go with it…kind of like what happened on Saturday night against the Hurricanes. If they do, suddenly this is a Badgers offense that is equally as dangerous as its defense.
There’s a lot of reason to believe the Badgers of 2018 are going to be a handful for opposing defenses to try and handle and Saturday night proved that against a quality Miami secondary. This young Badgers wide receivers group certainly grew up before our eyes in this one.