Wisconsin Football concluded a disappointing 2018 season on a high note, defeating Miami for the second straight season and winning the Pinstripe Bowl.
It wasn’t the ending that most Badgers fans had anticipated for their team before the season, but given the circumstances, I think they will take it.
While the fact remains that Wisconsin failed to come close to realizing dreams of a Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff berth that seemed within reach a few months ago, you could not ask for a much better way to close the book on the season and generate momentum heading into 2019.
Thanks to a dominant effort by Jonathan Taylor, his offensive line, and the Wisconsin defense, the Badgers crushed Miami 35-3 and will bring a Pinstripe Bowl trophy back to Madison, ending 2018 with an 8-5 record.
This is the fifth straight bowl victory for Wisconsin, which is tied for the longest active streak in the nation.
As usual, Taylor carried the Badgers on his back offensively. The Doak Walker Award winner rushed for 205 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, and to the surprise of no one, he was named the game’s MVP.
Seniors Alec Ingold and Taiwan Deal also got in on the fun, closing out their Wisconsin careers with a bang. Ingold powered in a crucial third quarter touchdown from the goal line that put the Badgers up 21-3, while Deal rushed for 52 yards on 10 carries.
As the icing on the cake, instead of taking a knee with Wisconsin at Miami’s 1-yard line and just eight seconds to go in the game, Paul Chryst opted to hand the ball off to Deal, and he punched in the touchdown on the final carry of his college career. Given what he has gone through during his injury-riddled career and how hard he worked to get back to playing at a high level this season, I’d say he was more than deserving of that touching moment.
The offensive line also deserves plenty of credit. Behind them, the Badgers rushed for 333 total yards against one of college football’s best defenses.
In addition, I thought Jack Coan delivered a performance that he can build upon heading into 2019. He did throw an interception, but for the most part he looked cool and confident and did what he was asked to do, going 6-11 for 73 yards and a touchdown. He also showed off his athleticism, moving well in the pocket and contributing a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put Wisconsin up by 25.
That being said, aside from Taylor, it was the dominant effort by the Wisconsin defense that was the story in this one.
Miami just could not get anything going against the Badgers all game long, mustering only 169 total yards, including a paltry 48 through the air. The Hurricanes’ dynamic running back duo of Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas was completely stifled, combining for just 24 yards. Miami ended the game with 121 total rushing yards, but 62 of those came on one play from Malik Rosier.
The Badgers also forced five turnovers, including a fumble and four interceptions. Rosier threw three of those, and N’Kosi Perry added another when he entered the game in the second half.
Senior linebackers T.J. Edwards and Andrew Van Ginkel paced the defense in their last games as Badgers. Edwards led the team with 9 tackles, a tackle for loss, and an interception, while Van Ginkel tallied 8 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble (recovered by Edwards) and 2 tackles for loss.
Chris Orr was also fantastic with his 8 tackles and interception. With the losses of Ryan Connelly, Edwards, D’Cota Dixon, and Van Ginkel, he very well could emerge as Wisconsin’s best defensive player next season.
Wisconsin manhandled Miami in time of possession, with the Badgers mustering 39:47 of offense to the Hurricanes’ 20:13.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com