Miami falls to Wisconsin in Champs Sports Bowl
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ,
Associated Press Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) All that Miami speed was no match for the big, bad Badgers.
John Clay had 121 yards rushing and two touchdowns, powering No. 24 Wisconsin past 14th-ranked Miami 20-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl on Tuesday night.
Clay ran through, over and around the Hurricanes to help the Badgers (10-3) earn their first victory over a ranked opponent this season and claim a big win for the Big Ten.
“That’s Wisconsin football, just wearing a defense down,” said Clay, who was selected bowl MVP. “The third quarter, fourth quarter, I could just see them sucking wind and holding their waists.”
Scott Tolzien threw for 260 yards, and Montee Ball added 61 yards rushing for a Wisconsin team touted as too big and too slow for the dynamic Hurricanes. None of that seemed to matter when the Badgers were powering the ball down the field.
“The way we were running the ball, I had it pretty easy,” Tolzien said. “I just had to find a way to get a few passes to our receivers.”
Miami’s Jacory Harris struggled before throwing a touchdown pass to Thearon Collier with 1:22 remaining. The Hurricanes recovered the onside kick, but Harris threw incomplete on fourth down to end any hope of a comeback.
Harris, who threw for 188 yards, was slowed by an injured right thumb, a brace around his left leg and a Badgers team that smothered him with five sacks. Wisconsin’s running game helped it hold the ball for nearly 40 minutes, leaving little time for Miami to work.
“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. “They had a lot of defensive pressure, but at the same time, I got to get the ball out quicker.”
Miami also lost Graig Cooper to a right knee injury in the second quarter, a big reason why the Hurricanes (9-4) will have to wait at least another year to end their drought of 10-win seasons.
The Badgers made sure of that. Even if they didn’t show it at the start.
Sam Shields took a reverse from Cooper on the opening kickoff, zipped up the middle, then cut down the left sideline for a touchdown. But an illegal block in the back on the play returned the ball to the Wisconsin 16-yard line.
Shields was credited with an 84-yard return, a Hurricanes bowl record. Cooper had a 16-yard touchdown run on the next play that gave Miami the lead 23 seconds into the game.
That was about the only thing that went wrong for the Badgers.
Their big and bulky lines bullied the fleet Hurricanes, whose all white jerseys – almost all complete with long sleeves on the brisk 50-degree night – parted to a sea of Wisconsin red on both sides of the ball.
Clay had all sorts of seams to run through, and he bulldozed his way to the rest of his yards.
The Big Ten offensive player of the year ripped through a hole for a 52-yard run, and followed that with his second 3-yard TD run of the game to put Wisconsin ahead 14-7 in the second quarter.
Phillip Welch added a 37-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the half and a 29-yarder with 4:01 remaining in the game that made it 20-7.
“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 coach Bret Bielema said.
But they blew a chance to send Miami home early.
Garrett Graham caught a 20-yard pass at the Hurricanes 5, fumbled after a hard hit by Brandon Harris and the ball was recovered by Miami’s Randy Phillips in the end zone.
The Hurricanes never could take advantage.
Harris later fumbled after being sacked by O’Brien Schofield with 7:49 remaining. The ball was recovered by J.J. Watt.
The Hurricanes tried to rally late, but Harris’ errant pass to Collier on fourth down ended Miami’s hopes of its first 10-win season since 2003.
“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 coach Randy Shannon said. “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.”
Only adding to Miami’s offseason problems was Cooper’s nasty fall.
He took a kickoff 27 yards before he lost his footing and tumbled to the ground on the patchy Florida Citrus Bowl field. He clutched his right knee and was examined by trainers for about 5 minutes.
Cooper was barely able to stand as he was helped off the field by teammates Javarris James and Damien Berry. Shannon said he will be evaluated when the team returns to Miami.
“Things just didn’t happen our way,” Shannon said. “I can’t explain why.”
Updated December 30, 2009