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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Football breakdown: Wisconsin overcomes all odds to take Holiday Bowl

Wisconsin breathes sighs of relief as defense shuts down late USC drive, wins Holiday Bowl 23-21
Jason Chan
Wide receiver Jazz Peavy thought he was the hero Saturday night, only to have the call overturned moments later.

Wisconsin football’s Tanner McEvoy was inexplicably ruled out of bounds on a run that would’ve resulted in a touchdown.

Quarterback Joel Stave’s nose was cut when a USC lineman’s cleat stud somehow found its way through Stave’s facemask to maim the fifth-year senior. And troubled running-back Corey Clement, who experienced a dismal 2015, injured his ankle in the first half and did not come back into the remainder of the game.

With all of the aforementioned hiccups looming over Wisconsin, the 2015 Holiday Bowl seemed destined to result in another agonizing loss for a team that’s endured their fair share of losses of the sort this season. A game in which the 9-3 Badgers couldn’t afford any letdowns while facing the No. 25 University of Southern California Trojans, an 8-5 program that entered as a 3.5-point favorite.


After 60 minutes, however, the Badgers were the victors of a 23-21 contest that many heralded as the most entertaining bowl game thus far.

Only a late-game, 29-yard field goal by UW kicker Rafael Gaglianone separated winner from loser in one of, if not, Wisconsin’s best performances all season.

The Badgers’ defense held the Trojans to only 286 total yards — an offensive unit that averages 438 yards and 33.9 points per game. Sophomore Jack Cichy’s late-game heroics provided a burst of energy each time momentum seemed to be sliding USC’s way — his three downs, three sacks drive baffled the Trojans and from then on he couldn’t be stopped.

When Wisconsin’s defense stepped up to the plate, so too did its offense. Stave led the Badgers time and again, even through personal injury and without Clement by his side, while racking up 394 total yards and delivering the pass to a Rob Wheelwright one-handed catch that won’t soon be forgotten.

Offensive Player of the Game: Joel Stave

Stave went 18/27 and threw for 217 yards and a touchdown without an interception. It wasn’t a flashy performance by any means, but it was mature and exactly what the Badgers needed.

Stave’s confusing legacy at Wisconsin will end with this game – as the winningest quarterback in school history with 31 wins, and a final win that may be remembered as one of his finest games.

The fifth-year senior delivered an incredible pass down the sideline to Wheelwright, who made a jumping one-handed catch, in what was one of the most explosive plays the duo have combined for this season. The catch set up the first points of the game and, one could suspect, gave Stave some confidence going forward.

He would continue to impress, showing athletic ability on top of his throwing skills when he shimmied around a blitzing cornerback to avoid a long sack, then ran through the pocket and down the sideline in order to keep that drive from stalling. A play that one wouldn’t have expected him to make early on in the season.

Most of all, aside from scoring or making well-placed throws, was the fact that Stave was consistent. The one-and-done nature of bowl games demands consistency and that is how he made his true impact on this game — quite simply, Stave put his team in a position to succeed.

Defensive Player of the Game: Jack Cichy

Did Cichy have fresh legs? Yes he did.

After serving his one game suspension from a targeting penalty, which carried over from the second half of the Minnesota game to the first half of the Holiday Bowl, Cichy was ready to make an impact.

The redshirt sophomore recorded an astonishing three sacks on three consecutive plays that made USC quarterback Cody Kessler ever so familiar with Qualcomm Stadium’s turf. Not only that, but his presence forced the Trojans to watch him and commit blockers on every down.

When USC was determined to take back the lead while trailing 23-21 and under two minutes left to play, Cichy blew up their play once more.

Cichy forced his blocker back five yards before throwing him to the side as Kessler stepped up in the pocket. Then, as the USC quarterback prepped to deliver a pass down the sideline, Cichy charged from behind and hit Kessler’s throwing arm, forcing a weak, bobbling pass that was picked off by UW cornerback Sojourn Shelton.

You could say he made his presence felt.

Turning Point

Rafael Gaglianone has provided Wisconsin with many memorable kicks over the past two seasons, but it seems that in bowl games especially, he is Wisconsin’s savior.

The sophomore won the Badgers’ bowl game for the second consecutive year when he put his team up by two on a 29-yard kick with 2:27 left to play.

That kick put Wisconsin ahead and left the game in the hands of its defense, a smart move considering how dominant they’d been all game, and not to mention one which paid off.

Gaglianone’s kick was the final punch that ultimately won a long, hard-fought game.

When You Knew It Was Over

The most exciting part of this game was that it was never over until the final play. USC made Badger Nation hold its breath until its final attempt with seven seconds left on the clock proved unfruitful. Not even Shelton’s late interception could shut the door, as Wisconsin’s offense went three and out and was forced to give USC one final drive with almost 40 seconds left to play.

While it was nerve-racking to watch for Badgers fans, the unscripted nature of the final two or so minutes gave this matchup the praise and right to don the accolade so many viewers gave it: the most entertaining game of this bowl season.

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