The Wisconsin Badgers (9-4, 6-3 Big Ten) defeated the Arizona State Sun Devils (8-5, 6-3 Pac-12) 20-13 in the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl on Thursday night.
A strong offensive performance from the Badgers in the first half along with a stout defensive showing was enough to get the win and extend Paul Chryst’s bowl game record to 6-1.
UW got off to an impressive start on offense, holding a 14-3 lead after the first quarter thanks to touchdowns by John Chenal and Jake Ferguson. The defense had a little trouble early with the scrambling of ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels but held the Sun Devils to just a pair of field goals in the first half.
With Braelon Allen already over the 100-yard mark before the break, the Badgers were in cruise control with a 20-6 lead.
The third quarter was a different story for UW. Both Kendric Pryor and Ferguson left the game due to injury, limiting the offense’s passing attack that was already without Danny Davis. The offense completely stalled, resulting in a meager -7 yards in the third. After a touchdown run by Daniyel Ngata, the Sun Devils cut the Badgers lead to just seven points.
The Wisconsin defense came up big after the ASU touchdown, forcing two consecutive punts on drives that could have tied the game. Following a defensive stop, the Badgers offense took over from inside their own five yard line with 9:57 left in the contest.
With Graham Mertz at the helm, UW ran a 17 play drive that gained 87 yards and kept the ball away from the Sun Devils for the rest of the game.
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While the offense looked out of sorts in the second half until that drive, they managed to make big plays when it mattered most. The Badgers played their style of football and looked comfortable, running the ball and letting the clock run.
Mertz was clutch, as he hung in the pocket and completed a strike to Chimere Dike on a vital 3rd down. Along with Allen, the pair effectively closed out the game for the Badgers as they ended the game in the victory formation.
It wasn’t the prettiest performance for the Badgers, but it is another postseason win for Paul Chryst. Freshman phenom Allen earned MVP honors, rushing for 159 yards on 29 carries.