The Big Ten has already matched last year's bowl victories total, and there are six more games to go. The final score doesn't show it, but Wisconsin dominated No. 15 Miami in this game. The Badgers looked like a totally different team than the one that stumbled over itself last year against Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
How the game was won: Miami dominated the first 23 seconds. Wisconsin dominated the next 57 minutes, as a balanced offense and an aggressive defense cemented the victory. Defensive coordinator Dave Doeren deserves a ton of credit for an excellent game plan, as his group made Jacory Harris look horrible until the closing minutes. Defensive end J.J. Watt was constantly in Harris' face, and linebacker Chris Borland came on strong. Badgers running back John Clay did his thing, but quarterback Scott Tolzien and tight end Lance Kendricks proved to be bigger factors. Wisconsin also won the field-position battle.
Player of the game: Badgers tight end Lance Kendricks. He plays second fiddle to Garrett Graham and entered the bowl with only 22 receptions for 228 yards on the season. But Kendricks proved to be Wisconsin's top playmaker, recording career highs in both receptions (7) and receiving yards (128). He also threw a key block on Clay's second touchdown run.
Turning point: Wisconsin opened the door for Miami early in the fourth quarter when Graham fumbled into the end zone for a Hurricanes touchback. But Wisconsin forced a three-and-out and then a Harris fumble on the next possession. By the time Miami's offense found a rhythm, it was far too late.
Stat of the game: 39:22. That's how long Wisconsin held the football, as the power run game and an excellent defensive performance kept Miami's offense off the field.
Unsung hero of the game: Tolzien. Watt. Punter Brad Nortman. Wisconsin received so many solid performances tonight. Tolzien didn't have a touchdown pass but looked extremely efficient all night, threading the needle several times to Kendricks and others. Watt batted down two passes and recorded a late sack and Nortman consistently pinned Miami deep in its own end.
What it means: Wisconsin recorded another 10-win season and likely will finish in the nation's top 20. The Badgers lacked a signature win before tonight but dominated a team most picked to beat them. This program found itself at a crossroads a year ago, but head coach Bret Bielema and his staff have turned things around. Wisconsin returns a chunk of its core players and will enter 2010 as a top 20 team (possibly top 15) and a contender for the Big Ten title.