MADISON - It probably wasn’t the picture perfect Senior Day as Wisconsin defeated No. 13 Michigan 37-21 Saturday, but the Badgers sent what is now the winningest senior class off with a win, nonetheless.
In the first half, many fans were probably wondering where this Wisconsin team was all season long. The Badgers jumped out early and headed into halftime with a 20-7 lead.
Without the services of P.J. Hill (leg), Wisconsin relied on Lance Smith and Zach Brown for the running game. But when Smith left the game after halftime with a shoulder injury, Hill jumped right back into the lineup.
Maybe still a bit rusty, Hill was unable to get much going — rushing for only 14 yards on five carries. It turns out Wisconsin didn’t really need him, as Brown ran for a career-high 110 yards and two touchdowns and the Badgers turned to the passing game to move the ball.
While Tyler Donovan threw for 245 yards, he really only looked to two different receivers—Paul Hubbard and Travis Beckum, who had 134 and 106 yards for the game, respectively.
Donovan was able to scramble, too — rushing for 49 yards and a touchdown. But he took some hits, too.
“Tyler is an unbelievable competitor,” Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said. “Just the way he’s able to focus on what he’s done and I get a kick out of the pass where he came running to the line of scrimmage and pulled himself back.”
But Wisconsin received a bit of a scare when Donovan went down in the fourth quarter. Donovan lay on the ground for a while after hitting his hand on a Michigan defender’s helmet following an incomplete pass.
Junior quarterback Allan Evridge came in afterwards, but after the game Donovan said he will be fine — he’s just sporting a bruised wrist, one he says is 'maize blue.'
“I got Michigan helmet paint right there,” he said.
But the scare the Badgers had with Donovan going down wasn’t as big as the one they had in the fourth quarter with the Wolverines threatening.
After Michigan’s Ryan Mallett — playing in place of Chad Henne — connected with Adrian Arrington on a 26-yard touchdown pass about halfway through the fourth quarter, the Wolverines were only down by two points at 23-21.
After the score, Wisconsin was unable to move the ball and Donovan went down—giving Michigan what would likely be its last chance to score.
But Wisconsin’s Jack Ikegwuonu had different plans—picking off a Mallett pass intended for star wide receiver Mario Manningham, giving the Badgers the opportunity to close out the game.
And freshman running back Brown did just that, rushing for two touchdowns late in the game to seal the victory.
While the win doesn’t insure Wisconsin a major bowl bid of any sort — the Badgers will likely head to the Outback Bowl or the Alamo Bowl following Illinois upset win over No. 1 Ohio State — it was still quite a statement win for a Badgers team that began the season ranked No. 5 and have since fallen to unranked.
“I think it’s a great win for us,” Beckum said. “It’s a big win and it really means something for us.”