December 27, 2008

UW trounced by explosive Seminole squad

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two seasons ago, Wisconsin capped a 12-1 campaign with a victory in the Citrus Bowl stadium. The place might have been the same Saturday night but the situation was far from it when the Badgers returned to Orlando for the Champs Sports Bowl.

In a turnover plagued contest against Florida State,
UW coughed up a chance to end its season on a high note by losing its final game of the 2008 season 42-13. The defeat resulted in Wisconsin's worst record since 2003 and delivered head coach Bret Bielema's second bowl loss in a row.

"To take today and put it into perspective, for the entire year, there are certain things that we need to over come and we weren't able to do so," Bielema, who saw his bowl record drop to 1-2, said. "I thought certain guys battled the entire game and unfortunately for us, we weren't able to send out a group of seniors on a positive note."

Wisconsin was consistently pinned near its own goal line early in the game as Florida State punter and game MVP Graham Gano placed his first three punts inside the four-yard line. 

With a stout defense early and incapable Badger offense, the contest was scoreless until an offensive mishap put the Badgers in a hole.
UW quarterback Dustin Sherer attempted a backward pass to P.J. Hill who was split out wide behind a trio of blockers.

Florida State defensive end Neefy Moffett tipped the pass and senior linebacker Derek Nicholson scooped up the fumble and raced 75 yards to the end zone, earning an excessive celebration penalty as he began high stepping on the 10-yard line.

"I just did the wrong thing on that play." Sherer said. "I thought they lined up a certain way … they kind of shifted the line over there, so they had a guy unblocked coming off the edge and I threw the ball right into him."

The Badgers got on the board several drives later when a 46-yard Hill run brought Wisconsin inside the Seminole 20 yard line. The drive, however, stalled and freshman kicker Phillip Welch connected on a 31-yard field goal cutting FSU's lead to 7-3. 

After trading punts, FSU quarterback Christian Ponder threw passes of two, 26 and 15 yards to senior receiver Greg Carr for a touchdown, just seven seconds before halftime. The drive took just 33 seconds off the clock and left Wisconsin with a two-score deficit heading into the break. 

A 43-yard P.J. Hill run helped set up a 41-yard field goal on the first drive of the second half, but that was as close as the Badgers would get to a suddenly explosive Seminole team.

Though the deficit was cut to only one score, the game rapidly deteriorated as the Seminoles spent the next eight minutes methodically driving down the field and ultimately scoring on an Antone Smith run. 

The Badgers fumbled the ball away on their next two possessions and the lead ballooned to 42-6, removing any doubt regarding the outcome.

"My hat goes off to Florida State. I thought they did a tremendous job today," Bielema said after the game. "We just weren't able to get those guys down when they made certain plays. Their speed is what it is but bottom line you've got to be able to make plays."

Hill was the driving force of the Wisconsin offense gaining 143 yards on only 15 carries. But the Badgers were undone by three lost fumbles and only two third-down conversions in 10 attempts. With the loss,
UW's win total has decreased each season since Bielema's first, going from 12 to nine to seven. 

"At a 7-6 football team we need to move forward," Bielema said. "The bottom line is that we expect things to be higher at Wisconsin."

Florida State's Ponder threw for 199 yards and two scores while converting several important first downs with his legs. The Seminoles geared up to stop Wisconsin's running game and Sherer admittedly could not make enough plays to break through.

"I was disappointed with everything. I knew going into it that they were going to put nine guys in the box and stop our run and that's what people have tried to do to us all year," Sherer, who finished 9-of-16 for 132 yards and a touchdown, said. "I just have to move on from it and try to learn from it and carry it with me throughout the summer and move forward with everything."

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