TAMPA, Fla. — A slow start and a huge passing day for Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge were too much for Wisconsin to overcome Jan. 1 in the Outback Bowl, as UW lost 21-17.After falling behind 21-7 in the second quarter, the Badgers (9-4, 5-3 Big Ten) battled back, but never were able to overtake the Volunteers (10-4, 6-2).Momentum had seemingly swung Wisconsin’s way late in the fourth quarter. Trailing by four, Wisconsin had just blocked a short Tennessee field goal attempt and driven deep into enemy territory thanks largely to a 50-yard run by newly healthy running back P.J. Hill.With a first and 10 from the Tennessee 18, Wisconsin looked poised to take a lead for the first time in the game. After three plays netted a total of eight yards, however, the Badgers were forced into a fourth-and-two situation.With six minutes remaining in the game and down to only one timeout after using their second out of a media timeout before their first play of the drive, UW head coach Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst elected to forego a field goal that would have made it a one-point game and go for the first down.”On third down we had made the decision … I said if it’s fourth-and-two or less we’re going for it,” Bielema said. “We had to call accordingly. And obviously it’s fourth-and-two and we didn’t take advantage, we weren’t able to execute. Tennessee did a good job, they were laying back on the quarterback as well.”Wisconsin quarterback Tyler Donovan took the snap and with the play calling for a UW’s receivers to flood the right side of the defense, rolled right initially. Finding nothing open, he changed course and scrambled left. With a defender closing hard on him and nowhere left to run, Donovan threw the ball away out of the back of the endzone.”We tried to throw them off, obviously those are kind of run downs, so we thought they would be expecting the run … they did a good job of out-flanking it and shutting it down,” Donovan said.Weighing on Bielema’s mind was that, had a field goal been kicked, it would take a defensive stop and another field goal to take the lead.”There’s a lot of things that went into it,” Bielema said of the call. “We had one timeout, and also we’re in an unfamiliar stadium out there and … we had been warned about the swirling winds. I felt pretty confident about that field goal, but I was more considerate about if we were in a long field again.”The failed conversion gave the ball back to Tennessee with five minutes, 52 seconds left in the game and the opportunity to run the clock down. Twice early in the drive Wisconsin appeared to have Tennessee on the ropes, forcing the Volunteers into third down situations. Both times, however, Ainge, who threw for 365 yards and two touchdowns on the day to earn game MVP honors, was able to find a receiver open in the Wisconsin secondary and complete a pass for a first down.For the game, Tennessee converted on nine of 18 third down attempts.”It’s tough to win ballgames when you don’t get off the field on third down,” linebacker DeAndre Levy said. “We had a lot of chances, but even in spite of that, we still had a chance at the end.”Finally stopping the Volunteers on their third third down of the drive, the Badgers turned the ball back over to their offense for a final desperation drive.Starting 88 yards away from the endzone with 86 seconds remaining in the game, Donovan turned to his tight ends to pick up first downs and move the ball down the field. Garrett Graham caught consecutive passes to pick up 21 and then 10 yards and Travis Beckum — kept in check most of the day by the Tennessee defense to the tune of two catches for 22 yards — grabbed a 13-yard completion.After a Tennessee offside penalty moved the ball forward five yards, Wisconsin had the ball at the 36-yard line with just over half a minute remaining. Straying from the intermediate passing game, Donovan went for it all, lofting a pass down the left sideline for a streaking Paul Hubbard.As Hubbard dove for the ball, Volunteers’ safety Antonio Wardlow cut in front of him and made a leaping interception.”I was expanding the route, it called for me to expand out, outward toward the sideline, and that’s what I was doing,” Hubbard said. “But I think [Donovan] put it on a line drive a little more on the inside.After the interception, all Ainge had to do was drop to a knee and the clock ran out on the Wisconsin season.
The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s 2019-20 season was a rollercoaster in the truest sense of the word.While the Badgers season ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team rebounded after a rough start and finished the regular season with a 21-10 record, going 14-6 in the Big Ten to capture a three-way share of their first regular-season title in five years.Whether it was junior guard Kobe King’s decision to leave the team or the resignation of UW’s strength and conditioning coach due to accusations of him using a racial slur, the beginning of the season had many sports analysts and fans alike writing off the Badgers, citing coaching and player development issues as reasons for the team’s struggles.Men’s Basketball: Could Badgers really have captured 2020 national title?In a strange, unofficial end to the 2020 Wisconsin men’s basketball season, ESPN’s Basketball Power Index christened the Badgers as Read…This criticism, while harsh, was increasingly valid as the Badgers closed out the first month of their season with a 4-4 record, showing great inconsistencies in their play marked by losses against less-talented programs such as Richmond, New Mexico State and North Carolina State.The squad finished the remainder of 2019 with a 4-1 record, and started 2020 off with a bang, defeating No. 5 Ohio State in Columbus 61–57. This momentum carried the team throughout the remainder of the season, leading them to a 12-5 record with marquee wins against nationally-ranked Maryland, Michigan State and Michigan. The Badgers won their final eight games, helping them secure the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament, which was set to begin on March 11.While there is no doubt the disappointment of the season ending early is immeasurable, the 2019-20 season was one to be proud of. The team battled through many seemingly impervious obstacles, and the resiliency and determination they maintained as a group is nothing to bat an eye at.One key reason for Wisconsin’s late-season bounceback was the stellar play of junior transfer Micah Potter, who averaged 10.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game during his first season as an eligible member of the team. Starting off the season on the bench, the spark he provided whenever he was inserted into the Badgers’ lineup was undeniable, leading to him becoming a key member of the squad down the stretch.Another essential player during Wisconsin’s eight-game win streak to close out the season was junior guard D’Mitrik Trice, whose 28 points and four assists against Michigan helped secure the victory and propel the team to the top of the Big Ten standings.Men’s Basketball: Badgers declared NCAA National Champions in ESPN simulationThe Badgers have done it, they have pulled off one of the greatest turnarounds in college basketball history. The Big Read…While these few players were pivotal in terms of the team’s success, the Badgers’ remarkable turnaround was truly due to the ability of the squad to come together as one unit and win tightly contested games together, not as individuals. This aspect of the team is what Head Coach Greg Gard chose to hone in on during an interview with the Big Ten Network March 9.“The chemistry, camaraderie, and unification of the team has grown immensely,” Gard said. “They’ve played so unselfishly, they’ve just concerned themselves with what’s on the front of the jersey, they don’t care who gets the credit, they don’t care who gets the points as long as Wisconsin is successful.”After calls for Gard to be fired emerged among analysts and Badger fans alike in late January, Gard led the team to success despite the loss of King, culminating in a Big Ten Coach of the Year Award selection.Men’s Basketball: Senior send-off for Brevin PritzlWith the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s season coming to an abrupt end due to the coronavirus, Badger fans Read…When asked how the team moved forward after the unfortunate departure of King, Gard once again stressed the importance of the Badgers’ unification.“I think they came together, they understood that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” Gard said. “Once they figured that out and truly believed in that, they just took off.”Gard went on to acknowledge that while no Badgers were selected to the All-Big Ten first or second teams, they were able to find their success as a committee.In the last eight games of the regular season, no single player scored the most points more than twice, as junior Nate Reuvers put up 11 points against Northwestern and 17 points against Indiana, and junior Brad Davison dropped 30 points against Nebraska and 20 points against Minnesota.“They’ve just understood that if we bond together, we stick together, we stay true to who we are, and we continue to work, great things can happen,” Gard said. “This is the ultimate definition of what a team can accomplish when they work together.”The Badgers were primed to make a deep postseason run, and while the squad no longer has a chance to capture the Big Ten championship and make a run towards the Final Four, the accomplishments and strides they took throughout the regular season offers great hope for the future of Wisconsin’s basketball program.