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No. 10 Miami Falls to No. 6 Wisconsin in Orange Bowl

No. 10 Miami Falls to No. 6 Wisconsin in Orange Bowl

By David Villavicencio

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – In a battle of two teams with outstanding defenses, few could have predicted a game that would feature 58 combined points scored.
But an unexpected back-and-forth shootout is exactly what happened at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, as the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers outscored the No. 10 Miami Hurricanes, 34-24, to win the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl.
“Obviously very disappointing loss,” Miami head coach Mark Richt said. “You know, I take as much responsibility as anybody. Actually more because I’m in charge of everything. I didn’t coach good enough, and we will get better, I can promise you now.”
Miami (10-3, 7-1 ACC) entered the game looking to run the ball effectively and limit the Wisconsin (13-1, 12-0 Big Ten) ground game and they accomplished both. The Hurricanes totaled 377 yards of offense, including 174 rushing yards. The Badgers had allowed 150 rushing yards or fewer in 12 of 14 games this season. The Canes also held Wisconsin to just 142 rushing yards after the Badgers averaged 229 rushing yards per game this season.
But Miami could not find a consistent solution for Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook. The sophomore was nearly unstoppable, completing 23 of 34 pass attempts for 258 yards and four touchdowns en route to being named Orange Bowl MVP.
“He was throwing darts,” Richt said of Hornibrook. “He threw it right on the money, a lot of tight coverage, threw a lot of back shoulder balls. His line had to give him time obviously to do that. But we played a lot of man coverage, and they exploited it. Every time we seemed to get in press an, and they ran some type of fade or inside lane receiver running the fade, he’d put it on him. And it wasn’t just those. Those are most of the touchdowns he threw. But he obviously was on the mark. He was on the money. Good route running, good concepts, good protection, good throws, and good catches.”
Hornibrook spread the ball around to seven different receivers, but his favorite targets were receivers AJ Taylor and Danny Davis. Taylor led all Badgers with 105 yards and a score, while three of Davis’ five catches on the night resulted in Wisconsin touchdowns.
While the Badgers proved victorious, Saturday night’s sold out crowd at Hard Rock Stadium saw two teams compete for 60 minutes for the right to come away as Orange Bowl champions.
The first half at the Orange Bowl was filled with excitement, as the teams combined for 38 points, 395 total yards and an appearance by Miami’s turnover chain in the opening 30 minutes of play.
The Hurricanes, who entered the game tied for second in FBS in turnovers gained, forced a turnover on Wisconsin’s first drive of the game when Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor could not protect the football on his first carry of the night. A host of Hurricanes attacked the football as they tackled the freshman back, jarring the ball to loose and Miami senior Dee Delaney recovered the fumble to give Miami possession on its own 30. The turnover gained was Miami’s 30th of the 2017 season, while it was Taylor’s NCAA-leading sixth fumble lost this season.
The Badgers held tough against Miami and Hurricanes kicker Michael Badgley could not convert a 53-yard field goal attempt. The defensive stop following the sudden change seemed to uplift Taylor and Wisconsin, as the freshman carried the ball four times for 38 yards to lead the Badgers to their first points of the game. Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone closed out the eight-play, 47-yard scoring drive with a 35-yard field goal that gave the Badgers a 3-0 lead with 7:58 remaining in the opening quarter.
But Miami’s offense exploded for 14 points over its next two possessions to put the Hurricanes ahead, 14-3, with 2:49 left in the first quarter. The Canes’ first touchdown came by way of a five-yard run by sophomore Travis Homer, while freshman DeeJay Dallas lined up at wildcat quarterback on the next possession and rushed for six yards on the first play of the drive before taking the next snap and sprinting 39 yards for a score that gave the Canes a double-digit lead. Dallas finished the game with a career-best 69 rushing yards.
But the Badgers had an explosive second quarter that was sparked by an interception on the first play of the second quarter. Miami quarterback Malik Rosier’s pass intended for wide receiver Braxton Berrios was intercepted by UW linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel to give the Badgers the ball on the Miami 23. Three plays later, Hornibrook threw the ball towards the near pylon on Wisconsin sideline and Davis made an acrobatic catch for a 20-yard touchdown that brought the Badgers within four, 14-10, with 13:37 to go before the half.
The Badgers regained the lead on their next possession, methodically driving 71 yards over 12 plays to find the end zone when Hornibrook hit A.J. Taylor for a 16-yard touchdown that put the Badgers up, 17-14. Hornibrook and Davis connected for a five-yard touchdown on the next possession, this time with 28 seconds to go before halftime, to send Wisconsin into the locker room with a 24-14 lead.
Miami cut Wisconsin’s lead to three when Rosier hit Lawrence Cager for a 38-yard touchdown on the Hurricanes’ first possession of the second half. The touchdown was Rosier’s 31st overall in 2017, breaking Vinny Testaverde’s school record mark of 30 total touchdowns set in 1986. The two-play, 46-yard scoring drive used just 26 seconds and led to an eruption from the Hard Rock Stadium crowd with the score at 24-21.
The Hurricanes appeared poised to score again on their next drive, as Rosier completed his first two passes of the possession to Braxton Berrios for 37 yards. But the redshirt junior’s throw deep over the middle intended for Cager was picked off by Derrick Tindal to give Wisconsin the ball and stop Miami’s momentum.
The Badgers turned the interception into points, as Gaglianone connected on a 47-yard field goal attempt to give Wisconsin a six-point lead, 27-21, with 3:39 left in the third quarter. But the Hurricanes answered when Badgley hit a 41-yard field goal to bring Miami within three, 27-24, with 11:34 left in the game. The senior’s successful field goal attempt made him Miami’s all-time leader in points with 402.
Hornibrook and Wisconsin continued to attack and the sophomore quarterback connected with Davis for the pair’s third touchdown of the night to give the Badgers a 34-24 lead with 7:44 remaining in the game.
Miami appeared ready to match the touchdown after Rosier connected deep downfield with freshman Jeff Thomas for a 48-yard gain, but the Badgers defense limited the Canes to just four yards over the next three plays to force the Hurricanes to attempt a 24-yard field goal. Badgley’s kick hit the right upright and bounced away, deflating Miami’s sideline and preserving the Wisconsin 10-point lead.
Miami’s defense totaled six tackles for loss and one sack. Senior defensive lineman Chad Thomas led the way with 2.0 tackles for loss, including a sack. Defensive back Jaquan Johnson led all Hurricanes with 11 tackles (five solo), while linebacker Darrion Owens ranked second on the team with nine tackles (six solo).
Miami competed in the 10th Orange Bowl in program history; the Hurricanes have an all-time record of 6-4 in the game. It was Miami’s first Orange Bowl appearance since Jan. 1, 2004.