Those boat-rowers at Western Michigan had themselves a great season, undefeated as the MAC champions.
But they didn't see a team anything like Wisconsin.
The Badgers proved their superiority Monday afternoon in the Cotton Bowl, executing their game plan to perfection in a 24-16 win over the Broncos.
The Badgers were practically perfect in this one, especially on the offensive side of the ball. They scored on four of their seven possessions (that's not counting an eighth that ended in victory formation at the end of the game) and got a fantastic performance from the duo of quarterback Bart Houston and tight end Troy Fumagalli. Houston completed 11 of his 12 passing attempts for 159 yards. Fumagalli came up with some terrific plays, including a diving one-handed grab, a sensational catch in the end zone for a touchdown and a wide-open haul on the final possession to convert on third down. Coincidentally, Houston's lone incompletion was a ball Fumagalli dropped in the end zone. The tight end finished with six catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Of course, that Wisconsin running game was in tip-top form, too. Corey Clement rushed for 42 yards on the game's opening drive, which he capped with a touchdown run through a hole so big you could've rowed a boat right through it. The Badgers' blocking was sensational all game long. On the second drive, Clement and Dare Ogunbowale made multiple plays for 20-plus-yard pickups, including Ogunbowale's 20-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0.
Western Michigan managed to punch back, getting a touchdown in the second quarter on a short run by quarterback Zach Terrell, but Wisconsin added a field goal right before the half to take a 17-7 lead to the break.
The Broncos narrowed the gap to a field goal with a third-quarter kick, but T.J. Edwards intercepted Terrell the next time Western Michigan got the ball — just Terrell's fourth interception of the season — setting up Wisconsin's offense at the 12-yard line. Three plays later, Alex Hornibrook hit Fumagalli for the touchdown.
Western Michigan wasn't done and got a crazy touchdown in the fourth quarter, Corey Davis — one of the top receivers in the nation — hauled in a pass Terrell lofted off his back foot, coming down with it in the end zone for a touchdown to make it 24-16. But the Broncos failed on their onside-kick try, and the Badgers held on for the win.
The Wisconsin defense held Western Michigan to just 280 total yards. Meanwhile, the Badgers racked up 362 yards of offense.
For Paul Chryst, it made for two bowl wins in two seasons as the Wisconsin head coach. The Badgers earned their 11th victory of the season and got the program's first win in a major bowl game since the 2000 Rose Bowl.