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Saturday, March 02, 2024
Take Two: UW hopes for better bowl outcome

maragos: Chris Maragos and the Badgers fell to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl last year but will try to do better at the same bowl in 2009.

Take Two: UW hopes for better bowl outcome

When it comes to Wisconsin's recent bowl trips, the company keeps changing, but the place always seems the same.

The No. 25 Badgers will wrap up their 2009 season with a second-straight trip to the Champs Sports Bowl, this time drawing No. 15 Miami as an opponent. Last year Florida State cruised 42-13 over Wisconsin, which will be making its fourth trip to Orlando in five seasons.

That game helped set the tone for the Badgers' bounce-back season.

""[Last year's bowl] really left a bad taste in our mouth. We really thought that we could play with them ... but they came out, and they opened the gate pretty wide on us,"" senior safety Chris Maragos said. ""The whole offseason we wanted to prepare, we wanted to make sure that wouldn't happen again.""

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Junior quarterback Scott Tolzien added the game last year was ""quite frankly, embarrassing.""

This year's game brings a dynamic Hurricane passing game centered around sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris and a deep group of talented receivers. Harris was one of the most prolific passers in the ACC with over 3,164 yards but has also thrown the nation's most interceptions with 17.

Wisconsin will counter with a pass defense that ranked 10th in the Big Ten but kept Hawaii's aerial attack under wraps in its last game.

""We're going to face guys that are faster than we've seen all year,"" Maragos said. ""We really need to make sure that we're playing, doing the things that we need to do and containing them. That's what we did well at Hawaii and that's what we're going to need to do here at Miami.""

Entering many bowls, the perception comes out that Big Ten teams are at a disadvantage in terms of speed, especially against southern opponents. Few of the Badgers would disagree with that.

""The story line is going to be their speed, and it's going to be a nice challenge for us, just in our preparation,"" Tolzien said.

Wisconsin will try to answer that speed with the bruising power of John Clay, the Big Ten's top rusher, but the Racine native could be in for a stiff challenge. Miami boasts one of the top 30 rushing defenses in the country and held ACC champion Georgia Tech to only 95 rushing yards, 212 below its season average.

Before the bowls decided which team to invite, most experts believed the Badgers would be playing in the Outback Bowl Jan. 1. That bowl, however, selected a Northwestern team that tied with the Badgers in the conference standings but finished with a worse overall record.

The team refused to look at getting passed over as a snub, instead focusing on the quality of their opponent.

""I'm not disappointed at all. I had a lot of fun down there last year, the Champs bowl treated us great,"" sophomore wide receiver Nick Toon said. ""Obviously the game didn't turn out like we wanted it to, but [it]  kind of gives us a chance to go back down there and do better.""

The last time the Badgers faced Miami came in 1989, when the 'Canes were a dynastic power and the Badgers were simply an afterthought. Wisconsin scored the first three points at Camp Randall, and Miami piled on the final 51 to open a national championship season.

Despite the Hurricane mystique, the challenging game ahead and a return to the site of last season's embarrassment, the Badgers are just excited about the chance to close the year with a 10th win against a strong team.

""Getting to and going to a bowl game number one and playing a good opponent, you can't really ask for anything else,"" Toon said.

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