Dec 30, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) warms up before facing the Arizona State Sun Devils in the 2021 Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Braelon Allen, Wisconsin rumble past Arizona State in Las Vegas Bowl

Braelon Allen rushed for 159 yards on 29 carries and Wisconsin controlled the ball for the final 9:57 to hold on for a 20-13 victory over Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl on Thursday night.

Graham Mertz threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jake Ferguson and John Chenal rushed for an 8-yard score for the Badgers (9-4), who led 14-3 after the first quarter. Nick Herbig had two of Wisconsin’s four sacks as the Badgers won for the eighth time in their final nine games.

Jayden Daniels completed 11 of 21 passes for 159 yards and one interception and also rushed for 40 yards for the Sun Devils. Daniyel Ngata had a 3-yard scoring run and B.J. Green recorded two sacks for Arizona State (8-5).

Wisconsin outgained the Sun Devils 294-219. Arizona State had just 60 yards on the ground — Ngata had 23 on 11 carries — without 1,000-yard rusher Rachaad White, who opted out of the game to prepare for the NFL draft.

Mertz completed 11 of 15 passes for 137 yards, one touchdown and one interception for the Badgers, who have won seven of their past eight bowl games.

The Sun Devils trailed by 14 at halftime before dominating the third quarter with 90 total yards while holding the Badgers to minus-7.

Ngata’s touchdown with 8:52 left in the third drew Arizona State to within 20-13.

But there would be no late-game drive to knot the score despite the Sun Devils pinning Wisconsin back at its own 3-yard line after a punt with 9:57 remaining in the contest. The Badgers responded with a punishing 18-play, 90-yard drive in which they ran 16 times and chalked up six first downs while eating up the rest of the time on the clock.

Allen carried 12 times for 101 yards in the first half — six more than Arizona State’s total yardage — as the Badgers held a 20-6 lead.

Chenal scored on his 8-yard run for Wisconsin with 11:40 left in the first quarter. The score was set up by John Torchio’s interception of Daniels at the Sun Devils’ 36.

Cristian Zendejas got Arizona State on the board with a 38-yard field goal with 4:21 left before Mertz connected with a wide-open Ferguson to make it 14-3 with 1:37 remaining in the quarter.

Zendejas kicked a 36-yard field goal less than four minutes into the second quarter before Collin Larsh made field goals of 48 and 35 yards to account for the 14-point lead at the break.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Wisconsin Badgers tight end Jake Ferguson (84) runs the ball as Minnesota Gophers defensive back Justin Walley (0) tackles him during the fourth quarter  at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin seeks return to form vs. ASU in Las Vegas Bowl

The Wisconsin Badgers looked ready to call it a year when they ended the regular season with a thud, losing at Minnesota on Nov. 27.

A month later, they say they are motivated to make amends as they enter the Las Vegas Bowl against Arizona State on Thursday.

Wisconsin (8-4) is making its 20th consecutive bowl appearance, but a seven-game winning streak had the Badgers craving a loftier bowl destination … until the 23-13 loss in Minneapolis.

The ugly loss to the Golden Gophers came out of nowhere — the Badgers had averaged 32 points a game during their winning streak and had come a long way from the squad that had opened the season 1-3 while getting hammered by Notre Dame and Michigan.

“Obviously, the regular season didn’t end the way we would’ve liked it,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “But I go back to (the fact that) this group truly does enjoy each other. They care about each other, and we’ve got one game that we can play and one more opportunity. I think for all those reasons, it means a lot to them.”

The Badgers were stalwarts on defense, as they lead the nation in total defense (240.8 yards per game) and rank sixth in scoring defense (16.4 points per game).

Linebacker Leo Chenal is enjoying a superb season with 106 tackles, 17 for loss.

However, after Wisconsin allowed just 44 points in the first six games of the winning streak — and yielded just one touchdown or none in four of those games — the Badgers lost their defensive edge.

Wisconsin surrendered 51 total points in its final two contests, beating Nebraska 35-28 prior to the debacle at Minnesota.

Inside linebacker Jack Sanborn, who had 14.5 tackles for loss, wasn’t pleased with those results but said he sees the unit bouncing back against the Sun Devils (8-4).

“I’m expecting us to perform, work hard during bowl prep, get ready for Arizona State and make the trip a memorable one,” Sanborn said.

The Sun Devils started 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Pac-12 before splitting their next six games. The losses were to Utah, Washington State and Oregon State.

Quarterback Jayden Daniels accounted for 16 touchdowns (10 passing, six rushing) but didn’t make the big impact he needed to declare for the NFL draft. He recently announced he will be back in 2022 after passing for 2,222 yards (with nine interceptions) and rushing for 670 yards.

“We wanted him to come back, and that helps when you have a quarterback of his stature,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said. “And I think when he looks at his season this year, obviously, he wants to do some things a little bit better and we have to help him do that.

“I like his attitude. I like his mindset right now.”

The running attack took a couple of blows as Rachaad White (1,006 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns) is skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft and DeaMonte Trayanum (402 rushing yards, six scores) entered the transfer portal.

Daniyel Ngata, who averaged 6.4 yards a carry while producing 286 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, will be in the lead role against Wisconsin.

Arizona State cornerbacks Chase Lucas and Jack Jones also opted out of the contest to prepare for the draft.

“You kind of get it, understand it,” Edwards said. “It’s just the way it is, so you don’t worry about it. You just don’t. You allow the guys who have been backing them up to get an opportunity now to play in a bowl game, and they’re excited about playing.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 25, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA;  at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsOct 25, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; The Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas sign on the Las Vegas strip. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

10th bowl game canceled as Las Vegas joins list

The 2020 Las Vegas Bowl was canceled Wednesday, making it the 10th game of the bowl season to be scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s Las Vegas Bowl was to be played in the recently opened Allegiant Stadium on the Las Vegas Strip. It was to feature teams from the Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference.

“Unfortunately we will have to wait another year to present the Las Vegas Bowl in its new home,” game executive director John Saccenti said in a statement. “This was a difficult decision but the right one considering that our game was founded nearly three decades ago to help drive tourism to the Entertainment Capital of the World during the month of December.

“We are looking forward to making our bowl week bigger and better than ever in 2021.”

The Bahamas, Celebration, Fenway, Hawaii, Holiday, Pinstripe, Quick Lane, Redbox and Sun bowls also have been canceled.

The Pac-12 has lost four bowl tie-ins — the others being the Holiday, Redbox and Sun.

“The Pac-12 is disappointed for our teams and fans that the Las Vegas Bowl has been forced to cancel this year’s game,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “We look forward to next year’s game, which promises to be a fantastic national stage in one of the world’s best football stadiums, to showcase Pac-12 football.”

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement, “We have no doubt the Las Vegas Bowl will be a great part of the future SEC bowl lineup.”

The Las Vegas Bowl, first played in 1992, had a tie-in with the Mountain West from 2001-19 prior to this season.

Washington of the Pac-12 routed Boise State of the Mountain West 38-7 in the 2019 edition.

–Field Level Media