Troy Fumagalli

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No. 8 Wisconsin brings No. 15 Western Michigan dream season to close with a loss

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It was a magical season for No. 15 Western Michigan (13-1), but the mission of ending the season without a loss was blocked by No. 8 Wisconsin (11-3) in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas on Monday afternoon. The Badgers took control of the game early on and kept Western Michigan at a comfortable distance the rest of the way in a 24-16 victory.

Wisconsin established order with its running game in the first half, with Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale each ending the first two possessions of the day with a touchdown run, but the Broncos battled back and hung around heading into the fourth quarter. Corey Davis caught a desperation pass in the end zone on a fourth down heave from Zach Terrell, giving the Broncos some life late in the game, but a missed extra point attempt meant the MAC champions would need to either recover an onside kick or come up with one last defensive stand against the Badgers. The onside kick bounced out of play, giving the ball to Wisconsin, and Troy Fumagalli caught a big first down to finish off a stellar day in the passing game (Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook were a combined 13-of-14 for 178 yards). Fumagalli also had one touchdown grab and a brilliant one-handed catch in the first half.

Regardless of how it ended, it was a pure joy to watch Western Michigan grow as the season went along. One of the hottest teams in the MAC at the end of the 2015 season had the look and confidence of a MAC champion from the opening kickoff to the 2016 season, which started with a pair of victories against Wisconsin’s division foes in Northwestern and Illinois. Western Michigan ended the regular season as one of two undefeated teams in the country, joining Alabama. Western Michigan may have come up short on the scoreboard, but the Broncos belonged on the same field as Wisconsin.

In 2017, the Wisconsin Badgers will likely be among the top contenders for the big Ten Wets Division.The Badgers will get a slight relief on the Big Ten schedule in 2017 by not having to play Ohio State on the cross-divisional rotation. The Badgers will add Indiana instead in addition to a home game with Michigan. Wisconsin also plays at Nebraska and will get a nice out-of-conference test on the road against BYU. The 2017 season kicks off in Madison against Utah State on Friday, September 1.

Western Michigan will be fortunate to have P.J. Fleck back on the sideline in 2017, but expect his name to be floating around a number of coaching rumors in the year to come. The 2017 season will start with two road games against USC on Saturday, September 2 and against Michigan State the following week.

Huskers score late touchdown to take halftime lead on Wisconsin

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The circumstances surrounding this afternoon’s clash between Wisconsin and Nebraska in Lincoln may have taken a step back from some preseason expectations, but the importance of a win today is not really all that much different. A win and Wisconsin or Nebraska will stay in a decent spot in the Big Ten West division moving forward. After one half of play, Nebraska leads Wisconsin, 14-7.

Wisconsin’s touchdown drive was made possible thanks to a fourth down conversion from the Nebraska 29-yard line. Joel Stave completed a short pass to Troy Fumagalli to keep the drive going. A big third-down pass for 16 yards on 3rd and 15 a few plays later helped set the Badgers up for a Stave-to-Fumagalli touchdown to cap the 13-play drive.

Nebraska later followed up with a nice drive of its own a few minutes before the half. Tommy Armstrong may not be having a great day throwing the football, but he was effective in leading the Huskers down the field for a score. Armstrong completed five of seven attempts on the scoring drive, then let his feet cap it off by improvising and finding enough room to sneak into the corner of the end zone after his targets through the air were shut down.

Nebraska’s defense then came up with a three-and-out to force Wisconsin to punt, and the offense went right back to work before the end of the half. Armstrong hooked up with Alonzo Moore for a 41-yard touchdown play to give Nebraska its first lead of the game with 21 seconds until halftime.

Neither team may be ranked but the two preseason favorites in the Big Ten West can still figure into the division race with a win. A loss by either would dig a big hole on a day that saw Iowa remain undefeated in the Big Ten West.