College football roundup: Wisconsin drops the ball after bowl win
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Wisconsin Badgers captured the Duke’s Mayo Bowl and the trophy that came along with it.
And then they broke it.
While dancing around to celebrate his team’s 42-28 victory over Wake Forest on Wednesday, quarterback Graham Mertz dropped the football-shaped piece of Lenox crystal, leaving it shattered on the floor of the locker room after it fell off its base.
“We just wanted everybody to have a piece of that trophy,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst joked.
That would seem appropriate.
Mertz accounted for three touchdowns and Wisconsin turned four second-half interceptions, all by different players, into 21 points to turn a close game into a near-rout of the Demon Deacons. Five players scored touchdowns for the Badgers.
Mertz, a redshirt freshman, threw for 130 yards and ran for two short TDs as Wisconsin (4-3) finished a rocky 2020 season on a high note.
“Yeah, I dropped it,” Mertz said sheepishly. “That’s on me. It happened.”
The Badgers might be willing to forgive him.
With the game tied at 21 late in the third quarter, Noah Burks intercepted Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman on a pass in the flat when the intended receiver failed to turn his head around. Burks returned the ball 41 yards to set up a 14-yard scoring strike from Mertz to Mason Stokke on a wheel route, giving the Badgers their first lead.
Hartman, who had thrown only one interception all season, was picked off on the next three possessions as well.
Scott Nelson had a 60-yard interception return and Collin Wilder returned a pick 72 yards to set up short TD runs that gave the Badgers a 42-21 lead, resulting in Hartman getting benched. Jack Sanborn had 11 tackles and an interception and was named MVP of the game.
“It felt like one led to the other,” Sanborn said. “After three picks, we said, ‘Collin you have to get one’ — and then Collin went and got one.”
Sanborn said the Badgers picked up on some of Hartman’s tendencies.
“Throughout the game, similar concepts coming up,” Sanborn said. “We kind of knew where he wanted to throw the ball. He was making throws early in the game. But we got a tell on where he wanted to go with the ball.”
Hartman finished 20 of 37 passing for 318 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
Oklahoma 55, Florida 20
ARLINGTON, Texas — Spencer Rattler threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score, Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for 186 yards and No. 8 Oklahoma beat 10th-ranked SEC runner-up Florida in the Cotton Bowl.
Back in the same NFL stadium where 11 days earlier they won their sixth consecutive Big 12 title, the Sooners (9-2, No. 6 CFP) jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first seven minutes. The 55 points were their most ever in a bowl game, while piling up a Cotton Bowl-record 684 total yards.
Rattler threw a 27-yard TD pass to fellow freshman Marvin Mims on the game’s opening drive, and Florida’s first possession ended with Tre Norwood’s 45-yard interception return for a touchdown. That was the first of three picks thrown by Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Kyle Trask in the first quarter, after only five all season.
Oklahoma played in its sixth consecutive New Year’s Six bowl game, but the last three seasons had lost College Football Playoffs semifinal games while giving up an average of 54 points to different SEC teams.
The Sooners finished this season with an eight-game winning streak. They had started 0-2 in Big 12 play for the first time since 1998, effectively knocking them out of playoff contention by mid-October.
These Gators (8-4, No. 7 CFP) were much different than the team that just 11 days earlier fell 52-46 to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game, and had averaged nearly 42 points a game.
Rattler was the fourth starting quarterback in as many seasons to lead Oklahoma to a Big 12 title, the first who began his career in the program rather than coming in as a transfer. He was 14 of 23 passing for 247 yards and ran for 40 yards.
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