Gameday had finally come and the Wisconsin Badgers wanted to close out 2021 on a high note in Las Vegas.

Arizona State started the game with ball but safety John Torchio who was filling in for the injured Collin Wilder intercepted Jayden Daniels. Graham Mertz would convert a third and 13 by hitting Markus Allen for 31 yards to set the Badgers up with first and goal. Fullback John Chenal would rumble into the end zone to give the Badgers the early lead.

The Sun Devils would respond by going on a 14 play 55-yard drive culminating in a field goal, the Badgers had trouble containing the elusive Jayden Daniels. Daniels would convert three third downs with his legs on that drive.

On the following drive, two long runs by Braelon Allen would culminate in a Graham Mertz touchdown pass to tight end Jake Ferguson to extend the Badgers lead to 14-3. Ferguson would leave the game with an injury and wouldn’t return. Allen would finish the game gashing the Sun Devils defense with 159 yards rushing. This would be more than Arizona State had all game. Allen’s 159 yards rushing was the most by Wisconsin running back since Ron Dayne had 246 yards in the Copper Bowl.

On the Badgers’ first drive of the second quarter, Graham Mertz threw an interception that would set up Arizona State inside Wisconsin territory. Fortunately, the Badgers defense stood pat and only allowing another field goal to make the score 14-6.

Collin Larsh would make another field goal for the Badgers to extend the lead their lead to 17-6.

Arizona State couldn’t get anything going offensively and would have to punt. The Badgers would take advantage and kick another field goal to give them a 20-6 halftime lead. During the first half, the Badgers scored points on four of their five first-half drives.

During the first half, the Badgers would sack Jayden Daniels four times and held ASU to 95 total yards offensively.

The second half did not start off well for the Badgers. The Sun Devils defense stiffened, holding the Badgers offense to -7 total yards in the third quarter.

During the third quarter, a good return would set the Sun Devils up with good field position. Jayden Daniels once again stole the show and converted three key third downs. From the two-yard line, Daniyel Ngata would cap the drive with a touchdown. Wisconsin’s lead was now 20-13. It would also be the Sun Devils’ final score of the game.

With the offense struggling, Wisconsin’s defense was tasked with protecting their one-score lead. The defense rose to the occasion and held the Sun Devils scoreless for the final ten minutes of the game. The Badgers defense would finish the game with six sacks and hold ASU to just 219 total yards of offense. All game long the Sun Devils barely ran the ball and Jayden Daniels was under constant duress.

Starting from their own two-yard line, Wisconsin’s drive to victory would begin. Graham Mertz and Braelon Allen would be the stars of the drive. Mertz was clutch on a third down and 12, completing a pass for 30 yards to Chimere Dike. This proved to be the most important play of the game. Both players played critical roles in helping Wisconsin get their first-ever victory in the Las Vegas Bowl. Mertz finished the game with 137 pass yards to go along with one touchdown and an interception. The Badgers’ win in this game was their 18th overall victory in bowl games. The Badgers will finish the year 9-4 while Arizona State will fall to 8-5.

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Eric Katz

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