INDIANAPOLIS — For the second straight season, the University of Wisconsin football team lost a Big Ten Championship game in heart-breaking fashion.
And for the second consecutive year, the Badgers will try to collect their emotions in time to win a New Year’s Six Bowl game.
After UW’s 27-21 loss to Ohio State ended its College Football Playoff hopes, the Badgers are set to face Miami in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30, with kickoff from Hard Rock Stadium set for 7 p.m. on ESPN.
“We’ve got one more game, and it’s going to be a big game,” UW quarterback Alex Hornibrook said. “We’re going to give everything we have. We’ve given everything we have up to this point, and we’re going to do as much as we can to send these seniors off on a good note."
History suggests that some programs find it difficult to perform well in bowl games following tough losses in conference championship games.
UW successfully accomplished the feat last year, however, with a 24-16 victory over Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl. That game came weeks after the Badgers blew a 21-point lead to Penn State, a loss likely even more numbing for UW than Saturday’s defeat to Ohio State.
Replicating that success may be more difficult against an opponent like Miami, but if the Badgers aren’t able to win in their first-ever Orange Bowl appearance, UW coach Paul Chryst doesn’t believe it will be because his team isn’t motivated to play at its best.
“That’s the next opportunity, and it’s a challenge, but I think it goes back to being in the moment,” Chryst said. “We’ve earned that right to be there. You want to maximize it. I don’t know how the game’s going to go, but I know this group will be ready for it."
The Badgers will take most of this week off before returning to the practice field Friday, when they’ll hope to be in the right head space to focus on the Hurricanes.
Many players spoke Saturday about the importance of sending UW’s seniors out with a win. Badgers inside linebacker Ryan Connelly said those seniors mean too much to the team “to just let (the bowl game) go to waste."
“Just do whatever you’ve got to do tonight to get over it,” UW fullback Austin Ramesh said. "It sucks, but we’ve got another game to win. ... This team’s going to bounce back. There’s a lot of fighters on this team."
Even without a shot at the national championship, the Badgers can still make their season a bit more special with a victory on Dec. 30.
Doing so would give UW two straight wins in BCS/New Year’s Six bowl games for the first time since the 1998 and 1999 Rose Bowls and secure a 13-win season for the Badgers, something they’ve never accomplished.
“That’s the good part about this,” UW inside linebacker T.J. Edwards said. "It’s tough to lose a game like this, but we’ll be back next week and look forward to another new opponent.
"The train doesn’t stop here."