January 1, 2008
TAMPA, Fla. Despite keeping Tennessee scoreless in the second half, the Wisconsin football team fell to the Volunteers, 21-17, on New Year's Day at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Returning from an injury, P.J. Hill carried the ball 16 times, rushing for 132 yards, while quarterback Tyler Donovan finished with 155 yards and a touchdown.
After winning the coin toss and deferring, the Badgers forced the Volunteers to three-and-out on the opening drive of the New Year's Day game. On its first possession of the game, UW wide receiver Paul Hubbard fumbled after catching a 27-yard pass from QB Tyler Donovan. After recovering the fumble, Tennessee went 66 yards in nine plays, capping off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run by freshman Gerald Jones, giving the Vols a 7-0 lead.
On the kickoff, Wisconsin freshman David Gilreath responded, making a 60-yard return into Volunteer territory. On third-and-seven, Donovan made a 7-yard scramble into the end zone, putting the Badgers on the board. A Taylor Mehlaff extra point evened the score, 7-7 with 7:33 remaining in the first quarter.
UW linebacker Jonathan Casillas forced UT running back Lennon Creer to lose the ball, allowing Nick Hayden to pounce on it with 5:15 left in the first. Starting on their own 15-yard line, UW was force to punt a few minutes later following a Donovan sack on third down. Tennessees subsequent drive also ended in a punt and a UW return to its own 12-yard line.
Tennessee was quick to score on its next possession, covering 59 yards in just 57 seconds. The Vols completed three straight pass plays (10 yards, 20 yards and 29 yards), tallying six points on a final 29-yard touchdown pass from Erik Ainge to Josh Briscoe. Daniel Lincoln kicked in the extra point to make it 14-7 Tennessee with 9:45 to go in the second quarter.
Continuing its efficient passing routine, Tennessee's offense continued moving in the air, making a 51-yard charge (4 plays) in just 1 minute 40 seconds. Aigne completed a 31-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brad Cottam to increase the Vols lead, 21-7.
On their next possession, the Badgers looked to be on a mission, responding to UTs offensive surge. Like clockwork, Wisconsin trekked down the field, going 70 yards in nine plays. The 5 minute, 12 second drive was highlighted by a 4-yard touchdown pass from Donovan to tight end Andy Crooks to end first half scoring (UT 21, UW 14).
Notably, Crooks became the first player in Wisconsin history to score a bowl touchdown on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. At the 2005 Outback Bowl, held on the same field, Crooks recorded his first career touchdown as a Badger linebacker.
Entering the second half, both teams possessed the ball three times, neither squad tallying points on any of those drives. Wisconsin's momentum picked up following a Ken DeBauche punt downed on the Tennessee 2-yard line by defensive back Ben Strickland. UW's defense then forced a three-and-out, regaining possession with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter.
Wisconsin ended the third quarter scoring drought on its next possession. P.J. Hill and the Badgers marched down the field, but UW was unable to make it into the end zone. Instead, Mehlhaff hit a 27-yard field goal, to bring the Badgers within four of the Volunteers, 21-17.
The Badger defense kept the Volunteers from recording any points in the entire second half. However, Wisconsin was held to just a field goal themselves, which left them four points shy of Tennessee as game's end rolled around.
With just under two minutes remaining in the game, UW had a final opportunity to get down the field and score. Donovan threw completions to Kyle Jefferson and Garrett Graham, but was pressured to beat the clock to the end zone. On a first-and-10 from the UT 36-yard line, Donovan attempted a pass to Paul Hubbard in the end zone, but was intercepted by Antonio Wardlow at the 1-yard line. On the next play, Tennessee downed the ball, bringing the game to a close.