After playing 10 games in 10 weeks, the University of Wisconsin football team got a break it didn’t want last week.
By falling to archrival Minnesota in the regular-season finale, UW lost not only Paul Bunyan’s Axe, but a chance to play in the Big Ten Conference Championship Game. Still, UW used the week to get its coaches on the road recruiting and give its players some rest.
That time off is just about over after Sunday’s announcement that the Badgers’ 20-season bowl game streak will continue against Arizona State in the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 30 at Allegiant Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.
UW will get back in the weight room this week and return to the practice field this weekend, coach Paul Chryst said, prepping for the Sun Devils and the program’s first trip to the Las Vegas Bowl.
“You have so much time, especially after the season, just to take time to reflect, take time to almost clear your mind, get away from it all for a little bit,” senior inside linebacker Jack Sanborn said. “Then be ready when you go back into it to get right back into it.”
The Badgers have a 1-3 record against Arizona State, but have never played the Sun Devils in a bowl game. The teams last played in 2013 in Tempe when the No. 20 Badgers fell 32-30. UW will be the first Big Ten team to play in the Las Vegas Bowl, which began a rotation with Big Ten and SEC teams in 2020.
Season-ticket holders and donors have the first crack at tickets to the game, and they can request them on UW’s bowl website (UWBowlCentral.com) or by calling the ticket office until noon Monday. Student season ticket holders can purchase tickets online starting at 7 p.m. Monday. All other ticket sales begin at noon Tuesday.
Chryst is 5-1 in bowl games as UW’s coach, and UW has a 5-6 record against Pac-12 teams in bowl games.
“I think it’ll mean a ton to them,” Chryst said regarding ending the year with a win. “We had a team meeting last Monday and you get a quick sense then that the season’s not over. The regular season didn’t end the way we’d like, but I go back to this group truly does enjoy each other and they care about each other. We’ve got one game we can play, one more opportunity.”
Fans will remember the Badgers’ 2013 trip to Tempe to play the Sun Devils as a controversial ending gave UW and first-year coach Gary Andersen their first loss of the season.
With 18 seconds remaining and the Badgers trailing by two, quarterback Joel Stave took a snap from under center and took a few steps to his left and quickly took a knee to end the play and center the ball for an attempt at a winning field goal. Stave set the ball on the ground after taking the knee, and the referees waited to spot the ball while an Arizona State player jumped on what he thought was a live ball.
The clock was running as things got sorted out and the Badgers ran out of time to spike the ball and try the field goal.
Arizona State (8-4) had an up-and-down season with significant wins over UCLA, Southern Cal and Arizona, but two-score losses against Oregon State, Washington State and eventual Pac-12 champion Utah. Led by former NFL coach Herm Edwards, Arizona State went 2-2 last season but tallied its second eight-win season under Edwards this year.
It’s the Sun Devils’ second trip to the Las Vegas Bowl after falling to Fresno State in 2018.
Edwards won’t have his top offensive threat after senior Rachaad White announced he’d be skipping the team’s bowl game to begin NFL draft prep. He tallied 1,006 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing and 43 catches, 456 yards and a touchdown receiving.
Chryst said that the Badgers’ offense must improve in order for UW to win a bowl game. The Badgers had 233 total yards against Minnesota and were held to field goals on both occasions they reached the red zone.
“You’ve got to be more efficient,” Chryst said. “When you’re in the red zone, you’ve got to score points and touchdowns and give yourself more opportunities. You’ve got to be better on third down. We didn’t run the ball very effectively, consistently in that game. We missed some opportunities.”
UW has had some luck lately in Las Vegas — the men’s basketball team won the Maui Invitational there in November and the football team has won its past four games in Las Vegas, with the last one coming in 2010.
“We are very excited to be the inaugural Big Ten team to play in the Las Vegas Bowl,” UW athletic director Chris McIntosh said in a release. “Our fans have a great tradition of support in Vegas, even as recently as a couple weeks ago when our men’s basketball team won the Maui Invitational. Allegiant Stadium is a tremendous venue and I know our players will have a great bowl experience.”
Get to know the Wisconsin Badgers' 2022 football recruiting class
The Badgers locked in their first incoming transfer of the class in late October in Kalon Gervin, a cornerback from Michigan State.
Gervin played in 19 games for the Spartans, including seven career starts. He had 22 tackles, four pass breakups and a fumble recovery at MSU. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder from Detroit will add some experience to a cornerback group that loses its top two starters to graduation.
Gervin was offered a scholarship by UW coming out of high school.
Myles Burkett became the Badgers’ first Class of 2022 recruit when he announced his decision in January.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from Franklin is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and Rivals, and showed great mobility and arm strength in his junior season. He battled back from a knee injury as a sophomore to throw for 1,236 and 11 touchdowns and rush for 180 yards and a score in a pandemic-shortened season.
He’s the first in-state quarterback to earn a scholarship out of high school since 2011.
As his recruiting stock started to rise, the Badgers were able to secure a commitment from Fall Rivers’ Barrett Nelson in late June.
The offensive tackle was 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds after his junior season, and his quickness off the ball has made him a load on both the offensive and defensive lines. Nelson is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star on Rivals.
He had offers from Iowa State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue and others before choosing UW.
Nelson’s father, Todd, was a Badgers offensive lineman in the late 1980s, and his brother, Jack, is currently an offensive lineman for UW.
After wowing UW coaches at a pair of camps, Monroe tight end JT Seagreaves accepted a scholarship offer in late June.
Seagreaves is an intriguing prospect for the Badgers — at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, he has the physical frame to grow into an imposing tight end, and he possesses sprinter speeds. He’s averaged more than 21 yards per catch each of the past two seasons and was starting to gain more Power Five conference interested when he committed to UW.
Seagreaves is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star according to Rivals.
In multiple trips to UW’s campus in June, Cade Yacamelli was called “a football player” by UW coaches rather than locking him into a position. He earned a scholarship offer after an impressive camp workout and accepted it in late June.
The consensus three-star athlete was starting to earn more recruiting attention from Power Five schools when he accepted the Badgers’ offer. UW was the first Power Five offer for the 6-foot, 200-pounder. He’s played receiver, running back and defensive back in high school, but likely projects as a receiver or defensive back in college.
The Penn Trafford High School product has good quickness and change-of-direction that make him dangerous with the ball in his hands.
When A’Khoury Lyde accepted a UW scholarship offer in late June, he became the first player on the defensive side of the ball to commit in the 2022 class.
Lyde (5-foot-11, 170 pounds), a consensus three-star recruit, has strong ball skills and a willingness to hit that separates him from other cornerbacks.
The Wayne, New Jersey, native is the eighth-ranked player in his state, per Rivals.
The Badgers landed a tall, speedy receiver when Tommy McIntosh committed in late June.
The DeWitt, Michigan, native stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 200 pounds. He uses his body to shield off defenders at the point of the catch and does well catching the ball away from his body. His Hudl page lists a 4.47-second 40-yard dash time, and he has breakaway speed when he gets in the open field and can use his long strides.
A consensus three-star wide receiver chose the Badgers over offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.
UW beefed up its defensive front by landing defensive tackle Curtis Neal.
Neal — a 6-foot-2, 310-pounder — had more than 25 scholarship offers, and reportedly was deciding between UW and Ohio State at the end of his recruiting process. Neal is a product of William Amos Hough High School in Cornelius, North Carolina, where the Badgers found receiver Devin Chandler in last year’s cycle.
Neal, with his size and strength, likely fits best as a nose tackle in the Badgers’ 3-4 scheme.
Jim Leonhard may have found another rangy, smart cornerback to add to his secondary in Avyonne Jones, who committed in to UW in late June.
Jones — who hails from Southlake, Texas — was on campus the weekend of June 18 for an official visit and had narrowed an extensive offer list to UW and California. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back was previously committed to Oklahoma State, but retracted that commitment in late May.
With good recovery speed and a good feel for getting his hands between a receiver’s at the point of the catch, the consensus three-star prospect is a good fit for what UW cornerbacks coach Hank Poteat said he wants from his position group.
The Badgers landed the top-ranked player in Wisconsin for the sixth consecutive recruiting class when Joe Brunner committed the last week of June.
Brunner — a 6-foot-6, 300-pound prospect from Milwaukee who attends Whitefish Bay High School — is a consensus four-star recruit and a top-10 offensive tackle in the nation.
He held at least 16 Power Five scholarship offers, including ones from a majority of the Big Ten Conference, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon and Tennessee.
VINNY ANTHONY IIUpdated
Receiver Vinny Anthony II — a consensus three-star prospect from Louisville, Kentucky — joined UW's class on June 30.
Possessing a good burst of speed and long arms that extend his catch radius, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Anthony has a chance to play across the formation as a receiver.
Anthony chose UW over Cincinnati and Duke.
Austin Brown — who hails from Johnston City, Illinois, a small town outside of Carbondale — was considering offers from Boston College, Illinois, Michigan and Northwestern before choosing UW. The consensus three-star prospect had 21 known scholarship offers.
Brown committed to UW on the Fourth of July.
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, he has a good frame already and his high school film shows a willingness to lay big hits and attack blockers. He also plays quarterback for Johnston City.
UW added an athletic defensive line prospect in mid-November when Tristan Monday flipped his commitment from Arizona to the Badgers.
UW was interested in Monday since he arrived in high school, but his size then didn't lend itself to a natural position fit in the Badgers' defense. Now standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 240 pounds, he'll start his career as a defensive end. UW offered him a scholarship in early November and he accepted it after visiting campus Nov. 12-14.
Monday is a consensus three-star recruit from Scottsdale, Arizona, who had offers from Arizona, Baylor, Colorado, Florida State and Iowa State.
After much discussion and thought, Tristan has changed his commitment and will be accepting a football scholarship offer from the University of Wisconsin. He has the utmost respect and admiration for the University of Arizona but this is an opportunity he cannot ignore. pic.twitter.com/hqf8GGqZwp— Tim Monday (@pappamonday) November 16, 2021
Vaughan, a 6-foot-4 linebacker from Walled Lake, Michigan, committed to UW in late November, choosing the Badgers over offers from programs like Colorado, Florida State, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and others.
Vaughan is rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals.
Vaughan has been a late-riser on the recruiting trail, with all of his Power Five offers coming since October, but he has potential to be an inside or outside linebacker for the Badgers. He could fill the big-bodied outside ‘backer role that C.J. Goetz currently has for UW or could be a hybrid type of linebacker like UW pulled in with Jake Ratzlaff in the 2021 cycle.