Wisconsin 38, Utah 10
Dec. 31, 1996
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ Wisconsin freshman Ron Dayne generated Heisman talk with his performance in the Copper Bowl.
That is welcome conjecture to coach Barry Alvarez. What he'd like to dodge is NFL talk.
``They keep talking about him as a Heisman candidate,'' Alvarez said Friday night after Dayne rushed for 246 yards and three touchdowns in 30 carries during a 38-10 win over Utah. ``I think he is. He's special, and he can only get better.''
Others wonder how long Dayne, who has breakaway speed despite his 260 pounds, will stay in college if he continues to put up the numbers he did this year. He broke Herschel Walker's 16-year-old freshman record by more than 200 yards with 1,863 before this postseason date with the Utes.
Dayne wasn't thinking along those lines, though.
``We went out with a win,'' he said. ``The seniors got a win, and the young guys got a win.''
It was a kind of redemption for the Badgers (8-5), who had an 0-4 start in their Big Ten Conference schedule, including tough losses to Penn State, Ohio State and Northwestern, before they recovered with five victories in their last six games.
``We overcame what happened in October. That's in the past, and this was the best way to finish it,'' said Tarek Saleh, who deflected a pass by Utah's Mike Fouts that Cyrill Weems turned into an 82-yard interception return for a game-turning TD. It was one of four that set a Copper Bowl record, doubling the previous standard held by three teams.
Alvarez praised his seniors, probably thinking of the defense. Saleh and Neil Miklusak, who deflected another pass into the hands of a teammate, are seniors, along with Weems, Pete Monty and Pete Diatelevi, who got the first three picks.
Quarterback Mike Samuel ran 38 yards for Wisconsin's first TD, Dayne scored on runs of 40, 3 and 1 yards, and John Hall kicked a 38-yard field goal.
Utah (8-4) got its points on a 24-yard field goal by Daniel Pulsipher and 1-yard run by Juan Johnson.
The game was decided before halftime, when the Badgers led 31-3 after blunting both ends of Utah's attack.
The Utes ran 55 percent of the time this year, but weren't able to do that after 275-pound running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala sprained his left ankle 9:02 into the game and had to watch the second half on crutches.
After the injury, Fouts kept a 16-play drive going for Pulsipher's field goal, cutting Wisconsin's lead to 7-3 with 3:53 left in the quarter.
But after the ensuing kickoff, Dayne covered 77 yards in two carries, sprinting outside to his right for 37 yards on the first and bursting up the middle for the score on the next.
``Ron Dayne is a great football player,'' Utah coach Ron McBride said. ``He's just what they advertised.''
The Badgers scored 17 points in the second quarter, starting the rout when they began turning Fouts' passes into turnovers.
The Utes reached the Wisconsin 14 before Saleh batted a swing pass to Weeems, who outran everyone to the far end zone, sending the Badgers to a 21-3 lead 1:32 into the second quarter.
Monty returned the second interception 24 yards to the Utah 12 with 1:28 left in the half. Dayne covered the distance in three carries, scoring from 3 yards with 42 seconds remaining.
Fouts, who finished with 327 yards on 27-of-49 passing but had two more interceptions in the second half, didn't use Fuamatu-Ma'afala as an excuse.
``That's what happens when 11 guys don't play,'' Fouts said. ``We just didn't execute what we said before the game.''