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Wisconsin football extends bowl eligibility streak to 21 seasons

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Interim coach Jim Leonhard is proud of how Wisconsin football has rallied under his leadership and the changes he's made.

LINCOLN, Neb. — One of the University of Wisconsin football team’s impressive streaks reached legal drinking age Saturday inside Memorial Stadium.

The Badgers’ 15-14 win over Nebraska clinched their 21st consecutive bowl-eligible season, sitting only behind Georgia (25) and Oklahoma (23) for longest active among FBS schools. The last time UW failed to achieve bowl-eligible status came during the 2001 season, Jim Leonhard’s first year in Madison as a walk-on safety that ended with a 5-7 record.

The program holds an 11-9 record in the previous 20 bowl games since the 2002 Alamo Bowl that sparked the current streak.

“I mean, we expected it,” running back Braelon Allen said. “That’s our expectation. What is it, 21 years in a row now?

“That’s the expectation, so we knew we had to get a win today and just carry momentum into next week.”

Defense continues to shine

UW’s defense held Nebraska in check long enough for the offense’s comeback to be completed.

The Badgers allowed 171 yards, their third game in a row allowing less than 190 yards, and allowed just three drives to gain 30 or more yards. UW forced three three-and-outs, none more crucial than the one in the fourth quarter that allowed the Badgers’ offense to get the ball back with possession of all three timeouts.

Rodas Johnson started that series with a tackle for loss after a quick first step off the ball, then another run for a short gain and incomplete pass got the Huskers off the field in less than two minutes and set UW up for the winning drive at the 50-yard line.

“I think we did what we needed to do,” said Leonhard, who calls UW’s defensive plays. “We limited yards, we got off the field in a lot of critical situations.”

UW has held its last four opponents to 24 or less points and is 3-1 in that stretch.

Containing Nebraska’s potent signal caller

Casey Thompson energized the Cornhuskers’ offense through the air and with his feet when healthy this season He returned Saturday, after missing two games due to an elbow injury to his right arm. But the Badgers contained him and the Nebraska offense to 3.5 yards per snap.

The Texas transfer started the first eight games for Nebraska (3-8, 2-6 Big Ten) and completed nearly 63% of his throws for 2,023 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 252.9 passing yards per game entering Saturday’s contest ranked third in the Big Ten, with his 147.6 passer efficiency rating fourth.

He finished with only 106 passing yards on 12-of-20 passing with two touchdown passes. He led Nebraska’s offense in rushing, though he accumulated only 33 yards on 11 carries in the loss.

“It goes back to kind of when we played Arizona State last year, containing Jayden Daniels,” outside linebacker Darryl Peterson said. “Kind of like the same kind of running quarterback, but it just goes to executing our game plan.

“We got calls … and plays to stop guys like him, who can run the ball as well. I feel like we did a pretty good job outside a couple of plays today.”

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