Wisconsin football vs. LSU | What stood out

TAMPA, Fla. — The University of Wisconsin football team has felt this sting before.

It had a chance late in the game against a good team Monday. But mistakes and an inability to make the one play in the fourth quarter to push the Badgers over the hump ruined what could’ve been a feel-good moment to end a tough season.

Wisconsin blew multiple leads and dropped the ReliaQuest Bowl to No. 13 LSU 35-31.

The Badgers dropped to 7-6 on the season, while the Tigers improved to 10-3.

Here’s a game ball and three things that stood out:

Game ball

Garrett Nussmeier, LSU quarterback

Honorable mention: Tanner Mordecai, Wisconsin quarterback

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Badgers coaches’ decision-making questionable

Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell and offensive coordinator Phil Longo made some odd calls that effectively cost the Badgers points in a tight game, a trend that continued from the regular season and must be addressed in the offseason.

The Badgers decided to attempt a 51-yard field goal on a fourth-and-6 from the LSU 33 late in the second quarter, then Wisconsin took a lead late with about a minute left in the half. The Badgers got the ball back in LSU territory following Ricardo Hallman’s seventh interception of the season. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai threw behind Bryson Green on third-and-1, setting up a fourth-and-1. Fickell called a timeout, leaving the Badgers with one, then the fourth-down run was stuffed and the Badgers came up empty.

Mordecai hit Green with a deep pass along the right sideline in the third quarter, then tried an RPO that lost 5 yards. Two rushes netted 2 yards and Wisconsin kicked a go-ahead field goal.

Wisconsin hasn’t been consistent with its decisions regarding fourth downs or field goals throughout the season, and it cost the team scoring chances against LSU.

LSU’s wide receivers live up to the billing

Wisconsin knew that LSU’s talent on the outside was going to be a challenge, even without Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jayden Daniels.

LSU’s receivers showed they could be explosive with a new quarterback as stars like Brian Thomas pushed the Badgers’ secondary to its limits. Thomas had eight catches for 98 yards and drew a crucial pass-interference flag to extend a scoring drive. Malik Nabers, the runner-up for the Biletnikoff Award, caught three passes in the first half and set the LSU program record for career receiving yards before sitting out the second half.

Garrett Nussmeier found his pass-catchers all over field and threw for 395 yards and three touchdowns.

Tanner Mordecai’s best game as Badgers QB

Mordecai certainly wasn’t keeping anything in his back pocket this season, but he pulled out his best performance at Wisconsin in his final career game.

He finished with 378 yards and three touchdowns, both high marks for his one season at Wisconsin. Mordecai was 14 of 20 for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. LSU’s defense has struggled all season against the pass and had a reputation for gambling on balls in the air. Mordecai took advantage by being aggressive with throws down the field and making quick decisions on short passes.

LSU’s defense began sending late pressures to eliminate Mordecai’s lanes for scrambling and force him to hold the ball a bit longer than he wanted to, and Wisconsin’s offensive line got overwhelmed late.

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