(AP) Darren McFadden broke free on his first carry and raced into the Wisconsin secondary. Defensive back Jack Ikegwuonu did what few players have — he ran down the Arkansas star at the 9.
With its running game stifled and its quarterback under constant pressure, the sixth-ranked Badgers did just enough to hold off No. 12 Arkansas 17-14 Monday. John Stocco threw two first-half touchdown passes, and Wisconsin (12-1) survived despite being held to minus-5 yards rushing.
The biggest play might have been Ikegwuonu’s tackle. McFadden’s 45-yard run gave the Razorbacks the ball inside the Wisconsin 10, but Arkansas (10-4) came away with no points when Jeremy Davis missed a 30-yard field goal.
“I know that McFadden is a very fast football player,” Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. “For us to be able to track him down and pull him down … may have changed the entire landscape of the game.”
McFadden, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, hurt his ankle in the Southeastern Conference championship game Dec. 2, and it appeared to be bothering him still.
“If Darren is 100 percent, I don’t think anyone would have caught him on that play,” Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. “Usually he’s pretty good at 90 percent, too … the fact that we weren’t able to come out of that with any points was pretty big.”
Wisconsin won 12 games in a season for the first time and has a chance to finish in the top five nationally — quite a reward for a team overshadowed by Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Michigan.
This was the Badgers’ first win over a ranked team. Their only loss was to Michigan, and Ohio State wasn’t on their conference schedule.
“One of the biggest things we did at one of our team meetings this week was that we played some news clips from some of the news stations back in Arkansas,” Bielema said. “Once again, they pointed out that we hadn’t played anybody this year … we certainly used that as a motivational factor.”
Wisconsin won nine straight to finish the season and can now boast of a second straight Capital One Bowl win over the Southeastern Conference. The Badgers beat Auburn 24-10 last year.
“We didn’t need to beat this team to validate that we’re a great team,” Stocco said.
Taylor Mehlhaff opened the scoring for the Badgers with a 52-yard field goal, a career long and a Capital One Bowl record. Felix Jones answered quickly for Arkansas with a 76-yard touchdown run.
Stocco threw touchdown passes of 22 yards to Paul Hubbard and 13 yards to Travis Beckum, giving the Badgers a 17-7 halftime lead. Jones, who quietly surpassed 1,000 yards this season alongside McFadden, made it 17-14 on a 12-yard run in the fourth.
Jones finished with a career-high 150 yards on 14 carries, outplaying McFadden and Wisconsin’s P.J. Hill.
Most of the second half was played in Wisconsin territory, but Arkansas couldn’t capitalize. The Razorbacks finished with 12 penalties for 123 yards.
Stocco, the game’s most valuable player, went 14-of-34 for 206 yards with two interceptions. He was also sacked six times, part of the reason Wisconsin’s rushing stats were so bad.
But the Badgers passed the ball better than Arkansas. The Razorbacks stuck with their plan to start Casey Dick at quarterback and bring in freshman Mitch Mustain for the third series. That was Mustain’s only appearance of the first half, although he returned for a bit in the second.
Dick went 9-of-21 for 98 yards with an interception. Mustain was 5-of-10 for 41 yards with an interception.
McFadden left in the third quarter with a sprained right shoulder, although he returned a short while later. He rushed for 89 yards to finish the season with 1,647, the fifth-highest total in SEC history.
Hill ran for 36 yards, finishing his freshman season with 1,569.
Arkansas finished with three straight losses after winning 10 in a row. The Razorbacks were trying for their first 11-win season since 1977.
The Razorbacks appeared to make a big play on special teams in the second quarter when Darius Vinnett blocked Ken DeBauche’s punt. But DeBauche was able to pick up the ball and throw for a first down. The play was negated by an ineligible man downfield penalty, but Wisconsin got to punt again — costing Arkansas about 50 yards of field position.
Bielema was in his first season as a head coach. He replaced the retired Barry Alvarez.
“My guess is that there will be several messages on my cell phone from coach Alvarez,” Bielema said.