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Wisconsin Football Falters Late, Loses ReliaQuest Bowl in Heartbreaker to LSU

The Badgers ended the season on a sour note.



Wisconsin Badgers Football running back Jackson Acker
Jan 1, 2024; Tampa, FL, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Jackson Acker (34) runs with the ball against the LSU Tigers in the fourth quarter during the ReliaQuest Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin Badgers football team faced a challenging end to their 2023 season, succumbing to a 35-31 loss against the No. 13 LSU Tigers in the ReliaQuest Bowl, finishing their year at 7-6.

Here are my takeaways and observations from the season finale. 

Tanner Mordecai Finished With the Best Game of His Wisconsin Badgers Career

In his final collegiate appearance, Tanner Mordecai delivered an outstanding performance for the Wisconsin Badgers football team. 

The veteran quarterback threw for 378 passing yards and three touchdowns, with a 67.5% completion rate, making it easily his best performance of the season.

He orchestrated an explosive start, connecting with Will Pauling and Bryson Green for chunk plays, setting up two early touchdowns. While Mordecai’s performance was stellar all day long, a fumble during the Badgers’ final drive and failing to throw the ball up and give his team a chance to make a play proved crucial. 

Wisconsin Football Made Some Head-Scratching Coaching Decisions 

Throughout the game, head coach Luke Fickell’s conservative play-calling raised questions. Opting for field goals in favorable positions and missing opportunities in several crucial offensive possessions hindered the Wisconsin football team’s ability to capitalize. 

These decisions, especially to punt or settle for field goals in potential scoring scenarios, proved costly, impacting their momentum and leaving some points on the board, in my humble opinion. 

Wisconsin Football WRs Played Fantastic 

The Wisconsin Badgers receiving unit displayed promise heading into next season. 

Will Pauling continued his dominance, tallying eight receptions for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Bryson Green’s impact with seven catches for 105 yards and a touchdown was notable, showcasing his potential for a feature role in the upcoming season. 

Then there was treu freshman Trech Kekahuna, the Badgers’ third-leading receiver, and he made several impactful plays, recording four receptions for 64 yards, demonstrating his versatility in multi-receiver sets.

However, the game revealed inconsistencies in offensive strategies, especially in red zone opportunities, where conservative decisions proved to be costly. 

Addressing these deficiencies will be crucial for the Wisconsin Badgers football team’s performance in the upcoming season, particularly with a tougher schedule on the horizon in 2024.

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Trevor Lovec is a freelance sports writer, correspondent, and a diehard Northern Iowa fan. He covers Wisconsin football & basketball, plus a little Badgers recruiting for