San Diego — After more than six decades, the Wisconsin Badgers have finally beaten the Southern California Trojans.
Rafael Gaglianone kicked a 29-yard field goal with 2:27 left to lift No. 23 Wisconsin to a 23-21 victory against Southern California in the Holiday Bowl on Wednesday night.
Gaglianone’s third field goal gave Wisconsin (10-3) its first win in seven tries against USC (8-6). The teams hadn’t met since 1966, and two of USC’s wins in the series were in the Rose Bowl, in 1953 and 1963.
“That’s a tremendous team and a tremendous program,” Badgers quarterback Joel Stave said. “They are one of the staples of college football. When you think of college football, you think of USC, so that’s who you grow up watching.”
“It’s nice to beat them,” said linebacker Jack Cichy, the game’s defensive MVP. “My dad went to Notre Dame so I watched them as a kid.”
Wisconsin’s Sojourn Shelton intercepted Cody Kessler with 1:44 left. Kessler was hit from behind by Cichy.
“We knew it would be a physical game. On that interception when I was coming forward he hit my arm,” Kessler said. “The last thing I remember is him hitting me. They had a relentless effort to the ball.
“That is a good defensive team that is going to make plays. It happened to make a play at a critical moment.”
In the third quarter, Cichy sacked Kessler on three straight plays.
“I was out the first half, so coach put me in and was kind of easing me into it,” Cichy said. “I was blitzing every time, but I didn’t expect I would come free for all three, especially the third time.
“I think this game kind of summed up our season,” Cichy added. “We were down, but we found a way to get over that hump, and I think that’s a great testament to our team.”
The Trojans got to the 50 in the final seconds before Kessler threw four straight incompletions.
USC, which beat Nebraska in last year’s Holiday Bowl, had taken a 21-20 lead on Kessler’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Darreus Rogers with 10:19 left.
Kessler was flushed from the pocket but scrambled around. Rogers got open and made a leaping catch.
Gaglianone also had field goals of 38 and 33 yards.
Wisconsin was in control for much of the game. Corey Clement scored on a 6-yard run midway through the second quarter for a 10-0 lead. Joel Stave threw a 4-yard scoring pass to tight end Austin Traylor for a 20-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
The Trojans gained some momentum with Justin Davis’ second TD run of the game, with 5:34 left in the third quarter. On USC’s next possession, Cichy broke through to sack Kessler three straight times, for a total loss of 24 yards.
Davis’ first TD was a 1-yard dive over the top on fourth down in the second quarter. That drive was kept alive on a 34-yard pass from Cody Kessler to Adoree’ Jackson on fourth-and-4 from the 36.
Kessler was 18 of 32 for 221 yards. Stave was 18 of 27 for 217 yards.