College Football
Louisiana State 35, Wisconsin 31
When: 12:00 PM ET, Monday, January 1, 2024
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Temperature: 65°
Head Official: Mark Duddy
Attendance: 31424

Garrett Nussmeier wasn't Jayden Daniels, but he wasn't too far off.

Nussmeier filled in for the Heisman Trophy winner and passed for 395 yards and three touchdowns to lead No. 13 LSU to a 35-31 victory over Wisconsin in the ReliaQuest Bowl on Monday afternoon in Tampa, Fla. Nussmeier was named the game's MVP.

"The athletes that we have and the offensive line that we have made my job easy today," said Nussmeier, a redshirt sophomore making his first start after Daniels opted out to focus on the NFL draft. "I always take pride in being ready.

"It took us a minute, but we got rolling. Jayden and I have different skills sets. (The offense was) trying to jell and mesh, and when it clicked it, it clicked. Everybody was making plays."

Nussmeier oudueled Tanner Mordecai, who passed for 378 yards and three touchdowns for the Badgers (7-6), including two scores to Will Pauling, who finished with 143 yards.

Nussmeier passed for 84 yards on a 98-yard drive that ended with his 4-yard touchdown pass to Brian Thomas Jr., giving LSU (10-4) its only lead with 3:08 remaining.

"You just have to take it play by play, move the chains, move the chains, move the chains," Nussmeier said, "and then put it in the end zone."

Mordecai drove the Badgers to a first down at the Tigers 27, but he was sacked on three consecutive plays and Wisconsin turned the ball over on downs.

"I don't think you can say enough about that kid," Badgers coach Luke Fickell said of Mordecai. "The guy's a winner. I know he didn't win today, but he left it all out there."

Wisconsin outgained LSU 506-492 but scored just three points on its final five possessions.

Fickell lamented his own "lack of aggression" after he chose to punt on fourth-and-2 from the Badgers 47 while holding a precarious three-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers won 10 games for the second consecutive season under Kelly after he inherited a program that went 6-7 in 2021 and 5-5 in 2020.

"As we go into 2024," Kelly said, "I think this program is stabilized and ready to ascend moving forward."

Jackson Acker raced 33 yards for a touchdown that increased the Badgers' lead to 28-14 early in the third quarter.

Nussmeier threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Thomas, and he added a 14-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hilton Jr. that tied the score. Nathanial Vakos' 21-yard field goal gave Wisconsin a 31-28 lead at the end of the third quarter.

The Badgers drove to a touchdown on their first drive, which ended with Mordecai's 30-yard touchdown pass to Bryson Green, who finished with 105 yards, and a 7-0 lead.

Mordecai added a 53-yard touchdown pass to Pauling for a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

LSU's Harold Perkins rushed 1 yard for a touchdown, and Kaleb Jackson ran 12 yards for another score to tie the score at 14.

Wisconsin came right back, and five plays later Mordecai and Pauling teamed on a 9-yard touchdown pass that gave the Badgers a 21-14 halftime lead.

Kelly said the Tigers' locker room at halftime was "one of the lowest points" of the season, but "they didn't panic."

--Field Level Media

Top Game Performances
Wisconsin   Louisiana State
Jackson Acker Player Josh Williams
14 Attempts 12
86 Yards 51
6.1 Avg Yards 4.2
1 Touchdowns 0
0 Long 0
Wisconsin   Louisiana State
Will Pauling Player Brian Thomas Jr.
8 Receptions 8
143 Yards 98
17.9 Avg Yards 12.2
2 Touchdowns 2
0 Long 0
Team Stats Summary
  Yards Scoring Defense
Team Tot Rus Pas TD FG INT Sck FF
Wisconsin 506 128 378 4 1 1 0.0 0
Louisiana State 492 97 395 5 0 0 5.0 2