Wisconsin has turned a 1-3 start to the 2021 campaign into a 9-win season.

The Badgers capped the year with a 20-13 victory over Arizona State in Thursday night’s Las Vegas Bowl. That victory didn’t come easy for Paul Chryst’s team, needing to lean heavily on a big first quarter and its defensive muscle to escape the desert with a ninth win.

It looked easy for Wisconsin early in the Las Vegas Bowl. On the fifth play of the game, John Torchio intercepted a Jayden Daniels pass to put the Badgers in great field position for their first offensive drive.

John Chenal gave Wisconsin its first lead, scoring on an 8-yard run to start the game with a 7-0 advantage.

Arizona State drove down the field and made the score 7-3 on the leg of Cristian Zendejas, who knocked home a 38-yard try to cut into the Wisconsin lead.

On the following possession, Wisconsin needed just 6 plays to pick up 75 yards and put some cushion in the lead. A 7-yard pass from Graham Mertz to Jake Ferguson put the Badgers ahead 14-3. At that point, it looked like Chryst’s squad was going to put it on cruise control.

Thanks to a pair of Collin Larsh field goals, Wisconsin led Arizona State 20-6 through the first half. Braelon Allen rushed for 101 yards on the ground and the Sun Devils had just 95 yards of total offense through 30 minutes.

In the second half, the script changed.

Wisconsin struggled to move the football as Arizona State’s defense began to tighten up. The Sun Devils were able to draw within a touchdown, thanks to a 3-yard run into the end zone from Daniyel Ngata, making the score 20-13.

That’s when the scoring ended, though.

Both Wisconsin and Arizona State punted on their next two possessions. The Badgers got the ball back with 9:57 to play and thanks to some big runs from Allen and a clutch throw from Mertz, Wisconsin was able to grind out the clock and leave Las Vegas with a bowl trophy in hand.

Wisconsin closed the season out winning 7 of its final 8 games after that ugly 1-3 start. That victory over the Sun Devils also bumped the B1G to a perfect 5-0 in bowl games this postseason with 5 to play.