Try as he might, linebacker Chris Borland can't explain why Wisconsin keeps losing bowl games.
The 19th-ranked Badgers are headed into another offseason on a losing note, even though there are plenty of positives to draw from coach Gary Andersen's first season in Madison.
"I'd like to send the seniors out a better way but I can't put my finger on exactly what we need to do better other than execute generally," said Borland after Wisconsin's 34-24 loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day.
Wisconsin had previously lost three straight Rose Bowls.
Borland, the heart of the team, is done with the Badgers (9-4) and figures to move on to a career in the NFL. But there's talent returning to Camp Randall Stadium, starting with 1,600-yard rusher Melvin Gordon. The third-year sophomore is returning after briefly contemplating whether to enter the NFL draft.
Gordon formed a dynamic backfield duo with senior James White (1,444 yards). Together, their combined 3,053 yards set an FBS record. They were also the first teammates in FBS history to rush for at least 1,400 yards in the same season.
Next year, talented freshman Corey Clement figures to be Gordon's main partner in the backfield. Another big-play threat, Clement finished with 67 carries for 547 yards and seven touchdowns, mainly earlier in the season.
Most of the offensive line is expected to return. The biggest improvement on offense will need to come at quarterback, where sophomore Joel Stave was maddeningly inconsistent in his first full year as the starter.
Teams stacked the line late in the regular season, forcing Wisconsin to throw. Penn State used that strategy to success Nov. 30 to hand the Badgers their worst loss of the season, 31-24.
Andersen knows the offense must develop a more consistent passing game. Stave was 9 of 13 for 80 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against the Gamecocks before departing with a shoulder injury. Backup Curt Phillips then threw two interceptions.