ARLINGTON, Texas -- "Quarterbacks! You're up first!" Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst bellowed through his victorious locker room.
Call it focus. Call it diffusion of responsibility. Maybe it was somewhere in the middle. But it was picture time for position groups after Wisconsin's 24-16 Cotton Bowl victory over Western Michigan, and the trophy they had accepted just a few minutes earlier was nowhere in sight.
Quarterback Bart Houston, who started the game and completed 11 of his 12 attempts, left the musty, carpeted locker room with tight end Eric Steffes to find it. It was still on the field, with Wisconsin's coaches' kids posing for photos with it. Houston and Steffes photobombed them before teaming up to bring the trophy back to the Badgers' den at AT&T Stadium.
Fittingly, it was the tight ends who got to take their turn with the trophy first. On at least one play, the Badgers' lined up with four of them in an offensive formation.
None starred more than Troy Fumagalli, who provided the day's three biggest offensive highlights for 11-3 Wisconsin, who can celebrate an eighth double-digit win season under four different head coaches since 2005.
The 11th win was vintage Wisconsin.
The No. 8 Badgers successfully bullied No. 15 Western Michigan's front seven for much of the game and needed only three hours and 14 passes to leave JerryWorld with a victory more decisive than the eight points that separated the two teams on the scoreboard
Of those 14 passes, seven were thrown to Fumagalli, the game's MVP. He caught six. One to convert a third-and-13 and set up Wisconsin's early 7-0 lead that ballooned to 14-0 before the end of the first quarter. He only needed his left hand to haul that one in, which is even more impressive considering it only has four fingers. His left index finger was amputated as a baby after he was born with amniotic band syndrome, which is caused when fibrous amniotic bands wrap around limbs or digits and cut off circulation in the womb. Fumagalli used two hands for his acrobatic touchdown in the back of the end zone that stretched Wisconsin's lead to 14 and sealed the game with a third-down reception in the final minutes
"He wins a lot of one-on-ones, and when you do that, you're open, and when you do that, you get the ball," Houston said. "You throw it in that kid's zip code, he's coming down with it.
The lone incompletion came on a baffling drop in the back of the end zone on a third down in the final seconds of the first half. Wisconsin had to settle for a field goal and a 17-7 lead at the break
"He can catch damn near everything, so I was surprised when he dropped the first one," running back Corey Clement said. "He came back and was like, 'That was me.' I was like, 'Yeah, fool. It was you.' You gotta realize we need you in the big-time moments. He definitely came back and the plays he made were definitely big time."
Fumagalli's six catches for 83 yards and a TD outshined Western Michigan's star receiver and possible first-round pick Corey Davis, who capped his stellar career with six catches for 73 yards and a TD in the fourth quarter.
Chryst harped on a consistent message throughout bowl preparation: Do not underestimate Western Michigan.
The Broncos entered at 12-0, yes, but their best win came on the season's opening Saturday when they escaped 7-6 Northwestern on a late, controversial fumble at the goal line. Non-Power Five teams, when they aren't playing each other, have gone 7-2 in major bowl games since the birth of the BCS.
"It's all about how you prepare and what mindset you want to have coming into this game. Do you want to think you're all hot s---, so to say, or do you want to make sure you play team ball and you're playing your assignment," Clement said. "Because you snap your fingers and you could be down 21-0 if you think this game is going to be handed to you."
Wisconsin invested in that message and cashed in, taking an early lead.
"We're in a storm right now, and it's pretty bad," Fleck told his team. "But, again, if we stop rowing, it's going to get a lot worse and we'll never get out of it. Some of you row, some of you don't, we're going to go in a circle. But if we continue to row, we're going to get out of it. And we came out of it."
Western Michigan assured the second half would be competitive and spent most of it a play away from a tie game, but it wasn't enough.
And on Wisconsin's sideline, it didn't take a magnifying glass to read the annoyance with Western Michigan's motivational speaker on the sidelines and "Row The Boat" mantra, which the rowdy Broncos' fans across from the Wisconsin sideline chanted several times before and during the game.
Defensive MVP T.J. Edwards verbally committed to Fleck and Western Michigan in June 2013, just six months after he'd been hired. The two-star recruit flipped to Wisconsin six months later after the Badgers offered him a scholarship. Early in the fourth quarter, with Western Michigan trailing just 17-10 and beginning a drive from its own three, he picked off Zach Terrell to force Western Michigan's eighth turnover of the entire season.
Naturally, he put his own oar in the water and rowed his boat back to the sideline.
"It's just kind of cool how it all comes full circle," Edwards said, adding that he'd planned on doing the celebration earlier this week if he made a big play. "I had to show tribute."
Wisconsin's official Twitter account apparently felt the same. The boat rowers' maiden voyage into the New Year's Six did not adhere to its planned itinerary.
The Badgers never hit a more euphoric high than knocking off Leonard Fournette and LSU in their opener at historic Lambeau Field. They were unable to beat either of the Big Ten powers -- Ohio State and Michigan -- or its champion, Penn State. The Badgers reached Indianapolis, and though a victory would have meant another addition to its trophy case and a trip to Pasadena, it wouldn't have meant a playoff bid.
But Monday, a happy, boisterous locker room began the process of letting 11 wins soak in.
"The couple losses to Michigan and Ohio State were tough, because we knew as a team we could beat them both," offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk said. "But we bounced back."
The six consecutive wins that followed the seven-point losses -- with Ohio State coming in overtime -- landed Wisconsin an opportunity to play for a Big Ten title
"Looking back, I can say I was part of an 11-win season," Clement said. "It's an awesome feeling."
And ending that season with a win makes it a lot easier for Wisconsin to define 2016 by the 11 games it won and not by the three it did not.