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Wisconsin back to Rose Bowl

Marques Eversoll, Sports Writer/Commentary
December 4, 2012
Filed under Sports

The 2012 season has blossomed into a third consecutive Rose Bowl berth for the Wisconsin Badgers.

“Unlike five times this year, the ball bounced our way,” said senior linebacker Chris Borland. “We’ll take it.”

All five of Wisconsin’s losses this season were by three points, but the Badgers dominated Nebraska 70-31 in the Big Ten Championship to advance to the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin will play the Stanford Cardinals Jan. 1.

The Badgers rushed out to an early 7-0 lead on a 56-yard touchdown run by running back Melvin Gordon. On the ensuing possession, Wisconsin cornerback Marcus Cromartie intercepted Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez.

Cromartie took the interception back 29 yards to the end zone, giving the Badgers a 14-0 lead only 2:07 into the game.

Wisconsin’s fast start kept them in the ahead, despite the best efforts of Martinez. Facing a third-and-11 from Nebraska’s 24-yard line, Martinez eluded multiple Badgers defenders and ran 76 yards for a Cornhuskers’ touchdown.

Nebraska held Wisconsin to a three-and-out on the next drive before adding a field goal to cut the Badgers’ lead to 14-10. The four-point deficit was the closest Nebraska would get to the lead all night.

Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada opened the playbook Saturday night. By using multiple formations and constant motion, the Badgers had Nebraska playing on its heels all night.

In the second quarter, the Badgers used a little trickery. After tossing the ball to senior Jared Abbrederis, the wide receiver lofted a pass downfield to quarterback Curt Phillips. The play set up a one-yard touchdown run by running back James White, his second of the day.

“We’ve been practicing this stuff,” Canada said. “That was the beauty of where we were. We felt like we had a chance to run some plays. We really didn’t add a lot of plays this week.”

And with just six seconds remaining before halftime, Canada again used deception to find the end zone. White took the direct snap and ran to his right before tossing the ball to a wide-open Sam Arneson in the back of the end zone.

By halftime, Wisconsin had amassed 289 yards on the ground. Gordon and senior running back Montee Ball had already eclipsed the 100-yard mark as Wisconsin led 42-10.

Coming out of the break, Nebraska’s drive ended when Martinez threw an interception to Badgers cornerback Devin Smith on the sideline. On the next play, Ball took the handoff and went nine yards untouched into the end zone to extend Wisconsin’s lead to 49-10.

After the Cornhuskers scored by way of another Martinez touchdown run, the Badgers responded quickly with a three-play, 75-yard scoring drive to take a 56-17 lead. Breaking multiple tackles on a 57-yard dash, Ball scored his third touchdown.

Wisconsin’s next drive belonged to White. The junior running back found a hole and went 68 yards for his third rushing touchdown of the night. Wisconsin took its 63-17 lead into the fourth quarter.

All three of the Badgers’ running backs — Gordon, Ball and White — went more than 100 yards for the game. Gordon led the team with 217 yards on nine carries, Ball accounted for 201 rushing yards and White ran for 109 yards and a team-high four touchdowns.

“I’m just happy they’re with us,” said Wisconsin running back coach Thomas Hammock. “They compete hard, and they kept the same level of intensity all season. It obviously showed today.”

Stanford last appeared in the Rose Bowl in 2000, losing 17-9 to Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne and the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers have been the Big Ten representatives in Pasadena in each of the past three seasons. Wisconsin lost to Oregon 45-38 last year and fell at the hands of TCU 21-19 in the 2010 season.

Stanford defeated UCLA in the Pac-12 championship Friday, improving its record to 11-2 on the season. The Badgers, at 8-5, will look to hand the Cardinals its third loss of the season in the Rose Bowl.