(Video courtesy ESPN)
Wisconsin is going where no five-loss team has gone before: The Rose Bowl. The Badgers became one of the most unlikely teams to earn a trip to Pasadena with a stunning 70-31 win over No. 12 Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday.
The game was exactly what the score would indicate -- an absolutely dominating performance by Wisconsin (8-5, 4-4 Big Ten), which clinched its school-record third-straight Big Ten championship. The Badgers opened the scoring four plays into the game when RB Melvin Gordon took a reverse handoff 56 yards for a touchdown. Eight seconds later the lead was 14-0 as DB Marcus Cromartie snagged a deflected pass and went 29 yards along the sideline and into the end zone.
Nebraska (10-3, 7-1) responded with an electric, 76-yard touchdown run by QB Taylor Martinez, but scoring runs from RBs James White and Montee Ball and a 3-yard touchdown pass from White to TE Sam Arneson gave Wisconsin a 42-10 halftime lead.
The Badgers took any remaining drama out of the game when White scored from 1-yard less than four minutes into the second half.
Gordon finished with 216 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, Ball had 202 yards and three scores on 21 carries and White had 109 yards and four scores on 15 attempts. The Cornhuskers were paced by QB Martinez, who was 17 of 33 for 184 yards and two interceptions. He also rushed for 140 yards and two scores.
When the game turned: Ball virtually clinched the victory midway through the second quarter when he found a way to beat a defender to the edge, turn the corner and lunge four yards into the end zone for a 16-yard score. The touchdown made it 35-10 with about seven minutes left before halftime and left the Cornhuskers searching for answers.
Highlight moments: Every time Wisconsin ran the ball -- the team averaged nearly 11 yards per carry. … The Badgers needed a mere four plays for Gordon to break a jaw-dropping 56-yard scoring run where he danced down the sideline and around defenders. … The lone highlight for the Cornhuskers was when Martinez scored on his long run. The junior was chased deep into his own backfield, broke containment, eluded several defenders, reversed field and outraced the Wisconsin secondary into the end zone as he cut around a blocker just in front of the goal line.
Significance of Wisconsin's victory: The Badgers are headed to Pasadena for a third-straight year but will be searching for their first win at the Rose Bowl in more than a decade. Wisconsin lost to Texas Christian two years ago before falling in a shootout last season to Oregon. The Badgers are expected to face Pac-12 champion Stanford -- the same team they beat on New Year's Day in 2000 at the Tournament of Roses.
Significance of Nebraska's loss: This defeat actually causes big ripples across the league. After a second blowout loss this season, the Cornhuskers could fall to the Outback Bowl, with Northwestern sneaking into the Capital One Bowl. Michigan, which was slated to earn a bid to the Capital One Bowl before the Big Ten title game, likely falls all the way to the Gator Bowl.
Top shelf performances:
- Wisconsin QB Curt Phillips -- 6 of 8 for 71 yards, catch on a trick play for 27 yards to set up a score
- Wisconsin LB Chris Borland -- game-high 13 tackles, 1 TFL
- Wisconsin RB Ball -- 21 carries, 202 yards, 3 TDs
- Nebraska RB Imani Cross -- 3 carries, 35 yards, TD
- Nebraska DB Andrew Green -- team-high 8 solo tackles
- Nebraska QB Martinez -- 322 total yards, 2 TDs
What they said:
- Wisconsin LB Mike Taylor on the amazing touchdown run by Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez: “I was thinking, ‘Gimme some water.'”
- Wisconsin QB Phillips on amassing 640 yards of offense: “Those guys up front took it personally last week (against Penn State), and they got it going and were on a roll.”
- Wisconsin RB White on playing for a league title with a 4-4 Big Ten record: “We can't control what other schools did. We were placed in a situation and took advantage of what was there.”
- Nebraska WR Tim Marlowe on the loss: "It was all about snowballing. Missed tackles on defense and just letting one mistake lead to another. It just got out of control too fast."
- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini on yielding 70 points: “We came unglued. I wish I had an answer, I don't. Shock doesn't even begin to explain it.”
Numbers you should know:
5: Trips to the Rose Bowl for Wisconsin during the BCS era, tying Southern Cal for the most.
70: Points scored by Wisconsin, tying Texas in 2005 for the most in a league title game.
1: Forced fumble in the win for Borland. His 13 career forced fumbles ties him for the all-time league record with former Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan.
593: Rushing yards allowed by Nebraska, the most in school history.
(For more on the Big Ten title game, check out Eye on College Football blog)
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big Ten bloggers Dave Carey and Mike Singer, follow @CBSSportsBigTen.