|Coach David Shaw led the Stanford Cardinal to a 20-14 Rose Bowl victory on Tuesday night. (US Presswire)|
Stanford's defense lived up to its billing as one of the best run-stopping units in the country and spoiled Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez's return to Pasadena as the Cardinal defeated Wisconsin 20-14 in the 99th Rose Bowl on Tuesday night. The Badgers managed just three first downs in the entire second half and with the rushing game contained, Wisconsin QB Curt Phillips began forcing throws and tried to beat Stanford through the air.
On Wisconsin's final drive, Usua Amanam intercepted a deflected pass with just over two minutes remaining and the Cardinal were able to run out the clock behind bullish RB Stepfan Taylor. It was Stanford's first BCS victory since a 40-12 victory in the Orange Bowl in the 2010 season. For Wisconsin, it was its third consecutive loss in Pasadena.
The second half morphed into a rugged defensive struggle as each team became more conservative, unwilling to make the first mistake. In the third quarter alone, the teams combined for seven punts. But Stanford finally broke the deadlock with an 11-play, 51-yard fourth quarter drive where Taylor rushed five times for 27 yards and eventually got Stanford into FG range. At 20-14, the score didn't put the game out of reach, but it was the first time either team could navigate the others' staunch run defense in the second half.
The first half was another story as Stanford threatened to put the game away early with consecutive touchdown drives on its first two series. Unlike the rest of the game, the first scoring drive was built off of back-to-back trick plays from coach David Shaw.
Early in the first quarter, redshirt freshman QB Kevin Hogan rolled left, flipped the ball to WR Drew Terrell, who then found Jamal-Rashad Patterson for a leaping grab over a Wisconsin safety to get into Badger territory. Stanford punched it in one play later on a 16-yard end-around to RB Kelsey Young to make it 7-0. The Cardinal scored on their next drive as well to make it 14-0.
Wisconsin RB Montee Ball responded with an 11-yard touchdown run of his own, but Ball was relegated to part-time duty for much of the second half while splitting carries with RB Melvin Gordon, the Badgers' quicker, more agile option.
Ball had 100 of Wisconsin's 218 rushing yards, but the play-calling became too predictable, and Phillips, starting his fifth game at QB, was too hesitant in the pocket. Stanford's defense seized on the one-dimensional aspect of the Badgers and controlled the tempo of the fourth quarter to ultimately win the game.
When the game turned: Stanford's decisive fourth-quarter drive broke a defensive stalemate, but it was really Amanam's interception that sealed the Cardinal victory. Wisconsin had just two timeouts remaining when Phillips threw the interception and Stanford took over the ball near midfield with just over two minutes remaining.
(Video courtesy of ESPN)
Highlight moments: Patterson's twisting, 34-yard catch set the tone for Stanford's early drive. While backpedaling, Patterson leaped and caught the ball over his head as he was falling to the ground. One play later Young scored on another clever play design that Wisconsin was completely unprepared for. … Phillips set up Wisconsin's second touchdown with a 38-yard scramble along the left sideline that was sprung by key blocks from Jared Abbrederis and RB James White. Before he made the cut up-field, Phillips looked as if he would settle for a first down, but he immediately bolted up the sidelines untouched until the Stanford 22-yard line.
Significance of Stanford's victory: The Cardinal were already one of just three programs in the country to make it to three consecutive BCS games (Wisconsin, Oregon), but coach Shaw feels like the program as a whole is still ascending. In terms of national respect, he said, “We still feel like we don't have it.” An early-season loss to Washington crippled its National Championship hopes, but Shaw said that the controversial loss to Notre Dame buoyed their second-half surge. With the win, in all likelihood, the Cardinal will finish in the top-5, if not the top-3 of the AP Poll come season's end. They replaced Andrew Luck this year and still made it to a BCS game and with Hogan set to begin next year as the starter, the bar is now set for a National Championship run from the Cardinal.
Significance of Wisconsin loss: The loss underscores the month-long turmoil that the Badgers have had to endure. After their former coach departed for the SEC, the players rallied around Alvarez but were unable to improve his record to 4-0 in Rose Bowl appearances. A new regime is set to takeover in Madison with newly-hired Gary Andersen bringing some of his coaches over from Utah State. He still has building blocks in Madison, but a third-straight Rose Bowl loss will sting throughout the offseason.
- Stanford QB Kevin Hogan: 12 of 19 for 123 yards passing, seven rushes for 54 yards
- Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor: 88 yards on 20 carries, one touchdown
- Stanford TE Zach Ertz: three catches for 61 yards
- Stanford K Jordan Williamson: 2 for 2 on FG attempts, including long of 47
- Wisconsin RB Montee Ball : 24 carries for 100 yards, one touchdown
What they said about Stanford's interception and the win:
- Stanford DB Usua Amanam: "I happened to see him him go to the middle of the field and I just pedaled to the right, and I think a D-lineman got his hand on the ball, and fortunately, the ball just fell into my hands. So I don't think one play wins any game."
- Stanford coach David Shaw to ESPN: "Relief. We talked about it at halftime. We got our hands on five balls in the first half and it's unlike us not to intercept those balls and we finally got one."
- Stanford DE Ben Gardner, a Wisconsin native: "I'll try to keep my mouth shut [when I go home] but I'm pretty excited."
- Wisconsin QB Curt Phillips: "I saw [Pedersen]. I've got to put it on him. It wasn't a good throw.
- Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez: "I just felt like maybe we were a team of destiny. Curt's run the two-minute offense pretty well. So I just felt like somehow we were going to find a way to score. That's what my thinking was."
What they said about losing in the Rose Bowl three times:
- Wisconsin's Alvarez: "I think the fact that most people like to get here once. We just didn't get it done."
- Wisconsin RB Montee Ball: "Yeah, this is not the way I want to be remembered, speaking for the entire senior group, this is not the way we wanted to go out."
What they said about Wisconsin's future:
- Wisconsin OC Matt Canada, who is leaving to coach N.C. State: "They're moving forward and they'll have a top offense in the nation with all the guys they have coming back. They have a quality staff coming in."
Numbers you should know: Ball was held to just 12 rushing yards in the second half. ... Ball's touchdown run in the second quarter made him the first RB in college football history to score touchdowns in three different Rose Bowls. ... It was Stanford's sixth Rose Bowl win, the third most in the Pac-12.
For more Big Ten coverage, follow Mike Singer and Dave Carey @CBSSportsBigTen.