|Bret Bielema is a big fan of meat and potatoes. And Rose Bowls. (US Presswire)|
On September 10 Wisconsin was 1-1 and had rushed for only 203 yards 70 rushing attempts, or 2.9 yards per carry. September 10 was also the day that Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema fired offensive line coach Mike Markuson.
It was an odd move, considering the season had already started, and many criticized Bielema for the decision. Some felt it was a knee-jerk reaction, and others felt Bielema was just looking for a scapegoat for Wisconsin's slow start to the season.
Now it's December 1 and Wisconsin is on its way to its third consecutive Rose Bowl after rushing for 539 yards in a 70-31 stampede through the Nebraska defense. It was the second time the Badgers eclipsed 500 yards rushing in a single game this season, and Wisconsin finishes the regular season with 3,091 yards rushing, 237.8 yards per game.
It'd be pointless to question Bielema about that knee-jerk decision now, wouldn't it?
"It was the meat and potatoes that got us where we are," said Bielema on Saturday night.
"We stuck to the success of what makes us good. We've been on the cusp of it (all year). I knew we had a chance."
Make no mistake, Wisconsin is very good at the meat and potatoes.
During Saturday night's win over Nebraska the Badgers had two backs rush for more than 200 yards in Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon. James White rushed for a more pedestrian 109 yards but finished with 4 touchdowns. All thanks to an offensive line that parted the Nebraska defense like the Red Sea all night long.
Because of it the Badgers, a team that did not even win the Big Ten's Leaders Division, are going to Pasadena for the third straight season. It's a bit of a tricky situation for Wisconsin and the Big Ten. The Badgers did not receive a vote in either the AP or Coaches Poll last week, and there's a possibility that the Big Ten champion will not be ranked when the polls are released on Sunday.
Though it's not something that Bielema is worried about.
"If we spent one day worrying about what's happened (this season), we'd never have a chance to move forward," said Bielema.
Bielema's Badgers may have only gone 4-4 in the Big Ten this season, but of those four losses three came in overtime against Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State. The other loss was a 30-27 loss against the same Nebraska team the Badgers beat tonight, a game the Badgers held a 20-3 lead in during the second quarter.
In that game Wisconsin was unable to penetrate the Nebraska defense in the ground game. Montee Ball rushed for 3 touchdowns, but the Badgers managed only 56 rushing yards on 41 carries. On Saturday night Wisconsin had three separate touchdown runs of greater than 56 yards by three different backs.
There may have been some bumps in the road, but as this 2012 season wound down the Badgers got back to doing what they do best. Blocking their opponent and then running through them.
The meat and potatoes. And roses.