|Usua Amanam (left) and Stepfan Taylor were the MVPs of the Rose Bowl. (US Presswire)|
STANFORD WON: Behind a physical defense and a grind-it-out offense, No. 8 Stanford finished off a 12-2 season with a hard-fought 20-14 win over Wisconsin (8-6) in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on New Year's Day. It was the Cardinal's first Rose Bowl win since 1972. Running back Stepfan Taylor was named the offensive MVP after rushing for 88 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Cornerback Usua Amanam was the defensive MVP after securing the victory with a key fourth-quarter interception. Kevin Hogan threw for 123 yards and rushed for 54 to become the first freshman quarterback to win a Rose Bowl since Brook Bollinger did so for Wisconsin in 2000. Stanford held the Badgers to 83 yards passing and just 301 total yards. Wisconsin acquitted itself well for the most part and, after rallying from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit, was in the game until the final drive. Montee Ball led all rushers with 100 yards on 24 carries. His second-quarter touchdown gave him 83 for his career. The Badgers defense stepped up after a slow start, holding the Cardinal in the second half to just three points and 98 total yards. Neither team team turned it over until the final two minutes, when Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips was picked off by Amanam. The game was a tale of two halves, with the offenses dominating the first half and the defenses clamping down in the second.
WHY STANFORD WON: The game was highly competitive and physical, but cleanly played. The two teams combined for 10 penalties and just one turnover and each side had 17 first downs. The total yardage was relatively close (Stanford 344, Wisconsin 301). The Cardinal win can best be attributed to an early offensive outburst that led to 14 first-quarter points. A pass off a reverse by receiver Drew Terrell to Jamal-Rashad Patterson set up receiver Kelsey Young's 16-yard touchdown dash off another reverse. A bomb from Hogan to tight end Zach Ertz for 43 yards set up Taylor's 3-yard touchdown plunge. Once the normal flow of the game resumed, the two teams were evenly matched, but Stanford had more of a cushion to work with and was able to hold on for the victory.
WHEN STANFORD WON: The Cardinal took a 20-14 lead after Jordan Williamson's 22-yard field goal with 4:23 to play, but the Wisconsin offense came to life on the ensuing drive and it looked like the game might go down to the wire. The Badgers advanced to the Stanford 49-yard line from their own 25 in five plays and had a second-and-five with a little more than two minutes to play. That's when Amanam stepped in front of a Phillips pass at the Stanford 42-yard line to put an end to any potential drama. Stanford picked up one more first down and ran out the clock.
WHAT STANFORD WON: It was Stanford's first Rose Bowl win since 1972. But the game also cemented the Cardinal as an emerging national power under coach David Shaw. Stanford has been to three consecutive BCS games (winning two) and has three consecutive seasons of 11 wins or more (and two 12-win seasons). "It's not always pretty, it's not always perfect, but we finish what we start," Shaw said after the game. With most of this team coming back next year and a talented recruiting class emerging, the Cardinal are not going away any time soon.
WHAT WISCONSIN LOST: It took some good fortune for the five-loss Badgers to even be in this game, but this one will stick in their craw nonetheless. Even with an interim coach and with poor quarterback play, Wisconsin had a chance to win. Instead, it became the first team since Michigan in 1977-79 to lose three consecutive Rose Bowls.