Posted on: January 2, 2012 11:04 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 11:06 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
PASADENA, Calif. -- Been there, done that.
It's a saying as common as a Wisconsin fan jumping around before the 4th quarter. The Badgers ended their second consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl under head coach Bret Bielema much the same as they did their first - on the losing end.
For a team just two Hail Mary losses away from playing for the national title, this was supposed to be it. A hotshot transfer quarterback and a Heisman Trophy finalist running back playing behind him against a team that saw defense as outscoring their opponent. They held the lead early, held it late but ultimately didn't hold it when it mattered.
"This team never flinched, never wavered," said offensive lineman Peter Konz. "Against Michigan State we kept going, against Ohio State we kept going. It came down to winning all our last games, and we did that. We got here and we never gave up. In that reflection, it's unbelievable. As a man you can look back and go, 'I did all I could do.'"
"I'm kind of tired of tears of sadness," Bielema said. "I wanted to come out here and experience tears of joy at some point."
For a time, it looked as though Wisconsin was going to be great. Russell Wilson hit Jared Abbrederis for a 38-yard strike to cap off a 77-yard drive to open the game. Oregon answered.
Wilson responded with a 74-yard scoring drive. The Ducks took three plays to find the end zone. Back-and-forth they went on the perfectly cut grass of the Rose Bowl Stadium until Wisconsin was finally being tripped up. So close, once again, to a win but for one final time coming up just short.
"The game was basically 0-0 the whole game," Wilson said. "No matter if the score was 35-35 or 7-7, it's a 0-0 game. That's the way I look at it. There at the end it was 7-0, and we thought we could come back and score."
Success is a fleeting term for those who have tasted it because it is so easily lost. In the record books, this season will be looked at as a success. A win in the first ever Big Ten Championship Game, two candidates for the Heisman, scores of NCAA records to tell recruits about. Yet, the stinging feeling the players wearing red and white had walking off the field was not exactly the way they wanted to start the new year off.
"We'll rebound from this. I wouldn't trade in anything, anyplace in the world for that locker room that I have right now and the way that they continue to persevere," Bielema said. "I'm not going to apologize for a group that want to lead the division title, won a Big Ten title, and earned a chance to come out here and play a quality football team, and unfortunately came up a little bit short."
Bielema has built this program using size, strength and home-grown talent. He took a chance by luring Wilson to Madison and it paid off, not just with the titles but by the leadership he showed on and off the field. Ball ran himself into the record books, tying Barry Sanders' FBS-record.
But, in the final five minutes of the biggest game of the year, Abbrederis fumbled inches from going out of bounds and essentially gave away any chance the Badgers had of winning.
Heartbreak, it seemed, was the only thing that could stop Wisconsin this year.
"Well, it's never easy," the head coach said. "I'm not saying I'd rather lose by 40 points though. I mean, it just make it's that much more gut wrenching. But on the same account, you can hold your head high knowing the perseverance, and the challenge and response that our guys showed was truly amazing and a great credit to their character."
Abbrederis still finished with 346 all-purpose yards, good enough for a school bowl record. He caught a touchdown pass to give the team three players with at least eight on the season for the first time. Wilson edged out Heisman winner Robert Griffin III to set an NCAA pass efficiency record with 191.78 and extended his own record with a touchdown pass in his 38th-straight game.
"They're a great bunch of guys that have the determination," said Wilson. "We lost three games, basically, with a total of maybe within 40 seconds. It's pretty wild."
"What I brought from last year to this year is you have to capitalize on every play and every opportunity that is shown. Obviously, we fell short once again," said Ball. "We're going to approach this just like we did last year after the loss. Obviously, a little better, prepared a lot better, but the only way we can go with it is forward."
Wisconsin turned last year's heartbreak into another successful season. As the Badgers rebuild with Wilson and, likely, Ball moving on, perhaps they can do the same in 2012.
"That's neither here or there, what happens, happens," said Konz, reflecting about the game. "It's just too bad it had to end on another last-second drive.
"We left it all on the field, and to do that, there's very little to be sad about.”
Posted on: January 2, 2012 9:01 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 11:25 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
PASADENA, Calif. -- Wisconsin's run for the roses quickly turned into a track meet that they just couldn't keep up with.
The second half of the granddaddy of them all opened much like the first: offense, offense and - a strange concept to the SEC - more offense as Oregon finally broke through and won a BCS game under Chip Kelly 45-38 in front of 91,245 at the 98th edition of the Rose Bowl.
A big run on the ensuing kick return by Jared Abbrederis for 60 yards setup Wisconsin in Oregon territory but they just couldn't capitalize. Running back Montee Ball did end up hurdling two defenders to pick up a first down on the drive but paid the price with a shot to the, um, sensitive area. Phillip Welch booted a 29-yard field goal to pull the Badgers to within 35-31.
Russell Wilson and the offense was moving right along trying to answer on the next drive. Abbrederis was wide open just past midfield and Wilson hit him in stride but he fumbled the ball along the sidelines and Oregon recovered the ball inbounds. The Ducks, for a change, actually slowed things down and picked up first down after first down to milk the rest of the time remaining off the clock.
Wisconsin had a chance late but, with two seconds remaining, spiked the ball with no time left on the clock.
OREGON WON. The Ducks picked up the school's first win in the Rose Bowl since 1917 thanks to a strong second half in a game that was all about offense but saw the defense make a few plays late to win the game. After back-to-back defeats in BCS games, Kelly finally got the program over the hump to capture his first bowl win in an exciting game that was paced just how he liked it.
HOW OREGON WON: Known mostly for running the ball, the offense was going up and down the field thanks largely to the arm of quarterback Darron Thomas, who finished 17-of-23 for 268 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas returned to Southern California and put on a show in his first bowl game, collecting 315 all-purpose yards by speeding past Badger defenders.
WHEN OREGON WON: Up 42-38, it felt like the last team to have the ball would win the game the way both defenses were playing - especially as they got tired late. After two penalties pushed the Ducks back, Chip Kelly opted to go for it on 4th-and-6 and Thomas found Tuinei on a slant to convert. Later in the drive Maldonado kicked a field goal to extend the lead one final time and, thanks to an Abbrederis fumbling the ball for Wisconsin, essentially give Oregon the win.
WHAT OREGON WON: The school's first Rose Bowl since 1917 for one but more than that, it marked the culmination of an impressive run under Kelly that was lacking a postseason win of note. From the national title game last year to LSU and USC this year, there were more signature losses than signature wins for the program. Now, with trophy in hand and plenty of celebrating Duck fans in the stands, Oregon has finally reached the elite level in college football.
WHAT WISCONSIN LOST: The second straight Rose Bowl loss by the Badgers will sting just as much as the first. Legitimately two hail mary's from playing in New Orleans for the national title, Wisconsin had high hopes at taking the trophy home to Madison and helping restore the Big Ten's reputation. Alas, it was not meant to be despite a great game and they end up on the receiving end of a Pac-12 victory in Pasadena.
THAT WAS CRAZY: The two teams combined to set Rose Bowl records for points scored in the 1st quarter, first half and the 83 at the final buzzer set a game record. De'Anthony Thomas' 91-yard was the longest in the game's history and both squads racked up 1,128 yards of total offense.
FINAL GRADE: A. Do you like offense? Do you like great games? Then toss in the greatest postseason game in college football and that's what happened Monday afternoon. There was plenty of offense - 7.8 yards per - and points to make things entertaining and even the defensive plays that were made excited the crowd. All-in-all, a great way to open college football in 2012 and close out the 2011 season for Oregon and Wisconsin.
Posted on: December 3, 2011 11:55 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 1:53 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
In the first-ever Big Ten Championship Game, Wisconsin won a slugfest with Michigan State, 42-39. The game lived up to the expectations set by the two teams' first meeting -- a 37-31 Spartan victory that was won on a last-second Hail Mary -- and although this contest didn't come down to a score on the final play of the game, it hardly lacked for excitement.
Wisconsin struck first and struck hard in the first quarter, featuring a punishing rushing attack that had Montee Ball rush for 105 yards and two scores in the opening frame. That quarter ended with Wisconsin up 21-7 and MSU facing a 4th and 1 on its own 30 yard line, and the Badgers looked like the more capable of the two teams.
Michigan State started that second quarter off with a bang, however, scoring on a 30-yard strike from Kirk Cousins to B.J. Cunningham off a fake pitch. The Spartan defense stiffened considerably after that, holding Wisconsin without a first down and to -4 yards of total offense in that quarter. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins came alive, going 12-14 for two scores and 137 yards in the quarter, leading Michigan State to 22 straight points and 208 yards of its own. All of a sudden, the 21-7 Badger lead had turned into a 29-21 Spartan advantage, and even that could have been worse; Dan Conroy missed a long field goal for MSU at the end of the half. That missed kick would loom large later.
After the half, Wisconsin answered with a 42-yard score from Wilson to Jared Abbrederis, and the Badgers were within a point. Cousins responded with his third touchdown pass to Cunningham on the night, and momentum was back on the side of Sparty. MSU had held Ball to 10 yards in the second and third quarters combined, and Ball was bottled up on the ensuing drive. But instead, Russell Wilson began to shine, going 5-5 for 43 yards and a touchdown that put the Badgers in position to tie the game. Alas, Wilson's two-point conversion was dropped, and MSU held a 36-34 lead.
The Spartans would add a field goal midway through the fourth quarter to push the lead to 39-34, and while that gave them considerable breathing room, it also left the door open for the Badgers to make a push toward the lead. And push the Badgers did, with Russell Wilson heaving a deep throw to Jeff Duckworth on 4th and 6, and Duckworth making a fantastic leaping catch to keep the Badgers' hopes alive. Ball waltzed in on the very next play, and after a 2-point conversion, Wisconsin retook the lead with 3:45 left on the clock.
Michigan State's offensed proceeded to sputter, but Keshawn Martin made a highlight-reel catch to keep the drive alive on 3rd and long. Unfortunately for Martin, his foot was judged to be out of bounds on replay, and the Spartans punted the ball away with under three minutes left. They would force a three-and-out, but Isaiah Lewis ran into Brad Nortman on the ensuing punt -- one that was returned inside Wisconsin's 5-yard line by Martin -- and as the penalty gave Wisconsin the first down, the Spartans would not see the ball again.
For Wisconsin, the victory means a second straight trip to the Rose Bowl and a likely Top 10 ranking -- its first since Keith Nichol broke the Badgers' hearts with his catch at the goal line back on October 8. For Michigan State, there will be no shortage of regret, no paucity of wishing that just one or two things had not gone wrong in those final minutes.