Wisconsin took on the fourteenth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in the second-annual Big Ten Championship game last night, a rematch of September 29th’s game in Lincoln. Nebraska edged the Badgers in that game 30-27; however, last night would prove to be a completely different story.
Wisconsin entered Saturday as three-point underdogs after finishing the season 7-5 and third-place in the Leaders Division (both Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible for post-season play). Nebraska, on the other hand, was 10-2 and ranked fourteenth in the country.
Wisconsin won the toss and elected to receive to start the game. Four plays, 75 yards and 1:59 later, they had a 7-0 lead, and that was just the beginning for the Badgers.
Eight seconds later, on the ensuing Nebraska possession, Taylor Martinez was intercepted by Marcus Cromartie, who ran it back 29 yards for another Wisconsin touchdown. Following the interception, Martinez broke-off a 76-yard touchdown run of his own, cutting into Wisconsin’s lead, but only temporarily.
Wisconsin would go on to score eight more touchdowns throughout the night, hanging 70 points on Nebraska’s defense, most of which was done on the ground. The Badgers had three running backs rush for more than 100 yards.
Senior Montee Ball had 202 yards on the ground, scoring three touchdowns in the process. “We kind of set our minds before the game that this is our game. The running backs were going to set the tempo.”
Also making a name for himself was redshirt freshman running back Melvin Gordon. Despite only getting the ball nine times in the game, he made each one count accumulating 216 yards to lead the team in rushing.
Not to be forgotten in the mix was junior James White, the third Wisconsin back to crack the century mark. White only rushed for 119 yards, but he scored four touchdowns.
The Badgers only went to the air ten times in the game; however, quarterback Curt Phillips only threw eight of those passes. Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis got a chance to complete a 27-yard pass to his quarterback down to the 1-yard line and James White added to his touchdown total, connecting with tight end Sam Arneson on a 3-yard touchdown pass.
” It was a mixed bag [of tricks],” said coach Bielema of the trick plays. “Matt [Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada] kept talking about having an indoor game, being able to execute certain things. There were probably a couple we haven’t used yet either that will remain a little secret.”
While it was a night of celebration for Wisconsin, it was one of disappointment for the Cornhuskers. “It’s pretty hard to swallow,” said senior Tim Marlowe, “we wanted to be that senior class that won a championship. It didn’t work out the way we wanted it to.”
Head coach Bo Pelini took the blame for the loss following the game, “I apologize to everybody associated with Nebraska football with how we coached, how we played, and it’s not acceptable.”
“I think that’s classy of him,” sad senior kicker Brett Maher, “No matter who you talk to tonight will say that he’s the last person any of us are going to blame. We have complete and total trust in him and have since we’ve got here.”
“I mean, everything went wrong,” said senior safety, P.J. Smith. “It was a great game plan. Like I told Coach, I said, it wasn’t your fault. I’ll put this on the defense. We didn’t step up. We didn’t do what we were supposed to do. It was a great game plan; we just didn’t finish the plays. There you have it.”
While the Cornhuskers will wait to see their bowl fate later tonight, the Badgers are heading back to Pasadena for the third-straight year, the first Big Ten team to reach three-consecutive Rose Bowls since Michigan from 1977-79.
Wisconsin will face the Stanford Cardinal who defeated UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship game on Friday. These two teams faced each other in the 2000 Rose Bowl, a game won by the Badgers 17-9.