Badgers win Big Ten championship in a rosy runaway

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER
  • Updated: December 2, 2012 - 8:44 AM

Forget their record: The wrecking-ball Badgers attack was plenty legit.


Wisconsin players celebrate after defeating Nebraska 70-31 to win the Big Ten championship.

Photo: Darron Cummings, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

INDIANAPOLIS - It's so hard to keep up with Big Ten expansion these days. When, for instance, did Savannah State join the league?

Wait -- those were the Nebraska Cornhuskers?

The numbers were comical, the decisiveness bizarre. In a game as embarrassingly lopsided as a September walkover against a FCS pipsqueak, the Wisconsin Badgers earned a third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl, overpowering Nebraska with 10 touchdowns in a 70-31 punchline.

The Badgers (8-5) will be the first five-loss team to make a New Year's appearance in Pasadena in the Rose Bowl's century-long history, but they have nothing to apologize for. Their trip to the Big Ten championship game might have been a fluke of sanctions and divisional alignment, but their trip to Pasadena is no fluke at all.

Check out these cartoonish numbers: Wisconsin had four rushes of 50 yards or longer, but only two incomplete passes. The Badgers picked up 10 or more yards on 21 plays and punted only three times. The three-time defending champs gained 539 yards on the ground -- or nearly 10 times as many as the 56 yards they picked up in their 30-27 loss in Lincoln in September.

Two Wisconsin tailbacks, senior Montee Ball and freshman Melvin Gordon, gained more than 200 yards, and junior James White had 109. But don't feel bad for White -- he scored four touchdowns on the ground, and threw the game's only touchdown pass for good measure.

All that against a Nebraska defense known for its speed and renowned for its execution. No wonder the Huskers, after watching Nebraska flaunt its own quickness, were the ones saying "I'm sorry."

"We failed. We failed to win a championship. That was the goal, and we didn't get it done," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who has also lost two Big 12 championship games in his seven seasons with the Huskers. "I apologize for it. I apologize to the football team, I apologize to the fans. At the end, it falls on me. I'm the one responsible for it, and we didn't get it done."

Nebraska (10-3), which saw a six-game winning streak end, will still play in a New Year's Day bowl game, though a BCS game appears unlikely. But Wisconsin, the first Big Ten team since Michigan from 1977 to '79 to make three straight trips to Pasadena, knows it will meet Pacific-12 champion Stanford in the Rose Bowl, where the Badgers lost to Texas Christian two years ago and to Oregon last year.

"As my athletic director tells me all the time, it's OK to get there," Wisconsin coach Brett Bielema joked, "but you've got to win one."

That would have been impossible if Ohio State or Penn State had been eligible for the postseason, but Wisconsin, which went 4-4 in the Leaders Division, took advantage of its weakened division to earn a second trip in a row to Indianapolis.

And once they were in the familiar Lucas Oil Stadium surroundings, they took advantage of the Cornhuskers.

"Right from the start, they were all over us," Pelini said, and he's right: In what seems like the time it took to say those words, the Badgers scored a couple of touchdowns.

Actually, it was 127 seconds. In that short time, Gordon, the Badgers' third-string tailback, took a handoff on the game's fourth play, romped to the left edge, juked around safety P.J. Smith and found himself alone in the middle of the field. He sprinted into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown, the first big play of his 152-yard first half -- on four carries.

Then it was the defense's turn. When Taylor Martinez's first-down pass bounced off receiver Kenny Bell's hands, cornerback Marcus Cromartie grabbed the rebound and slid down the sideline 29 yards for a touchdown.

"Those first couple of minutes really gave us a lift," Bielema said, and he must have meant it in the same way the rocket boosters give the space shuttle a lift.

Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips didn't have much experience, having started only three games in his career, but as a senior, he had a thorough understanding of the playbook, and the Badgers flaunted that advantage by running one odd formation or unusual motion after another. It resulted in 17 gains of 10 or more yards in the first three quarters alone, and touchdown runs of 56, 57 and 68 yards -- by three different running backs.

Phil Miller •

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question