Wisconsin rolls over Nebraska in Big Ten title game
BY HERB GOULD firstname.lastname@example.org December 1, 2012 11:28PM
High-flying Montee Ball of Wisconsin soars into the end zone at the conclusion of a 16-yard run for a touchdown — the 80th of his career — in the second quarter. Ball (21 carries, 202 yards) had two more TDs in the third. | AP
Updated: January 3, 2013 11:04AM
INDIANAPOLIS — Bo and Woody. And Bret?
Only two coaches have taken their teams to at least three consecutive Rose Bowls. Chances are, you’ve heard of Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes.
On Jan. 1, Bret Bielema will join the Bo and Woody Club in Pasadena, Calif. But he gained entrance with a game that would have made the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust duo cringe.
Wisconsin trounced No. 14 Nebraska 70-31 on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in the second Big Ten Championship Game. The Badgers, who beat Michigan State 42-39 last year, have won the league’s first two title games by avenging a regular-season loss.
“The resiliency of this group gave us a championship,’’ Bielema said. “They give you everything they can every day, and they’ve given Wisconsin a third straight Big Ten championship.’’
Wisconsin (8-5), which lost at Nebraska on Sept. 29, reached its goal of being the third Big Ten school to play in three consecutive Rose Bowls with an exclamation point, despite being an underdog in this game. Ohio State went to four in a row in 1972-75, and Michigan followed with three trips in 1976-78.
“We love when people say, ‘You can’t,’ ’’ Bielema said. “We heard a lot of it from a lot of talking heads. You just kind of quietly store it away. Walk softly and carry a big stick. And when you have a chance to take a swing, take it hard. What happened today isn’t a big shock to me.’’
Opening up the playbook, Bielema used a creative arsenal as the Badgers shredded the respected defense of Nebraska (10-3) for 539 rushing yards.
Melvin Gordon (216 yards on nine carries, one TD), Montee Ball (202 on 21, three TDs ) and James White (109 on 15, four TDs) had terrific moments as they combined for eight touchdowns and more than 500 yards against a Nebraska defense that was allowing 160.8 rushing yards per game.
“Everything went wrong,’’ said Nebraska safety P.J. Smith, trying to ease the finger-pointing at Huskers coach Bo Pelini. “I told coach it wasn’t his fault. I’ll put this on the defense. We didn’t do what we’re supposed to do. It’s frustrating.’’
Beyond sheer power and elusiveness, Wisconsin badgered Nebraska with creative trickery.
“Our kids had a little bit of fun with it,’’ Bielema said. “It was still the meat and potatoes that got us where we are.’’
When Nebraska answered Wisconsin’s early 14-0 lead with 10 consecutive points, Bielema lined up virtually his whole offense wide left — sort of like chess without pawns — to set up a 10-yard pass for a first down.
On Wisconsin’s next possession, fifth-year quarterback Curt Phillips, making his fourth start, flipped the ball to receiver Jared Abbrederis, who rolled right, then tossed the ball back left to a wide-open Phillips for a 27-yard completion to the Nebraska 1.
On the Badgers’ next possession, acrobatics trumped trickery. Ball went airborne just inside the 5-yard line to complete a 16-yard touchdown run, the 80th of his career, and Wisconsin led 35-10.
Six seconds before halftime, Gordon went 60 relentless yards to give the Badgers a first down at the Nebraska 3. Rather than settle for a chipshot field goal, Bielema had White take a direct snap and throw a three-yard touchdown pass for a 42-10 halftime lead.
That’s a pretty big black mark for the vaunted Black Shirt defense.
It’s no wonder that Pelini, who’s nobody’s sweetheart, trotted off the field in a huff, ignoring the sideline reporter who wanted an interview.
The Badgers, who will be the first Big Ten team to go to the Rose Bowl with more than three losses, have overcome five tough defeats by a total of 19 points. One was that 30-27 setback at Nebraska, which came back from a 20-3 first-half hole.