Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wisconsin loses to Stanford in the 2013 Rose Bowl

The 99th installment of the "Granddaddy of Them All" was one of the more unlikely match-ups in Rose Bowl history when the 8th ranked Stanford Cardinal (11-2) faced the unranked Wisconsin Badgers (8-5).  I say unlikely because although it involved a Big Ten program playing a Pac 12 (artist formerly known as the Pac 10) program, the Badgers became the first team to participate in the Rose Bowl with five loses.

Take those five loses with a grain of salt though.  The Badgers lost three games in overtime to Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State.  Their two non-overtime loses came on the road to Oregon State and Nebraska, which are both currently ranked in the Top 25.  All five of those loses heading into the Rose Bowl were by merely 19 points so the Badgers haven't been blown out this year.

Finishing the Big Ten regular season 7-5 (4-4 in the Big Ten) meant the Badgers were the 3rd best team in the Leaders Division and nominally only the 5th or 6th best team in the Big Ten based on their record.  The top two teams in the Leaders Division (Ohio State and Penn State) were ineligible to play in the Big Ten Championship Game so the Badgers represented the Leaders Division.  Wisconsin walloped the Legends Division representative Nebraska 70-31 to avenge a loss to them earlier in the season and more importantly earn the right to play in the 2013 Rose Bowl.

Stanford is made their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1999 while the Badgers made their third consecutive Rose Bowl appearance.  Wisconsin is the first Big Ten to make three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances since Michigan did the same thing from 1977 to 1979. Chalk it up to geography or too many consecutive Rose Bowl appearances but according to various reports Stanford sold roughly 40,000 tickets while Wisconsin only sold roughly 16,500 tickets.

In games decided by seven points or less heading into the 2013 Rose Bowl, Stanford was 7-2 including 2-1 in overtime (lost 17-13 at Washington and lost 20-13 in overtime at Notre Dame) while Wisconsin is 2-5 including 0-3 in overtime.  Part of Stanford's success in close games came thanks to head coach David Shaw benching junior quarterback Josh Nunes for dual-threat redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan much like previous Standford head coach Jim Harbaugh did recently as head coach for the San Francisco 49ers benching veteran quarterback Alex Smith in favor of second year dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Speaking of head coaches, Barry Alvarez decided to coach the Badgers in the 2013 Rose Bowl after Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas.  Early returns on Alvarez's performance were not positive thanks to a pair of early first quarter rushing touchdowns for Stanford. Towards the end of the first quarter it looked like the 2013 Rose Bowl was going to be a blow out like many national pundits thought.  That was exacerbated early in the second quarter when Wisconsin running back Montee Ball scored a rushing touchdown that was nullified by a senseless holding penalty by left tackle Rick Wagner.  At the end of that same drive Wisconsin faced a 4th and goal with less than a yard to go.  Stanford stonewalled running back James White so Wisconsin turned the ball over on downs.  I know it seems easy to say now but I would have kicked the field goal, especially since Stanford has one of the best rush defenses in the country.

Instead of going into a shell, Wisconsin forced Stanford to punt after turning the ball over on downs and responded with a second quarter touchdown run by Ball for his FBS record 83rd career touchdown to cut the deficit to 14-7.  That touchdown also made Ball the only player to score a touchdown in three different Rose Bowls.

Stanford quickly countered with a 47-yard field by Jordan Williamson, a kick way out of the range of any Wisconsin kicker.  That is more of a shot at struggling Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby than either Wisconsin Badgers kicker because a 47-yard field goal is a lot to ask of any collegiate kicker, especially in a pressure packed game like the Rose Bowl.  Unfortunately that is also too much to ask of Crosby despite the fact that he earns $3 million (signed a five-year, $15 million contract in 2011).

Wisconsin responded again, this time with a methodical drive at the end of the first half capped off by a four-yard touchdown pass from Curt Phillips to tight end Jordan Fredrick.  That meant the Badgers trailed 17-14 at halftime.  The last time a team trailed the Rose Bowl at halftime and went on to win the Rose Bowl was 2000 when the Badgers trailed Stanford 9-3 but scored 14 unanswered points on to win 17-9.

Following a scoreless third quarter, Williamson converted a 22-yard field goal to give Stanford a 20-14 lead with a little over four minutes remaining in the game.  That meant for the third consecutive Rose Bowl, Wisconsin had the ball with a chance to win the game.  The Badgers moved the ball to midfield but Stanford cornerback Usua Amanam intercepted Phillips with just over two minutes left in the game.  Stanford went on to pick up one first down to secure their first Rose Bowl victory since 1972.

The 2013 Rose Bowl will undoubtedly be remembered as a defensive struggle.  Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor rushed for 89 yards and one touchdown while quarterback Kevin Hogan threw for 123 yards and ran for 54 yards.  Ball rushed for 100 yards and one touchdown while Phillips finished 10 for 16 throwing for 83 yards and rushing for 64 yards for Wisconsin.

The numbers for Wisconsin and Stanford were roughly even, highlighted by the fact that Wisconsin gained 83 yards in the second half while Stanford gained 96 yards.  As discussed earlier, Stanford has one of the best rush defenses in the nation so I am not sure why former starting quarterback Joel Stave didn't see more action than two snaps under center (one hand-off and one incomplete pass attempt).  For those that don't know, the Badgers lost Stave midway through the season to a broken collarbone but doctors recently cleared him to play in the Rose Bowl.  Stave might have been a little rusty but almost everyone was rusty because neither team has played in a month.  It is easy to second guess Alvarez and offensive coordinator Matt Canada but in this instance it seems like justifiable criticism.

Wisconsin just lost their third consecutive Rose Bowl (21-19 to TCU in 2011, 45-38 to Oregon in 2012, and 20-14 to Stanford in 2013) much like Michigan did in the late 1970's (14-6 to USC in 1977, 27-20 to Washington in 1978, and 17-10 to USC in 1979).  Since Wisconsin won consecutive Rose Bowls in 1999 and 2000 the Big Ten has gone 1-9 in the Rose Bowl thanks in large part to Wisconsin and Michigan both losing three Rose Bowls in the last decade.  Here's hoping that new head coach Gary Andersen can help the Badgers win a Rose Bowl soon.

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