Date/Time - Tuesday, January 1 at 4:10 p.m. CT
Stadium –Rose Bowl Stadium (89,105/Grass)
Television – ESPN (Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox, Tom Rinaldi)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Wisconsin leads 4-0-1 (Wisconsin leads 1-0 in neutral sites)
Last Meeting –Wisconsin won, 17-9, on January 1, 2000 in Pasadena
Last game's Badger Nation game coverage
PASADENA, Calif. –– In what was supposed to be a battle of high-powered offenses, the 86th Rose Bowl game between Wisconsin and Stanford ended up a defensive struggle. The Badgers, getting a boost from Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, rallied in the second half for a 17-9 win over the Cardinal. In the process, Wisconsin became the first Big Ten school in history to win the Rose Bowl in back-to-back seasons.
Dayne, whose 64-yard run on the second play of the second half energized the Big Ten champs, gained game MVP honors for the second year in a row. Dayne's stats in his final game as a Badger included 200 yards on 34 carries.
The Badgers' defense bottled up Stanford's running attack all game and limited the Cardinal to minus five yards rushing (tied for the second-best mark in school history). QB Todd Husak threw for 258 yards, but UW's defense dictated the action for most of the game.
Wisconsin had a 17-9 lead in the second half on TD runs by Dayne and Brooks Bollinger, but it took another defensive stand to clinch the win. Stanford's final drive ended when Husak was sacked on fourth down with just over a minute left.
Wisconsin is unbeaten in five all-time meetings with Stanford, owning a 4-0-1 mark in the series between the teams.
The teams have not met since clashing in the 2000 Rose Bowl Game, when the No. 4-ranked Badgers scored a 17-9 win over the 22ndranked Cardinal in Pasadena.
Wisconsin interim head coach Barry Alvarez owns a 2-0-1 mark against the Cardinal.
All-time, the Badgers are 6-4 against current members of the Pac-12 Conference in bowl games, including a 3-4 mark in the Rose Bowl.
You think all the talk about Wisconsin not deserving to play in its third straight Rose Bowl would have dissipated by now. Criticized for its record and having pundits say Nebraska deserved a better matchup than the third place team in the Big Ten Leaders Division, Wisconsin showed how well it can play when it's healthy and all the parts to the machines are clicking as one.
A 70-31 blasting of the Cornhuskers should have quieted more people but here we are again. In the weeks leading up to the game, pundits have said Stanford deserves a better matchup in the Rose Bowl and not a five-loss, back-to-back Pasadena loser like Wisconsin.
Once again, don't expect Wisconsin to say it's sorry.
"As far as what Stanford deserves, they are getting us whether they want it or not," said junior defensive tackle Ethan Hemer. "We're not going to apologize for being in the Rose Bowl. We did what we had to do to get an opportunity in the Big Ten championship game, and came away better than when we entered that."
"People said we don't deserve to be there, so we felt like we had something to prove," added senior Montee Ball. "No matter what, we had to beat Nebraska to make it (here). Even if we were undefeated in that game, we still had to beat Nebraska, and we did."
Hemer admitted that Wisconsin would "never hear the end of it" if it lost a third straight Rose Bowl, thereby finishing 8-6 on the season. But for a team that cares more what has been said eternally than what is said from an outsider's perspective, the Badgers can take solace in the fact it survived scrutiny to win another championship.
Still the goal this year is to finish. Finish a season. Finish a four quarter game. Finish a Rose Bowl with a victory instead of a one possession defeat in the final seconds.
Pick the toughest loss to swallow over the last three seasons and it likely would have involved a game Wisconsin lost because of a breakdown. There was the 2011 Rose Bowl when a two-point conversion attempt was knocked down in the final seconds.
There were three brutal losses last season all by a touchdown or less, as a high-powered Wisconsin offense was curtailed by its own defense that held the Badgers back from winning a Rose Bowl or potentially playing for a national championship.
This season might have been the hardest to swallow if it wasn't for the second Nebraska performance, as the Badgers lost four games by three points, one by seven and three in overtime. On the same accord, the Cardinal has manufactured game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in six games and is 2-2 in its four overtime games this season.
If the third time is the charm, Wisconsin is definitely owed some luck.
"We are a very good football team for our record," said senior quarterback Curt Phillips. "We just didn't capitalize on a lot of the things we could have. We just have to make the most of it."
In a way, perhaps Wisconsin has needed some disappointment to appreciate its successes. The Badgers have won more than a third of their games (34.0 percent) in the past three seasons by at least 20 points and have the 11th-best winning percentage in the country since the start of the 2009 season (40-13, .755).
Except for eight fifth-year seniors, nobody on Wisconsin's roster experienced more than three losses in any season before this year.
"The amount of adversity we've faced has been hard for us, but I think it's helped build us into a better team," said junior captain Travis Frederick. "You can win all the games, but it's harder to judge your mistakes and get better off your mistakes when you are always on top and always feeling good about yourself. Maybe those losses helped us to propel into this."
Heading into tomorrow's 99th Rose Bowl, Wisconsin won't be and haven't been shocked by all the pomp and circumstances surrounding the weeklong event. In fact it's been just the opposite with the head man – Barry Alvarez – leading the charge.
Growing up in Wautoma, Wis., junior receiver Jared Abbrederis remembers Wisconsin's playing physical in the Rose Bowls under Alvarez's guidance. Following that same plan, Alvarez has prepared Wisconsin with short, crisp and focused practices in Madison and California, but threw in an extra wrinkle Friday when Wisconsin did a full-padded scrimmage with live tackling to help knock the rust off. That should be a benefit.
Wisconsin is 6.5-point underdogs heading into the game and it's an underdog role it has relished since late October. Ball was candid when he said the first two Rose Bowls came easier for Wisconsin than this year, as all the adversity tested his team's character, leadership and resolve. Despite having ample opportunity to break apart, Wisconsin has hung together through the struggles and coaching changes.
"We were resilient through everything," said Ball. "The adversity we faced with the coaching change is kind of reminiscent of this year. We have a lot to prove. We're still a focused team. We still play through a lot, no matter what."
The main goal, according to senior linebacker Devin Smith, is finishing; finish the season and the Rose Bowl out right. Can Wisconsin deliver with the ultimate Pasadena finisher returning to the sidelines for a one game encore?
It will be fantastic theater to see if they can.
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