For the second consecutive year, the Wisconsin Badgers are headed back to Pasadena to represent the Big Ten in the BCS Rose Bowl. The inaugural Big Ten Championship and 42-39 win over the Michigan State Spartans was a game for the ages.
It included a ton of offense (816 total yards), multiple lead changes (three to be exact) and a questionable play at the end of the game (did Badgers punter Brad Nortman flop?).
What It Means: Head Coach Bret Bielema and the Badgers have their chance to prove whether they can play with one of the best teams in the country when they take on the Pac-12 Champion Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl. Last season, the Badgers dropped a hard-fought game to TCU in Pasadena. If the Badgers are to compete, they will need more production out of their defense who had one of their worst halves of the year.
Player of the Game: QB Russell Wilson (17/24 for 187 yards and three touchdowns)
The statistics don’t jump off the page at you, but Wilson’s ability to keep the play alive was crucial to how Wisconsin pulled out the win. Wilson displayed the maturity and poise that ultimately was the reason he was recruited to play his senior season in Madison. He also broke Graham Harrell’s NCAA record 36 straight games with a touchdown when he connected with sophomore wide-receiver Jeff Duckworth for a touchdown on the very first drive of the game.
Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio had nothing but positive things to say about the quarterback and the winning team.
“Russell Wilson created a lot of plays when we had him a bad situation. Wisconsin showed a lot of maturity in the win.”
Highlight of the Game: It has to be the 36 yard reception made by Duckworth in double coverage to convert on a fourth and six. The protection broke down, but Wilson scrambled out of the pocket and heaved the ball down the field in a hope that Duckworth would come down with it and he did. After the game, Wilson exclaimed, ” I knew he would come down with the ball, just like in practice.”
Stat of the Game: (4) The number of touchdowns scored by running back Montee Ball. Who knew Ball would rack up 140 yards and score four times against one of the best rushing defenses in the country. After this performance against a top-notch defense, you would have to think Ball is a lock for the trip to New York City for the Heisman finalists. Ball also sits just one touchdown back of Barry Sanders’ NCAA single-season touchdown record.
Ball may be “modest,” when it comes to talking about the Heisman award, but teammate Aaron Henry said “he is hands down a Heisman candidate,” and Bielema also threw in his vote of confidence for the award following the win over the Spartans.
What did you think of the first-ever Big Ten Championship? Was it everything you expected it to be? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.
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