If you had told anyone on planet Earth that unranked Wisconsin would beat #12 Nebraska 70-31 in the Big Ten Championship game, you would have been put in a straight jacket. Well, that’s exactly what happened, as the Wisconsin Badgers absolutely, completely, totally crushed Nebraska and cemented their third straight trip to the Rose Bowl.
Going into this game nearly every single pundit predicted a Nebraska victory. They were too explosive on offense. Their quarterback was significantly better. They were known for coming back in tough games and were on a 6-game win-streak. The Badgers meanwhile had the third best record in their own division, and were in the championship game only because Ohio State and Penn State were prohibited. Wisconsin had lost 3 of their last 4 games. They simply didn’t belong.
Well, what does everyone have to say now? With an utterly dominating ground game, who put up more rushing yards (539) on the Blackshirts than any team in the history of Nebraska football. All three Wisconsin running backs eclipsed 100 yards, and in a big way. Montee Ball, who won player of the game, ran for 202 yards and 3 TDs on 21 carries (9.6 ypc). Let me say that again, 9.6 yards per carry against the Blackshirts. But wait, there’s more. James white, who I would argue is the best backup running back in the country, ran for 109 yards and 4 touchdowns on 15 carries (7.3 avg). Oh yeah and White threw for a touchdown too. The best of the bunch, at least in terms of averages, was Melvin Gordon. On sweep after sweep, with Husker defenders eating his dust, Gordon ran for a team-high 216 yards and 1 TD on 9 carries. I said it correctly, 9 carries. Gordon averaged 24 yards per carry. Simply unreal.
Perhaps the most humorous and unbelievable stat of the game is tat the Badgers attempted only 10 passes, from three different players. Phillips threw 8 (completing 6 for 71 yards), and was joined by White and Abbrederis, who hit Phillips on a WR toss. Abbrederis was a high school quarterback. One can suppose that if Nebraska couldn’t stop the run, why do anything else. They would be right. The Huskers simply could contain or handle the Badgers ground attack. They were 3 backs too many, who played with a healthy offensive line that dominated all night long.
On the other side of the ball, the Badger defense contained one of the most explosive offenses in the country, and certainly the best in the Big Ten. Nebraska made some plays, including an electric TD run from Taylor Martinez at the start of the first quarter. However, by enlarge, the Huskers had a very rough night. They certainly weren’t helped by turnovers by Taylor Martinez (1 fumble, 2 interceptions – 1 of which was returned for a touchdown). The Badgers had 6 sacks and numerous QB hurries. The Huskers struggled on third down, and simply couldn’t keep up with a Badger team that was on a mission.
This game will go down in history as a debacle for the Big Ten. An unranked 7-5 team beat a highly ranked opponent, who was due for a conference championship (the Huskers hadn’t won one since 1999). That winner will now go to the Rose Bowl as the first 8-5 team to play there, ever. Stanford awaits the Badgers, which is a matchup of 2 tough defenses and ground-n-pound offenses. It should be a great contest, one the Badgers are suited for, and can win. Maybe the third time is a charm for Bucky.
For the Huskers, its soul searching time. Do they blame Bo? Yes. Will they replace him? Possibly. Regardless, they’ll be furious, and it’ll be a very long off-season in Lincoln. It’s a budding rivalry, which a 70-31 beatdown is surely to fuel. It’s a sweet, sweet, almost unbelievable win for the Badgers. Enjoy it fans, it’ll go down in the record books.