Badgers shuck Cornhuskers for Big Ten title
Wisconsin beats Nebraska 70-31
Turns out, it was Nebraska that was overmatched.
Wisconsin ran for 539 yards and pummeled the Cornhuskers 70-31 on Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship game.
Melvin Gordon ran for 217 yards on nine carries, Montee Ball had 201 yards and three touchdowns and James White added 109 yards and four scores for Wisconsin. It was the most yards rushing Nebraska has ever allowed and the second-most points.
This game was supposed to be about the Huskers, who reached the title game in just their second year in the Big Ten. The Legends Division representative was on a six-game win streak and had beaten the Badgers in September.
Wisconsin was only in the title game because Ohio State and Penn State, which both finished ahead of the Badgers in the Leaders Division standings, were ineligible because of NCAA rules violations.
What appeared to be a good chance for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini to get Nebraska into a BCS bowl game for the first time in his five years at the Lincoln, Neb., school turned out to be another coronation for Wisconsin. The Badgers became the first Big Ten team to reach three consecutive Rose Bowls since Michigan did it from 1977-79.
Wisconsin (8-5) advanced to play Stanford in Pasadena. The Cardinal defeated UCLA 27-24 in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Taylor Martinez passed for 182 yards and ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns for the Cornhuskers (10-3).
Martinez opened the second half the same way he started the first -- by throwing an interception. Devin Smith returned the errant lob to the Nebraska 9-yard line, and Ball scored on Wisconsin's first play to make it 49-10. Smith later left the game with a head injury and did not return.
Martinez's 11-yard touchdown run trimmed Wisconsin's lead to 49-17, but Wisconsin came right back. Ball's 57-yard touchdown run, punctuated by a straight-arm that dismissed Ciante Evans, gave Wisconsin a 56-17 lead. White followed with a 68-yard touchdown run to make it 63-17.
Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon busted loose for a 56-yard run on the fourth play from scrimmage. Then, on Nebraska's first offensive play, Marcus Cromartie picked off a Martinez pass and returned it 29 yards for a score, giving the Badgers a 14-0 lead 127 seconds into the game.
Martinez made up for it. He was pressured, avoided trouble three times, then took off up the middle of the field for a 76-yard touchdown run.
The Huskers got a 32-yard field goal from Brett Maher on their next possession, and for a moment, they were right back in the game.
Wisconsin was just getting started. White scored on runs of 9 yards and 1 yard, then Ball scored with 7:15 left in the second quarter to extend the Badgers' lead to 35-10.
On the final offensive play of the first half, White threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Sam Arneson to give the Badgers a 42-10 lead at halftime. The Badgers gained 391 yards in the first two quarters. Gordon had 152 yards on four carries and Ball had 111 on 14 carries at the break. Martinez was sacked three times.
NOTES: Wisconsin won last year's Big Ten title game 42-39 over Michigan State. ... Wisconsin entered the game ranked 11th nationally in total defense. ... Nebraska made its third conference title appearance in the past four years. The Huskers made the Big 12 Championship Game in 2009 and 2010 before leaving for the Big Ten. ... Wisconsin's defensive back Darius Hillary left the game with a head injury, and it was announced during the second quarter that he would not return.