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Big Ten Football 2012

 
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Big Ten Championship Game: Wisconsin 70, Nebraska 31

 

 

This was supposed to be the night when the Nebraska Cornhuskers – survivors of a 17-point deficit against the Wisconsin Badgers earlier this season – got things right in the first half and won their first conference championship since the 1999 season. This was supposed to be the night when Nebraska, a proud program, gained its 11th win of the season, punched a ticket to its first Rose Bowl in 11 years, and sent a message to the rest of the Big Ten Conference that it is here to stay.

Nebraska was facing a Wisconsin team saddled with a third-string quarterback, Curt Phillips, and a limited offense that featured star running back Montee Ball… and just about nobody else. The Huskers, kings of the comeback from a double-digit deficit, had to feel that they could put an end to their slow starts and perform with an extra measure of competitive pride. They had to feel that their time for a conference championship was at hand. Wisconsin, with five losses to its credit, was not the champion of the Big Ten Leaders Division, the counterpart to Nebraska's Legends division. The Badgers had not fielded a team this suspect in three or four years and were the third-best team in the Leaders behind Ohio State and Penn State. The Huskers were supposed to swoop in for the kill, but they were the ones who walked into an ambush.

Wisconsin didn't just beat Nebraska. It threw the Huskers around with almost casual and dismissive ease. Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball both rushed for over 200 yards against the Huskers' invisible front seven. The Badgers jumped out to a 14-0 lead, absorbed a 10-0 Husker run…. and then dominated the rest of the way.

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Wisconsin used takeaways on defense and razor-sharp execution on offense to amass a 42-10 halftime lead. Nebraska defenders felt stuck in quicksand against Wisconsin's pace and speed. The Badgers' offensive line blocked as well as it has all season, and when combined with the misdirection principles at work in Wisconsin's offense, UW found a perfect combination that Nebraska couldn't begin to figure out. The points just kept accumulating until Wisconsin realized that it had scored 70 points, matching West Virginia's output against Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl. Nebraska gave way in a manner reminiscent of the Huskers under former coach Bill Callahan.

When all was said and done, Wisconsin had run for 539 yards. That's an eye-popping total in its own right, but it's made even more amazing by the fact that the Badgers completed only eight passes on Saturday. Nebraska knew the run was coming but still couldn't lift a finger to stop it. How does that happen?

It happens when a program plays with so much pressure that it can't see straight. This is Nebraska's reality. Wisconsin's very different reality is this: a Rose Bowl for the third straight college football season.

 

By Matt Zemek
BigTen-fans.com Staff Writer

 

 

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