HUSKERS GIVE UP 70 IN LOSING BIG TEN FB CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
INDIANAPOLIS (AP and Huskers.com) – Montee Ball ran for 201 yards and three touchdowns, and Wisconsin rushed for the 539 yards to rout No. 14 Nebraska 70-31 in the Big Ten title game on Saturday night.
The Badgers (8-5, 4-4 Big Ten) are the first team to reach the Rose Bowl with five losses, are the first Big Ten team to make it in three straight years since Michigan in the late 1970s. They also tied Texas’ record for most points in a conference championship game.
It was a fitting end to a wacky Big Ten season that pitted the Cornhuskers (10-3, 7-1), the Legends Division champ, against the third-place team from the Leaders Division…a team they’d beaten in the regular season by 3 after trailing by double digit-digits in the second half.
Nebraska never had a chance this time, with Ball and his teammates running wild as three men each gained over 100 yards against the Blackshirt defense. Melvin Gordon ran for 217 yards and one TD, while James White had 108 yards, four TDs and one TD pass.
Wisconsin took control of the game on the opening drive, as Melvin Gordon exploded for a 56-yard touchdown run to jump to a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the action.
On Nebraska’s first offensive play, the Badgers got the game’s first break as Martinez’s pass to the sideline went through wide receiver Kenny Bell’s hands. The ball fell right into the hands of Wisconsin’s Marc Cromartie, who sprinted 29 yards for a touchdown to put the Badgers up 14-0 with 12:53 left.
On NU’s next drive Martinez made up for NU’s miscue, racing 76 yards on 3rd-and-11 after retreating all the way to the NU 6 while eluding four Badgers in the backfield. Martinez made everybody miss and ended up in the end zone with 10:58 left in the first quarter, cutting Wisconsin’s lead to 14-7.
The Blackshirts forced a three-and-out on the Badgers’ next drive, and Martinez marched the Huskers 76 yards in 10 plays. The drive stalled in the Wisconsin red zone, but Brett Maher booted a 32-yard field goal to cut the Badger lead to 14-10 with 4:46 left in the first.
While it appeared the Huskers had quickly battled their way back into the game, Wisconsin outscored NU 28-0 in the next 16 minutes to take a 42-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Nebraska produced numerous second-half comebacks throughout the season, including a 17-point rally for a 30-27 win over Wisconsin in this year’s Big Ten opener for both teams. But NU’s hopes for the largest comeback in school history ended quickly in the second half, after the Huskers turned the ball over on their opening drive of the second half and Wisconsin capitalized immediately with a nine-yard touchdown run from Montee Ball to go up 49-10 less than a minute into the third quarter.
Ball finished the game with 202 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, including a 57-yard touchdown run. Gordon’s day was even more explosive for the Badgers, as he covered 216 yards with one score on just nine carries. Gordon covered 198 yards on his first five rushes of the game.
James White gave the Badgers a third 100-yard rusher with 109 yards and four touchdowns on just nine carries. White also threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Sam Arneson to end a spectacular first half for the Badgers that included trick play after trick play.
Wisconsin rushed for 539 yards among its 640 yards of total offense against a Nebraska defense that had been playing its best football of the season during November. The 539 rushing yards by the Badgers were the most ever allowed by a Husker defense, bettering the 506 yards by Oklahoma on Nov. 24, 1956. The 70 points allowed by the Huskers tied for the second most allowed by Nebraska in school history.
Badger quarterback Curt Phillips completed 6-of-8 passes for 71 yards. Jared Abbrederis added a 27-yard completion to Phillips in the first half, while White’s touchdown pass to Arneson put Wisconsin’s passing total for the game at 101 yards.
Nebraska amassed 477 yards of total offense against a stout Wisconsin defense, including 282 rushing yards and 195 passing yards. But big plays by the Badgers all night were too much for the Huskers to overcome.
Martinez finished with 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, while completing 18-of-33 passes for 184 yards. But he did throw two interceptions and lost one fumble on the night. It was Martinez’s 13th 100-yard rushing game of his career.
Rex Burkhead added 61 yards on the ground on 11 carries, while also completing an 11-yard pass for the Huskers.