Rose Bowl: Wisconsin's Best Isn't Good Enough to Beat Oregon

Zach TravisContributor IJanuary 2, 2012

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  Wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei #80 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates with teammates after an 11-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The "Grandaddy of 'em all" lived up to billing this afternoon.

The game got a quick start as both teams moved down the field for quick touchdowns on their first drive. The score was 7-7 before five minutes was gone in the game. The scoring would go on from there in one of the fastest-paced Rose Bowls ever.

Oregon came into the game as the favorite and didn't disappoint for most of the game. While Wisconsin's offense was coldly efficient for long stretches of the game, Oregon moved the ball with little to no trouble en route to a yards-per-play average that stayed in double-digits until late in the fourth quarter. The Ducks finished the game with over 600 yards, six touchdowns and an average of nine yards per carry.

The Ducks were led by the normal cast of characters—Darron Thomas passed for 269 yards and three touchdowns while LaMichael James ran for 159 yards and a touchdown—but it was the contribution of a wild card and an unknown that really made the game.

The wild card, De'Anthony Thomas, had all of two carries on the game, but he made them count to the tune of 155 yards and two touchdowns. The first run was a 91-yard sprint to end the first quarter. The second was 64 yards to give Oregon the lead coming out of the second half.

The unknown was receiver Lavasier Tuinei. He wasn't so much unknown as underutilized for most of the season. Tuinei had 441 yards receiving coming into the game and had never broken double-digits. Against Wisconsin, Tuinei caught eight passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns.

Wisconsin, for what it's worth, did its best to keep up with the high-flying Ducks. You can't fault the Badgers for the effort. The Wisconsin offense put together over 500 yards of total offense while running for 4.6 yards per carry and throwing for 11.4 yards per attempt.

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  Lavasier Tuinei #80 of the Oregon Ducks runs with the ball past Marcus Cromartie #14 and Chris Borland #44 in the fourth quarter during the 98th Rose Bowl Game against the Wisconsin Badgers on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, Calif
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Russell Wilson was his usual accurate self with 296 yards passing with a greater than 70 percent completion rate and three total touchdowns. Montee Ball got his touchdown to tie the single-season touchdown record and added almost 200 yards of total offense (165 rushing, 30 receiving).

Ultimately, the fault lies with the Badger defense. Oregon got points on seven of its 12 drives of the game and took all of 7:04 of game time to score the first six touchdowns.

No matter what Wisconsin dialed up, Oregon had an answer. The Ducks converted six of 11 third downs and its only fourth-down attempt of the game.

The Badgers played nearly perfect, but it wasn't enough. The explosive Oregon offense assured that anything but 100 percent efficiency would be too little too late.

Now, for the second year in a row, Bret Bielema goes home from Pasadena with a bad taste in his mouth and the Badgers' dream season has collapsed to what was, for most people, the worst-case scenario for the season.

That this is the case speaks to just how good Wisconsin has been this year, and just how much the team left on the table.