No. 14 Nebraska collapses in 70-31 loss to Badgers
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini spent nearly four hours watching Saturday night's debacle.
He needed less than 10 minutes to pin the blame on himself.
It's the third time in four years, the Cornhuskers have gone home empty-handed and this one was the most embarrassing of all.
''We failed. We failed to win a championship, that was the goal coming in and we didn't get it done and I apologize for it,'' Pelini said. ''I apologize to the football team, I apologize to the coaches, the fans, like I said, everybody associated with it because at the end of the day, it falls on me. I'm the one responsible for it and we didn't get it done. ''
Nebraska (10-3, 7-1) was looking for its first league title since 1999 and most expected the drought to end against Wisconsin.
Instead, the Badgers (8-5, 4-4) emptied the playbook and ran right over the Cornhuskers famed Blackshirts, gouging them for 539 yards and producing two 200-yard rushers in one game for the first time in school history.
The most painful part: Nebraska had no answers.
After a head-shaking first half put the Cornhuskers in a 42-10 halftime deficit, Nebraska still gave up scoring runs of 9, 57, 68 and 10 yards in the second half.
It was the first time Nebraska had given up 70 points in a game since a 76-39 blowout against Kansas in November 2007, and it marked the end of a six-game winning streak that began after a 63-38 loss to Ohio State.
''Shock doesn't even begin to explain it,'' Pelini said. ''It was like a leaking boat. It was one thing after another, one problem after another. There were some things that we corrected and then it happened again. I've never been a part of a game like that as a coach. ''
Ball and the Badgers running backs did lots of damage.
Ball broke the Football Bowl Subdivision career rushing touchdowns record, getting to 76, tied the FBS record for most games with two or more scores (25), topped the 5,000-yard mark and was the game MVP.
Not a bad night for a guy whose numbers weren't even the best on the team.
Melvin Gordon opened the scoring with a 56-yard TD run and had a career-high 216 yards on nine carries. Three different Badgers threw passes, including running back James White who ran for 108 yards and four TDs and threw for a touchdown on the first pass of his college career. He helped the Badgers capture the most improbable Big Ten title in their three-year run.
The Badgers are the first five-loss team to reach the Rose Bowl, and became the first Big Ten school since Michigan in the late 1970s to earn three consecutive tickets to Pasadena, Calif.
''As my AD tells me all the time, you haven't one won yet,'' coach Bret Bielema said. ''We're going out there to win. That's the mission, and I appreciate all the fans coming out to Madison East.''
Indiana has quickly become a second home for the Badgers.
Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team with a win at Lucas Oil Stadium and has won 10 straight in the Hoosier State. It played three games in Indiana this season, rushing for 1,570 yards and 19 TDs while outscoring opponents 170-59 in those three games.
But Saturday was the biggest night of all.
Wisconsin finished with the fourth-highest rushing total in school history (539) and tied a conference championship game scoring record. Texas also scored 70 points in the 2005 Big 12 championship game.
''We kind of set our minds before the game that this is our game,'' Ball said. ''The running backs were going to set the tempo.''
It was a fitting end to a wacky Big Ten season.
Wisconsin only reached this year's title game because Leaders Division champion Ohio State (12-0) and division runner-up Penn State (8-4) were both ineligible for postseason play.
But on Saturday, the Badgers took advantage of their good fortune by piling up 639 yards of total offense.
The defense dominated, too. In the first half, Taylor Martinez was sacked three times, fumbled twice, losing one and had an interception returned for a touchdown.
He finished 17 of 33 for 184 yards with two interceptions and six sacks. He also rushed 19 times for 140 yards, scoring on a nifty 76-yard run, but fumbled twice.
Bielema countered by emptying the playbook and running right over the Nebraska (10-3, 7-1).
''We practiced some of them (trick plays) for a while,'' Bielema said. ''There's probably a couple we haven't used yet either and they'll remain a little secret. James wanted to be recruited as a quarterback all along, so finally had that opportunity to show up out there and just a lot of different things. Our kids had a little bit of fun with it, but it was still the meat and potatoes that got us to where we were. ''
The onslaught started fast.
Gordon took the ball on an end around, made two cuts and sprinted 56 yards for a 7-0 lead on the fourth play of the game.
The `Huskers finally counterpunched with Martinez's long run and then got a 32-yard field goal to make it 14-10.
Then the Badgers opened things up.
With the ball on the right hash, they sent seven players to the left hash and had Curt Phillips throw a pass to Derek Watt on the right. After two more conventional runs, White ran two plays out of the wildcat formation, scoring on the second one from 9 yards to make it 21-10.
White scored again on a 1-yard plunge right after Phillips caught a 27-yard pass from receiver Jared Abbrederis. And after Ball's record-breaking touchdown dive made it 35-10, Gordon went 60 yards on an end around to put the ball at the Nebraska 3 with 6 seconds left in the half. This time, White lined up in the wildcat, ran right and lobbed a 3-yard TD pass to Sam Arneson for a 42-10 halftime lead.
And Nebraska never challenged again.
''Everything went wrong. It was a great game plan and, like I told coach, `it wasn't your fault,' I put this on the defense,'' safety P.J. Smith said. ''We didn't step up, we didn't do what we were supposed to do.''