For Wisconsin, the flower’s thorns bear a reminder of pain and defeat.
For the third consecutive season, the Badgers came to the Rose Bowl, only to leave with a crushing loss. On a chilly New Year’s Day, it was Stanford that emerged as the victors, beating Wisconsin 20-14 in front of 93,359 on Tuesday.
With Barry Alvarez briefly out of retirement to coach the Big Ten champions in Pasadena — after Bret Bielema bolted for the Arkansas job — many in Madison figured the Badgers’ recent Rose Bowl woes were over.
Not so fast.
Facing the physical Cardinal (12-2), the Badgers (8-6) found themselves with the ball, down six with 4:23 to go, and in a position to win. But chances for a victory were dashed when quarterback Curt Phillips was intercepted by Stanford’s Usua Amanam for the only turnover of the game.
“Every season stands on its own merit,” said Alvarez, Wisconsin’s current AD and winner of three Rose Bowls during his 16-year coaching tenure with the Badgers. “I think … that most people (would) like to get here once. But we just didn’t get it done.”
In 2011, the Badgers missed a tying two-point conversion and fell to TCU 21-19. A year later, facing high-flying Oregon and with no timeouts remaining, QB Russell Wilson failed to spike the ball in time, ending a last-minute drive in Wisconsin’s 45-38 loss.
“I just felt like maybe we were a team of destiny,” Alvarez said. “Curt’s run the two-minute offense pretty well. So I just felt like somehow we were going to find a way to score.”
Added Badgers running back Montee Ball, “This is not the way we wanted to go out,” said the senior, who rushed for 100 yards and one touchdown in his final Badgers game. “It stings just as much (as previous years) because we fell short, extremely short when we had the opportunity to win.”
With a permanent coaching staff soon to be in place, and a “very good nucleus coming back next year,” Alvarez said, Wisconsin will be out to defend its back-to-back Big Ten titles.
And if another shot at the Rose Bowl comes their way, the 2013 Badgers may end up as the long, lost team of destiny, bringing relief to their heartbroken fans.