Montee Ball finished with 164 yards on the ground, only five more than LaMichael James, while Russell Wilson and Darron Thomas finished with nearly identical stats. De'Anthony Thomas was able to do pretty much whatever he wanted against a hard-working Wisconsin defense, while Oregon couldn’t do anything to stop Jared Abbrederis from stringing together 320 all-purpose yards on the night. When Wilson spiked the ball on the Oregon 25-yard-line with no time remaining, it might just as well have been Thomas out there, throwing his arms out in frustration while the field exploded into red and white around him.
For their part, Wisconsin played like champions all year, and tonight was no exception. Throughout 2011, an air of quiet confidence hung around the Badgers. They were like a movie team, banded together and ready to overcome adversity. Wilson was the last-minute blue-chipper, the transfer student who was game to being hazed with the freshman after arriving in Madison earlier this year. Ball was the returning all-star, poised to finally get his big break. Even the two losses they took seemed scripted — hail marys on consecutive weeks? Anyone who didn’t think they’d win the B1G Championship Game in thrilling fashion needs to crack the cellophane on their DVD of Friday Night Lights.
And yet, the story ended in heartbreak for Wisconsin at the Rose Bowl. In any other year, in any other movie, just getting to Pasadena would have been a major accomplishment in itself; though its importance has been slightly reduced by the travelling National Championship Game format, the Rose Bowl is still the Rose Bowl. For Wisconsin, though, it must have been nearly impossible to see it as anything but a consolation, and in the end, even consolation kept its 25-yard distance.