Archived Story

Wisconsin earns trip to Rose Bowl

Published 4:13pm Sunday, December 4, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS —The first Big Ten championship game was decided in spectacular fashion in a highly anticipated re-match Saturday night as Wisconsin got its revenge and upended the Michigan State Spartans 42-39.

The Badgers No. 1-ranked offense looked every bit the part early on, scoring touchdowns on their first three drives. Wisconsin’s feature running back Montee Ball had more than 100 yards rushing and two of his four touchdowns in the first quarter alone.

The second quarter would see the Spartans turn the game around as they scored 22 unanswered points and completely stifled the Wisconsin offense.

Down 21-7 and facing a fourth-and-1, the Spartans faked a pitch and quarterback Kirk Cousins hooked up with star wideout B.J. Cunningham for 30 yards and a touchdown. On the next drive, Cousins found his other wideout Keith Nichols, who made a brilliant heads-up play when he lateraled the ball to Cunningham while being tackled out of bounds.

Cunningham took the lateral in to the endzone for his second touchdown of the day. After that touchdown, The Spartans converted a 2-point conversion ala a fake extra point attempt to take the lead 22-21. Spartan running back Le’Veon Bell added a touchdown of his own before the half giving MSU a 29-21 halftime lead.

The teams exchanged blows in the third quarter with Wisconsin quarter back Russell Wilson scrambling and finding a wide open Jared Abbrederis for a 42-yard touchdown, which brought thescore to 29-28 MSU. The Spartans answered back when Cousins found Cunningham from 44 yards out, giving Cunningham his third touchdown of the day and MSU a 36-29 lead after three quarters of play.

The games roller coaster feel continued in the fourth. Wisconsin scored early on a 5-yard Wilson-to-Ball pass. But then had their 2-point conversion stopped by the Spartan defense.

After a huge reverse out of the wildcat formation gained them 25 yards and got the Spartans into the redzone, the offense went stagnant for three plays and had to settle for a Dan Conroy 25-yard field goal.

Wilson, the game’s Most Valuable Player, made the play of the game when he found Jeff Ducworth on a fourth-and-long pass that got the Badgers to the MSU 7-yard line with just a little more than three minutes to go in the game. On the very next play, Ball scored his fourth touchdown and the offense converted a 2-point conversion to give the Badgers a 42-39 lead.

The Spartans had their chances in the final minutes of the game. Keshawn Martin made a big catch that would have extended a drive, but the play was overturned and MSU was forced to punt. The defense held the Badgers to a three and out and the Spartans had another chance to get the ball back with justover a minute left but got flagged when cornerback Isiah Lewis was called for runnig into the kicker. That allowed Wisconsin to kneel out the clock and secure their second-straight trip to Pasadena.

Spartan coach Mark Dantonio said after the game he wasn’t sure about the penalty at the end.

I thought the punter may have flopped a little,” he said.

When the smoke had cleared, Wilson finished 17-of-24 for 187 yards and three touchdowns. Ball had 137 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and one receiving.

Kirk Cousins had 281 yards on 22-of-30 passing with three touchdowns and one interception.

Cunningham 115 yards receiving and three touchdowns on five catches and Keshawn Martin added another 115 yards on nine receptions.

The first Big Ten Championship Game will go down as one of the greatest games the conference has ever seen. It was a great comeback win for one team and a brutal finish for the other. The MSU coach said he believed his team would learn from this loss.

This was a tough tough way to lose a game, but, sometimes, you need to lose tough games to grow,” Dantonio said. “We will rise again.”

Wisconsin 21 0 7 14 – 42
Michigan State 7 22 7 3 39

WIS – Jeff Duckworth 3 pass from Russell Wilson (Philip Welch kick)
MSU – Edwin Baker 8 run ( Dan Conroy kick)
WIS – Montee Ball 6 run (Welch kick)
WIS – Ball 6 run (Philip Welch kick)
MSU – B.J. Cunningham 30 pass from Kirk Cousins (Dan Conroy kick)
MSU – Cunningham 7 pass from Cousins (Brad Sonntag run)
MSU – Le’Veon Bell 6 run (Conroy kick)
WIS – Jared Abbrederis 42 pass from Wilson (Welch kick)
MSU – Cunningham 44 pass from Cousins (Conroy kick)
WIS – Ball 5 pass from Wilson (converion fails)
MSU – Conroy 25 field goal
WIS – Ball 7 run (Wilson to Jacob Pedersen pass)

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