|Offensive onslaught a team effort
Badgers execute creative plan to perfection
INDIANAPOLIS -- Curt Phillips knows the spotlight will be shining more brightly than ever on the trio of tailbacks that made life so miserable for the Nebraska defense, especially its secondary.
“Everybody will be talking about Montee and James and Melvin -- and it was awesome watching them play because they were so pumped up,’’ Phillips said.
“But it just shows how hard those guys up front work. They took it personally last week (at Penn State) when things didn’t work out necessarily like we wanted them to.
“If you give running backs -- the caliber of running backs that we have -- any glimpse of daylight, they’re going to do something with it.’’
All the window dressing -- the shifts and motions -- made it even more problematic for Nebraska.
“We did a good job of keeping them off-balance,’’ Phillips said.
“The coaches put in a lot of creative stuff this week,’’ Pedersen said.
“They had trouble lining up against a couple of our formations,’’ Groy said.
Actually, it was more than a couple. Communication was a major problem for the Huskers.
“We thought eventually they would adjust to what we were bringing, but they didn’t,’’ Groy added. “We kept going with the same runs, but they really didn’t change much.
“We came out really fired up and confident and we knew that we could take it to them.’’
Much of the credit goes to UW offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
“He put the plan together and stuck to it,’’ said center Travis Frederick.
The Huskers, in particular, had a lot of trouble with the jet sweep.
Moreover, they had a lot of trouble bringing down Gordon.
“It was pretty open,’’ Gordon said. “Those guys up front really blocked it well for me. I can’t lie. I just ran. Those guys did all the hard work. I just took my speed and tried to get upfield.’’
When the Huskers widened their defense, the Badgers attacked inside with Ball and White.
“Montee and James played phenomenal games,’’ Gordon said. “We just finished. That’s really what it was. That was the big thing in practice all week.
“Finish, finish, finish, finish. Finish blocks, finish runs, finish the play, finish the game.’’
But they’re not finished yet. They’re headed to the Rose Bowl, critics be damned.
“We just don’t want to go there to go there,’’ Gordon said. “We’re going there to win.”
- Mike Lucas
Dec. 3, 2012
BY MIKE LUCAS
INDIANAPOLIS -- After three mind-numbing, gut-wrenching overtime losses in their previous four games, they were still confident and united in the plan.
One by one, the Badgers mentioned how they had all bought into Wisconsin’s game plan for the rematch against Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game.
“We had our backs against the wall and we knew it as a team,’’ said tailback Montee Ball, who grew his legend with another multiple-touchdown, 200-yard rushing game. “We needed to focus on our plan, block everything out and keep fighting.’’
Whereas the Badgers were hurting, the Huskers were on a six-game winning streak.
“But we had a lot of confidence in what we were doing,’’ said quarterback Curt Phillips, who in Mike Samuel-like fashion maximized his six pass completions in what was only his fourth college start in five years. “Our coaches did a great job of putting together a plan.’’
Whereas the Badgers were losing close games, the Huskers were winning them.
“But we knew that we were going to be aggressive with the play-calling,’’ said guard Ryan Groy, who was part of a resurgent O-line that had been challenged to pick on somebody their own size after the Penn State loss. “We knew that we weren’t going to hold anything back. That was the plan.’’
Whereas the Badgers were erratic on offense, the Huskers were loaded with run-pass options.
“But we were definitely confident,’’ said tailback Melvin Gordon who had some breathtaking runs and captured the imagination of everyone in attendance with his combination of speed and power. “We kept telling each other, ‘If we execute the plan and do what we have to do, we can make history.’’’
Everything went according to plan Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. Everything fell into place, including the sky, which fell on the unsuspecting Cornhuskers during a dazzling 70-31 beatdown.
The Badgers are now planning for Stanford and a school-record third-consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl.
“After those tough losses to Ohio State and Penn State, people were talking,’’ said defensive end Tyler Dippel, who had two of UW’s season-high six sacks of Nebraska quarterback Tyler Martinez. “They were saying we don’t deserve to be here and things like that.
“We wanted to make a statement. This was a statement game for us.’’
The Badgers had 640 yards of total offense (10.7 per play), including 539 on the ground.
“We never knew which play might matter, so everyone strained to the whistle every play,’’ said tailback James White, who accounted for four rushing touchdowns and threw for a score to tight end Sam Arneson out of the Barge formation. “I know a lot of people thought we shouldn’t be here.
“But we just wanted to take advantage of our opportunity, and we did.’’
The Badgers dominated -- scoring three touchdowns in each of the first three quarters.
“We’ve been through a lot this season,’’ said defensive end Brendan Kelly, who made up for lost time with 2.5 TFLs after missed the previous meeting with the Huskers because of injury. “We’ve had some heartbreaking losses, but we knew exactly what we were capable of doing all along.
“People can doubt us. Fans can doubt us. But I think we finally earned some respect. That’s what we’re capable of doing when we’re clicking on all cylinders.’’
The Badgers forced three turnovers and shut down tailbacks Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah.
“We weren’t going to be denied,’’ said cornerback Devin Smith, who picked off Martinez and later needed help picking himself off the turf after a blindside block by Nebraska wideout Kenny Bell. “All the games prior to this didn’t matter. It was all about one game and making history.
“It came down to this one game that would determine whether we would go to the Gator Bowl or the Rose Bowl. A lot of people doubted us. But we knew what we needed to do.’’
The 7-5 Badgers needed to beat a 10-2 Nebraska team that had upended them in the Big Ten opener by rallied from a 27-10 third-quarter deficit in Lincoln.
“We were the hungrier team,’’ said cornerback Marcus Cromartie, who helped stake the Badgers to a 14-0 lead with his 29-yard interception return for a touchdown. “We all knew what it was like to go to California and the Rose Bowl. That’s what separated us from the Nebraska locker room.
“We knew what the reward was.’’
More importantly, they all had faith in the plan.
“It just comes down to execution,’’ said wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, who reminded everyone of his background as a high school quarterback with his 27-yard pass to Phillips that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by White. “Everybody had their assignments down and we were a well-oiled machine.
“It has been a year full of adversity and we’ve had to overcome all those closes loses. But tonight made it all worth it and I was excited to be a part of it.’’
In the end, it really came down to one thing.
“We never stopped believing in ourselves,’’ said tight Jacob Pedersen, who didn’t have to say anything more.