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November 27, 2010MADISON - It was 11 long years in the making, but by the time the Wisconsin football team got done thrashing Northwestern 70-23, it was well worth the wait.
The 2010 Wisconsin Badgers are your Big Ten champions.
"This is unbelievable," junior defensive end J.J. Watt said. "I can't thank the seniors enough and I can't thank the coaches enough. I can't put into words how awesome it is right now.
"I'm really enjoying every second of it."
Bret Bielema, who approached his press conference sporting a nifty, and brand new, conference championship t-shirt, was just as emphatic.
"It's cool," Bielema said after briefly choking up. "To be here at Wisconsin and to be around the people it's a fun place to be around. It's an environment that's second to none. Because we are the only state school it's the Badgers on Saturday and Packers on Sunday.
"To have so many people wish you good well, just coming off the field and everybody is so happy, it's really neat to be in the locker room and enjoy every hug that you get and every smile that you see."
There were plenty to go around.
As the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard, and a number of roses were being scattered around, a mass exodus of Badger fans joined in the celebration near midfield. The second time the students rushed the field this season was serenaded with a firework show above an electric Camp Randall Stadium.
"It's kind of a blur," senior quarterback Scott Tolzien said. "You're excited and everything, but you don't really have the time to think about the situation. The best part is just spending that time with your teammates and coaches, the ones that you've put in so many hours with.
"That's the most special part about it."
Because of a raucous scene flooding from the stands onto the field, any post game title presentation had to be moved indoors. So shortly after recovering everybody from the party and reeling them into the locker room, chancellor Biddy Martin, athletic director Barry Alvarez and Rose Bowl representatives greeted the newly minted Big Ten champions.
"This is the first time nobody took their jersey off right away," sophomore center Peter Konz said. "Usually you want to take a shower and get out but we're all just surrounded by this good energy. They (Rose Bowl reps) didn't say anything for sure. They can't because there are still more weeks, but they said we have a very good chance."
Since No. 10 Michigan State, No. 8 Ohio State and No. 7 Wisconsin all won Saturday, the highest ranked team in the final BCS rankings (Dec. 5th) will get the Rose Bowl nod. All signs point to Wisconsin in that regard.
"I think they feel confident," Bielema, in regards to the Rose Bowl representatives, said. "You just never know how things pan out. Obviously there was a couple of close calls yesterday and the one upset with Boise State. You never really know in today's world.
"It's fun to sit back and watch it."
It was also fun to sit back and watch another mystifying performance from a Badger offense that continues to stay red hot.
Scott Tolzien, the nation's most accurate passer, finished 15-of-19 for 230 yards and four touchdowns. Montee Ball rushed for 180 yards and tacked on four more touchdowns, pushing his total to 17 for the season.
It's kind of difficult to imagine it, but James White's 134-yard, one touchdown performance helped him become the first Badger running back to 1,000 yards for the season.
That leaves three UW running backs with a legitimate shot at breaking the 1,000-yard mark in one season.
Northwestern, who committed seven turnovers, never had a shot. Not on a day when UW said goodbye to 14 seniors. And definitely not on a day a Big Ten championship was on the line.
"It's tough to win a football game when you turn the ball over seven times," Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "When we do, we've got to pick each other up and obviously our defense didn't do that today. You give a football team a short field, give a good team momentum at home, you pretty much beat yourself.
"They played well, we didn't. Congratulations to them."
Led by J.J. Watt defensively, the Badgers forced four interceptions and recovered three Northwestern fumbles. Aaron Henry scored his fourth touchdown of the season and the Badgers cruised to it's fourth straight easy win.
The only difference was the smell of roses wafting throughout Camp Randall when it was over.
"It's crazy," Henry said. "After that game was over I was like we're finally Big Ten champs. We are Big Ten champs and nobody can take that away from us."