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January 2, 2012

Heartbreak...again

PASADENA - With the same friendly smile he greeted everybody with back in early August at Wisconsin's media day, quarterback Russell Wilson took to a hasty room with dozens of questioners ready to examine the ins and outs of UW's 45-38 loss to Oregon in the 98th Rose Bowl.

Deep down, though, behind the smile and pearly white teeth so many Badger revelers have come to endear, Wilson had to have been brimming with pain.

Because maybe more so than anything else to happen on Wisconsin's final play - - a failed spike attempt aimed at preserving at least one second on the clock - - the sudden finality to what was one of the more exciting seasons ever and one of the wildest Rose Bowls of all time, ended with a referee's decision.

"They made the call and it is what it is," Wilson, who finished 19-of-25 for 296 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, said. "I think we could have won the game in a lot of other areas too, though. It would have been nice to have a chance there.

"Obviously, with one second left, I think we could have capitalized there."

The Badgers had marched 67 yards in a matter of 17 seconds to set up a first and 10 from Oregon's 25-yard line with two seconds to play, shortly after the UW defense forced the Ducks punt with 22 seconds to play.

With no timeouts remaining, after Bret Bielema used two of them during the first five minutes of the second half and the third during Oregon's final drive before the late punt, Wilson and company had to sprint to the line of scrimmage following Nick Toon's 33-yard reception.

But the senior quarterback was unable to spike the ball quick enough to give the Badgers a chance for what would have been an entirely dramatic final play in one of college football's best settings.

"I knew there was two seconds left on the clock," Wilson said. "As soon as the referee blew the whistle I snapped it and spiked it.

"I didn't think there was any way two full seconds ran off the clock there."

Having reviewed the play further it became apparent that two seconds did tick off the clock. As soon as the head official made it known to the public, green and yellow confetti rained down on both sides of the Rose Bowl.

Wisconsin junior center Peter Konz, obviously right in the thick of that final play, was fine with the decision to fully commit to spiking the football.

With two seconds left, and with the entire offensive line over the ball as soon as the official placed it, Konz and his teammates were confident in their ability to proceed with the play in quick enough fashion.

"All the offensive linemen were down there," Konz said. "The ref was holding the ball so I couldn't move it. Russell gave me the quick call and we get it spiked. I thought we had enough time.

"I had everybody huddled up and was saying, 'Hey, let's go. We're going to score this one."

But it wasn't meant to be. A late lost fumble by Jared Abbrederis, with UW driving with less than four minutes to play and trailing by six, gave the ball back to Oregon, who played most of the fourth quarter while working the clock.

Though UW rallied late and made it very interesting, it fell short.

Oregon won its first such title in 95 years. Wisconsin had lost it's second in two.

"I'm kind of tired of tears of sadness," UW head coach Bret Bielema, who's career bowl record dips to 2-4, said. "I wanted to come out here and experience tears of joy at some point.

"So we'll rebound from this."

Probably not for quite some time.

"It stings a little bit," said junior running back Montee Ball, who finished with 32 carries for 164 yards, four catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. "But we're going to approach this just like we did last year after the loss.

"The only way we can go with it is forward."

There's truth to that, especially defensively.

Wisconsin gave up 10 plays of 20 or more yards against Oregon. It allowed 621 yards of total offense, gave up 45 points and let the Ducks score three touchdowns from 91, 64 and 54 yards out.

It allowed Lamichael James (159 yards) and De'Anthony Thomas (155 yards) to rush for 314 rushing yards on 27 carries. It seemed every time Oregon had a chance to capitalize on Wisconsin's bad angles or blown coverages it did.

And in a big way.

"I wouldn't say anything caught us off guard at all," UW junior linebacker Mike Taylor said. "Obviously they were fast, but I didn't think their speed was that big of a deal. It comes down to blowing coverages and blowing assignments.

"When you do that they can make you look stupid, especially with the speed they have."

Wisconsin opened the scoring with a quick-hitting seven-play, 77-yard touchdown drive capped by a 38-yard Jared Abbrederis (4 catches, 119 yards) touchdown reception.

Oregon rallied right back and answered with a seven-play, 80-yard drive of it's own, starting what turned out to be one of the wilder Rose Bowl games in its 98-year history.

The Badgers, for the second straight season however, came up on the short end.

"It's never easy," Bielema said. "I'm not saying I'd rather lose by 40 points, though. I mean, it just makes it that much more gut wrenching. But on the same account, you can hold your head high knowing the perseverance, and the challenge and response that our guys showed was truly amazing.

"And a great credit to their character."

Post game audio:
Bielema, Wilson, Ball, post
Bielema, post
Borland, post
Konz, post
Taylor, post loss


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