Big 10 commissioner James Delany couldn’t have scripted a better inaugural title game than what played out tonight in Indianapolis. A seesaw battle that came down to two crucial plays which ultimately landed in Wisconsin’s favor as the Badgers knockoff Michigan State 42-39.
Coming into the game Michigan state had two points of emphasis. One, control the time of possession and two control Monte Ball and get to Russell Wilson. Michigan State got none of the three against Wisconsin and the final nail in the coffin game on two plays. A Russell Wilson 36-yard strike to Jeff Duckworth and a 7-yard touchdown run the next play by Monte Ball which sealed the victory for Brett Bielema and Wisconsin.
From the start Wisconsin was going to run Ball until Michigan State gave Bielema a reason not to, which never happened. Wisconsin ran the ball on the first five plays of the game before Russell Wilson completed a 22-yard pass to wide receiver Nick Toon.
The Spartans never had an answer for Ball in the game who finished with 137 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns including the game winner with 4:43 left in the fourth quarter.
Championship games bring out the true champion in every player and Russell Wilson is a true champion. From the Michigan State 43 on 4th-and-six Wilson threw a perfect 36-yard pass to Jeff Duckworth who fought off two Spartan defenders to make the catch.
Monte Ball took over from there and finished off the drive with his third touchdown on the night from seven yard line giving Wisconsin the lead 40-39 with 4:43 left. Wisconsin needed the two point conversion to give themselves a little more breathing room.
Out of shotgun formation, bunch-set on the right and one receiver to the left Wilson span away from the Michigan State blitz and found tight end Jacob Pedersen in the middle for the conversion. With 3:45 left in the game Kirk Cousins had one last drive to either tie or win the game.
After two incompletions and a two yard run from Le’Veon Bell Mark Dantonio elected to punt and hope his defense could give them one more shot.
His plan almost game to fruition went Monte Ball was stopped after a two yard gain on 3rd-and-five. One of the seldom penalties called during a game was called when Dantonio didn’t want it. A five-yard running into the kicker penalty by Travis Allen which gave Wisconsin the a first down and clinched the 42-39 win.
Before the crowd in attendance saw the flag thrown they were screaming after Nick Hill’s long punt return. Because of the penalty it wiped out the return and gave Wisconsin a first down with 1:37 left. With no timeouts for Michigan State Wilson lined up in the victory formation and took the two kneel downs to get the win.
After the game Wisconsin players held roses in their mouths knowing for the second consecutive year will be heading to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl. The last time Wisconsin played in consecutive Rose Bowl’s was 1998-1998 when they won both over UCLA and Stanford respectively.
With the amazing atmosphere in Indianapolis and the way the game played out there couldn’t have been a better inaugural Big 10 title game. Monte Ball was spectacular running the ball and the magician Russell Wilson played flawless going 17 of 24 for 187 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Defensively the Badgers got beaten badly giving up 471 yards of total offense but there was one difference between Michigan State and Wisconsin. Kirk Cousins threw one interception and Russell Wilson didn’t throw any. Luckily for Cousins Wisconsin couldn’t do anything with it and went three and out the following drive.
Aside from his interception Cousins was spectacular throwing for 281 yards on 22 of 30 passes and three touchdowns along with the lone interception. Le’Veon Bell had a solid night rushing for 106 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown. Edwin Baker, Keshawn Martin, B.J Cunningham and Kirk Cousins combined for 16 carries and 84 yards and one touchdown.
When coaches preach “win each play, win each drive, win each quarter, win each half and then you’ll win every game” it really proves vital. Wisconsin won the first quarter jumping out to a 21-7 lead through two Monte Ball touchdown’s an Russell Wilson connecting with Jeff Duckworth on a 3-yard touchdown to start the game.
Michigan State responded in the second with three consecutive touchdowns to give them the lead 29-21 at halftime. Coming out of the half neither Wisconsin struck first when Russell Wilson connected with Jared Abbrederis for a 42-yard touchdown early to will within one.
Kirk Cousins responded late in the third with a 44-yard pass to B.J Cunningham which pushed the Spartans lead to 36-28. In the fourth Wisconsin took control early when Wilson completed a 5-yard touchdown to Monte Ball pulling the Badgers within two after a failed two point conversion.
After Dan Conroy converted on a 25-yard field goal with 8:28 left in the game Wisconsin responded with a 10 play drive that was capped off by Monte Ball’s 7-yard touchdown run which sealed the win for Wisconsin.
The win gives Bielema his 60th at Wisconsin and his sixth bowl appearance in six years.
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