INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers redeemed themselves against No. 13 Michigan State, 42-39, in the inaugural B1G 10 Championship Game for the 2011-12 season. With the victory, Wisconsin is crowned the B1G 10 Champions and will be advancing to the Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks.
The frontrunner for the Hesiman Trophy carried his Badgers to victory on Saturday night from Indy. Montee Ball finished the game with 137 rushing yards on 27 carries, alongside four more total touchdowns, amping his season total to 38 overall this season. Montee Ball is just one touchdown shy of the all-time FBS record for TD’s in a season held by the legendary Barry Sanders (39). The Badgers back is leading the nation in touchdowns and rushing yards, proving time and again to be the best running back in the country. He also threw a pass that was complete to his quarterback Russell Wilson. Ball is 2-for-2 in pass attempts this season with a touchdown pass to Wilson earlier in the year against Indiana.
Russell Wilson was the secondary story of the game, as he threw for 187 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. In the last game against Michigan State, Wilson threw two costly picks that eventually came back to bite to Badgers. Saturday, Wilson was flawless with his execution of the offense and game management.
With 8:28 remaining in the game, Wisconsin saw themselves trailing, 39-34, to a relentless Michigan State bunch. The Spartans had just capped off a 9-play, 52-yard scoring drive as they kicked off to Jared Abbrederis who jolted the Badgers with a 33-yard return to the Wisconsin 36-yard line. After two Badgers first downs on the drive, Wisconsin was facing fourth down with just over four minutes left in the game. They went for it and came through with flying colors, reminding Michigan State of a Hail Mary ending between the two teams in their last meeting. Wisconsin wide receiver Jeff Duckworth hauled in the Russell Wilson 36-yard prayer on the Spartans seven-yard line, which set-up the Badgers game-winning score by Montee Ball. The decisive score put the Badgers up for good, 42-39, as MSU tried to rally.
Michigan State had a three-and-out after a close third-down play by the sideline, leaving just one last possession for the game. However, MSU would never get that chance as their undisciplined defense ran into the kicker and gave Wisconsin the ball back. During the return, Michigan State brought the ball back to the Badgers 3-yard line before the penalty that negated the play.
In what the Badgers were deeming a “redemption” game and not a revenge game, they capitalized early in Indy, as they did the last time these teams met in East Lansing. Wisconsin drove 61 yards on nine plays for the first-ever score in a B1G 10 Championship, just five minutes into the game on the opening drive of the night. Wilson hooked up with one of the hero’s of the night, Jeff Duckworth, from three yards out for the early Badgers, 7-0, lead.
The Spartans answered right back with a touchdown of there own, driving 59 yards on just six plays in a little over three minutes. Edwin Baker rushed in from eight yards out to tie the game, 7-7, early in the first quarter.
Wisconsin retuned the favor with two straight scores of their own. After a 7-play, 60-yard drive that was capped off by a Montee Ball 6-yard rushing touchdown, the Spartans made the first mistake of the game. On the following kick-off, Spartans return man Nick Hill fumbled the ball that was recovered by Wisconsin on the MSU 24-yard line. The Badgers capitalized two plays later as Ball rushed in for the second of his four touchdowns on the night, pushing the Badgers lead to 21-7 in the first quarter. The game started the same way as the last game between MSU and Wisconsin, but the ending would be drastically different in this time around.
Michigan State responded in a huge way with 22 unanswered points in the second quarter. Wide receiver B.J. Cunningham took over the game for the Spartans, scampering 30 yards to the house for the score and a seven point deficit.
The next Spartans possession was more impressive, as the receiver of the Hail Mary pass Keith Nichol was once again thrust into the spotlight. The former quarterback caught a pass at the Badgers 5-yard line and as he was being tackled, lateraled the ball to teammate B.J. Cunningham who leaped into the endzone for another miracle MSU touchdown play. The following extra point was fake field goal that saw the holder bounce into the endzone for the two-point conversion and 22-21 Spartans lead.
MSU tacked on one more score before the half as Le’Veon Bell rushed in from six yards out, boosting their lead to 29-21 over Wisconsin heading to halftime.
Wisconsin scored the first points of the second half, just as they did to start the first half. Russell Wilson hooked up with Jared Abbrederis for a 42-yard scoring strike. It took the Badgers eight plays to travel 47 yards in less than four minutes, cutting the deficit to 28-27 midway through the third quarter.
B.J. Cunningham scored his third touchdown of the night on the next MSU drive to put the Spartans up 36-28 in the game. The Spartans wide receiver caught five balls during the game for 115 yards and three scores. He was a nightmare to cover for the Wisconsin No. 7 overall ranked defense in the country.
With the Badgers collective backs against the wall, trailing by eight points heading to the fourth quarter, Russell Wilson put the team on his shoulders. The Wisconsin QB led his Badgers 42 yards on eight plays in just under four minutes for another touchdown. Wilson hooked up with Ball for his third score of the game from five yards out, but failed the two-point conversion attempt. Wisconsin trailed the Spartans 36-34 before MSU added a field goal. It would be the last time the Spartans would score Saturday night.
With the win, the 2011 B1G 10 Champion Badgers move their record to 11-2 on the season as they prepare for Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin will be rocking the badge in Pasadena, Calif on Monday January, 2nd 2012 at 2:10 p.m. pacific coast time. This match-up was my original 2012 prediction…for the BCS National Championship. So, I was a little off but you got to give me some credit for the right call, wrong location. Wisconsin will have their hands full with LaMichael James and the spread offense of the Ducks. However, Oregon will have their hands full with a balanced attack like Wisconsin’s. It should be a great game and possibly the second best game of the year, right behind Saturday’s first-ever B1G 10 Title Game in Indianapolis.