It wasn’t the most artistic performance the Stanford football team has given this season, but it was certainly the most important.
After more than four decades of trying and falling short, the Cardinal can finally raise a glass and make a toast after knocking off Wisconsin, 20-14, in the recently-played Rose Bowl Game as 93,359 sun-drenched fans dressed in red and white watched.
This 99th edition wasn’t settled until Badgers’ quarterback Curt Phillips was intercepted by nickel back Usua Amanam with slightly more than two minutes left.
“It was a max-drop,’’ said Amanam, the defensive Most Valuable Player, of the game-saving effort. “I read the quarterback’s eyes. I think the ball was tipped, but I’m not sure.”
This was Stanford’s first Rose Bowl win since 1972, and though it took a while, second-year Head Coach David Shaw was thrilled.
“We’re on the ascent,’’ he said. “We play as a team, and even though we don’t have Andrew Luck [quarterback selected No. 1 by the Indianapolis Colts] we have very good players.”
The low-scoring match also featured 13 punts, seven by the Badgers (8-6), while the third quarter had eight.
Wisconsin ran 16 plays in the quarter and totaled 55 yards, while Stanford finished with 34 yards on 15 plays.
Not much happened, but there was on Stanford’s first two possessions. On the Cardinal’s opening series they drove 80 yards and consumed seven plays with wide receiver Kelsey Young running an end-around from 16 yards to make it 7-0 with 11:24 left in the first quarter.
It was just as easy for No. 8 Stanford (12-2) on its next series as running back Stepfan Taylor (88 yards on 20 carries), tabbed offensive Most Valuable Player, capped a 79-yard march when he bolted in from three yards and 6:35 left in the opening quarter for a 14-0 lead.
“It’s easy when you hand the ball to Stepfan, have the offensive line and tight end Zach Ertz (61 yards and three catches),’’ said Stanford freshman field general Kevin Hogan (12 of 19 for 123 yards).
Wisconsin represented the Big Ten only because undefeated Ohio State is on probation. Still, the Badgers (301 total net yards) proved formidable.
Tailback Montee Ball (game-high 100 yards on 24 carries) got Wisconsin on the board with an 11-yard run and 9:05 showing in the second quarter.
Ball’s sprint closed out a 49-yard drive and cut Stanford’s lead in half. “This wasn’t how we wanted to end the season,’’ said Ball. “I know that we’re a better team than this.”
Wisconsin and Stanford (344 total yards) prefer to play smash-mouth football as the Badgers accounted for 218 yards on the ground, while the Cardinal had 187.
Jordan Williamson’s 47-yard field goal with 6:19 left before the half increased Stanford’s lead to 17-7, but when Phillips (10 of 16 for 83 yards) hooked up with wide receiver Jordan Fredrick on a four-yard pass and 19 seconds left before the break, Stanford’s lead was three points.
The only scoring in the second half came on the foot of Williamson, who drilled a 22-yard field goal with 4:23 showing in the final quarter as Stanford pulled in front by six points.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.