The University of Oregon football team prides itself on being a fast-paced, lightning-quick, high-octane offense, but its defense has been somewhat suspect.
Sure, the Ducks can score at will, but against bigger and stronger teams like Ohio State and Auburn, they’ve wilted, losing to each in close Bowl Championship Series games.
Let’s say the third time was the charm for Oregon, as it withstood Wisconsin’s heavy body blows and held on for a 45-38 victory in the recently-concluded 98th Rose Bowl Game as 91,245 fans looked on.
“It’s been 95 years since Oregon fans can say we won the Rose Bowl,’’ said third-year Head Coach Chip Kelly, whose team fell to undefeated LSU in the season-opener (40-27) and two-loss USC (38-35). “These guys bought into the system. We’re going to win a lot more BCS games.”
The points came at a furious pace as No. 6 Oregon and No. 9 Wisconsin combined for the most-ever in a Rose Bowl match. There were eight touchdowns tallied at the half, with each getting four.
Lavasier Tuinei was named Offensive Player of the Game after catching eight passes for 158 yards with two touchdowns.
Tuinei’s three-yard catch from Darron Thomas (17 of 23 for 268 yards with one interception) late in the second quarter tied it at 28-28, and his 11-yard grab early in the fourth quarter gave the Ducks (621 total net yards) a 42-38 cushion.
Wisconsin (509 total yards) led 7-0 when Jared Abbrederis (119 yards on four receptions) caught a 38-yard pass from Russell Wilson (19 of 25 for 296 yards with one pick) and 11:48 left in the first quarter, but LaMichael James (159 yards on 25 carries) tied it at 7-7 when he scored from a yard out with 9:41 showing in the same quarter.
Abbrederis’ catch and fumble with about four minutes left clinched it for the Ducks (12-2), who lost Rose Bowls to Ohio State 26-17 in 2010, and Penn State 38-20 in 1995.
Wilson’s four-yard bootleg made it 14-7 with just under six minutes showing in the initial quarter, but freshman sensation De’Anthony Thomas (155 yards on two rushes) scored on a 91-yard sprint as time expired in the first quarter to make it 14-14, and it was the longest run from scrimmage in Rose Bowl history.
Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (32 carries for 164 yards) had a three-yard burst with 10:52 left in the second quarter to make it 21-14, only to see Darron Thomas find Kenjon Barner with a 54-yard bomb and 10:36 left that tied it at 21-21.
Ball’s touchdown was the 39th of the season, tying him with Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders, who set the mark in 1988, and Ball became the fourth player to rush for 100 yards in consecutive Rose Bowls.
The Badgers’ Louis Nzegwo recovered Darron Thomas’ fumble and returned it for a 33-yard score and a 28-21 lead as 3:26 remained before the half.
The points continued to roll as De’Anthony Thomas (34 yards and four catches) added a 64-yard dash with 14:11 showing in the third quarter to make it 35-28, but Philip Welch’s 29-yard field goal with just under 11 minutes left sliced Oregon’s advantage to 35-31.
Nick Toon (nine catches for 104 yards) hauled in an 18-yard pass from Wilson with 4:44 left in the third quarter that gave the Badgers (11-3) a 38-35 lead.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, 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.