Rose Bowl reps all but give Badgers official invite to Pasadena
MADISON, Wis. -- Technically nothing is official until the final BCS standings come out Dec. 5, but if it's up to the Rose Bowl representatives, the Wisconsin Badgers will be playing in Pasadena on New Year's Day.
That was the word coming from the Wisconsin players after they beat Northwestern 70-23 to clinch a share of their first Big Ten title since 1999.
Asked after the game if the Rose Bowl was a done deal, Wisconsin guard John Moffitt said: "Yeah, I think we got invited in the locker room ... I don't know if I'm spoiling the surprise or whatever, but you didn't hear it from me."
Moffitt was the only player to say an invitation was extended from the Rose Bowl representatives, but nearly every player had a rose either in his hand or in his mouth after the game and they were all saying they were headed to Pasadena.
While an official invite will have to wait a week, the point is, the Rose Bowl wants the Badgers and barring an unlikely scenario that would put Wisconsin in the BCS National Championship Game, the Badgers want the Rose Bowl.
"As a Wisconsin guy, getting to the top of the Big Ten and pretty much getting to the Rose Bowl, it compares equally (to the National Championship Game) in my mind," center Peter Konz said.
Konz said the Rose Bowl "sort of" invited the Badgers to Pasadena.
One thing is obvious: the Rose Bowl representatives said enough that the Badgers felt comfortable celebrating their first trip to Pasadena since 2000. And even though there are no guarantees in the BCS, if nothing else, the fact that Wisconsin scored at least 70 points for the third time this season should be enough to keep the Badgers ahead of Ohio State in the BCS standings.
In their minds, the players think they can play with anyone.
"Oh definitely," running back Montee Ballsaid when asked if they could play with Oregon and Auburn, currently No. 1 and No. 2 in the BCS, respectively. Ball scored four touchdowns in Saturday's win and only had a streak of 13 touchdowns in 13 quarters snapped because he didn't play in the fourth quarter.
Overall Ball had 178 yards on 20 carries and James White added another 134 on his own 20 carries.
Quarterback Scott Tolzien, meanwhile, had the fifth-most efficient game in Wisconsin history as he completed 15-of-19 passes for 230 yards and four touchdowns.
Coming into this season, the Badgers had never scored 70 points in the modern era. They've now done it three times this year.
And if anyone wants to accuse Bret Bielema of running up the score this time, they can just look at the box score and realize UW didn't put a single point on the board in the fourth quarter.
Wisconsin's latest offensive outburst means it finishes the regular season No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring offense (43.3 points per game) for the second straight season.
"It's working," Moffitt said with a smile on his face.
Kendricks' bloody moment
On a play that may end up being Lance Kendricks' "Mackey moment", the UW tight end also experienced a frightening, but brief injury.
With 3:14 left in the first half, Kendricks made a beautiful over the shoulder catch on a 29-yard touchdown bomb from Scott Tolzien. But he landed awkwardly on the ball and suffered a nose bleed while also getting the wind knocked out of him.
According to Kendricks, while he tried to catch his breath, he managed to choke on the blood coming from his nose and that caused him to cough it up on national television. He said he didn't return in the second half because it still hurt when he put his pads back on and they didn't really need him with a 49-17 halftime lead.
Kendricks had four catches for 80 yards and a touchdown when he left the game and is currently a finalist for the Mackey Award, given to the country's top tight end.
Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt continued his monster season with seven tackles (all solo), three tackles for loss, one sack, two forced fumbles and a blocked extra point. He also caused two interceptions on plays that only registered as quarterback hurries in the statbook.
Watt's effort may have earned him Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Big Ten, but his head coach and teammates all think he is among the nation's best.
"He's the best defensive player I have ever played with," Jay Valai said.
Wisconsin's only other major injury Saturday was a left ankle injury for cornerback Antonio Fenelus in the first half. He never returned, but Bielema said he was close to returning towards the end of the game... Northwestern return man Venric Marc had a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter reminding the Badgers of their only major flaw this season: kick coverage on special teams. Marc's 273 kick return yards set a new NU single-game record and nearly broke the Big Ten record held by Minnesota's Troy Stoudermire (283).