INDIANAPOLIS -- The Wisconsin Badgers' trip to the Big Ten title game was a fluke of sanctions and divisional alignment. But their trip to the Rose Bowl for a date against Stanford on Jan. 1 is no fluke at all.
Wisconsin (8-5) put to rest all doubts about its title-game worthiness Saturday night in Reliant Stadium, and became the first Big Ten team in 33 years to earn a third straight invitation to Pasadena. Wisconsin will also be the first five-loss team to play in the Rose Bowl.
The Badgers did it in shocking style, embarrassing Nebraska with an unstoppable running game and a creative passing game, rolling to a 70-31 win.
"As my A.D. tells me all the time, you haven't one won yet," coach Bret Bielema said of the Rose Bowl. "We're going out there to win. That's the mission."
The numbers are comical, the decisiveness bizarre.
Wisconsin scored eight touchdowns before it punted twice. By the end of the third quarter, the Badgers had four gains of 50 yards or longer -- and two incomplete passes.
When they scored their school-record 10th touchdown, they had already run for 524 yards -- or nearly 10 times the 56 they gained in Lincoln, Neb., in September, when the Cornhuskers won 30-27.
Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips had started only three games in his college career, but as a senior, had a thorough understanding of the playbook, and the Badgers flaunted that advantage by running one odd formation or unusual motion after another. It resulted in 17 gains of 10 or more yards in the first three quarters alone, and TD runs of 56, 57 and 68 yards -- by three different running backs.
"We failed," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "We failed to win a championship and that was the goal coming in and we didn't get it done and apologize for it."
Melvin Gordon, the Badgers' third-string tailback, took a handoff on the game's fourth play and went 56 yards for a touchdown.
Then it was the defense's turn. When Taylor Martinez's pass bounced off Kenny Bell's hands, cornerback Marcus Cromartie grabbed the rebound and slid down the sideline 29 yards for a TD. The game was 127 seconds old, and 14th-ranked Nebraska (10-3) already trailed by two touchdowns.