by Sahil Shah
3 consecutive trips to the Rose Bowl. 3 consecutive losses. All have been tough to swallow as the Badgers were in each game until the last minute, but this one against Stanford had a different feel as the team endured a lot of on-field and off-field distractions throughout the season to overcome adversity and make it back to Pasadena.
Fans believed that having Barry Alvarez on the sidelines one last time would add fuel to the players to make sure they went out with a win. It would have made for an unbelievable story that we would cherish for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, that is not the case as the Badgers squandered several opportunities to put themselves ahead in the game, or at the very least change momentum.
You may argue the following that could have changed the outcome in Wisconsin’s favor:
Matt Canada’s decision to not play QB Joel Stave
more to keep the defense honest
- Jared Abbrederis’ drop in the endzone on what would have been a spectacular touchdown
- James White’s drive-killing drop on 3rd down screen that looked to be a sure first down
- CB Devin Smith’s near interception that would have put Wisconsin deep into Stanford territory
- The dropped pass by WR Chase Hammond to give Wisconsin a first down
- The decision to throw on 2nd and 5 on the final drive with enough time to set up a QB roll out with Phillips to either hit an open receiver or run the ball and keep the drive alive
All of these made me scream “What the f***!?!” These are all plausible excuses, but I believe the biggest opportunity that Wisconsin missed was on 4th and Goal from the 1 yard line when the Badgers were still down 14-0. Canada called for the “Barge Formation” with White taking a direct snap to run up the middle. That play call was both right and wrong. The right call was to run the ball. The wrong call was to have White run it at the goal line in that formation. Stanford has one of the best run defenses in the country and had a month to prepare to defend that formation.
Canada should have called a power running play with RB Montee Ball punching it in for a score. Ball made a living the last 3 seasons scoring from the goal line. You have to put the ball in his hands on that play and run a motion with Gordon to take away an extra defender from the box. The onus should have been put on the offensive line to create a gap and have Ball push it in. That is the bread and butter of Wisconsin football since Alvarez took over the program in 1990.
If Canada made the call to put it in Ball’s hands the outcome could have been the same – there’s no argument there. But, the play call would not have been questioned. If Ball scores on that play, it would be 14-7 with more time left and would have shifted momentum earlier in Wisconsin’s favor. Of course, there was a lot left of the game to play, but play calling changes from there on out.
If there’s something positive that came out of this year’s Rose Bowl for Wisconsin, it’s that they were a MUCH better team than their record showed. They lost 6 games by a total of 25 points. They were in each game and could have gone either way. Through all of the adversity, the Badgers showed up each week to fight to the end, something that fans everywhere should respect. They just couldn't show the rest of the country that on New Year's Day...except for the fact that their marching band is better. Here’s looking forward to the Gary Andersen era in 2013.