Well, there you have it folks. It was Oregon celebrating in Pasadena and hoisting the Rose Bowl trophy on Monday night. It is the Ducks’ first BCS win in a decade, and first Rose Bowl win in 95 years. Duck fans no longer need to point to the 1917 team as being the most recent champions of the annual show down of East vs West. The 2012, and 98th edition of the storied bowl game will go down in the books as the Ducks 45 Badgers 38. THE DUCKS WIN THE ROSE BOWL!!! And it feels so good to be able to write that…
This years (young) team, right before our eyes, has taken this Oregon program to an entirely new level. No longer can it be said that the recent Ducks- and Chip Kelly- can not win in the big games. You know, the ones against top 10 defenses that are afforded extra time to prepare?
This Wisconsin team had a great season and proved to be a very tough match up for the Ducks. The winners of the Big 10 came into the game with an offense and defense ranked among the nations elite. They had 31 days to prepare. The results? How about 345 rushing yards and 621 yards of total offense. Including 8.6 yards per carry in the run game and 3 touchdowns. 268 more yards passing and 3 more touchdowns.
The vaunted Wisconsin offense came to play and forged 508 yards of offense, with 212 yards coming on 46 mostly bruising carries, and 32 of those went to Heisman finalist Montee Ball. Ball capped an astonishing season with 164 yards rushing, 51 yards receiving, and 1 touchdown in the game. On the ground, the mighty Badgers rushing attack supersized their way to only 4.6 yards per carry as a team and 5.1 individually for Ball.
For the record, this Wisconsin team with Ball and Wilson were very, very good. I researched the team for weeks, but really only needed to see a few stiff arms and miracle 3rd down conversions to put their talent level in perspective. Consider that Ball’s 1 touchdown put him in a tie with Barry Sanders for most touchdowns all time in any season. Russell Wilson finished the season with 33 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. These Badgers fought hard all the way to the end, but Oregon showed they were the better team.
This time and this season, the Ducks played like champions.
So many of the Ducks made such critical contribututions to the outcome of this game. If they put me in charge of post game awards, here is what I would do:
Best Coaching Decision: Brett Bielema 2nd timeout-3rd quarter
De’Anthony Thomas brought the kick off out of the end zone, or did he? In college, the football- not the foot- needs to be across the line. Thomas took this rule to heart when he had a foot on the line brought the ball within inches of being over. Bielema used the Badgers’ 2nd timeout in an attempt to give the officials time to review. They did and they play stood. Leaving the Badgers with only 1 timeout for the closely contested final quarter and a half.
Play of the game: Terrance Mitchell forced fumble
Oregon needed a stop late in the game when Russell Wilson found Jared Abbrederis wide open for an apparent big gain. The skilled receiver would advance the ball up the side line, only to have redshirt freshman Terrance Mitchell strip it away. With the ball lying on the turf, Michael Clay pounced on it, giving the Ducks another possession.
Jump of the game: Chip Kelly 4th quarter
Mitchell’s forced fumble, and Clay’s subsequent recovery, iced the game and sent the typically grounded coach airborn in the 4th quarter.
Catch of the game: Lavasier Tuinei
Either of LT’s TD catches get the nod here. The 1st one came right before the half to even the score afetr Darron Thomas’ fumble was recovered for a TD. His catch in the 4th quarter gave the Ducks a lead they would not relinquish. His 158 yards on 8 catches was a career high. Not a bad way for senior to go out.
Run of the game: De’Anthony Thomas 91 yards
As time was winding down in the 1st quarter, the Black Mamba took a hand off right up the middle on an option play and went untouched for a Rose Bowl record 91 yard touchdown. So much for not running “between the tackles”.
MVP Offense: De’Anthony Thomas
The electric freshman had a 46 yard kick return (125 total), 4 catches for 34 yards, and 2 carries for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tough to beat a 77.5 yard per carry rush average and 314 total yards. He was the fastest player on the field during his 64 yard, and record 91 yard touchdown runs.
MVP Defense: Michael Clay
Michael Clay was one of a whole bunch of Ducks that could be recognized here. The defense had their work cut out with this Wisconsin team and it was Clay who was often the first to make contact with the ball carriers, and he was his usual sideline to sideline defending self all game long. Clay laid a few crushing hits on Montee Ball but it was his opportunistic fumble recovery with 4:06 left that sealed the deal.
Game Ball: Kiko Alonso
The Rose Bowl defensive MVP had his most impactful game as a Duck. Alonso dirupted several plays and recorded 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, and a key interception. If Kiko can maintain his focus through the off season, the Ducks should expect big things for his senior year.
Game Ball: LaMichael James
What a way for one of the best Ducks to cement his legacy of success. The Junior ran 25 times for 159 yards and a touchdown. In what could be his last game, James ran hard and made the offense go one more time. The Rose Bowl win represents arguably the most significant victory in Oregon history. James’ contributions to this recent run of Ducks success have been unmatched. It seemed that hardly a game went by in his career that he wasn’t breaking some kind of record. This game was no exception. The touchdown he scored broke a tie with USC’s LenDale White for most in conference history. With his 159 yards, James moved to 2nd on the all-time Pac-10/12 rushing yards, passing OSU’s Ken Simonton.
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