PASADENA, Calif. — Although Stanford didn’t score many style points in the 99th Rose Bowl, the Cardinal could celebrate because they didn’t let Wisconsin score any points at all after halftime.
Stepfan Taylor rushed for 89 yards and an early touchdown, Kevin Hogan passed for 123 yards, and No. 8 Stanford won its first Rose Bowl since 1972, beating the Badgers 20-14 on Tuesday night.
Usua Amanam made the decisive interception near midfield with 2:30 to play as the Pac-12 champion Cardinal (12-2) ended their four-decade drought in the Granddaddy of Them All with arguably the biggest bowl win yet during the long-struggling program’s recent renaissance.
Stanford clamped down on the Big Ten champion Badgers (8-6), who lost the Rose Bowl in heartbreaking fashion for the third consecutive season. Montee Ball rushed for 100 yards and his FBS-record 83rd touchdown, but Wisconsin managed only 82 yards after halftime.
With impressive defense of its own, Wisconsin stayed in position for an upset in the one-game return of Hall of Fame coach Barry Alvarez, who was back on the Badgers’ sideline in his red sweater-vest seven years after hanging up his whistle.
When Bret Bielema abruptly left Wisconsin for Arkansas after winning the Big Ten title game, Alvarez agreed to coach his fourth Rose Bowl before handing off his program to new coach Gary Andersen, who met with Alvarez on the field before the game.
But the Badgers’ third consecutive Rose Bowl appearance ended in much the same way as the past two: With the Wisconsin offense failing to get the late score they desperately needed.
Curt Phillips went 10 for 16 for 83 yards passing and that crucial interception for Wisconsin, doing more with 64 yards on the ground. Jordan Fredrick caught a short TD pass right before halftime, but no Badgers receiver had more than Jared Abbrederis’ three catches.
And though Ball became the first player to score touchdowns in three Rose Bowls, the powerful back fell short of Ron Dayne’s career Rose Bowl rushing record, swarmed under by waves of tacklers from one of the toughest defenses in the nation.
Kelsey Young rushed for a score on Stanford’s opening possession, and Taylor scored on the second. Wisconsin kept the Cardinal out of the end zone for the final 51 minutes, but Stanford’s defense didn’t need any more help.
Stanford won its first conference title and earned its first Rose Bowl appearance in 13 years with seven straight wins. The Cardinal ousted top-ranked Oregon on the way to the biggest season yet in the improbable surge of success started by Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck, and extended by coach David Shaw and Hogan, who took over as the starter in November.
Wisconsin returned to Pasadena in a much more roundabout way as the first five-loss team to make it, losing three overtime games and making the Big Ten title game only because Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible. The Badgers then steamrolled Nebraska to become the first Big Ten team in three straight Rose Bowls since Michigan in the late 1970s.
The Cardinal led 14-0 on Taylor’s 3-yard TD run just 8½ minutes in, but Wisconsin finally got rolling behind Ball, who rushed for 296 yards in his first two Rose Bowls. Stanford stopped James White inside the 1 on fourth down early in the second quarter after a touchdown run by Ball was wiped out by a holding penalty, but Ball scored on the next drive.
The Badgers then mounted an 85-yard drive in the waning 2 ½ minutes of the first half, with Phillips’ 38-yard run setting up Fredrick’s short TD catch to trim Stanford’s halftime lead to 17-14.
After halftime adjustments, both defenses dominated the scoreless third quarter, allowing just three combined first downs.
Wisconsin’s personal foul on a fair-catch punt return finally sparked Stanford early in the fourth quarter. Stanford got inside the Wisconsin 5 before stalling, and Jordan Williamson’s short field goal put the Cardinal up by six points with 4:23 to go.
The Badgers got to midfield, but Phillips threw behind Jacob Pedersen, and Amanam easily made the pick.