PASADENA, Calif. -- Stop Ron Dayne? Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham dismisses the idea as ludicrous.
The Heisman Trophy winner wraps up a record-breaking college career today as Wisconsin seeks a second straight Rose Bowl victory. Dayne needs 75 yards rushing against Stanford to reach 7,000 for his career, and he'll be facing the nation's fifth-worst defense.
"Nobody has stopped him. To think that we can stop him probably borders on the absurd," Willingham said. "We have not uncovered a secret to stopping Ron Dayne yet."
But that's not the only problem facing injury-riddled Stanford, which will be playing in its first Rose Bowl in 28 years.
The Cardinal's top defensive player, tackle Willie Howard, is hobbled by a torn ligament in his right knee and it's unclear how much he'll be able to play. Center Mike McLaughlin, who has started 45 straight games, is questionable after hurting his knee this week in practice.
And Troy Walters, who broke four Pac-10 career receiving records this season and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver, is doubtful after dislocating his right wrist in practice on Tuesday.
But, after initially ruling Walters out of the game, Willingham said Friday he is not giving up hope the flanker can play.
"With Troy, I always hold open the possibility that a miracle will take place and that we'll have the opportunity to get him in there," Willingham said. "As of right now, Troy has really done nothing. I don't know if there will be sufficient recovery for him to play."
Walters, wearing a cast on his right arm, suggested Thursday he might make a cameo appearance to be able to say he played in the Rose Bowl. On Friday, Willingham said neither Walters nor Howard would play such a role.
"If it was just a ceremonial type of thing, I would only let them do the coin flip," the coach said.
The biggest injury concern for Wisconsin is coach Barry Alvarez's knee. He has spent most of this season coaching from the press box and getting around the practice field on a golf cart.
Alvarez said Friday he'd love to be on the sideline for the game, but won't know until game time whether his knee is ready. He had surgery twice this season, the second operation just six weeks ago. He still walks with a cane.
Wisconsin, trying to become the first Big Ten team to win back-to-back Rose Bowls, has won seven straight games since freshman Brooks Bollinger took over as the starting quarterback. But for the No. 4 Badgers, the star is Dayne.
Dayne rushed for 6,397 yards in regular-season games, an NCAA record. He has had an additional 528 yards in three bowl games, including 246 against Utah in the 1996 Copper Bowl and 246 against UCLA in last year's 38-31 Rose Bowl win.
The 258-pound Dayne has 13 games of at least 200 yards rushing in his career, including three of the last four games this season.
Stanford defensive coordinator Kent Baer, whose unit ranked 110th out of 114 Division I schools this year, said he knows Dayne has the ability to demolish defenses.
"Yeah, I'm concerned," Baer said. "I lay awake at night thinking that may happen."
No. 22 Stanford (8-3) took a bumpy road to the Rose Bowl, losing its opener 69-17 at Texas and losing at home to lowly San Jose State before winning its first outright Pac-10 title. The Cardinal averaged 37 points a game, but gave up 32.
The Badgers (9-2) blew their chance at a national title by losing at lowly Cincinnati and then at Michigan early in the season, but ended up with the Big Ten's highest-scoring offense and its best defense.
Though they're big favorites, the Badgers said they won't have any trouble with overconfidence against banged-up Stanford. They learned their lesson against Cincinnati.
"My guys have been humbled already this year, where we were heavy favorites and lost," Alvarez said.
Wisconsin also remembers it was a big underdog against UCLA in the 1999 Rose Bowl.
"Last year we were in the position that Stanford is in this year. A lot of people are saying they are the worst team, or that they don't belong here," Dayne said. "But you have to be good to make it to the Rose Bowl, so I don't understand why people say that."
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