Two years of frustration ended on one night of bliss at the Tournament of Roses.
Oregon beat Wisconsin in a thrilling Rose Bowl 45-38 Monday, as De’Anthony Thomas sprinted by two defenders on huge touchdown runs, Kiko Alonso made a key interception leading to the go-ahead points and the Ducks held off the Badgers before 91,245 at the renovated Rose Bowl Stadium.
The three-time league-champion Ducks (12-2) had been 0-2 in BCS games, but they broke through against the Badgers (11-3), who had lost a tight Rose Bowl to TCU a year before.
This one was a good old-fashioned shootout, with Oregon’s lightning offense matching Wisconsin’s methodical offense led by running back Montee Ball and QB Russell Wilson.
The points scored were the most in a Rose Bowl, surpassing the count in Washington’s 46-34 victory over Iowa in 1991.
Wisconsin appeared to be taking over the game, but on third-and-3 late in the third quarter, Alonso — the twice-suspended linebacker who played a great game — picked off Wisconsin QB Wilson at the UW 39.
LaMichael James ran for 15 yards to the UW 22 and for 1 yard (with David Paulson recovering his fumble) as the third quarter ended.
On third-and-9, the QB Thomas-Thomas connection made a first down, as De’Anthony Thomas broke a tackle after catching a pass. Then Darron Thomas found Tuinei for another TD pass, 11 yards, and Oregon led 42-38 seconds into the fourth quarter.
The Ducks forced a punt, and moved upfield. On a key fourth down in UW territory, Thomas hit Tuinei for an 9-yard gain and a first down with the clock ticking toward eight minutes left. Again on fourth-and-1 at the UW 13, an the clock below seven minutes left, the Ducks opted for a field goal, and Alejandro Maldonado nailed a 30-yarder to make it a seven-point lead, 45-38.
Oregon forced and recovered a fumble at its 27 with four minutes to go. The Ducks picked up a first down on the ground, forcing Wisconsin to use its final timeout.
Oregon had fourth-and-6 with 23 seconds to go, and punted to the Badgers 12, for a fair catch with 16 seconds left.
Two long completions got to the Oregon 23 with two seconds left, and Wisconsin tried to spike the ball. The clock went to zero, but the Badgers argued for one more second.
But the officials said time had expired.
The game started like gangbusters, with the teams trading scores and combining for 56 points, a Rose Bowl-record for a half. Included among the stellar offensive play was De’Anthony Thomas’ game-record 91-yard TD run. Wisconsin scored a defensive touchdown on Louis Nzegwu’s 33-yard fumble recovery run.
The freshman phenom Thomas did it again early in the third quarter as Oregon took its first lead. After a couple of James runs, he sprinted 64 yards for another score and UO led 35-28.
The Ducks made a big stop. Jared Abbrederis, who earlier had a fine TD reception, returned the kickoff 60 yards to the UO 36. Montee Ball ran for nine and 14 yards, the second run leaping over UO safety John Boyett to the UO 14. But the Ducks stopped Ball for two yards on two carries and Wilson threw incomplete on third down. Philip Welch’s 29-yard field goal broke the string of touchdowns and made it 35-31, Oregon.
With the momentum, Oregon failed to pick up a first down and punted.
The Badgers methodically went downfield, with Wilson starring. On third-and-8, he scrambled for 17 yards. He later threw seven yards to Ball on third-and-4, and then found Nick Toon in the end zone on an 18-yard TD pass as UW surged ahead, 38-35.
In a game of matching scores, Oregon couldn’t keep up this time. Tuinei made a terrific, 35-yard catch. But, later after a holding penalty by Ryan Clanton, Thomas’ tip got passed and flew into the hands of Aaron Henry for UO’s second turnover. On the play, UO offensive lineman Carson York got injured trying to make the tackle and had to be carted off the field on a stretcher.
Oregon had 341 yards and UW 295 in the first half. De’Anthony Thomas had his 91-yard carry and James had 77 yards on eight carries. Darron Thomas went 9 of 12 for 153 yards.
Ball had 122 yards on 21 carries. Wilson was 10 of 13 for 157 yards.
The previous record for points in a Rose Bowl first half was 45 by UCLA and Wisconsin in 1999. The previous record for a half was 53 by USC and Texas in 2006.
Momentum? What momentum in the first half?
Wisconsin had scoring drives of 77, 79 and 64 yards. Oregon’s four scoring drives took 2:07, 0:32, 0:08 and 2:51.
On UW’s first drive, Ball ran hard caught a 7-yard third-down pass from Wilson. Later, Wilson found Jared Abbrederis open after the receiver spun away from freshman cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and caught a 38-yard TD pass.
But the Ducks responded. James rushed for 23 yards on third-and-3. Darron Thomas was under pressure when he threw 35 yards to Lavasier Tuinei, and James scored on a 1-yard TD run.
The Badgers moved upfield again. Wilson had a nifty draw handoff to Ball, who ran 42 yards, and a 30-yard dump-off pass to Ball that went to the UO 4. Wilson scored on a 4-yard, naked-bootleg TD run.
The Badgers had a chance to go up 21-7, but played conservatively. After an Oregon punt, Nick Toon drew a pass interference play on UO’s John Boyett on third-and-22, giving UW the first down. On fourth-and-2 later, the Badgers opted to punt from the UO 38.
From its own 5, the Ducks struck with freshman phenom De’Anthony Thomas. On second down, he scurried through the line and ran 91 yards for the tying touchdown, setting the Rose Bowl record for longest TD run; it was previously held by Michigan’s Tyrone Wheatley (88 vs. Washington, 1993).
The second quarter saw more points.
Wilson found Jacob Pedersen for 17 yards on third down and Toon for 18 yards to the UO 16. Wilson scampered out of bounds and got hit by Boyett, who drew a personal foul penalty. Ball’s 3-yard TD run put UW up 21-14; it was his 39th TD of the season, tying Barry Sanders’ single-season record (1988).
But, De’Anthony Thomas had a big kickoff return and Darron Thomas found running back Kenjon Barner over the top of the defense for a 54-yard TD pass. Tie score, 21-21.
Oregon came up with a huge stop to presumably secure the momentum.. Wilson threw 23 yards to Abbrederis and Ball ran nine yards to the UO 17. But Ball was stopped by the Ducks’ Wade Keliikipi and Boyett. Wilson, flushed out of the pocket on fourth-and-1, got stopped in the open field by Alonso, who played a great first half.
But Wisconsin took the momentum right back. Mike Taylor blitzed the QB Thomas on third-and-5, forcing a fumble, and teammate Nzegwu recovered and scored from 33 yards out; the play was upheld on review.
The Ducks kept pace. With three minutes, Oregon marched for points as they often do at the end of the first half. James ran for 29 yards and Thomas hit Tuinei for 21. Later, after a timeout, Thomas threw three yards to Tuinei for the score and 28-28 tie.
WISCONSIN 14 14 10 0 — 38
OREGON 14 14 7 10 — 45
WIS — 1st, 11:48: Jared Abbrederis 38 pass from Russell Wilson (Philip Welch kick)
ORE — 1st, 9:41: LaMichael James 1 run (Alejandro Maldonado kick)
WIS — 1st, 5:55: Wilson 4 run (Welch kick)
ORE — 1st, 0:01: De’Anthony Thomas 91 run (Maldonado kick)
WIS — 2nd, 10:52: Montee Ball 3 run (Welch kick)
ORE — 2nd, 10:36: Kenjon Barner 54 pass from Darron Thomas (Maldonado kick)
WIS — 2nd, 3:26: Louis Nzegwu 33 fumble recovery (Welch kick)
ORE — 2nd, 0:30: Lavasier Tuinei 3 pass from Thomas (Maldonado kick)
ORE — 3rd, 14:11: De’Anthony Thomas 64 run (Maldonado kick)
WIS — 3rd, 10:50: Philip Welch 29 FG
WIS — 3rd, 4:44: Nick Toon 18 pass from Wilson (Welch kick)
ORE — 4th, 14:35: Tuinei 11 pass from Thomas (Maldonado kick)
ORE — 4th, 6:50: Maldonado 30 FG