Oregon powers past Wisconsin 45-38 in Rose Bowl
Darron Thomas passed for three touchdowns, De'Anthony Thomas scored on runs of 91 and 64 yards, and the No. 6 Ducks earned their first bowl victory under coach Chip Kelly, holding off Wisconsin 45-38 Monday night in the highest-scoring Rose Bowl ever played.
And it wasn't over until a video review confirmed the Badgers (11-3) ran out of time at the Oregon 25, out of timeouts and unable to spike the ball in time to stop the clock for a last-gasp fling.
Lavasier Tuinei caught eight passes for 158 yards and two TDs for the Ducks (12-2), who had no postseason success to show for Kelly's otherwise wildly successful three-year tenure until this landmark offensive performance in the 98th Rose Bowl. Oregon hadn't won the West Coast's biggest game since 1917.
"It's been 95 years since you could say: Oregon Ducks, Rose Bowl champions," Kelly said after the Ducks held Wisconsin scoreless in the fourth quarter.
The Granddaddy of Them All had never seen this many points, beating the record 80 scored by Washington and Iowa in 1991.
With the Ducks wearing mirrored helmets and playing at their usual frantic pace, Oregon racked up 621 total yards, just shy of the Rose Bowl record.
Montee Ball rushed for 122 of his 164 yards in the first half for the Badgers (11-3), who lost the Rose Bowl for the second straight year despite managing 508 yards of their own. Ball tied Barry Sanders' FBS record with his 39th touchdown of the season, while Russell Wilson passed for 296 yards and two scores.
"This team showed what Oregon football is all about," said linebacker Kiko Alonso, named the game's top defensive player after getting a key interception.
Wisconsin had two drives to tie it after Oregon kicked a field goal with 6:50 to play, but Jared Abbrederis fumbled near the Oregon sideline after making a long catch. The ball plopped onto the turf without even bouncing, and Oregon's Michael Clay jumped on it with 4:06 left.
That video review went the Ducks' way, too.
The Badgers had burned two timeouts early in the second half, so Oregon was able to run the clock down to 23 seconds before punting.
Wilson connected on two long passes, but the officials went to video review after the clock went to zeros as Wilson rushed his team to the Oregon 25 with 2 seconds left, waited for the ball to be set, then took the snap and spiked the ball.
But the Badgers took too long. The officials ruled time had indeed expired, and the Ducks sprinted onto the field to the frenzied cheers of their outnumbered fans.
The Ducks and Badgers produced the highest-scoring first quarter (14-14) and first half (28-28) in Rose Bowl history, eventually surpassing the 80 scored in Washington's 46-34 win over Iowa in 1991. Oregon's yardage fell just short of USC's 633 yards against Illinois in 2008.
Sure, Baylor's 67-56 win over Washington in the Alamo Bowl last Thursday might have packed bigger sheer numbers. But Wisconsin and Oregon commanded a much bigger stage — and the Ducks unleashed every bit of their formidable offensive power.
Tuinei was named the Ducks' offensive player of the game, but their flashiest star in those futuristic helmets was De'Anthony Thomas, the freshman from Los Angeles who showed off his electrifying athleticism on the longest scoring run in Rose Bowl history in the second quarter, going 91 yards up the middle. He added a mere 64-yard scoring run in the opening minute of the second half as Oregon won the matchup of the last two losers of the Rose Bowl.
Wisconsin lost 21-19 to TCU last season, and the Ducks lost to Ohio State two years ago before losing the BCS title game last year.
"It almost felt like there was some sort of magical force keeping us from getting it done in bowl games," Oregon guard Carson York said. "Glad we did it today."
LaMichael James rushed for 159 yards and an early TD in his likely college finale for the Ducks, while De'Anthony Thomas finished with 155 yards. Kenjon Barner also caught a TD pass from Darron Thomas.
Abbrederis and Nick Toon caught TD passes for Wisconsin, and defensive end Louis Nzegwu returned a fumble 33 yards for a score in the second quarter.
In the second half, the Ducks even slowed Ball. The Heisman Trophy finalist started strong in what's likely his final college game, even hurdling Oregon safety John Boyett in what's sure to be a big YouTube hit, but he had just three carries for no yards in the fourth quarter.
Both teams won their respective conferences' first-ever league title games to earn this trip to Pasadena. Although the Ducks' drought was generations longer, Wisconsin hasn't won in Pasadena since Jan. 1, 2000, when Ron Dayne led the Badgers to back-to-back Rose Bowl titles.
Oregon quickly debunked the theory that teams with extra time to prepare for the Ducks' inventive offense have a better chance to stop it. The Ducks were 1-4 in bowl games and season openers under Kelly until they carved up Wisconsin with the second-biggest yardage performance in Rose Bowl history.
Wisconsin set the tone from its opening drive, going 77 yards in seven plays for Abbrederis' wide-open 38-yard TD catch just 3:12 in. Ball carried on the Badgers' first four snaps, and play-action set up the pass — two themes that dominated Wisconsin's game plan.
Oregon answered with an 80-yard drive in just 2:07, culminating in James' 1-yard TD run. Wisconsin scored again on Wilson's 4-yard run before the teams finally traded punts, but De'Anthony Thomas broke through the Wisconsin line and sprinted down the Oregon sideline for a 91-yard score, surpassing Tyrone Wheatley's bowl-record 88-yard run in 1993 and capping the second-longest scoring drive in Rose Bowl history at 95 yards with Oregon's longest run all season.
Wisconsin opened the second quarter with Ball's record-tying run, but Darron Thomas found Barner open down the seam for a 54-yard score on Oregon's next play. Both defenses then got a brief chance to shine: The Ducks stopped Wisconsin on fourth down inside the Oregon 20, but blitzing Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor forced Darron Thomas' fumble moments later, and Nzegwu scooped and scored.
Oregon calmly answered with Tuinei's 3-yard TD catch with 30 seconds left. The teams' 56 combined points surpasses the record 45 scored by Wisconsin and UCLA in 1999.
De'Anthony Thomas' 64-yard TD run put Oregon ahead, and the Ducks then held Wisconsin to a mere field goal — but the Badgers' defense forced a punt, and Wilson made several heady plays on the way to an 18-yard TD pass to Toon.
The quarterbacks traded interceptions. Then Darron Thomas found Tuinei for his second score just 25 seconds into the fourth quarter, putting the Ducks ahead to stay.