Wizards

Ball helps Badgers rush past No. 14 Nebraska 70-31

201212012016729649844-p2.jpeg

Ball helps Badgers rush past No. 14 Nebraska 70-31

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Montee Ball and Wisconsin are heading back to the Rose Bowl after an overwhelming performance the Badgers hope will make people forget they finished third in their division.

Ball rushed for 202 yards and three more touchdowns Saturday night, leading the Badgers to a 70-31 rout of No. 14 Nebraska for a third straight Big Ten championship and a third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl.

All Ball and his teammates wanted was an opportunity to show critics who claimed they didn't belong in the league title game that they were wrong.

``We kind of set our minds before the game that this is our game,'' Ball said. ``The running backs were going to set the tempo.''

Did they ever?

Ball ran for 202 yards and three touchdowns, broke the Football Bowl Subdivision career rushing touchdowns record, tied the FBS record for most games with two or more scores, topped the 5,000-yard mark and was named the game MVP.

Not a bad night for a guy whose numbers weren't even the best on the team.

Melvin Gordon opened the scoring with a 56-yard TD run and had a career-high 216 yards on nine carries. Three different Badgers threw passes, including running back James White who ran for 108 yards and four TDs and threw for a touchdown on the first pass of his college career.

It was the most improbable Big Ten title in Wisconsin's three-year run. The Badgers are the first five-loss team to reach the Rose Bowl, and became the first Big Ten school since Michigan in the late 1970s to earn three consecutive tickets to Pasadena, Calif.

``As my AD tells me all the time, you haven't one won yet,'' coach Bret Bielema said. ``We're going out there to win. That's the mission, and I appreciate all the fans coming out to Madison East.''

Indiana has quickly become a second home for the Badgers.

Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team with a win at Lucas Oil Stadium and has now won 10 straight in the Hoosier State. It played three games in Indiana this season, rushing for 1,570 yards and 19 TDs while outscoring opponents 170-59 in those three games.

But Saturday was the biggest night of all.

For the first time in school history, the Badgers had two 200-yard rushers. They finished with the fourth-highest rushing total in school history (539) and tied a conference championship game scoring record. Texas also scored 70 points in the 2005 Big 12 championship game.

Nebraska hadn't allowed 70 points since a 76-39 thrashing by Kansas In November 2007. The loss ended the Cornhuskers six-game winning streak, which began after a 63-38 loss to Ohio State, and the 'Huskers simply had no answers.

``What do you do? What is defensive football,'' Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said before calling the season a failure and apologizing for not bringing home a league title. ``It's play your gaps, handle your responsibility, be where you're supposed to be and make tackles, and we did none of the above.

It was a fitting end to a wacky Big Ten season.

Wisconsin (8-5, 4-4) only reached this year's because Leaders Division champion Ohio State (12-0) and division runner-up Penn State (8-4) were both ineligible for postseason play.

But on Saturday the Badgers took advantage of their good fortune by piling up 639 total yards in total offense.

The defense dominated, too. In the first half alone, Taylor Martinez was sacked three times, fumbled twice, losing one and had an interception returned for a touchdown. He finished 17 of 33 for 184 yards with two interceptions and six sacks. He also rushed 19 times for 140 yards, scoring on a nifty 76-yard run, but fumbled twice.

Bielema countered by emptying the playbook and running right over the Nebraska (10-3, 7-1).

``We practiced some of them (trick plays) for a while,'' Bielema said. ``There's probably a couple we haven't used yet either and they'll remain a little secret. James wanted to be recruited as a quarterback all along, so finally had that opportunity to show up out there and just a lot of different things. Our kids had a little bit of fun with it, but it was still the meat and potatoes that got us to where we were. ``

The onslaught started fast.

Gordon took the ball on an end around, made two cuts and sprinted 56 yards for a 7-0 lead on the fourth play of the game.

On the next offensive play, a falling Kenny Bell tipped Martinez's pass up in the air and Wisconsin's Marcus Cromartie picked it off and raced 29 yards. It was already 14-0 after only 2:07 in.

The `Huskers finally counterpunched with Martinez's long run and then got a 32-yard field goal to make it 14-10.

Then the Badgers opened things up.

With the ball on the right hash, they sent seven players to the left hash and had Curt Phillips throw a pass to Derek Watt on the right. After two more conventional runs, White ran two plays out of the Wildcat formation, scoring on the second one from 9 yards to make it 21-10.

White scored again on 1 -yard plunge right after Phillips caught a 27-yard pass from receiver Jared Abbrederis. And after Ball's record-breaking touchdown dive made it 35-10, Gordon went 60-yards on an end around to put the ball at the Nebraska 3 with 6 seconds left in the half. This time, White lined up in the Wildcat ran right lobbed a 3-yard TD pass to Sam Arneson for a 42-10 halftime lead.

``Shock doesn't even begin to explain it,'' Pelini said. ``It was like a leaking boat. It was one thing after another, one problem after another. There were some things that we corrected and then it happened again. I've never been a part of a game like that as a coach. ``

Things got even worse in the second half.

Wisconsin picked off Martinez again on the opening possession, and Ball scored on a 9-yard TD run on the next play.

Martinez answered with an 11-yard TD run, but Ball scored on a 57-yard run and White followed that with a 68-yard TD run to make it 63-17 with 6:42 left in the third quarter.

``We felt like we had a big statement to make on a big stage,'' Ball said. ``We just wanted to make sure that we executed.''

Quick Links

Wizards, Mystics have discussed turning Capital One Arena into a place to vote

Wizards, Mystics have discussed turning Capital One Arena into a place to vote

With a growing list of NBA teams offering their arenas as presidential polling places for this November's election, members of the Wizards and Mystics are hoping the same can be done in Washington with Capital One Arena.

Wizards center Ian Mahinmi said there have been discussions on the matter among Wizards and Mystics players, as well as members of the front office. He mentioned several by name: Bradley Beal, Natasha Cloud, Ish Smith and LaToya Sanders, a group he described as leading the charge on using the teams' platforms to create social justice change.

"This is something that we have talked about and that would be amazing," Mahinmi said.

RELATED: MANY WIZARDS PLAYERS PLAN TO WEAR SOCIAL JUSTICE MESSAGES ON BACK OF JERSEYS

Voting rights and awareness has become a central issue for Mahinmi, who is originally from France. He has been studying social justice matters worldwide and feels voting can create necessary change in the United States. Mahinmi has been motivated, as many have, by recent events such as the death of George Floyd in the custody of police officers in Minneapolis.

"I think it's our job to provide a platform and to help the people that are lacking space and time to do and exercise their right. When you look around the country, across the country, and what's going on as far as the ability to vote, providing this for the people would be such a great move. I think it would be the right move for our organization," Mahinmi said.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

Mahinmi said recently he plans to wear the word 'vote' on the back of his Wizards jersey when NBA games return in Orlando. The league is allowing players to replace their names with nessages centered around social justice.

Clearly for Mahinmi, it's about more than a slogan. He, his teammates and his friends from the Mystics are looking to take action.

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Making a case for Red Tails as Washington football's new name

Making a case for Red Tails as Washington football's new name

The Washington NFL football franchise announced Monday that it would be retiring the Redskins name and logo, as has been anticipated since the team started a review of its name in the wake of sponsors calling for a change. Along with a new moniker, the change means a new brand, a new image and a new front-facing representation of how the team will be perceived by a massive audience. In the short time since FedEx became the first known sponsor to formally ask Washington to change its name, several options have been suggested online. I spoke with several marketing experts about each name, and this series uses those responses to make a case for some of the most popular suggestions.

Case for: Washington Red Tails

“Red Tails” might’ve been the favorite among fans and others on social media before “Red Wolves” started gaining traction towards the end of last week.

RELATED: WASHINGTON'S NEW NAME MAY BE MORE FOR FUTURE FANS THAN CURRENT ONES

The origin of the name comes from the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black pilots in the United States military. A group of Tuskegee Airmen known as the Red Tails -- because of the paint on the tails of their planes -- made up the 332nd Fighter Group during World War II. The Red Tails had one of the lowest loss records of all escort fighter groups.

Concepts


Brad Nierenberg, CEO of RedPeg Marketing, an Alexandria, Virginia-based marketing agency, thinks the history of the Red Tails provides an opportunity for Washington to attach itself to a powerful story, particularly in a time where conversations about social justice have been amplified.

“The Red Tails is an incredible opportunity for [Washington]," Nierenberg said. "I don’t know of it as a major team name. I think that it allows them at this time to take a leadership role in this time of changing of understanding of social justice. And I think that their recognition of the Red Tails could be a dramatic, great first step for them as a brand that I think is overcoming… there’s a great story behind it. They can run with that story that already exists.

"And at the time to actually capitalize on this, you can get a lot of wind beneath your wings on that one. I think there’s a lot of energy there with society. I think this town would wrap their arms around it. As a company and as a team, as an ownership group, recognizing this incredible story could be powerful forever. And it’s a fighter group, it’s a fighter, it’s an overcoming odds -- there’s a tremendous story there, and I think that with today’s society doing what it is, I think it could be an incredible time for them to take advantage of this groundswell of energy. And it’s not going backwards, it’s only going forward, so I think they could be in a very positive position.”

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS UNCOVERED

Stay connected with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE TEAM NEWS: