Stanford and Wisconsin were as different as they come heading into the 2013 Rose Bowl game. The Badgers were a five-loss team that backed its ways into the Big Ten championship and lost its coach, Bret Bielema, to Arkansas just days later. Stanford, meanwhile, has become the new model of consistency with David Shaw picking up where Jim Harbaugh left off with the Cardinal finishing its third straight season of at least 11 wins.
Yet when the two sides took the field, the result was about as even as you could imagine all the way up to the final seconds when No. 8 Stanford held on against Wisconsin, 20-14.
Stanford and Wisconsin had 344 and 301 yards, respectively, and were knotted at a 17-14 punt-fest for much of the second half before Jordan Williamson made a 22-yard field goal to reflect the final score. Bowl games are a battle of many variables, motivation and match-ups being among them. There was no questioning motivation and the match-up between Stanford and Wisconsin was a good one. The Cardinal just made one more big play.
It’s hard to say the Barry Alvarez experiment didn’t work simply because the Badgers didn’t come out on top. Running back Montee Ball had 100 yards rushing and became the first player in history to score touchdowns in three different Rose Bowls. All were losses. But he also only had 12 in the second half, ironically a time when it felt like Wisconsin controlled the momentum of the game even though it trailed.
The Rose Bowl had become a stalemate where the anticipation of the big play mounted with every possession. Ultimately, nothing major happened — at least not until Curt Phillips threw a costly interception to Stanford cornerback Usua Amanam. One first down later and the Cardinal would execute the victory formation to win its first Rose Bowl win since 1972. And without Andrew Luck, no less. In the middle of Oregon’s incredible run of Pac-12 dominance.
It’s a job well done for Shaw, who signed a long-term extension with the university last month. There’s no sign that indicates he’s planning on leaving any time soon, either. Depending on what happens with Oregon coach Chip Kelly and the NFL rumors surrounding him, Stanford and Shaw could become the new king atop the Pac-12. Some might argue, with good reason, that the Cardinal is already there and to stay. Shaw is a little more humble.
“We’re still ascending,” Shaw said after the win.