PASADENA, Calif. — The Granddaddy of Them All didn’t wait long to prove once again why the Rose Bowl holds a special place in every college football fan’s heart.
Amid a glittering backdrop on a picture perfect Southern California day, No. 6 Oregon and No. 8 Wisconsin wasted no time trading blows in the 106th edition of the venerable bowl game. The Ducks struck first on the scoreboard but it was the Badgers who wound up with a 17-14 halftime lead in a thrilling start to the traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 battle.
Oregon QB Justin Herbert (81 yards passing) kicked things off by taking the ball off the coin toss and leading an opening drive that resulted in the Eugene native running it in for the first of his two first half touchdowns on the ground. While that was just the start that Mario Cristobal was hoping for in the game, the quick 7-0 lead lasted all of… 12 seconds.
That flip in momentum came courtesy of ace return man Aron Cruickshank, who took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards up the sideline and into the end zone. It was just the third ever kick return score in the game’s history and the second longest play overall. The Badgers didn’t let up from there either as linebacker Jack Sanborn (whose dad played for the Ducks) picked off a pass on the very next snap. UW eventually converted a field goal on the drive to electrify the red-clad faithful who made the trip West.
The Ducks kept things close thanks to their defense though. They forced a Jonathan Taylor (52 yards rushing on 11 carries) fumble and also saw corner Thomas Graham Jr. come down with a pick to setup a second touchdown. Wisconsin eventually got things going in the final few minutes though, using a late pass interference call to pave the way for Quintez Cephus to haul in an 11 yard strike from signal-caller Jack Coan (88 yards passing).
Needless to say, this has been a very fun back-and-forth game between two very physical teams. The last time they met at the 2012 Rose Bowl they staged a classic that came right down to the wire and have so far given every indication that a similar outcome may be in store for the second half — albeit slightly lower scoring than that Chip Kelly–Russell Wilson shootout.