PASADENA, Calif. – Before either Stanford or Wisconsin even arrived in Pasadena, much less Los Angeles for the 2013 Rose Bowl, it was already predicted to be a defensive battle.
Both the Cardinal and the Badgers’ run-heavy offenses were balanced by tough defenses known for shutting down even some of the most efficient opposing offenses. And the 20-14 win for Stanford in the 99th Rose Bowl didn’t disappoint.
Overall, the Badgers only allowed the Cardinal 344 total offensive yards, split between 187 rushing yards and 157 passing yards – holding right around their season average of 322.6 per game.
But before UW could settle into its own offense, Stanford posted two touchdowns on its first two drives of the game – its only two of the game.
“Their first two scores they came out and they did some trick stuff, some reverses … I think they caught us by surprise with those plays,” junior defensive tackle Beau Allen said. “But from there we adjusted on the sidelines and we just all came together as a defense. We just said, ‘We’re not going to let them score again.’ I thought we did a good job from there.”
From that point, Stanford wouldn’t touch the end zone again – but it did find a way to score.
On the next drive the Badgers forced a three-and-out, which then led to a UW touchdown on the following drive. Prior to halftime Wisconsin forced another Stanford three-and-out, but not before it scored a field goal to take a 17-14 lead into the half. But the defense was just getting started.
Through four drives in the third quarter the Badger defense forced four punts – two of which were the result of a three-and-out.
“Quite frankly I thought our defense played very, very well in the second half,” interim head coach Barry Alvarez said. “Give them a couple of field goals. Both defenses picked it up, made adjustments and picked it up.”
Wisconsin’s defense became increasingly suffocating throughout the second half until the fourth quarter when it bent too far. Starting on its own 29, the Cardinal used eight rushes – seven from senior running back Stepfan Taylor and one from freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan – and only three passes to work their way down to the Wisconsin 5-yard line. While the Badgers held them out of the end zone, Stanford notched its second field of the game for the 20-14 lead.
Taylor managed 88 yards and a touchdown on 20 touches (4.4 yards per) but was a force to be reckoned with as the Badgers struggled to stop him as the game wore on.
But Taylor wasn’t the only play-making rusher the Badgers had to worry about. Hogan amassed the second-most rushing yards for the Cardinal on the night with 54 yards on seven carries.
“You’ve got to be aware as a pass rusher, where the quarterback is in the pocket,” Allen said. “You just have to get him down at all costs.”
One of Hogan’s most important rushes of the day came on Stanford’s first drive of the game. Facing third-and-3 from his own 27, Hogan ran for four yards to keep the drive alive. Four plays later, the Cardinal took a 7-0 lead.
“It was one of those things where we weren’t playing the things that we were taught to play,” junior safety Dezmen Southward said of the first quarter play. “We practice those same things a million times and we didn’t play them the right way. I think after that we really focused in and really started to do everything we were taught and it showed.”
While Wisconsin’s defensive breakdowns in the first quarter should not stand as the reason the Badgers fell in their third consecutive trip to Pasadena, it likely served as the the difference-maker on New Year’s Day.
Either way, Wisconsin ended just one touchdown short of victory.
“Obviously those two scores we gave up in the beginning, they didn’t help – they only won by six points,” Allen said. “I think if we could have come out a little stronger on defense and stopped some of those trick plays we would have been in better shape in the fourth quarter, that’s for sure.”