Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 12/4/11

If you saw the the game between Michigan State and Wisconsin earlier this season, you pretty much know what happened Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship Game.  Except this time around, the Badgers came out on top, taking the conference title by a score of 42-39.

Clutch fourth quarter play from quarterback Russell Wilson brought the Badgers back from a 29-21 halftime deficit. He finished with 187 yards and three touchdowns on 17 of 24 passing, but it was his elusiveness in the pocket that kept plays alive in the fourth quarter. One play, in particular, won the Badgers the game.

With about seven minutes left in the game, Wisconsin had the ball at the Spartans’ 43-yard line and faced a 4th and 6. Wilson took a three-step drop, scrambled to his left, avoided a pass rusher, and then heaved the ball down field. Waiting at the 7-yard line was wide receiver Jeff Duckworth who jumped up between two Michigan State defenders and came down with the ball. Montee Ball scored on the next play to give the Badgers a 40-39 lead.

Wilson faced pressure as the Spartans blitzed nearly every play. He managed to escape the pressure when it mattered and led Wisconsin to the Big Ten title.

Wilson wasn’t done after that either, as the Badgers went for the two-point conversion to try to make it a 3-point game. Once again he faced pressure and had to avoid mammoth defensive tackle Jerel Worthy before he found tight end Jacob Pedersen in the middle of the end zone to make the score 42-39.

Then it was the Wisconsin defense that stepped up, forcing a three-and-out and getting the Badgers the ball back with under 3 minutes to play. Wisconsin would have gone three-and-out, too, but a Michigan State player ran into punter Brad Nortman and gave the Badgers a first down, sealing the victory.

The win gives the Badgers their second straight Big Ten title and the right to face Oregon in the Rose Bowl Jan. 2.

Wisconsin got out to a quick 21-7 first quarter lead behind 115 yards and two touchdowns from running back Montee Ball, who finished the game with 4 touchdowns (3 rushing) and 137 yards on 27 carries. Ball also connected with Wilson for 32 yards on a trick play identical to the one they ran against Indiana earlier this season.

The other offensive leader for the Badgers was an unlikely player. Sophomore wide receiver Jeff Duckworth finished the game with 3 catches for 53 yards, including the clutch fourth quarter play and the first touchdown of the game. Receiver Jared Abbrederis caught 3 passes for 65 yards and a score.

The Wisconsin defense came up big when it needed to, but was scorched by misdirection and swing passes to wide receivers  all game. Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins was masterful in keeping the Badgers off balance and out of position. He executed the Spartans’ gameplan perfectly, finishing with 281 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on 22 of 30 passing. He used play action and quick pump fakes to get the Wisconsin defense leaning one way before hitting a receiver on a crossing route or sending running backs on counters.

One play they used successfully time and again was a swing pass to a receiver while the other wideout on that side blocked the cornerback and a linebacker was left to try to get outside and cover the receiver, who often ran up the sidelines for at least 10 yards. Michigan State used wide receiver Keshawn Martin on this play a lot and on end-arounds, and he finished with nine catches and five rushes for 141 total yards.

#82 Martin's quickness and agility kept him just out of the reach of Badger defenders whenever he touched the ball.


Cousins’ go-to receiver B.J. Cunningham had another huge game. He finished with five receptions for 115 yards and three touchdowns and gained the majority of his yards on short crossing patterns that he took for a bunch of yards after the catch.

The only Wisconsin defender that seemed capable of defending Cousins was safety Shelton Johnson. He intercepted a pass that slowed the Spartans a bit and kept them from scoring more than the unanswered 22 points they tallied in the second quarter. He was one of the few Badger defenders that stepped up and hit hard the entire game, and though he was out of position on a few plays, his play was encouraging and he appears to be a potential leader for this defense.

 

#24 Johnson made big plays throughout the game, including this interception midway through the second quarter.

The Spartans’ defense was downright immovable at times, but was also terribly inconsistent. After allowing 21 points in the first quarter, they forced four straight three-and-outs, giving their offense a chance to get back in the game. Defensive lineman Vernon Gholston, who missed the first matchup between the teams because of a suspension, got penetration consistently and stopped Ball for a loss multiple times. The Spartans couldn’t quite keep Wilson under wraps, though. In addition to his fourth quarter heroics, he managed to scramble away from a punch to the nose and a facemask to hit Abbrederis for a 42-yard touchdown to give the Badgers their only points of the third quarter.

Coach Bret Bielema was hoarse while accepting the Big Ten championship trophy, a sign of just how badly he wanted to win this game. He kept his team steady through the many ups and downs and put his playmakers in position to win the game and give Wisconsin the first ever victory in the Big Ten title game.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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