INDIANAPOLIS — If you had spent time around the Wisconsin players and coaches last week, you never would have suspected the unranked Badgers were entering the Big Ten title game against No. 14 Nebraska having lost three of their past four games in overtime.
"We have been through a lot as a team, a lot of heartbreaking losses," senior defensive end Brendan Kelly said last week. "But I think at some point that makes you closer and makes you want it more, because you are so close and you're not getting what you want.
"It's like you have a dog on a chain and you're trying to hold him back. But he is barking, and he is ready to go."
That was one big dog that broke its chain Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Wisconsin rushed for more than 500 yards and scored 10 touchdowns in a 70-31 beatdown of Nebraska to earn a place in the Rose Bowl against Stanford.
James White lead the Badgers (8-5) with four rushing touchdowns and one passing, a 2-yard toss to tight end Sam Arneson. But he ran for a paltry 108 yards — paltry compared to Melvin Gordon's 217 (one touchdown) and Montee Ball's 201 (three scores).
Wisconsin rushed for the 539 yards total. It passed for 101. Quarterback Curt Phillips was 6-of-8 for 71 yards.
Defensive back Marcus Cromartie also returned an interception for a touchdown for Wisconsin, which is the first team to reach the Rose Bowl with five losses and the first Big Ten team to make the game three straight years since Michigan in the late 1970s.
The Cornhuskers (10-3) were down 14-0 2:07 into the game on Gordon's 56-yard run and Cromartie's 29-yard return. With 4:46 left in the quarter, they were within 10-7 on a 76-yard score by quarterback Taylor Martinez and a 32-yard field goal by Brett Maher.
They didn't score again until 10:47 of the third quarter, on an 11-yard run by Martinez that made the score 49-17.
Martinez rushed 19 times for 140 yards and the two scores, and was 17-of-33 passing for 182 yards and no touchdowns.
Nebraska entered having won its past six games and as champion of the Legends Division with a 7-1 record.
With a 4-4 league record, Wisconsin was the third-best team in the Leaders Division, behind Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) and Penn State (8-4, 6-2).
With the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions, Wisconsin represented the division in the title game. The Badgers spent last week explaining why they belonged in it.
"We make no apologies for going to the game at all," defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said. "We do things right as much as we can. And for that reason we did enough to go to the game this year.
"Every game that we didn't come out on the front end of it, we were competitive. The scores tell that."