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Long-awaited jewel in Stanford's rise

Stanford cornerback Usua Amanam celebrates after his interception in the fourth quarter against Wisconsin.

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Stanford cornerback Usua Amanam celebrates after his interception in the fourth quarter against Wisconsin.

PASADENA, Calif. — Though Stanford didn't score many style points in the 99th Rose Bowl, the Cardinal could celebrate because it didn't let Wisconsin score any points at all after halftime.

Stepfan Taylor rushed for 89 yards and an early touchdown, Kevin Hogan passed for 123 yards on Tuesday, and No. 8 Stanford won its first Rose Bowl since 1972, beating the Badgers 20-14.

Cornerback Usua Amanam made the decisive interception near midfield with 2:30 to play as the Pac-12 champion Cardinal (12-2) ended a four-decade drought in the Granddaddy of Them All with arguably the biggest bowl win yet during the long-struggling program's recent renaissance.

"We knew this was going to be a battle, and we wouldn't expect it any other way," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "We know it's going to be tight, it's going to be close, and we're going to find a way to win. That's the way it's been all year."

Stanford clamped down on the Big Ten champion Badgers (8-6), who lost the Rose Bowl in heartbreaking fashion for the third consecutive season. Montee Ball rushed for 100 yards and his 83rd touchdown, extending his Division I-A record, but Wisconsin managed only 82 yards in that scoreless second half.

With impressive defense of its own, Wisconsin stayed in position for an upset in the one-game return of Hall of Fame coach Barry Alvarez, who was back on the Badgers' sideline in his red sweater-vest seven years after hanging up his whistle.

"This group of kids has been through a lot, and they competed extremely hard against a very high-quality team," said Alvarez, the athletic director who stepped in for this game after Bret Bielema left to take the Arkansas coaching job. "We've played three very good football games (at the Rose Bowl). These guys played hard. In fact, most people would like to get here once."

Kelsey Young rushed for a score on Stanford's opening possession, and Taylor scored on the second. Wisconsin kept the Cardinal out of the end zone for the final 51 minutes, allowing three points in the second half, but Stanford's defense didn't need any more help in its eighth straight victory.

"We knew coming in, it was going to be a physical game," Taylor said. "We knew they know how to play against power as well as us. They did a great job. It was our defense keeping us in the game that enabled us to get this win."

After winning the Orange Bowl two years ago and losing the Fiesta last season, Stanford earned its first conference title and the Rose Bowl berth in 13 years. The Cardinal won 12 for just the second time — and second in the past three years.

The Cardinal ousted top-ranked Oregon on the way to the biggest season yet in the improbable surge of success started by Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck. Many Pac-12 observers expected a sharp decline this season — but Shaw and Hogan, who took over as the starting quarterback in November, have accomplished something even Harbaugh and Luck couldn't manage.

"I think it served as some motivation for us throughout the year," Amanam said. "I think it's just a testament to our program and how we train and prepare every season."

Alvarez will now hand off his program to new coach Gary Andersen, who met with Alvarez on the field before the game.

But the Badgers' third straight Rose Bowl appearance ended in much the same way as the last two: With the offense failing to get the late score the Badgers desperately needed.

"This stings just as much, because we fell extremely short when we had the opportunity to win," Ball said. "We had numerous opportunities to capitalize on big plays, and we fell short."

Curt Phillips went 10 for 16 for 83 yards passing and that crucial interception for Wisconsin, and had 64 yards on the ground.

Long-awaited jewel in Stanford's rise 01/01/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 1, 2013 10:30pm]

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