Roses are Red! Wisconsin wins Big Ten Thriller

In a game filled with action from start to finish, Wisconsin defeated Michigan State to win the first Big Ten Football Championship Game, 42-39. BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart writes that few thought this game had much of a chance to live up to the first meeting in October but it certainly did. Now Wisconsin heads to their second straight Rose Bowl on Jan. 2, thanks in large part to Montee Ball’s 137 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

We tracked it all with our live box score and play-by-play, added live tweets from the site by @BTNTomDienhart and @BTNBrentYarina, and updated our site with photos from the big event. Read the full quarter-by-quarter recap here and watch video highlights inside, including Gus Johnson’s best calls, too.

BOX SCORE | PLAY-BY-PLAY | VIDEO ARCHIVE | PHOTOS | BTN.COM TWEETS | AP RECAP

FIRST QUARTER: At one point No. 11 Michigan State trailed by 14 points, but the Spartans have come back to take a 22-21 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Michigan State looked to be done with 3:14 to go in the first quarter, but the Spartans have come all the way back to take the lead. No. 13 Wisconsin has erupted for 14 straight points.

The Badgers got on the scoreboard first, rattling off an eight-play, 71-yard drive that ended in a score when Russell Wilson and Jeff Duckworth hooked up for a three-yard touchdown.

Michigan State tied things up at seven when a six-play, 59-yard drive ended after Edwin Baker pounded in an eight-yard touchdown run. The Spartans kept the ball on the ground during the drive, throwing only one pass.

A seven-play, 60-yard scoring drive by Wisconsin snapped the 7-7 deadlock, as Montee Ball turned a handoff into a six-yard touchdown.

The Badgers opened up the lead, 21-7, after Ball pounded in a six-yard touchdown run to end a two-play, 24-yard drive. Wisconsin began the drive with good field position after the Badgers recovered a fumble.

After one quarter, Wisconsin’s Ball has already topped the 100-yard rushing mark, with an incredible 107 yards on the ground so far.

Michigan State will start the second quarter with the ball on the Badgers’ 30-yard line.

SECOND QUARTER: At one point Michigan State trailed by 14 points, but the Spartans have come back to take a 29-21 lead at the end of the second quarter.

With 3:30 to go in the first quarter Michigan State looked to be in trouble, but it has stormed back to take the lead. The Spartans stifled Wisconsin’s offense, giving up just seven total yards in the quarter.

Michigan State is currently on a 22-point run.

An 80-yard drive that ended when Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham hooked up for a 30-yard touchdown helped the Spartans narrow the deficit to 21-14.

Gave Michigan State the lead 22-21 after a five-play, 57-yard drive. The Spartans got the two-point conversion when.

Michigan State expanded its lead to 29-21 thanks to an eight-play, 84-yard drive that ended when Le’Veon Bell ran six yards to paydirt.

The Spartans will start the second half with the ball.

THIRD QUARTER: Michigan State trailed by 14 points earlier in the game, but has come all the way back to take a 36-28 lead over Wisconsin at the end of the third quarter.

The Spartans trailed by that margin with 3:30 left in the first, but have since dug in and taken the lead back.

Michigan State’s front seven stepped up in the quarter, allowing the Badgers to gain just eight rushing yards.

Wisconsin capped off a 62-yard drive when to make the score 29-28. The Badgers ran just two times during that series.

The Spartans opened up the lead, 36-28, after Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham combined for a 44-yard touchdown to end a three-play, 48-yard drive. Michigan State began the drive with good field position after Keshawn Martin returned a punt.

The Spartans’ Cunningham hit 100 yards receiving for the game in the quarter, part of his 115-yard, five-reception performance thus far.

Michigan State’s Cousins passed for 89 yards in the quarter to put him over 200 yards for the game. Cousins has 270 yards through the air so far today.

Wisconsin will start the fourth quarter with the ball on the Spartans’ 37-yard line.

FOURTH QUARTER: Wisconsin captured the lead in the fourth quarter and hung on for the 42-39 win over Michigan State.

With 3:45 to go, Montee Ball turned a handoff into a seven-yard touchdown to give the Badgers the lead, 40-39.

Wisconsin aired it out in the quarter, finishing with 83 passing yards.

The Badgers made the score 36-34 after Russell Wilson found Ball open for a five-yard touchdown pass to finish off a 52-yard drive.

The Spartans made their lead 39-34 when Dan Conroy kicked a 25-yard field goal on the last play of a 10-play, 52-yard drive.

Ball’s seven-yard touchdown run after a nine-play, 64-yard drive locked in the Wisconsin lead, 42-39, enough to hold on for the win. The Badgers used Wilson’s 36-yard pass to Jeff Duckworth to fuel the drive. Wisconsin tacked on two points instead of one when Jacob Pedersen completed a two-yard pass.

Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell rushed for 15 yards in the quarter to put him over 100 yards for the game. Bell finished with 106 yards on the ground.

FINAL RECAP: One of the best running backs in the Big Ten, No. 13 Wisconsin’s Montee Ball ran all over No. 11 Michigan State, leading Wisconsin (10-2) to a 42-39 victory on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Ball, who came in ranked No. 1 in the conference in rushing yards at 1466 on the year, rushed 27 times for 137 yards and three touchdowns on the ground while adding another in the air.

B.J. Cunningham was a bright spot for Michigan State (9-3), hauling in five catches for 115 receiving yards and one touchdown in a losing effort.

The two teams combined for 816 total yards of offense. With both offenses running wild, the Badgers took the lead in the fourth quarter and refused to give it back. The key score came with 3:45 left, when Ball ran seven yards to paydirt, allowing Wisconsin to take the lead, 40-39.

Home run plays keyed the Badgers’ scoring attack. Wisconsin burned the Spartans’ defense for four plays of more than 20 yards. With 4:45 to go in the fourth quarter, Russell Wilson found Jeff Duckworth open for a 36-yard pass, the Badgers’ biggest gain of the game. The big gainer was part of a 12-play drive capped off when Wisconsin scored on Ball’s run. That gave the Badgers a lead.

Kirk Cousins threw for 281 yards while completing 22 of 30 passes for Michigan State. Cousins tossed three touchdowns and one interception. Cousins’ favorite target on the day was Keshawn Martin. He hauled in nine catches for 115 yards.

The Spartans’ offense finished the game having gained 471 yards. In addition to Cousins’ efforts through the air, Michigan State also rushed 34 times for 190 yards.

Wisconsin’s Wilson was good for 187 yards during the game, completing 17 of 24 passes. Wilson finished the game with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Badgers finished with 345 total yards, including 219 yards passing while completing 18 of 25 attempts. Wisconsin also rushed 37 times for 126 yards.

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3 Comments

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Mary on 12/2/2011 @ 6:42pm EST Said:

I thought it would be prudent to add that Wisconsin also closed their regular season with four straight wins. The final game against PSU was 45 to 7….(just in case anyone forgot).

    BTN.com staff on 12/2/2011 @ 9:23pm EST Said:

    Mary, indeed. That’s why the first sentence of the story reads like this: “With a Rose Bowl berth on the line and both teams riding four-game winning streaks…” Enjoy the game!

Donna G. on 12/4/2011 @ 10:09am EST Said:

MSU outplayed Wisconsin in every category but the final score. Wisky needed help from the officials to win it! MSU is the better team.