The 2012 Rose Bowl was a wildly entertaining contest that produced many highlights. The No. 6 Oregon Ducks beat the No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers 45-38 in the highest-scoring game in Rose Bowl history, the first Rose Bowl win for the Ducks in 95 years. For pure wow factor, Ducks freshman all-purpose hero De'Anthony Thomas was breathtaking and he only touched the ball 12 times.
Thomas returned six kickoffs, caught four passes for 35 yards, but what everyone is still talking about are his two rushes. Thomas took both carries to the house, averaging a mere 77.5 yards per carry for the game. His first run was a 91-yard scamper on the final play of the first quarter that broke Tyrone Wheatley's 19-year old Rose Bowl record for longest run from scrimmage:
Thomas would have been a fine choice for offensive MVP of the game, but those honors went to Oregon wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei, who caught eight passes for 158 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Tuinei's second touchdown came three seconds into the fourth quarter, an 11-yard gain that gave Oregon the lead for good. Watch Tuinei find an opening in the back of the end zone as quarterback Darron Thomas scrambled:
The highlights didn't all belong to Oregon of course. After all, Wisconsin ended up just 13 yards shy and perhaps an extra second away from tying the game, a contest that saw four ties and seven lead changes. Badgers running back Montee Ball was exceptional, as he has been throughout his junior season. Ball, who led the nation with 1,924 rushing yards this season, ran for 165 yards on 28 carries in the Rose Bowl. His one touchdown, in the second quarter, was his 39th of the season, tying Barry Sanders for the most TDs in a single season in NCAA history:
Russell Wilson did throw just his fourth interception of the season, one that led to Oregon taking the lead early in the fourth quarter, but Wilson still played a great game for Wisconsin. The senior quarterback threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score. Wilson completed 19 of 26 passes, right in line with his 72.6% completion rate on the season. None of those passes was more impressive than this 18-yard strike to Nick Toon on a deep out to the front right pylon of the end zone that gave Wisconsin its first lead of the second half:
Wisconsin had its chances to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. In addition to running out of time at the very end of the game, the Badgers were also driving deep into Oregon territory with about five minutes remaining, but wide receiver Jared Abbrederis fumbled at the 15-yard line after a 29-yard reception. Amazingly, the ball managed to stay in bounds, allowing linebacker Michael Clay of Oregon to recover and the Ducks subsequently ran four key minutes off the clock:
All in all, the Rose Bowl made for great theater, with two great offenses going toe to toe. If this game ends up on ESPN Classic sometime soon, I'll be watching.