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Pasadena, CA. -- The 106th Rose Bowl was heavy-weight, back-and-forth affair between the No. 6 Oregon Ducks and the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers. The panoramic beauty of the Rose Bowl setting, nestled in the Arroyo Seco beneath the San Gabriel Mountains, turned into a shootout between the two established power five programs, as Oregon left Pasadena victorious, 28-27.
The Ducks earned their fifth 12-win season in program history and sent Justin Herbert, Troy Dye, Shane Lemieux and the rest of the senior class off into the beautiful, Pasadena sunset with a win.
It was the Ducks who won the toss, elected to receive and drew first blood. Oregon’s opening 75-yard drive was capped off by a four-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Justin Herbert.
The 7-0 lead, however, did not last. Wisconsin’s Aron Cruikshank broke free for a 95-yard touchdown return. The Ducks had not allowed a kickoff return back to the house since 2006. It was the first kick return score in a Rose Bowl Game since 2003 and the 2nd longest in Rose Bowl history.
The Oregon defense was the difference maker in the first half. The Ducks’ forced two turnovers to put UO’s offensive unit in scoring position. Justin Herbert capitalized on the second opportunity with another play-action QB keeper that ended with a nasty stiff arm to take a 14-10 lead with 3:16 before half.
It was the Badgers that would strike last. Wisconsin’s Jake Coan connected with Quintez Cephus for an 11-yard touchdown pass to take a 17-14 lead at halftime.
The start of the third quarter was highlighted by 31-yard touchdown by junior safety Brady Breeze. Because of pressure from Breeze and Haki Woods Jr., Wisconsin punter Anthony Lotti whiffed on a punt. Breeze then snagged the fumbled ball with one hand and took it to the house, giving Oregon a 21-17 lead.
The Badgers, as they would all game, respond with a touchdown of their own. Full back Mason Stokke ran for a two-yard score on fourth-and-one. Wisconsin took the lead back, 24-21.
The fourth quarter is what separates the men from the boys and champions from runner ups. The Oregon defense sparked another swing of momentum for the Ducks. Wisconsin’s Danny Davis ran a sweep but was immediately hit by brady Breeze, forcing a fumble. Bryson Young recovered the ball, which led to a 30-yard, game-winning touchdown run by Herbert to give Oregon a 28-27 lead. That score was Herbert’s third rushing touchdown on the night.