By Adam Hoge-
INDIANAPOLIS (CBS) As Wisconsin celebrated another trip to the Rose Bowl with its 42-39 victory over Michigan State Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Spartans were left kicking themselves in the locker room.
Surely, “the penalty” will be talked about in East Lansing, Mich. for years to come.
Michigan State was set to get the ball back down three points with under two minutes to go, but safety Isaiah Lewis was called for running into the punter, giving the Badgers a first down and effectively ending the game.
Two things were at question: Was it really a penalty and should the Spartans have called a punt block in that situation?
“I thought he flopped a little bit,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said about Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman. “Obviously, if he hit him, he just nicked him.”
“The ref made a call, and you’ve got to go with it. But I didn’t really think it was a penalty,” MSU wide receiver B.J. Cunningham added.
Meanwhile, quarterback Kirk Cousins hinted at putting more blame on the punt block call rather than Lewis.
“We don’t think Isaiah needs to be singled out,” Cousins said. “He did nothing wrong. (Mark Dantonio) calls for the block. You got to do that in that situation. He gave us 110 percent effort and the call doesn’t go our way. That’s the way it works sometimes.”
As for Dantonio’s explanation for calling the block:
“It’s my call. I told them let’s go for the block. Obviously not telling them to layout on the block and not rough them,” he said.
Heisman for Ball?
Saturday’s big stage gave Wisconsin running back Montee Ball a chance to prove his candidacy for the Heisman Trophy and he didn’t disappoint.
Ball ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns, while also catching a touchdown to up his season total to 38. That puts him only one touchdown behind Barry Sanders who set the NCAA record with 39 in 1988.
The Wisconsin running back had a great game, but he likely failed to put the exclamation point on his Heisman candidacy. Ball ran for 105 of his yards in a dominating first quarter, but was then held to just 32 the rest of the way.
He’s a very modest kid so when asked about his Heisman chances after the game, Ball said he was more worried about the Rose Bowl. That’s when safety Aaron Henry cut him off.
“He is a Heisman candidate no matter how you look at it,” Henry said. “I mean, he should be going (to New York), pretty much. I don’t know if he should win it or not. We’ve got some great finalists, but this guy’s one of the best backs in the country, hands down.”
Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema took it a step further.
“For him to score four touchdowns tonight again against one of the best defenses that we’ve faced all year, his numbers are outstanding, especially against the type of defenses that we’ve been facing,” Bielema said. “For him to have that productivity and to be one touchdown away from now tying the guy that won the Heisman Trophy the year that he did it and all that goes into it, he is a very deserving candidate for New York, and in my opinion, should win it.”
Sparty’s BCS hopes dashed
It’s very likely that for the second straight year, the Spartans will be watching a team it beat play in a BCS bowl instead of them. And this year, it could be two teams.
Currently ranked No. 13 in the BCS, the Spartans will likely fall out of the top 14, which is where teams have to be ranked to be eligible for an at-large BCS bid. Meanwhile, their rival, Michigan, who they beat, could pass them and jump into the top 14 despite not playing a game this week. That would likely put the Wolverines in the Sugar Bowl.
“I can’t make that decision,” Dantonio said. “I do think the best two teams in the Big Ten played today. I do think that we’re worthy to compete and play at a BCS level, but you’ve got to get the votes to do that. I can only say that I do believe we’re a BCS-type football team.”
After the game, Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson said his nose might be broken after he took a facemask in the middle of his 42-yard touchdown strike to Jared Abbrederis.
Wilson shook off the facemask during the play and was able to hit a wide open Abbrederis in the end zone. The nose was quite swollen after the game.