Wisconsin laments turnovers, lost opportunities
PASADENA, Calif. — If not for four turnovers, Wisconsin probably would have been victorious in the Rose Bowl.
Two turnovers led to Oregon touchdowns, and Brady Breeze scooped up a punter fumble and scored on a 31-yard return.
The Badgers gave up a 75-yard drive to Oregon to start the game, and then allowed 129 yards the rest of the way — 30 coming on Justin Herbert's fourth-quarter touchdown run.
Wisconsin outgained Oregon 322-204, forced six punts, controlled the clock (38:03 time of possession to UO's 21:57), had more third-down conversions and went 4 of 5 on fourth down and allowed almost nothing in the return game.
But, turnovers will be turnovers, and they killed the Badgers, who also committed nine penalties — including a disputed offensive pass interference on their final possession — and missed a field-goal attempt.
"When you have those things happen in a game, it will definitely hurt you. Possibly slim chance you could win, but they definitely put you in a tough position when you have self-inflicted penalties, special-teams problems, turnovers," star running back Jonathan Taylor said. "But when you're playing an elite team like Oregon, a great team like that, they'll capitalize on those mistakes.
"I think that was the biggest part on us, is understanding we should have had to clean things up. You can't expect a win, against a burst team like Oregon, with turnovers, penalties, special-teams issues. I think that played a factor with everything, not playing clean Wisconsin football."
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst credited UO's defense, which held Taylor in check (21 carries, 94 yards), although the back eclipsed 2,000 yards and his three-year rushing total climbed to an enormous 6,171 yards — 1,977 as a freshman, 2,194 as a sophomore and 2,003 as a junior. (He's believed to be headed into the NFL draft).
"Knew that coming in," Chryst said, of UO's good defense, "and you had to earn everything you got."
As for turnovers, "If you're taking care of the football, then turnovers won't happen. So poor job of taking care of the football, fighting for extra yards," Chryst said. "You have the fight and passion in you, but at the same time you have to use great technique with the ball."
• Players hugged and snapped photos, and several puffed on cigars in the UO locker room after the game.
"I'm so excited, so happy. We worked for it and deserve it," defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux said.
• Penei Sewell, UO's great left offensive tackle, won the Outland Trophy and several other awards, but he put it into perspective after the Rose Bowl win.
"All the awards and individual awards don't mean nothing, this is the Rose Bowl, and to win it with my brothers, everybody on this team, it's what matters to me the most," he said. "I'm going to cherish this moment."
• Sewell praised the UO defense, which again proved to be the difference in an Oregon win.
"From the ones to the twos, everyone of them is a dog," he said. "They all want to be great, and they're hungry. It showed. I feel like that's why we're good (on offense), because of the matchups and one-on-ones we do against them every day (in practice). It helps us get better."
• Sewell returns to anchor the offensive line, but watch for players such as Alex Forsyth, Ryan Walk, Steven Jones and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu to be part of UO's 2020 O-line.
Gone will be seniors Jake Hanson, Calvin Throckmorton, Shane Lemieux and Brady Aiello, who played together since being redshirts in 2015, as well as Alabama transfer Dallas Warmack, who has played with Oregon the past two seasons.
They've played their final game together — unless some happen to land on the same NFL team for training camp or whatever.
"They're going to have a great group next year," Throckmorton said. "I'm excited to watch them play next year. Can't wait."
Overall, he added, for the senior class that also includes QB Justin Herbert, linebackers Troy Dye and La'Mar Winston and "Stud" position player Bryson Young, "I feel like we reset the foundation for what this program should be. We're looking forward to seeing the guys continue it on, and (coach Mario) Cristobal will lead it in the right direction."
• Andy Avalos, UO defensive coordinator, said he and fellow assistants watched as the defensive players appeared to be getting tired in the second half, when Wisconsin dominated the ball; the Badgers had the ball for more than 13 minutes in the third quarter.
"In the third quarter, we were going down the valley again like in the Auburn game (27-21 loss in opener), when we got worn out," Avalos said. "All coaches saw it and recognized it, and coaches did a great job on the sideline, when (players) were going to veer off into that valley. We pulled them back in and finished the game, and it was unbelievable."
• Herbert played his last game, and now attention turns to who will be starting quarterback in 2020. Chances are it's Tyler Shough, the backup who'll be a sophomore. Another scholarship QB, Cale Millen, redshirted and dealt with injuries. The Ducks also signed touted quarterbacks Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford, and there are reports that Wake Forest's Jamie Newman has Oregon as his preferred destination on a graduate transfer.
"Oh, it'll be Shough for sure," freshman receiver Mycah Pittman said.
• Pittman had an optimistic quote after the game, about the Rose Bowl win: "I feel it's just a stepping stone to a national championship, to be honest. Just a stop. We're on to bigger and better things now. We're bringing in more and more talent, and this team is so confident in one another."
• Herbert finished with nine carries for 29 yards, including three touchdowns (and lost yardage on two sacks).
For a guy who'll be picked high in the NFL draft for his arm, his legs helped win the Rose Bowl.
He also made key runs in the Pac-12 championship game, after going most of the year without carrying the ball. Part of the thinking was to protect Herbert from injury; remember, his sophomore season was derailed after being injured against Cal on a TD run.
"I think he's pretty capable of making those plays with or without us calling plays," Cristobal said.
• This and that: Starting receiver Jaylon Redd did not play in the game, reportedly for personal reasons. He had attended Monday's media day with the team. ... Oregon's 204 yards were the fewest for a team in the Rose Bowl since 1979 (USC, 157, in a win vs. Michigan). But the Ducks had three kneel-downs that cost them 15 more yards. ... The Pac-12 finished 4-3 in bowl games, with wins by Oregon, Washington, California and Arizona State. The losses were by Washington State, Utah and USC. ... It was the first 2019-20 bowl game decided by one point. ... The teams were a combined 8 of 27 on third downs, including 0 of 11 on third-and-6 and longer. ... Wisconsin's 38:03 of possession time was the second-most in Rose Bowl history (Ohio State, 41:37, vs. Oregon in the 2010 game). ... Only Vince Young (four vs. Michigan in 2005) has had more TD rushes for a quarterback in the Rose Bowl than Herbert.
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