So much excitement, oh so close, yet just not good enough. That pretty much sums up a season of what could have been for Wisconsin football this year. Capping off a season that most thought was just 30 seconds or less away from perfection with a heartbreaking 45-38 loss to Oregon seems to be the most bittersweet cap to a bittersweet 2011.
You can blame the trigger happy game clock operator, the one in a millionth chance that a fumble on the sideline just stops dead and never heads to the sideline or further into the field of play, or the timeout that shouldn't have been taken by Bielema, but in the end it comes down to one thing: SPEED.
The Badgers and Ducks combined to break the record for the most points ever in Rose Bowl history. Barely beating the old record and also outpacing another game that Badgers fans would just as soon forget, the 1963 Rose Bowl.
Some will try to compare the two games, but will fail to realize that the '63 Badgers had to come back from being down 42-14 just into the 4th quarter to make that game even remotely close.
In this game however, Wisconsin showed that speed kills as they simply didn't have enough of it on defense.
Oregon scored touchdowns on 3 drives that took under a minute in route to victory. Not only was it quick strike plays, it was even in Oregon's longest drive of the game, which was also a scoring drive. It took them just 2:56 over the course of 10 plays to find the end zone, not exactly grinding it out.
The start of this game had to be exactly what the Tournament of Roses committee was hoping for as neither team wanted to stop the other through the 1st half, ending 28-28 with each team only punting once in the half.
However, the 2nd half was all downhill for the Badgers as they allowed Oregon to take their 1st lead of the game on the 1st possession of the half and couldn't answer in kind, settling for a field goal to go down 35-31.
The Badgers did regain a brief lead at 38-35 midway through the 3rd quarter, but Oregon would grab another TD to put themselves up 42-38 just barely into the 4th quarter.
After a field goal by the Ducks that put them up 45-38 in the 4th quarter the wheels seemed to come off for Wisconsin.
What seemed like a good drive turned sour quick as a huge pass from Wilson to Abbrederis for a 1st down turned into disaster via a fumble as he attempted to turn up field and get out of bounds. Instead he was stripped of the ball and Oregon recovered.
That fumble has to be one of the strangest in history. I don't think I've ever seen a ball get knocked out of someone's hands and just go completely DEAD, not even moving as it hti the ground along the sideline. Instead of a Badgers 1st down deep in Oregon territory and a chance at putting the game within 3 points Oregon recovered and a few first downs later the game was salted away.
I guess as fans we can take a very, VERY, small amount of solace in the fact that this will go down as the best Rose Bowl in history. Many consider that 1963 game to be the best up until now and unfortunately the Badgers have been on the losing end of both of them.
As fans the 2011 season will easily go down as the one that got away and the one that made you question if we can ever take that so called "next step" into a true national contender, but look for more on that throughout the week as we give you a huge retrospective on the season and attempt to look ahead at 2012.