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Badgers, No. 14 Huskers know all about close games
MADISON, WIS. (AP) - The courses for the Big Ten championship game opponents were set when they met in late September.
Nebraska came back from a 17-point, third-quarter deficit to beat Wisconsin 30-27 in the conference opener.
The 14th-ranked Cornhuskers continued to win close games. The Badgers kept losing them.
Another tight game is expected when Nebraska (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) and Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4) get together again Saturday night in Indianapolis. The winner goes to the Rose Bowl to play Stanford or UCLA.
Wisconsin, trying for a third straight trip to Pasadena, is coming off overtime losses in three of its past four games. The Badgers finished third in the Leaders Division but go to the championship game because of NCAA sanctions against Ohio State and Penn State.
Four of the Badgers’ losses this season have been by three points and the other by seven.
“You hate to go down that way, but you like to see the fight that we’ve had,” linebacker Chris Borland said Monday. “I think as far as the reason for the close losses _ I think we’ve done things well, and maybe haven’t executed in the clutch like we could. All the things you need to win are there. It’s just a matter of sealing the deal, which I think we’ve gotten better at despite it not showing in the games.”
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Wisconsin has proved to be dangerous and could easily have a better record.
“I don’t put any stock into anything that’s happened up to this point,” Pelini said. “It’s going to be 60 minutes of football, and the team that earns it on Saturday is going to come away with the win. It’s going to be a tough game, no question.”
Wisconsin led or was tied going into the fourth quarter in three of its losses. Since the 2010 Rose Bowl, Wisconsin has lost nine games by a touchdown or less.
Badgers coach Bret Bielema said his team has struggled late in games because several key players have been missing or limited. He said Monday his team needed to capitalize on opportunities.
A little luck might have helped, too.
“I do think there’s a certain amount of, does the ball bounce the right way?” Bielema said. “Do you get a call? Do you not get a call? I got done with the Ohio State game and was very, very upset with the way things unfolded in overtime. You need a break here or there. I do think good things happen to good people _ not that people that we’ve been playing aren’t good people. I want to make sure our guys understand that perseverance will prevail.”
Running back Montee Ball said he could have done more to help. Ball fumbled late in the fourth quarter against Ohio State when he attempted to jump over a pile to extend the ball on the goal line on a fourth-and-1 play when the Badgers trailed 14-7.
“A couple times we had penalties where we started behind the chains and that really hurt us,” Ball said. “A couple plays that, myself, I could have done better on, probably could have done better on. And the same for every other player.
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