October 22, 2011. An undefeated group of Badgers invade East Lansing with aspirations of a national championship in sight. Michigan State is still feeling short changed from defeating Wisconsin last year, yet still being shut out of the Rose Bowl due to three way tie breaker rules. The Badgers got the nod. On this marquis prime time matchup, the Spartans stun the visiting Badgers with a heart stopping Hail Mary pass that landed in the arms of a Spartan receiver as time expired. “Redemption” became the word plastered all over MSU tshirts and general conversation. I couldn’t help but think – well, what if these two teams meet again in the title game?
Fast forward….and sure enough, for the first time ever, the Big Ten experienced a rematch contest – Bucky vs. Sparty – and the winner had Pasadena on speed dial. So, feelings of redemption may have been a bit premature. The game would have all the excitement of the first matchup, as well. Indianapolis flooded with green and red – perfect for the first day of December and the impending holidays. Spectators took in the Big Ten Fan Fest where they could listen in on interviews by former players, toss a few footballs, and listen to the bands whip up a pregame pep rally. Moving over to Lucas Oil Stadium, it began to hit home that we were about to witness history for a conference well over 100 years old. The Colts palace was buzzing with anticipation as the bands continued their performances on the bright green turf. A flurry of flashbulbs popped as toe met ball and the long anticipated B1G football game was underway. Much like that fateful game in October, this one would be a back and forth affair. This edition mixed in incredible fourth down conversions, unexpected laterals, and thrilling trick plays. However, the game would end with the Badgers preparing to punt back to Michigan State and seemingly about to reward them with great field position. Up by three with under two minutes left, punter Brad Nortman booted a punt that was returned by the Spartans all the way for a first and goal MSU. But, a flag rested on the field. Coach Dantonio had called for a punt block and it backfired as Isaiah Lewis bumped into Nortman resulting in a 5 yard running-into-the-kicker penalty. First down Badgers – Zero time outs for Sparty. El Fin.
Both endings to the Wisconsin vs. Michigan State games ended in extreme elation for one and extreme frustration for the other. For the Spartans, disappointment doesn’t come much more intense. For a quarter of a century, fans have been dreaming of coloring the Rose Bowl green and white, and once again, they barely miss it – and the Badgers return again in their place. For Wisconsin, it’s relief and hope that their team can make up for last year’s Rose Bowl loss to TCU. The red half of the stadium stayed long after the thrilling victory to witness the first ever Big Ten Championship trophy presentation. Scattered roses were clutched between the teeth of players as the sounds of On Wisconsin and Varsity echoed through the arena. True redemption may have not been achieved by Michigan State this evening, but both teams can be proud that they took part in one of the most memorable moments in Big Ten history.