The Wisconsin men and women’s cross country teams will take their national rankings to Columbus, Ohio, when they take part in the Big Ten Conference Championships Sunday.The men will be looking to capture their ninth straight Big Ten title. They finished 13th in the Blue Race at the Pre-NCAA Invitational and are currently ranked No. 6 in the country. Head coach Jerry Schumacher’s team is much younger this year than in the past, with eight freshmen on the roster. “They’re a talented group, and they’re learning a lot as we go, but there’s all these expectations, and I don’t want to say pressure put on them — we put the most pressure on ourselves,” Schumacher said. “But these expectations that have been going on for a few years now — we’re expecting to see them compete like [a top-ranked team], and they’re making mistakes every time we’re out trying to do our job.”Schumacher will run nine athletes Sunday, five of whom will be scored. Juniors Stuart Eagon and Matt Withrow will lead the way for the Badgers.“They’re definitely going to be our upfront runners,” Schumacher said. “They also have the most experience. … Those two young men, they should really provide the upfront power that we need on such a young team.”The Badgers will need the younger runners to step up as well and help Eagon and Withrow. Schumacher took some advice from another UW coach in dealing with the team’s youth.“I was talking with Coach (Bo) Ryan the other day and he was talking about his squad,” Schumacher said. “We were just kind of talking, and he said he needs some young guys to play like juniors and seniors. Well, we need some of our young distance runners to run like juniors and seniors.”Coming off its fourth-place finish at the NCAA tournament last season, the women’s team currently holds a No. 21 ranking after finishing ninth in the Pre-NCAA Invite. Head coach Jim Stintzi’s team might lack the experience of last year’s squad, which finished second at the Big Ten Championships, but he has seen continued improvement as the season has progressed.“We’re running not necessarily a young team but an inexperienced team, and that team has gotten progressively better each week,” Stintzi said. “And this weekend will really be the true test of whether we’re going to step into sort of a national-caliber team — (a) top 10, top-15 type team, or whether we’ve got some more work to do in the last couple weeks of the season.”Freshman Cassie Hintz and sophomore Hanna Grinaker have been the team’s most consistent runners throughout the season, but Stintzi said he would like to see more production from the more seasoned athletes on the team.“It’s tough to be led by freshmen and sophomores,” Stintzi said. “Last year, we had ‘A Havahla Haynes and Katrina Rundhaug, and they were sort of anchors for us. So, I think that’s one of the reasons we’re just not quite where we should be right now.”The meet for both teams will take place Sunday at Ohio State, with the men starting at 10:30 a.m. and the women following at 11 a.m.
Marcus Cromartie (center) along with Marquis Mason (left) and Alec Lerner (right) feel the sting of their second consecutive Rose Bowl loss. Cromartie had 47 tackles this season after stepping in to a starting role after Devin Smith suffered a season-ending injury in week two.[/media-credit]PASADENA, Calif. – The scoreboard flashed a Rose Bowl record of 83 points, and more than half a mile’s worth of yards were covered. But once the dust settled in the fourth quarter of the wild west shootout between Oregon and Wisconsin, there sat a lifeless football along the sideline.And a Duck landed on it.The No. 10 Badgers (11-3) dropped their second consecutive Rose Bowl Game, 45-38, to the No. 5 Ducks (12-2) on Jan. 2 amid a vibrant display of offensive skill.Driving with nearly four minutes remaining in regulation, University of Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis fumbled just before being run out of bounds after hauling in a 29-yard pass that would have situated the Badgers inside the Ducks’ 30-yard line.The ball slipped from his grasp and came to rest near the sideline, where Oregon linebacker Michael Clay pounced on it.Wisconsin’s defense ultimately managed to give its offense the ball back with 16 seconds left, but with no timeouts the Badgers ran out of time with 25 yards still to go for the tying score.“I’m kind of tired of tears of sadness, I want to come out here and experience tears of joy at some point,” UW head coach Bret Bielema said. “I wouldn’t trade any place in the world for that locker room that I have right now, the way that they continue to persevere. Obviously, it’s not an outcome that we’re happy with, it’s something that will carry with us for the rest of our lives [and] the entire coaching career for me.”What might occupy Bielema’s mind in the aftermath of the game is an episode in the third quarter that resulted in the team’s second timeout being utilized not but five minutes into the second half.Down 35-31 after a 29-yard field goal from Philip Welch, Wisconsin kicked off to Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas, who kneeled the ball in the endzone with his foot on the goal line.Bielema recognized Thomas potentially could have erred to the extent that his knee would be ruled as a downed ball on the 1-yard line and subsequently a timeout was taken.Postgame, Bielema said he asked the referee if the play was reviewable. But because the official could not answer in time, Wisconsin was charged a timeout rather than a challenge.“It looked like the ball was out over the line and I was trying toask the official on my sideline if I could challenge,” Bielema said.“Couldn’t get the answer, so they called a timeout and actually cameback to me and said because they couldn’t give me the information in anadequate amount of time they weren’t going to use that as a challenge,they were going to use it as a timeout.”In the end, the series of events resulted in Wisconsin getting the ball back with seconds left in the fourth quarter and no timeouts. On the Ducks’ 25-yard line, the Badgers could not spike the ball before the clock struck zero.Away from the sidelines, however, was a back-and-forth offensive circus in which only once did a team score two consecutive touchdowns. The affair featured three lead changes in the second half and 1,129 yards of combined offense in the game.Badger quarterback Russell Wilson passed for 296 yards and two touchdowns while his counterpart, Darron Thomas, threw for 268 yards and three scores for the Ducks.UW running back Montee Ball ran for 169 yards and a touchdown, tying Barry Sanders’ single-season NCAA record of 39 in one season. UO back LaMichael James put up 161 yards and two touchdowns himself, while De’Anthony Thomas crossed the goal line on both of his two carries and ran for 155 yards.Wideouts Nick Toon and Abbrederis both eclipsed 100 receiving yards and each scored for Wisconsin, while Oregon’s Lavasier Tuinei caught eight passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns.Neither defense could stop the other’s offense, but in the end it was Oregon who finished with more points and yards despite having for the ball for 11 fewer minutes.“There were plays where we stopped them, we got off the field and there were plays where we [had] blown coverage and blown assignments,” linebacker Mike Taylor said, who forced a fumble that resulted in a touchdown. “They make you pay for it; they’ve got fast guys and when you do that a lot of the time they’re just going to score.”Wisconsin and Oregon knotted up at 28-28 at the half after sledgehammering each other’s defenses for two quarters. Scores included a 38-yard pass from Wilson to Abbrederis to kick off the day and a 33-yard fumble recovery by defensive end Louis Nzegwu in the second quarter.Oregon countered with 91 and 54-yard strikes of their own in the highest scoring half of any previous Rose Bowl.While yards continued to pile up in the second half, points eventually slowed somewhat. Wisconsin outscored Oregon in the second quarter but was shut out, 10-0, in the fourth.Despite winning the third-down conversion battle, Wisconsin’s offense was slowed and stopped in important moments in the second half. The Badgers committed both of their turnovers in the period, and after gaining 123 yards in the first half, Ball was held to just 47 in the second.“They started to come down pretty fast, their safeties – as soon as I got the ball, going through the hole, they were right there in front of me, within three yards,” Ball said. “…Other than that, we fell out of rhythm a couple times.”