Usua Amanam's interception with 2:03 left in the game and two field goals by Jordan Williamson carried Stanford to a 20-14 victory over Wisconsin in the 99th annual Rose Bowl on Tuesday in Pasadena.
When Stanford needed to grind some time and yardage in the fourth quarter, the ball found Stepfan Taylor's hands more often than not.
Taylor's running totals may not have been overwhelming, but with the game in danger of getting away from the sixth-ranked Cardinal, he stepped up.
Taylor rushed for 39 of his 88 yards in the fourth quarter, setting up Stanford's lone score of the second half, a 22-yard field goal from Jordan Williamson, and helping the Cardinal escape Pasadena with a 20-14 victory over Wisconsin on Monday in the 99th annual Rose Bowl in front of 93,359 fans.
Usua Amanam, running back turned nickel back, secured the win with an interception with just over two minutes remaining. It was the only turnover of the contest.
"It was a match drop so I was basically playing the quarterback," Amanam said. "I happened to see him go to middle of the field."
Taylor was named Offensive Player of the Game and Amanam was named Defensive Player of the Game.
"We knew it was going to be a physical game coming in," Taylor said. "We knew they knew how to stop power, or play against it, as well as we do. We wanted to grind it out and hope for a big play."
Taylor scored once, a three-yard run in the first quarter. It was his 45th career touchdown, a school record. He had been tied with Toby Gerhart entering the game.
Clinging to a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter, Stanford caught a break in field position when Drew Terrell was hit while catching a punt. The Cardinal took over at its 44 and finally moved into Wisconsin territory for the first time since the first quarter.
Kevin Hogan was 12 of 19 for 123 yards. He rushed for another 54 yards, doing just enough to become the first Stanford quarterback to win a Rose Bowl since Don Bunce did it in 1972.
The triumph also avenged Stanford's loss to Wisconsin in the 2000 Rose Bowl.
"It's not about playing perfect," said Stanford coach David Shaw. "It's about finishing strong. I knew the unity, the way we play together would give us a chance to win."
Shaw is now 23-4 in his two years as head coach.
"The first thing you do as a coach is surround yourself with the right people," Shaw said. "We push each other. We're competitive, and for us it's about what's next."
It was a fitting end to perhaps Stanford's finest season yet, with heroes emerging at every turn. Hogan was not a starter at the beginning of the season but as Shaw is fond of saying, it's not who starts but who finishes.
Hogan threw for 105 yards before the Badgers completed a pass but the tide changed afterward. Stanford (12-2) went up 14-0 with 6:35 left in the first quarter and outgained Wisconsin by a 159-15 margin.
"A couple of years we lost Toby Gerhart and coach Harbaugh," Amanam said. "This year we happened to lose Andrew Luck. It gave us motivation. It's a testament to our program and the way we train and prepare."
The rest of the half belonged to the Badgers, who compiled 204 yards to Stanford's 62 the rest of the way.
The third quarter saw both offenses struggle. Stanford didn't get its initial first down until its third possession with about 6:00 remaining. The Badgers wound up punting four times and the Cardinal three times. Stanford showed no creativity on offense in the quarter as Wisconsin continued to bottle up Taylor.
Stanford drove the length of the field to score on its first possession of the contest. Hard-nosed running from Taylor and Hogan set up a razzle-dazzle play in which Drew Terrell threw a 34-yard completion to Jamal-Rashad Patterson, who made a leaping grab on the play.
On the next play, Kelsey Young took a handoff and swept left and ran behind David Yankey into the end zone, basically untouched.
Stanford's defense sniffed out Wisconsin's trick play on its first snap, resulting in an intentional grounding on Badgers' halfback Melvin Gordon that ultimately led to a punt.
Hogan immediately went back to work, hitting Ertz with a 43-yard completion just as the redshirt freshman quarterback took a hit. Ertz made an acrobatic catch to set up Taylor's 3-yard touchdown run.
Wisconsin appeared to be on its way to a touchdown when the first quarter ended. A 15-yard penalty on Chase Thomas and a defensive off-side call gave the Badgers two first downs and a first-and-goal as the second quarter opened.
The Badgers were called for holding on the next play, sending them back 10 yards. On a third down play it appeared Wisconsin had scored on a 10-yard pass but the call was overruled on the field, setting up a fourth and one. Wisconsin's James White was stopped short of the goal by Ben Gardner, who sliced in from the side to make the stop.
Stanford failed to get out of its own territory however, which gave Wisconsin good field position. This time the Badgers were able to punch in it, with Montee Ball, who rushed for 100 yards, going the final 11 yards.
The TD was the 83rd of Ball's career, extending his own NCAA record for career scores.
The Cardinal was able to respond when Williamson hit a 47-yard field goal to make it 17-7.
Wisconsin was able to tack on another touchdown before halftime after Stanford wasted a possession that started on its own 33 with 3:54 remaining.
There was an incompletion that resulted in a pass interference, a completed pass that went for a yard loss and was run out of bound, and another incompletion.
Hogan ran eight yards on a broken pass play, which allowed the Badgers to take over with 2:23 left and its entire arsenal available, which they used to go down the field and make it 17-14 at the intermission.