Although Stanford didn't score many style points in the 99th Rose Bowl at Pasadena, the Cardinal could celebrate because they didn't let Wisconsin score any points at all after halftime.
Stepfan Taylor rushed for 89 yards and an early touchdown, Kevin Hogan passed for 123 yards, and No. 8 Stanford won its first Rose Bowl since 1972, beating the Badgers 20-14 on Tuesday night.
Usua Amanam made the decisive interception near midfield with 2:30 to play as the Pac-12 champion Cardinal (12-2) ended their four-decade drought in the Granddaddy of Them All with arguably the biggest bowl win yet during the long-struggling program's recent renaissance.
"We knew this was going to be a battle, and we wouldn't expect it any other way," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "We know it's going to be tight, it's going to be close, and we're going to find a way to win. That's the way it's been all year."
Stanford clamped down on the Big Ten champion Badgers (8-6), who lost the Rose Bowl in heartbreaking fashion for the third consecutive season. Montee Ball rushed for 100 yards and his FBS-record 83rd touchdown, but Wisconsin managed only 82 yards in that scoreless second half.
With impressive defence of its own, Wisconsin still stayed in position for an upset in the one-game return of Hall of Fame coach Barry Alvarez, who was back on the Badgers' sideline in his red sweater-vest seven years after hanging up his whistle.
"This group of kids has been through a lot, and they competed extremely hard against a very high-quality team," Alvarez said. "We've played three very good football games (at the Rose Bowl). These guys played hard. In fact, most people would like to get here once. But we just didn't get it done."
Kelsey Young rushed for a score on Stanford's opening possession, and Taylor scored on the second. Wisconsin kept the Cardinal out of the end zone for the final 51 minutes, holding them to three points in the second half, but Stanford's defence didn't need any more help in the Cardinal's eighth straight victory.
"We knew coming in, it was going to be a physical game," Taylor said. "We knew they know how to play against power as well as us. They did a great job. It was our defence keeping us in the game that enabled us to get this win."
After winning the Orange Bowl two years ago and losing the Fiesta Bowl last season, Stanford earned its first conference title and its first Rose Bowl berth in 13 years. The Cardinal finished with 12 victories for just the second time in school history — and the second time in the last three years.
Wisconsin returned to Pasadena in a much more roundabout way as the first five-loss team to make it, losing three overtime games and making the Big Ten title game only because Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible. The Badgers then steamrolled Nebraska to become the first Big Ten team in three straight Rose Bowls since Michigan in the late 1970s.
In other games:
Aaron Murray threw five touchdown passes to set a Georgia bowl record, including two in the fourth quarter, and the Bulldogs beat Nebraska 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl at Orlando.
Connor Shaw led South Carolina to the brink of victory and Dylan Thompson carried the Gamecocks over the hump in the Outback Bowl as they beat Michigan 33-28.
Behind huge interceptions early and late, Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20 in the Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, and snapped college football's longest post-season losing streak.
Clint Chelf threw three of Oklahoma State's five touchdown passes and the Cowboys shook off a disappointing Big 12 finish by dominating Purdue 58-14 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
EJ Manuel completed 26 of 38 passes for 291 yards and accounted for two touchdowns, including a 9-yard run on the opening play of the fourth quarter as No. 13 Florida State was atop No. 16 Northern Illinois 24-10 at the Orange Bowl.