PASADENA, Calif. -- In 2010, Stanford lost Heisman candidate Toby Gerhart, one of the most prolific running backs in Pac-12 history, to the Minnesota Vikings.
In 2011, the Cardinal lost Jim Harbaugh, one of the great young coaching minds in football, to the San Francisco 49ers.
In 2012, Stanford lost quarterback Andrew Luck, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, to the Indianapolis Colts.
In 2013, they won the Rose Bowl.
So much for continuity.
Stanford built an early lead and picked up a timely interception to hold off the Wisconsin Badgers, 20-14, on Tuesday night to win its first Rose Bowl since 1971.
Behind a stout defense that held prolific running back Montee Ball to just 13 yards in the second half, the Cardinal reaffirmed the mindset that the program is bigger than any one player or coach. At least, that's the message put out by coach David Shaw and Co. "It served as motivation for us throughout the year," said nickel back Usua Amanam, whose interception of a Curt Phillips pass with 2 minutes, 20 seconds remaining helped clinch the win. "A couple years ago we lost Toby Gerhart, a couple years ago we lost Jim Harbaugh, this year we lost Andrew Luck -- I think it's just a testament to our program. How we train, prepare each week every season. Hats off to the guys upstairs."
That would now be Shaw, who has won consecutive Pac-12 coach of the year honors.
Across the sidelines stood Barry Alvarez, the former Wisconsin head coach-turned-athletic-director-turned-stop-gap, who returned to the coaching game after Bret Bielema took the head job at Arkansas on Dec. 4. Former Utah State head coach Gary Andersen was named the team's new head coach and will assume the duties immediately.
"I thought it served as a unifying factor," Badgers linebacker Chris Borland said. "To have coach Alvarez come back, to have our seniors and captains ask him -- I think it excited everyone. I think it calmed guys' nerves, initially. It brought everyone together and excited everybody."
The excitement was short-lived on Tuesday.
The Cardinal scored on its first drive on a Kelsey Young 16-yard touchdown run -- the third consecutive year that Wisconsin allowed a touchdown on the opposition's first offensive drive in the Rose Bowl -- then added another score on Stepfan Taylor's 3-yard run less than five minutes later.
Taylor finished with 88 yards on 20 carries, the most important coming on a 5-yard gain on 3rd-and-1 with less than a minute left, a burst that officially sealed the Cardinal's victory.
That was enough to supplement Stanford's play-action attack, as Kevin Hogan finished 12-of-19 passing for 123 yards, including three completions for 61 yards to tight end Zach Ertz.
"It was about us being us," Shaw said. "It's about playing our scheme. We did some things early in the game to loosen it up a little bit. But we wanted to play our style. For us, it's always about getting back to basics."
Added Taylor: "We knew coming in it was going to be a physical game. We knew that they know how to stop power, how to play against power as well as us. Coming in, we knew it was going to be just grinding it out, grinding it out, hoping for the big one."
With the defense doing work on Ball in the second half, there was little incentive for the offense to resort to trickery.
Ball had 87 yards in the first half, helping Wisconsin rebound from a 14-0 deficit to go into the locker room trailing 17-14. But the Badgers' offense went south in the second half, totaling 82 yards and four first downs.
"They were doing some different things on the perimeter," Alvarez said. "They were doing some line stunts we had some problems with. Quite frankly, they're a very good defensive front. We knew that coming in. They're top-five in the country against the run. They're very difficult to block."
Added Ball: "This is not the way I wanted to be remembered. At this point, it is what it is. I thought we did a great job of leading the team through adversity...but it's a very unfortunate situation for us."
Wisconsin had one last possession trailing by a touchdown after a Jordan Williamson 22-yard field goal gave the Cardinal a 20-14 lead with less than five minutes to play, Wisconsin drove to midfield before Amanam jumped a pass by Phillips -- who finished 10-of-16 for just 83 yards and a touchdown -- to effectively end the game.
"We were close to midfield with two minutes left with a chance to win the Rose Bowl; I just thought we were a team of destiny," Alvarez said. "Curt ran the offense pretty well. I thought, somehow, we'd find a way to score."
NOTES: Both teams appeared in the 24th bowl game in program history, and their records are eerily similar: Stanford is 11-12-1, Wisconsin 11-13. ... With the loss, the Badgers' senior class finishes tied with the Class of '07 as the winningest in team history at 40-13. ... Stanford held 10 of its 14 opponents to 17 points or fewer.