Ball rushed for 100 yards on 24 carries with an 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, becoming the first player in the 99-year history of the game to reach the end zone in three consecutive Rose Bowls.
But all three were losses, as Wisconsin became the first team to lose three straight in the Granddaddy of Them All since Michigan from 1977-79.
USC running back Charles White also scored in three Rose Bowls, but did so in 1977, 1979, and 1980.
Ball also became the first player to rush for 100 yards in three Rose Bowls, but came up 64 yards behind White for the career rushing mark. The senior running back finished with 396 yards and three touchdowns on 78 carries, good for third all-time.
Ron Dayne rushed for 446 yards during Wisconsin's consecutive Rose Bowl wins in 1999-2000.
It looked as if Ball would move past both as he gashed Stanford's third-ranked run defense for 51 yards on nine carries in the first quarter. He was up to 70 yards on 12 carries when he scored to cut the Cardinal lead to 14-7 with 9:05 left in the second quarter, his 83rd career touchdown, but wasn't able to find running room after that.
"We made some plays, but they were jamming up the middle pretty good," Wisconsin interim head coach Barry Alvarez said.
Freshman running back Melvin Gordon became more involved from that point on, carrying the ball of fly sweeps in an attempt to open up running lanes for Ball between the tackles.
"It was [designed] to spread them out a little bit. They defended it well," said Gordon rushed for 51 yards on nine carries.
"I wasn't explosive enough to break through those tackles. I'm a little disappointed in myself."
Stave Sees The Field
Quarterback Joel Stave saw his first action since breaking his collarbone in a late October loss to Michigan State.
The redshirt freshman entered the game on Wisconsin's third possession. His lone pass attempt was a 34-yard deep ball for wide receiver Jared Abbrederis that was broken up by cornerback Barry Browning in the end zone.
While Alvarez and offensive coordinator Matt Canada said earlier in the week that Stave would see reps in the game, Stave said there was not a fixed number of plays or series set coming in.
"I would get a few plays. I wasn't sure what they would be," Stave said. "I'm happy I got a chance to be out there though."
Gardner Gets His
Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner, who attended Mequon (Wis.) Homestead, made no secret throughout the week of his disappointment that Wisconsin never offered him a scholarship.
Gardner made them pay, stuffing running back James White on a fourth-and-goal Wildcat run from inside the one-yard line early in the second quarter.
"I just had a hunch where the ball was going based on the film study and was able to knife through and make a play," said Gardner, who finished with six tackles and one pass breakup.
Gardner said he was headed home Wednesday night, admitting it would be difficult not to gloat.
"Yeah, I'll try to keep my mouth shut, but I'm pretty excited," Gardner said.
Abbrederis Kept Under Wraps
After amassing 346 all-purpose yards in last year's Rose Bowl, Abbrederis had just 51 against Stanford.
Abbrederis caught three passes for 44 yards, both team highs, and returned three punts for seven yards.
Freshman wide receiver Jordan Fredrick caught his first career touchdown pass, a four-yard score with 19 seconds left in the second quarter. … Alvarez became just the second coach enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame to come out of retirement, joining Chris Ault of Nevada. Alvarez suffered his first Rose Bowl loss in four appearances leading Wisconsin.
Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.