Usua Amanam's interception with over two minutes remaining helped seal Stanford's first Rose Bowl victory since 1972, when it was known as the Indians.
Stepfan Taylor carried the ball 20 times for 88 yards a score to lift the eighth-ranked Cardinal over the Wisconsin Badgers, 20-14, on Tuesday.
Kelsey Young recorded a 16-yard TD run for Stanford (12-2), which appeared in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000, when they lost to Wisconsin.
Kevin Hogan completed 12-of-19 passes for 123 yards for the Cardinal, who played in a bowl game for a fourth straight year.
Montee Ball carried the ball 24 times for 100 yards and a score for the Badgers (8-6), who played the game under the direction of athletic director Barry Alvarez because former skipper Bret Bielema left for Arkansas in early December.
"Well, we were defeated by a very good Stanford football team," Alvarez said. "They didn't surprise me how they played, as you saw that on films, they've been very consistent all year. They're a physical team. They're well-coached, and they deserve to win today. I couldn't be more proud of a group of young men than my team."
Curt Phillips connected on 10-of-16 passes for 83 yards, one touchdown and an interception for Wisconsin, which played in the Rose Bowl for a third straight year.
Holding a 17-14 lead, Stanford started from its own 44 with 10:45 to play. A 12-yard Hogan run set up the Cardinal at the Wisconsin 28. Five straight running plays followed, putting the ball at the five. On 3rd-and-4, Hogan threw too high for Levine Toilolo in the back of the end zone. Jordan Williamson made a 22-yard field goal to make it a six-point contest with 4:23 to go.
The Badgers made things interesting by moving the ball past midfield. However, the drive came to a sudden halt when Amanam picked off Phillips.
"It was a max drop, so basically just playing the quarterback," Amanam said. "I happened to see him go to the middle of the field, and I just pedaled to the right, and I think a D-line man got his hand on the ball, and fortunately the ball just fell in my hands. So I don't think one play wins any game. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time, and we were able to kind of seal the game with that one."
The Cardinal ran out the rest of the clock to win the 99th edition of the Rose Bowl.
Stanford scored a touchdown on each of its first two possessions to jump out to a 14-0 lead. Facing a 3rd-and-3 on the third play of the game, Hogan scrambled four yards for a first down. The Cardinal then used a spectacular gadget play to set up their first score. Anthony Wilkerson took the direct snap out of the wildcat formation, faked a handoff to a receiver on an end around and pitched to Drew Terrell, who stopped and threw a 34-yard pass to Jamal-Rashad Patterson. On the next play, Young took a reverse 16 yards for a touchdown.
After forcing a Wisconsin punt, Stanford used a mix of runs and passes to reach the 46-yard line of the Badgers. From there, Hogan took a hard hit while throwing a 43-yard pass to Zach Ertz. Taylor followed with a 3-yard TD run to make it 14-0 with 6:35 left.
Wisconsin had a touchdown nullified by a holding penalty early in the second stanza. The penalty set up a 1st-and-goal from the 18. A pair of Ball runs totaled eight yards and Jacob Pedersen's 9-yard catch put the ball at the one. The Badgers went for it on fourth down and James White was stopped by Stanford's Ben Gardner.
The Badgers managed to get on the board on their next possession. Jared Abbrederis caught a 22-yard pass on 3rd-and-9, moving the ball to the Stanford 11. On the next play, Ball scampered into the end zone to make it 14-7 with 9:05 remaining.
Williamson made a 47-yard field goal on the Cardinal's ensuing possession.
Wisconsin responded with another score at the end of the half. Phillips' 38- yard run put the ball at the Stanford 22. James White and Sam Arneson caught passes of six and nine yards, respectively, to set up 1st-and-goal from the seven. Ball carried the ball two times before Jordan Fredrick caught a 4-yard TD pass with 19 seconds left, cutting the gap to 17-14.
A scoreless third period featured seven punts.
Wisconsin leads the head-to-head series, 4-1-1 ... Alvarez won the "Granddaddy of Them All" three times during his 16-year tenure as Wisconsin's head coach from 1990-2005 ... On Dec. 20, the search for Wisconsin's next coach officially came to an end when Gary Anderson was hired from Utah State ... Ball became the first player to score touchdowns in three Rose Bowls.