Greetings Fellow Badgers!
While I realize that not all of you are fans of all Wisconsin sports, it was a great week to be a Wisconsin sports fan… With the Badgers and Packers unbeaten and the Brewers heading to the playoffs, what’s not to like?
Getting back to Badgers sports in particular, how ‘bout dem Badgers? This past Saturday they took on South Dakota, holding them to a final score of 59 to 10. Nick Toon had a career-high seven receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Did you see that amazing catch where he literally tiptoed down the sideline to stay in bounds? Jared Abbrederis also had a good second half, while Montee Ball ran for 2 touchdowns and James White scored another. Wilson continued to shine at quarterback, completing 19 of 25 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns. Overall, he has completed 75.8% of his passes (69 of 91 attempts) for 1,136 yards, with 11 touchdown passes and one interception, while also averaging 6.8 yards per carry. The defense had a few plays of its own, picking off the Coyotes quarterback twice during the game, the Badgers’ first interceptions of the season. The win wasn’t sufficient to keep them in the #6 position in the Coaches’ poll however; this week they’re ranked 7th in both polls.
And now the anticipation builds for this week’s showdown at Camp Randall between Wisconsin and Nebraska. It will be a hot time in the old town this Saturday night, as the Badgers welcome the Cornhuskers into the Big Ten. Let’s hope it’s not too nice of a welcome, though. The Badgers are ranked 7th, the Huskers 8th. Both teams 4-0… 7 pm game… in Madison, under the lights (where the Badgers are 26-3 at night)… ESPN’s Game Day will be in attendance, broadcasting from Bascom Hill. Sunny, upper 50s during the day; upper 30s at night, with a 100% chance of jumping around… What more could you ask for?
Nebraska officials received more than 20,000 ticket requests for the game. That is at least 17,000 more than their standard ticket allotment. Tickets or not, 10,000 to 20,000 Huskers are expected to descend on Madison. Someone posted online today that they searched Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, and Hotels.com and could only find a total of eight rooms available in the whole city! The stadium won’t be a sea of red, however, as Nebraska fans have been asked to wear black so they stand out from the red-clad Badger fans. For Nebraska or Wisconsin fans who cannot score a ticket into the game, Badgerville, the new pre-game party area on the grass practice field just north of Camp Randall, will be fitted with two large-screen TVs and will remain open through the game. It is incredibly rare for any city of any size to deplete their inventory of hotel rooms.
Saturday’s game is scheduled for 8 pm EDT on ABC. We won’t be watching the game at Rookies because they schedule bands on Saturday nights. If you’re looking for a good place to watch the game, Damon’s in Hartford (on the West Hartford line) doesn’t have bands. I’m afraid I’ll be watching this one from home, however.
The game will pit the Big Ten’s number one scoring offense against the number two scoring offense. It’s the first time since 2008 that two Big Ten teams who are both in the top ten nationally will play each other. Vegas is betting on Wisconsin by 10 points. So can the Cornhuskers steal a win from the Badgers in a hostile environment? Some consider their non-conference schedule to be tougher than that faced by the Badgers. Their quarterback, Taylor Martinez, is an explosive runner who averages 105.2 yards per game, making up for what he may lack in terms of passing ability. The Badgers are preparing for Martinez by using Lance Baretz, a walk-on freshman wide receiver described by strength and conditioning coach Ben Hebert as possibly the fastest player on the team, to simulate Martinez on the practice squad. Running back Rex Burkhead also contributes 105 yards per game, giving Martinez & Burkhead the #1 and #2 rushing spots in the Big Ten. On the other side of the ball, the Husker’s defense may have a few holes that the Badgers will be able to take advantage of. Nebraska’s defense has given up big plays in 3 of its 4 wins.
In preparing for the game, the Badgers are taking a page from their prep last year before the big night game against Ohio State by inviting Barry Alvarez to deliver the Thursday night speech to the team. On Saturday, Barry will serve as the Badgers’ honorary game captain. Usually a former player serves as that role, but Bret Bielema couldn't find a former Badger in the NFL who had a bye this weekend. Alvarez played at Nebraska from 1965-67 for head coach Bob Devaney. He was the leading tackler for the 1967 Cornhuskers, who led the nation in total defense and created a school-record 40 turnovers. But, there’s no question where his loyalty will lie this weekend!
Potential concerns for the Badgers in this game include kicking… Kicker Alec Lerner (who was born in Nebraska) kicked two kickoffs out of bounds on Saturday, giving the Coyotes the ball on the 40-yard line. With senior kicker Philip Welch sidelined indefinitely with a quadriceps injury, the Badgers can’t afford to do that in Big Ten play. If we manage to keep the kick in play, we’ll have to deal with Nebraska’s return team, which leads the Big Ten in kickoff returns with a 35.4-yard average. Another concern for the Badgers is the number of penalties they’ve racked up – averaging 6 penalties for 55.5 yards-per-game. And let’s hope that the 124 rushing yards the Badgers allowed South Dakota to accumulate in last week’s game is not a sign of a weak run defense.
Want to read more? Here are a few articles worth your time...
Russell Wilson from a different view:
“The Big Uglies” http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1190864/1/index.htm
That’s it for this week. Let’s hope for a big win come Saturday night!
And On Wisconsin!