Greetings Fellow Badgers!
An early blog this week, due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
After a slow start on Saturday, the Badgers managed to pull out a 28-17 win over the Illini. There’s a four-page thread on the Badger on-line bulletin board this week about what folks did at halftime to change the direction of the game. Here in the Connecticut, we decided that it was the appearance of our “adopted” Wisconsin fans at Rookies that helped turn things around, although losing power halfway through the third quarter may provided some added karma (Rookies could only get two of their 80+ TVs working on backup power, but they were generous enough to put our game on one of those two TVs). What did you do at halftime to turn the game around?
The Badgers’ turnaround was led by Montee Ball, who posted college highs of 38 carries and 224 rushing yards. The defense allowed Illinois to take a 17-7 halftime lead but then came roaring back with four turnovers in the second half. The offense turned those turnovers into 14 points. Even the special teams came to play. Punter Brad Nortman pinned the Illini inside the 10 yard line on two punts and averaged 48.2 yards over four punts. A dropped ball by the Illinois punter allowed the Badgers to take over on the Illini 2 yard line, setting up one of the Badgers’ touchdowns.
In addition to having a personal best game, Montee Ball tied two of Barry Sanders’ records for number of consecutive games with two or more TDs in a season and the most games with two or more TDs in a season (Montee has scored two or more touchdowns in 11 consecutive games this season). Ball is also the fifth player in FBS history to score 30 touchdowns in a season. Ball was named Big Ten Co-offensive Player of the Week and also has been named one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award (along with Alabama’s Trent Richardson and Oregon’s LaMichael James). The winner will be announced on December 8th.
On the defensive side of the ball, Chris Borland had a college-high 16 tackles and two forced fumbles, breaking a tie with Erasmus James to become UW's all-time leader in forced fumbles. He also continued his streak of having a tackle for loss in every game, with 17 overall, and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
With the win, the Badgers moved up one spot to #12 in the Coaches’ poll and stayed at #15 in the AP poll.
The Badgers (9-2, 5-2) are now one victory away from securing a place in the first-ever Big Ten title game. This Saturday, the Badgers take on the Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2, 6-1; #19 in the Coaches’ poll; #20 in the AP poll) at 3:30 pm EST at Camp Randall. The game will be televised on ESPN. Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the normal folks who meet at Rookies won’t be there. But if you want to show up, I’m sure they’ll treat you well. The winner of the game will represent the Leaders Division against Michigan State (9-2, 6-1), the winner of the Legends Division, in the Big Ten title game on December 3rd in Indianapolis. I’m sure most Badger fans (and players) would appreciate getting a second try on a neutral field against the Spartans….
But first things first. PSU is coming off a 20-14 win against Ohio State this past Saturday, their first win without Joe Paterno as coach in many years. Penn State ran the Wildcat formation successfully against the Buckeyes (on 2nd-and-6, with the ball at the Ohio State 39-yard line, wide receiver Curtis Drake took quarterback Matthew McGloin's place under center, took the snap and handed the ball off to senior running back Stephfon Green, who blazed his way through a baffled Ohio State defense for a 39-yard touchdown rush). Hopefully they won’t have any tricks for us. The Lions are 4-0 on the road, while the Badgers are 6-0 at home, so something has to give this weekend!
The Badgers will be changing things around on their offensive line. Ryan Groy started at center against Illinois, in place of the injured Peter Konz, but had two botched snaps on one series and was replaced by Travis Frederick in the third quarter, with Groy moving to left guard. Frederick started the 2009 season at center but suffered an injury and then he redshirted last season. Against PSU, Frederick will start at center and Groy will stay at left guard.
The initial spread issued by Las Vegas had the Badgers winning by 18.5 points. It has since dropped to 14.5.
This Saturday will also be Senior Day. The home crowd will be saying thanks and good luck to team captains Patrick Butrym, Bradie Ewing, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Henry, and players Jake Byrne, Kevin Claxton, Jake Current, Antonio Fenelus, Adam Hampton, Andrew Lukasko, Brad Nortman, Louis Nzegwu, Chukwuma Offor, Josh Oglesby, Greg Russo, Nate Tice, Nick Toon, Kyle Wojta, Philip Welch and Kevin Zeitler. That’s a lot of players who have done a fine job for the Badgers this season! Al Toon will serve as guest captain, giving him an opportunity to come onto the field with his son Nick in final game.