Greetings Fellow Badgers!
On Saturday the Badgers handed Minnesota its eighth straight loss against the Cardinal and White, ensuring that the Gophers’ trophy case will stay empty for another year. The Badgers celebrated their continued ownership of Paul Bunyan’s axe, with a mock chopping down of the Minnesota goalpost.
The offense continued to shine… Russell Wilson went 16 for 17 for 178 yards and a season-high four touchdowns, breaking the Wisconsin passing touchdown record (previously held by John Stocco). And that was with only four passes attempted in the second half, when the Badgers were leading and turned to their running game to use up the clock. Wilson leads the nation in passing rating (at 201.6; the NCAA record is 186.0) and in yards per attempt (at 11.1). Montee Ball also had a big day, setting two records himself. Ball scored three touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving, to set both Wisconsin and Big Ten records for touchdowns in a season with 27 and he set a Wisconsin record for rushing touchdowns in a season. He rushed 23 times for 166 yards, a 7.2-yard average, and added a 5-yard touchdown reception. Ball has been named a finalist for the Doak Walker award, which is given to the nation’s top running back.. And Nick Toon had eight receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns, allowing him to surpass his father, Al Toon, and Travis Beckum for third place on Wisconsin’s all-time receiving yards list.
And the defense? Mike Taylor had his fifth double-digit tackle game this season. The defense has 11 turnovers in Big Ten play and the Badgers have scored a touchdown off each turnover.
The downside to the game? Has to be the special teams’ performance once again. The Badgers allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown and fell for a fake field goal attempt, where the Gophers were able to score another touchdown, accounting for Minnesota’s only scores in the game. Wisconsin had worked on kickoff coverages during the week leading up to the game but it wasn't enough to stop Minnesota. The question remains whether the Badgers should start using starters on the special teams or whether the threat of injury offsets any advantage with that approach.
The Badgers incurred several injuries against the Gophers. Jared Abbrederis suffered a shoulder injury but is expected to be back in the lineup next Saturday. Pete Konz, the Badger center, suffered a dislocated left ankle and is expected to be out for two to four weeks.
With the win, the Badgers (4-2, 8-2) move up one spot in the Coaches’ poll to #13, while they’re at #15 in the AP poll. Michigan State is the only Big Ten school ranked higher than Wisconsin, at #12 in both the Coaches’ and AP polls.
The real gift on Saturday came from Nebraska and Purdue. Nebraska beat Penn State (5-1, 8-2), handing them their first Big Ten loss. And Purdue pulled off an overtime win against Ohio State (3-3, 6-4). So Wisconsin controls its own destiny. Wins against Illinois and Penn State would give the Badgers the Leaders title outright and ensure them a place in the Big Ten Championship game on December 3.
First the Badgers have to take on the Illini in Champaign. Come join us at Rookies in Cromwell for the noon kickoff. Or watch at home on ESPN2.
After starting the season strong, the Illini have slipped to 6-4 and 2-4 in Big Ten play. In last Saturday’s 31-14 loss to Michigan, their offense lacked rhythm and consistency. This week the team will have the added distraction of a shooting early Sunday, where linebacker Trulon Henry was shot in the hand. Reports state that some Illinois football players had been at the party when a fight broke out and a teammate had called Henry, asking him to come to the party and help get players away from the area.
In other Big Ten news, there has been more fallout from the child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State. The Big Ten has announced that Joe Paterno’s name will be removed from the Big Ten Conference championship trophy. The trophy had previously been named for Paterno and former University of Chicago coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. Going forward, the trophy will be known simply as the Stagg Championship Trophy.
That's it for this week!