Greetings Fellow Badgers!
The Badgers pulled off another big win on Senior Day, beating the Nittany Lions by a score of 45-7. PSU’s four turnovers on a rainy afternoon at Camp Randall led to 24 of Wisconsin’s points. Russell Wilson and Montee Ball joined forces to add 21 more points to Wisconsin’s score. Once again, the Badgers started slowly, allowing PSU to get the first score. But after that, it was no contest. Russell Wilson finished 19 of 29 for 186 yards and two touchdowns, with an added 36 yards rushing. Montee Ball rushed 25 times for 156 yards and four touchdowns, raising his season touchdown total to 34, the No. 2 mark in NCAA history (behind Barry Sanders’ 39 TDs).
Not everything about the game was good, however. There were more special teams issues, with James White running into the PSU punter, a 33-yard PSU punt return, and a kickoff that went out of bounds. But Conor O’Neill made up for those mistakes when he forced a fumble and recovered the ball on a PSU punt.
The win gave the Badgers a Big Ten record tied with that of Penn State, and given the head-to-head win over PSU, Wisconsin will be heading to the Big Ten Championship game as representative of the Leaders Division. With the win, Wisconsin is ranked #15 in the AP poll and #12 in the Coaches poll. Michigan State, who will represent the Legends Division in the title game, is ranked lower than Wisconsin in both polls (at #11 and #9, respectively).
The Badgers get another shot at Michigan State this Saturday night in the first-ever Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. The game is scheduled to begin at 8:17 pm EST and will be broadcast on Fox. We’re currently on the fence as to whether or not we should go to Damon’s in West Hartford to watch this one. (http://damonstavern.com/contact) It would be fun if there was a good-sized group of us, but I don’t particularly want to be driving nearly an hour home around 11:30 at night if only a couple of us will be there. Let me know if you’re interested in joining some other Badger fans at Damon's and we’ll see if there’s enough interest to make this worthwhile (e-mail me at JeanOliva@aol.com). Currently, the Badgers are picked to win by 7 to 10 points by the Las Vegas gurus (they were picked to win by 7.5 in the previous matchup between these two teams).
Is there any Badger fan out there that isn’t sick of watching that replay where the Hail Mary pass bounces into the hands of an MSU player that barely muscles his way over the goal line before being forced back onto the playing field? This Saturday is the Badgers’ chance for revenge. And a Badger win could be twice as sweet, given a little ironic twist in the Big Ten this year. Last year, Michigan State grumbled when, tied for Wisconsin in the Big Ten rankings and having posted a win over Wisconsin, Wisconsin still ended up being the Big Ten representative in the Rose Bowl (if I remember correctly, the tie-breaker was BCS ranking and Wisconsin was ranked above Michigan State). This year, if the Big Ten had not split into two divisions, the Spartans (10-2, 7-1) would already be making their Rose Bowl plans, given their better Big Ten record than the Badgers (10-2, 6-2). But this year the Badgers still have a chance to be the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl representative, if they can beat the Legends Division representative in the Big Ten title game.
The Badgers should be near full strength for Saturday’s game. Ethan Armstrong, the backup outside linebacker who was taken off the field in an ambulance on Saturday, won’t be playing this Saturday, but he should be available for a bowl game. Center Peter Konz was still wearing a walking boot on Saturday, the result of a dislocated ankle on November 12th, but is determined to play on Saturday. The coaches are a little less optimistic about his ability to return to the field, however, and are waiting to see how he does in practice.
In anticipation of the game, Bret Bielema tweeted on Sunday night “Love our UW students that sold out 2,000 tickets in less than 8 minutes tonight. A little Buttercup in Indy will sound great....”
Other Football News:
The Big Ten announced their all-conference players on Monday. Montee Ball was named the inaugural winner of the Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year award as well as the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year, while Russell Wilson was named became the first recipient of the Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year honor. Other consensus first team picks (those picked for the first team in both the coaches’ picks and the media picks) included center Peter Konz, guard Kevin Zeitler, tackle Josh Oglesby, and linebacker Chris Borland. Overall, UW placed 12 players on either the first or second teams and saw five others earn honorable mention.
Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is among five finalists for the Broyles Award, given annually to the top assistant coach in the nation. With the firing of Illinois head coach Ron Zook, the Illinois Athletic Director has voiced interest in Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and, flight records indicate that a Learjet flew from the University of Illinois’ Willard Airport to Madison early Monday evening. Let’s hope that Paul isn’t tempted by the Illinois job. Last year when he considered the Texas offensive coordinator job, word had it that he wasn’t interested in moving until his kids were out of school.
More Senior Day Game Notes:
In case you didn’t notice, Nick Toon honored his father by wearing his father’s number 87, rather than his normal number 1. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, The idea was a team effort between Nick Toon and wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander and a surprise for the father. The MJS also reported that Nick received a pleasant surprise before the game when quarterback Russell Wilson let Nick walk out for the pregame coin toss with his father, who was UW's guest captain.
Chris Moragos’ family stepped in as surrogate parents for Aaron Henry on Saturday. Earlier in the week, Henry reported that his parents did not have enough money to come to Madison for both Senior Day and graduation, so they chose the graduation trip instead. In their absence, the Maragos family stepped in.
Some of you may have read earlier in the season about senior reserve defensive end Greg Russo, who served two tours of duty overseas before walking on at UW this past spring to use his final season of eligibility. While Russo’s dream was to play for the Badgers, as of early September, the NCAA had ruled that he could practice but could not play in any of the games. http://host.madison.com/sports/college/football/article_3f0ecc72-da8e-11e0-a1f5-001cc4c002e0.html However, Wisconsin appealed the ruling, and last month the NCAA cleared Russo to play. Then, with the PSU game firmly in hand, he finally got on the field for the first time. "We stand on the field every day for practice," Russo told the Wisconsin State Journal. "But tonight, standing in the middle of the field and looking around and seeing the fans there and knowing I was a part of something that big, a part of being the Leaders Division champs, it was a totally different feeling, like I was on a completely different field and I was in a completely different place." To read more, go to: http://host.madison.com/sports/college/football/uw-football-notes-a-rudy-moment-for-iraq-war-vet/article_25a4358e-18b8-11e1-965b-001cc4c03286.html
UW's streak of almost two full seasons of a running back not losing a fumble ended when James White coughed it up with a little more than minute left in the game.