Friday, December 30, 2011

Badgers..back in Pasadena

Back-to-back trips to the Rose Bowl for the Wisconsin Badgers…sweet!!!!!!!!!! Badgers fans are loving life right about now.

Russell Wilson after winning
spot in Rose Bowl
The Badgers had an amazing season. Bob Ryan, sportswriter for the Boston Globe, said the Badgers were the best “what if” team in the nation. What if there wasn’t a crazy Hail Mary at the end of the Michigan State game and what if the Badgers weren’t nursing that nightmare hangover in the very next game against Ohio State (although, even with that hangover, they were thisclose to winning)?
Yes, the Badgers could have been in the national championship game. Course, that would’ve ruined that exciting rematch for all those LSU and Alabama fans (the only folks who will be watching this game—it was boring the first time, who besides those fans would watch a rematch?).
Instead, the Badgers just put together an incredible run for the roses. Winning out and playing in a spectacular inaugural Big Ten Championship game against Michigan State that went down to the wire, with Wisconsin pulling it out.
Like I said, it’s been an amazing season.
The sign in the Badger locker room says…”The Road to the Rose Bowl begins here.” And, it did.
It started back in the summer with these rumors that a quarterback from North Carolina State was transferring to Wisconsin (he picked Wisconsin over Auburn). And, that he was good. Just how good we were all waiting to see. Russell Wilson turned out to be one of the first real quarterbacks in a long, long time for the Badgers.
I say this because for years, during the Barry Alvarez/Bret Bielema era, the Badgers have had serviceable quarterbacks. Yes, many of them are in the record books and when you look back it seems impressive…but Alvarez and Bielema built a system around those quarterbacks that played to their limited arm strength. They’ve never seemed to recruit that All-American quarterback that other Top 10 college football schools do. My brother and I used to joke that if Darrell Bevell made more than nine completions, the Badgers would win. And, after all, the Badgers are all about running—always having an endless supply of backs each year to take over when the guys graduate or leave early for the NFL. The quarterback in the Wisconsin system is more of a game manager than a passer. That is, until Wilson came along.
Montee Ball
This year, with 16 more yards passing in the Rose Bowl, Wilson will surpass the 3,000 yard mark—the first time in school history. And, the Badgers will hit 3,000 yards both rushing and receiving--only the second team in the Big Ten to ever do this. Michigan did it last year.
Wilson put up Heisman-like numbers this year. On top of the numbers, he has poise, leadership, arm strength, and athleticism. And, it was surprising that even though he kept putting up great numbers, the talk quieted down on his Heisman hopes after the Michigan State and Ohio State loses. I seem to remember a lot of talk about not having three loses hurt a certain Heisman winner. Hmmm. Wilson finished with a 191.6 % passing efficiency, completing 206 of 284 attempts for 31 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Not bad for a guy whose name wasn’t mentioned for those big time year-end awards.
Montee Ball was invited to the Heisman proceedings in New York and deserved to be there. He has 38 touchdowns this season (more than many teams) and is one shy of tying Barry Sanders. And, by now, you’ve all heard of his baked potato diet that, along with running back and forth to practice, helped reshape his body and make him a more agile runner this season.
Chris Borland
And, of course, then there is the Wisconsin defense. Two anchors are Mike Taylor and Chris Borland—both linebackers. Taylor (137 tackles for the season) had 22 tackles in the Ohio State game, the highest in the Big Ten this year for a single game and the fifth highest in the nation. Meanwhile, Borland (131 tackles this season) had 18 tackles for a loss—the most ever by a UW linebacker and the most by a middle linebacker in the nation this season.
The Badgers are loaded and will face a tough Oregon team. Their no-huddle offense and speedy players should give the Badger defense an all-out sprint to the finish. But, the Badgers will be ready. They are prepared for bowl games and this year should be no different.
I won’t be at the Rose Bowl to watch the Badgers. I will be in Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl and checking my phone during the tailgate for updates. Hopefully, one of my nephews will be texting me. The Brown family will be represented at the game again this year (my brother and nephews will be there). We went last year and it was an experience I will never forget…coming up the tunnel and walking up to our seats, turning around to a sea of red. And, the band stealing the show during the fifth quarter.
Even though I won’t be in Pasadena this year, one thing won’t change…I will be wearing red.
On Wisconsin!