Madison - For all the reasons Wisconsin gave you last season to believe it had seriously strayed from the tenets of Wisconsin football, the Badgers are beginning to show evidence that maybe they're getting some of it back.
Yep, beating two teams from the MAC and WAC that went .500 last year is some incontrovertible proof MikeHunt.
By itself, the 34-31 double-overtime victory Saturday against Fresno State wouldn't offer substantiation, even if the otherwise depth-shy Bulldogs have as much skill-position talent as at least 75% of the Big Ten.
What? What? I hate the Big 11 and, still, this is a total crock of shit statement. That means that Fresno has better skill position talent than 8 or 9 teams in the Big 11. Note to MikeHunt – the Fresno receiver that burned you is 5’9”, 170 lbs and…wait for it…white!! The QB was making the first road start of his career. Ryan Mathews is a serviceable back but the Badgers have two better RBs than him. Mike Hunt is saying that Fresno has better skill position talent than the following teams:
I’ll give you Indiana and maybe Northwestern, but it’s hard to make a case for any other team.
Neither would the fact that a portion of the team apparently spent more time in the sick bay than on the practice field last week, or that the Camp Randall turf temperature aggravated the situation. Outbreaks happen. So does mid-September heat in the upper Midwest.
The heat? Was it only hot for Wisconsin? Was Fresno wearing some special Nike super-cooling shit?
But put all of that together during a remarkably satisfying bang-for-the-buck out-of-league game, and maybe all that talk about an off-season recommitment to the qualities that identify UW football is something more than talk. We'll see, but against a really good team there was toughness and intelligence, and, almost as important for the good of this season, one quarterback.
Fresno was the really good team? The same Fresno that has lost at least 2 league games every year in the WAC this decade?
You applaud the Badgers for resisting the temptation to throw a Curt Phillips changeup at Fresno State even when they were down by two touchdowns. Staying with Scott Tolzien paid off in overtime, when his playmaking instincts with Nick Toon were most needed.
And you like the fact they stayed with the run, even if, down a starting lineman or two, they had almost nothing going on the ground until big John Clay broke off a 72-yard bomb behind excellent blocking inside the last 6 minutes of regulation. As a reminder, coach Bret Bielema repeated the words that should be embroidered on every blue baby blanket in this state:
"For us to have success here," Bielema said, "we've got to run the football."
But as much as anything, you could appreciate that the Badgers outsmarted someone, instead of the other way around.
Oh – not so subtle dig at the head meathead – I like, I like.
With the first half about to expire, a crowd whose expectations were lowered last season began to boo when it looked like the Badgers were prepared to run out the clock with a seven-point deficit. Instead, they surprised everyone when Tolzien went up top for 44 yards to Isaac Anderson. Without that downfield shot, there would've been no 57-yard field goal by Phillip Welch. Without that mighty kick, who knows what might have happened?
A mighty kick it was – it would’ve been good from 60
It was by no means a clean game for Wisconsin, which gave up a ton of passing yards to the kind of big-time receivers that probably caught the attention of Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who was in attendance. The performance was less artful than entertaining, but that was almost secondary for what the Badgers are trying to recover.
There will be a lynch mob if Ted Thompson drafts a 5’9”, 170 lb honky next year. Jordy Nelson already holds the tenured Don Beebe White Receiver Emeritus chair in GB
"Wisconsin football is about being tough," senior linebacker O'Brien Schofield said. "Talk about mental toughness - there were plenty of times we could have given up."
And from senior free safety Chris Maragos: "We're a bunch of tough guys. That's what I love about this football team right now. We may not have the most talent, but from 1 to 99 we come to work…except in the first half against Fresno and the 4th quarter against NIU, we kinda took those quarters off."
No one personified that Saturday more than Schofield, who seemed to make 101 tackles, and Maragos, whose end-zone interception set up Welch's game-winning kick. If the Badgers are going to re-establish themselves with tough-guy senior leadership, there's no better starting point than those two.
Afterward, Bielema said that through all the trials and tribulations of last season, he just wanted to get back to the point where a Wisconsin football team could outwork someone. The Badgers did that Saturday against a worthy opponent. Keep that up, and everything else will fall into place.
Nothing like creaming your jeans after beating a mid-range WAC team that has completely ceded the 2nd worst conference in football to Boise (jury still out this year), Nevada (35 point pasting at the hands of ND) and Louisiana Tech (garroted by the impotent Auburn offense).