Who knew the Wisconsin Badgers only blemish would be a loss to Michigan State after back-to-back games with Big Ten powers Ohio State and Iowa? After an exhilarating win over Ohio State last Saturday, the Badgers came up huge with a come-from-behind 31-30 win over the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.
The barnburner at Kinnick Stadium had it all including the Heartland Trophy (a statue of a bull). More importantly, the Badgers kept their Rose Bowl hopes alive as they now sit tied for second in the Big Ten Standings behind only the Spartans who squeaked out a 35-27 win at Northwestern. In a quick turn of events, the Badgers will now become Hawkeye fans when Michigan State takes a trip to Iowa City next weekend.
By: Nick Grays
I’m not the only one thinking ahead to next weekend’s match-up in Iowa City as Badgers’ Head Coach Bret Bielema also commented on the situation following Saturday’s game.
“I’m always an Iowa fan. I graduated from here; much has been said about my tattoo. I like Kirk and his staff. I want him to have success. Now, in the politics of a Big Ten campaign you’re going to be cheering or hoping but I don’t really get wrapped up in that. I really do think that in our conference our coaches generally pull for each other and let the cards fall as they come,” said Bielema.
Bielema couldn’t have been an Iowa fan on Saturday because the Badgers were almost perfect for the second consecutive week. Moreover, Bielema’s critics have to be silenced after the two big wins. As if a win at home over the #1 ranked team in the country wasn’t enough, Bielema added a win over his alma-mater with significant Big Ten implications on the line.
Give credit where it’s due, Bielema decided to go for it on fourth down three times and converted all of them. One of the conversions came on a fake punt run from punter Brad Nortman. The play went for 17 yards up the middle when the Badgers were trailing 30-24 in the fourth quarter.
“That was something that we had seen on film. With the scheme that we run from a punt standpoint, certain teams are going to defend it differently and we had seen that they had gone with two edge pressure’s and were covering down. We made that call once I saw them send out the punt return unit. Great execution, great faith,” explained Bielema.
Later in that drive, Montee Ball converted another fourth down attempt with 3:23 left in the game. Ball would go on to cap off the 80-yard drive with the game-winning score.
Don’t forget the Badgers’ defense who have come through big when it counts. None bigger than Defensive End J.J. Watt. As I wrote earlier this week, J.J. Watt should become a household name. He only helped my article this Saturday by blocking an extra-point which ended up being the deciding factor at the end.
“It ends up being the game. It’s a good example of how our guys play every snap. J.J. (Watt) burst through there. It’s another thing that we really stress. I’ve always told my defense that to me the truest test of what a defense is all about is how they play PAT because anytime you’re on the field and it’s a PAT situation it means that you were just scored upon and how are you going to react? The reaction was unbelievable and ends up being the difference in the game,” said Bielema.
Watt also recorded two tackles for loss and a sack on the game’s final drive. Watt now has 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks on the season to lead the team in both categories.
The win evened the series between the Badgers and Hawkeyes at 42-42-2. The Heartland Trophy will stay in Madison for at least two more years as the two teams will not match up again until 2013 due to them being in different divisions in the new Big Ten next season.
“We wanted to give the seniors a chance to come out and win with the trophy. We’re going to have it for the next couple years so we wanted to come out with a bang,” said running back John Clay who finished the day with 93 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Badgers can relax and watch a little Michigan State-Iowa as they will be off until November 6th when they travel to West Lafayette to take on the Purdue Boilermakers.
Can the Badgers get back to the Rose Bowl? Has Bret Bielema finally revealed his ability to take the Badgers to the next level? Let me know your thoughts and questions on anything Wisconsin Badgers by commenting below!
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