Badgers Scott Tolzien Wins National Award for Top Senior Quarterback

Scott Tolzien

Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien has been named the winner of the 2010 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, it was announced on Monday. Tolzien is the first player in Wisconsin history to win the award, which debuted in 1987 and is given annually to the country’s top senior quarterback.

Boasting a career record of 21-4, Tolzien led the Wisconsin Badgers to a share of the 2010 Big Ten championship and a berth in the 2011 Rose Bowl against No. 3 TCU.

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Ten reasons why it’s great to be a fan of Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay Packer football

By Jake McCormick

It’s a good week to be a fan of Wisconsin professional and collegiate football.

After a year and a half of consistent scrutiny surrounding Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are headed back to the playoffs and are considered one of the hottest teams in the NFL in a wide open race to the Super Bowl. Throw in all the clichés you want here (A dangerous team no division winner wants to face, peaking at the right time, don’t sleep on the Packers, etc.). [Read more…]

Young starters have shown Badger coach Bret Bielema can recruit

Purdue Wisconsin Football

By Jake McCormick

There was a Family Guy episode where Peter, Quagmire, Joe, and Cleveland bring business into their favorite bar, the Drunken Clam, by belting out everyone’s favorite karaoke song, Don’t Stop Believing by Journey. I’ll admit that it would be tempting to leave a funeral procession to hear amateurs sing that song, but I’ll also admit that I love baseball cards. Sorry Adam West.

Anyways, after a reception only rivaled by the video crowds on Guitar Hero, the guys decide to start a band and get ready to play a gig at a prison. They have the costumes, instruments, attitudes, and a positive review carved into Tony’s ass, but just as they’re about to go on they realize they don’t know any songs. This scenario reminds me of Wisconsin Badger coach Bret Bielema.

Purdue Wisconsin FootballHe started out his career at Wisconsin with an 11-1 regular season record; a feat his predecessor, Barry Alvarez, never accomplished in his impressive tenure. Yet it is easy to see that Bielema’s initial success was amplified by the previous coach’s recruits. Then the next two years saw a dip to nine then seven wins, leaving many Badger fans to wonder if Bielema was all that and a bag of delicious Five Guys fries. The current season has been deemed by some to be his most important as the Badger head coach, and no doubt we are getting a clearer picture of whether Bielema can execute the song and dance of running a good college program.

At 6-2, Wisconsin is ranked at 21st in the nation, and is continuing to find their identity with a Bielema recruit-only roster. It typically takes the average head coach five years to fully implement his scheme, get his recruiting spider-web strung throughout the country, and integrate his desired type of players. The results from a recruiting angle have been nothing but positive this year, and Wisconsin looks to be in a position to remain highly competitive for many years if this consistency keeps up. The onus, if course, is on Bielema’s ability to coach in big games, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Wisconsin only starts six seniors, all of which have played a significant role in the Badgers’ success. Most notably, O’Brien Schofield is making a run for Big Ten defensive player of the year and Garrett Graham is undoubtedly going to follow in the footsteps of Owen Daniels as a solid all-around NFL tight end. In contrast, the Badgers boast eight starters and 17 backups that are sophomores or freshmen, and that doesn’t include the team’s leading tackler, Mike Taylor, who is done for the season.

Purdue Wisconsin FootballBielema’s recruiting has only gotten better with each passing year based off the fact that seniors are not the only playmakers on the field. Guys like JJ Watt, Chris Borland, Devin Smith, Nick Toon, and (obviously) John Clay have all become recognizable names to even the average Badger fan, and none are above a sophomore standing. Nearly half of the reserve underclassmen have seen significant playing time this year too, including OL Travis Frederick, WR Kraig Appleton, CB Antonio Fenelus, and DE David Gilbert, who eats blocked punts for breakfast.

With four games remaining, Wisconsin has a good chance of finishing the season 10-2 and returning to a New Year’s Day bowl game. The team looked nothing short of dominant against a supposedly hot Purdue team last week, and will face a streaky Indiana team Saturday. Whether the Badgers win out or not, it’s clear that Bielema has set a standard of expectations for a bright future. If they can sustain that, the Alvarez era of success may not be a distant memory after all.

Badgers nearly throw up game in honor of team-wide swine flu outbreak

Philip Welch

By Jake McCormick

During my college graduation commencement in May, the UW-Eau Claire chancellor reminded the soon-to-be-unemployed with stars in their eyes that in light of the swine flu epidemic, a bottle of hand sanitizer and paper towels would be available before doing the Walk. Of the 4,000 or so students, only three took this glorious opportunity. I, on the other hand, figured that if I was going to get germ-free goop on my hands, I might as well coat them like a kid getting Slimed on Nickelodeon in the 90s and vicariously share some with the chancellor during our handshake.

I ultimately decided against this last hurrah of college, reasoning that it wouldn’t be worth the potential backlash to cover the chancellor’s hand in sticky, translucent goo. Plus I had already had a sexual innuendo moment with the guy during the ribbon cutting ceremony at our campus newspaper’s new office. As we stood with scissors in hand, he asked which part of the ribbon I wanted to cut, to which I responded, “You go on top.” I thought it was a nice way to go out.

Chris MaragosI’m sure you’re asking what this has to do with the Wisconsin Badgers’ 34-31 double-overtime victory over Fresno State last Saturday. Well, unlike my situation, the hand sanitizer played a part in saving the game for the Badgers, as did copious amounts of bile and daily vomiting. Roughly 40 players, including starting quarterback Scott Tolzien and starting cornerback Aaron Henry, experienced swine flu-like symptoms throughout the week leading up to the game. Senior safety Chris Maragos, who again played the hero with an interception in the end zone during Fresno State’s second overtime possession, said he basically holstered hand sanitizer anytime he touched a doorknob. Other players said the collective sickness was a bonding experience, and given the way the team rallied late against a fast Bulldog team, they came out of the epidemic stronger and more confident. I’ll probably be the only one to say this, ever, but thank god for swine flu.

The fact that a team such as Wisconsin, who is still trying to figure out how good they really are, can come out of a team-wide bout of a national influenza epidemic and survive their biggest test in double-overtime before the Big Ten season begins has to mean something good. But then again, this is Wisconsin we’re talking about, so we’ll just have to wait and see if the Badgers go Donnie Darko on their season.

Last week’s questions:

David GilreathHow long will Bielema try the Curt Phillips Experience?
Apparently not when games are close, as Phillips didn’t even smell the Camp Randall turf on Saturday. But Tolzien turned in another solid performance by going 17-28 for 225 yards and a touchdown. I think Bielema realizes that stability at that position will be a big factor throughout the Big Ten season, and as long as Tolzien is playing at a consistent level and still runs ice through his veins, the offense will continue to put points on the board.

How will the offense perform under Tolzien against a much faster and more experienced defense?
The Badger offense had no turnovers and racked up 413 yards in a much more balanced fashion than against Northern Illinois. Passing yards accounted for most of that number (225 to 188), but that will happen when a defense can’t stop anybody until the fourth quarter. They were a lot more even-handed against the Bulldogs, and limiting mistakes will always put your team in a position to win. However, going 5-13 on third down isn’t the best way to help a Badger defense that still had to rely on big plays to bail them out of long drives.

With an offensive line that averages 6’6” 324 lbs going against a defensive line that averages 6’3” 265 lbs, can Wisconsin finally ride the Boring Ball wagon to victory on the backs of Brown and/or Clay?
I wouldn’t say “Brown Clay” carried the team or the line dominated by any means, but Clay’s 72 yard run in the fourth quarter with 5:45 left was the play of the game until the Maragos interception. The overall running game needs to get better overall, and a lot of that starts with the return of junior center John Moffitt, who has been sidelined with a pectoral muscle injury. Two freshmen, Travis Frederick and Peter Konz, played well in his place, but Moffitt is clearly the best option at center. They need the line at full strength as soon as possible.

Can the special teams rebound, especially Lou Groza finalist Philip Welch?
The only Wisconsin highlights of the first half centered around special teams. Wide receiver David Gilreath pulled off kick returns of 35 and 38 yards, and Welch smoked a 57-yard field goal to end the half. That kick, as well as the game-winner in overtime, should be enough to help him regain some confidence and give Bielema a rare opportunity to score points regularly outside of the 30-yard line. Overall, it was a much needed improvement as a whole unit.

Given the Badgers inconsistencies and previous failures against option offenses, Wofford isn’t likely to lay down and take a beating. I really don’t know what to expect from them other than the triple option I run in NCAA Football 2010, so let’s hope they don’t need a Cal Poly-like blunder for a win.

Can Wisconsin stop Wofford’s triple option, which is very similar to the offense run by Cal Poly in the 2008 season finale?
If not, will I be able to consume enough alcohol to fathom a defeat at the hands of an FCS opponent the game before the Big Ten season starts?

Which defensive line pass rush will we see: the one that pressured NIU all day or the cupcake baking they did against Fresno?
Senior O’Brien Schofield had a career game against the Bulldogs, but he can’t be asked to do everything. Their success depends on sophomore JJ Watt’s recovery from the flu.

John ClayHow will John Clay perform in his first career start?
Will he pull a Nelson from The Simpsons and try to knock over every player on his way to the goal line by holding one of his teammates as a shield?

This Badger team proved it could handle unusual circumstances off the field, but will there be a hangover effect against a lesser opponent?
If there is, can they call the Minnesota Vikings and get whatever they put in Adrian Peterson’s IV drip?