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The Voice: Tolzien's timely toss set stage for 'instant classic'

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgIf ever a team needed a bye week, it would be the Wisconsin Badgers. When we taped Bret Bielema's TV show late Saturday night, the Badgers' coach let out a huge sigh of relief. To say the least, it is a much-needed break for a banged-up football team.

No doubt it is an elated group, but it is one that needs some time to heal and get ready for the second half of the Big Ten season.

As special as the victory against Ohio State will always be, perhaps last week's effort at Iowa trumped it. It is the perfect example of what a coach means when you hear the words "find a way to win." In Iowa City, Scott Tolzien completed passes to 10 different players, and none of them is named Nick Toon, who had to miss the entire game with a leg injury.

As the game unfolded, key players such as Lance Kendricks, James White and Peter Konz joined Toon as spectators. On defense, Jordan Kohout had to sit out after being injured the previous week, and during the Iowa game, Beau Allen had to miss some time with a leg injury.

Mike Taylor, who also was hobbling in the days following the Ohio State game, shuttled in and out of the lineup last Saturday, playing a game of tag team with fellow linebacker Kevin Claxton. Still, tender knee and all, Taylor made the final tackle of Hawkeyes running back Adam Robinson, making sure he remained inbounds as the final seconds ran off the clock.

There were so many key moments and key players in this latest "Instant Classic." The work of Montee Ball. J.J. Watt blocking an extra point, tackling holder Ryan Donahue on an aborted field goal try, and of course, his final series sack of Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi.

Bill Nagy sliding into the center position after Konz had to give way because of an ankle injury. Ethan Hemer's effort at defensive tackle for the injured Kohout. The list goes on and on, but in what I guess is becoming a bit of a theme in these blogs, I look to another play that helped keep the Badgers alive in the fourth quarter.

In the stat book, it will go down as a 3-yard gain, but it was so much more than that.

Iowa was leading 30-24, and the Badgers were facing a third-and-7 from their own 23-yard line. Kinnick Stadium was rocking. Tolzien was in the shotgun, and the snap was off target. Tolzien had to run it down at about the 12-yard line.

Then, with defensive lineman Christian Ballard in his face, Tolzien somehow completed a short pass to Issac Anderson to set up fourth-and-4. If Tolzien just falls on the ball, the Badgers are looking at fourth-and-18.

Fourth-and-4 made the fake punt possible.

From there, protectors Rob Korslin and Robert Burge did their part with Iowa's two rushers, and punter Brad Nortman ran through a gaping hole up the middle for 17 yards and a first down.

In the year-and-a-half that he has been the Badgers starting quarterback, Scott Tolzien has completed some big throws, but that little 3-yard flip to Anderson might go down as one of his more important completions. He had two others in the drive, a 12-yard toss to Jacob Pedersen on a third-and-5, and the critical fourth-down pass to Ball that moved Wisconsin to the Hawks' 27.  

As they say, the rest is history, but the story might have been much different had Tolzien not kept a very cool head in a chaotic moment. His ability to turn a potential disaster into a 3-yard gain made all of the other last minute magic possible.