Lucas at Large: Badgers' best on display at awards show

FB_Awards_Vote.jpgUW coach Bret Bielema has his own thoughts on what might rank as the No. 1 Play of the Year. Of course, you can also voice your opinion by voting for one of the five nominated plays.

The results will be announced during Friday night's Wisconsin Football Awards Show at the Kohl Center. The event will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and it's open to the public. There's no admission.

This will be a second chance for Badger fans to celebrate a Big Ten title since the formal championship presentation on the field was scrubbed following Saturday's win at Camp Randall.

"There will be a lot of videos and interaction with our student-athletes," Bielema said of Friday's event, "which allows the fans to get access that is unprecedented anywhere else.

"They will get to see a side of our players that they don't normally see on the football field. Plus, we're holding the event in a great venue, the Kohl Center, so more fans can take part.''

The UW awards show has been modeled after ESPN's annual ESPY Awards.

Besides announcing the team awards, including MVP, there will be on-stage interviews with Jay Valai, John Clay, Montee Ball, James White and the parents of Lance Kendricks and Blake Sorensen.

"It's not your same old postseason banquet," Bielema said, "that everyone tried to find a way to get out of when they were in high school. It's a nice change-up to the banquet format."

What was your Play of the Year?

Valai's block of an extra point in a 20-19 win over Arizona State?

David Gilreath's 97-yard return of the opening kickoff against Ohio State?

White's 12-yard touchdown that sealed the win over the No. 1 Buckeyes?

Brad Nortman's 17-yard run for a first down on a fake punt at Iowa?

Or, Ball's game-winning touchdown against the Hawkeyes?

"My favorite plays of the year are kind of the boring ones," Bielema said. "Everybody wants to talk about scoring plays - touchdown runs - but there was one play that jumped out to me big-time."

That was the final play of the first half against Arizona State when the Sun Devils' kickoff return specialist Kyle Middlebrooks was pulled down on the 1-yard line after a 95-yard return.

Dezmen Southward and Shelton Johnson combined on the touchdown-saving play. Southward slowed down Middlebrooks just enough to allow Johnson to catch-up with him and make the tackle.

"Don't know how sexy that was," Bielema conceded. "But it was a huge play."

There were many such plays this past season.

In the Ohio State game, if quarterback Scott Tolzien doesn't complete a 20-yard pass to wide receiver Nick Toon on third-and-3 from the UW 34, the Badgers would have been forced to punt.

The Buckeyes had just driven 94 yards on 19 plays for a touchdown and two-point conversation to cut into Wisconsin's lead, 21-18, with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

The clutch pitch-and-catch between Tolzien and Toon kept the series alive for the Badgers, who would counter-punch with a 10-play, 73-yard march, culminating with White's scoring run.

In the Iowa game, Tolzien completed a 7-yard pass to Ball on fourth-and-4 from the Hawkeyes' 34. That was not as sexy as Nortman's fake punt on fourth-and-4 from the UW 26 earlier on the series.

But it was a huge play - one of many during this championship season. "As a coach, you file away all of those memories," Bielema said, "and you draw upon them in the future."

Speaking of memories, Bielema has not forgotten what it felt like to walk on to the plush grass of the Rose Bowl when he was a nose tackle for the Hawkeyes. "The field is second to none," he said.

The University of Washington, led by quarterback Mark Brunell, beat Iowa, 46-34, in the 1991 Rose Bowl. "You never forget the pageantry or how beautiful and majestic it seems," Bielema said.

A year ago, UW athletic director Barry Alvarez was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame and Bielema accompanied him and watched the Ohio State-Oregon game from the sidelines.

"I was standing there and I heard someone yelling my name," Bielema recounted. "I turned and it was O'Brien Schofield (the former UW defensive end). I ran over to him and gave him a big hug. He said to me, 'Coach, we've got to get them here.'"

Schofield was talking about them - the Badgers who appear destined to play TCU in the Rose Bowl though Bielema has been reluctant to talk about any such matchup until it becomes official.

Monday night, Bielema addressed his players.

"I gave them a calendar a month ago," he said. "And I showed them how we needed to work through it and how important our daily preparation would be. I had to get the kids to buy into it. I had to make them understand it was not just a whim - that it would work and good things could happen.

"We didn't jump to Northwestern when we were playing Purdue. We didn't do anything but handle the task at hand - from day to day, from week to week. We didn't have the Big Ten championship as a goal as much as we concentrated and focused on our daily approach."

How did it turn out? The results will be celebrated Friday night at the Kohl Center.
ON WISCONSIN