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November 2011 Archives

Ball claims fourth Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honor


For the fourth time in his record-breaking junior season, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball has been named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.

Ball earned the honor for the second-consecutive week, and the four weekly awards Ball has claimed this season rank as the second-most by any player in a single season in conference history.

Combined with the three Offensive Player of the Week awards earned by senior QB Russell Wilson, the Badgers secured seven weekly offensive honors in 12 weeks this season.

Ball shares the title this week as co-offensive player of the week alongside Michigan QB Denard Robinson.

Ball extended his Big Ten single-season record to 34 total touchdowns by rushing for four scores in the Badgers' 45-7 win over Penn State on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. The Wentzville, Mo., native carried 25 times and finished with 156 yards to go along with the fourth four-touchdown game of his career.

Ball now has 27 rushing TDs on the year -- also a Big Ten single-season record.

By scoring multiple touchdowns for the 12th-cosnecutive game, Ball broke the NCAA record for consecutive multi-TD games held by Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders. He also is closing in on Sanders' single-season touchdowns record, which was set at 39 in 1988.

In all, Ball has scored at least one touchdown in 18 straight games.

Thansgiving, Badger style

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For much of the country, Thanksgiving means spending time with family, watching NFL games on TV and eating copious amounts of food. For a number of Wisconsin student-athletes, coaches and staff members, Thanksgiving bore a striking resemblance to "Thursday" on their daily schedules.

That's not to say they didn't celebrate the holiday, just that it may have been in a slightly different fashion than most people are used to.

For the second year in a row, the Badger football team is hosting a football game on Thanksgiving weekend with enormous ramifications on the Big Ten race. Last year, UW pounded Northwestern on its way to earning a share of the Big Ten title. This Saturday, Wisconsin and Penn State meet to determine the Leaders Division representative in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship game.

Because of that, the Badgers had a regular practice on Thursday, although a little earlier in the day. The early start time allowed those players who live locally (more than 50 players on the roster from Wisconsin) to get home for a quick Thanksgiving meal. For those not so fortunate or those choosing to spend it with their other "family," the team dined at Samba, an all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse in downtown Madison. Hopefully they ordered some extra beef for the evening.

MBB_1.JPGAs you can see from the photos, the men's basketball team also ate as a team today. The Badgers are in Hoffman Estates, Ill., getting ready to play Bradley on Friday in the Chicago Invitational Challenge. After practicing at the Sears Centre, UW headed back to the team hotel for a little turkey and stuffing. It may not be as exotic as the Thanksgiving meal we had in South Padre Island in 2006 but I'm sure there was plenty of good food for the guys tonight.

The women's basketball team is also on the road, albeit a little further from Madison than Chicago. After playing at BYU on Wednesday, the Badgers are in Boulder, Colo., as they prepare to take on Montana State on Friday in the Colorado Omni Classic. They also practiced earlier in the day and had a team "feast" at the hotel. As you can see from the photo below, it looks like a good time was had by all. In addition to the video above, check out some other WBB players talking about what they're thankful for.

WBB.JPGBoth UW hockey teams are at home this weekend, as is the volleyball team. Like the football team, the men's hockey team let players who live close enough go home for a quick meal after practice. Some guys tagged along to eat with their buddies while the rest of the squad ate as a team at the Coliseum.

With six UW teams in action this weekend, their Thanksgiving traditions may have been put on hold. However, Badger fans everywhere are hoping to be thankful for some victories once the weekend comes to a close.

The power of words

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the power of words and the impact they can have on a team.

With a short week of classes, the Badger softball team is lifting and conditioning hard, before Thanksgiving break. There has been a lot of excitement in our offices today, as we celebrate our men's cross country's fifth national championship! They just won the NCAA Cross Country Championship last night. It's been fun to see the trophy and hear stories about the police escort the Badger bus received driving back through Madison last night. We have our final home football game on Saturday, as the Badgers battle for a spot in the new Big Ten Championship title game.

Our team meeting this week is focusing on the power of what we say as teammates. This is such an important message this time of year. As coaches, it's hard not to see our team every day. Our athletes are spending a lot of time studying and working with tutors as we enter the last few weeks of class.

We're giving the team a few quotes from the book, "The Four Agreements," by Don Miguel Ruiz. The book shares ideas on how to be a better person, and teammate. The first agreement is, "Be impeccable with your word". Ruiz states, "Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love."

It's amazing how powerful all of our words can be. What we say as coaches and athletes can inspire, or attack. Our words can motivate, or they can cause people to shut down. All of us have the ability to help create a positive, productive, successful environment within our program. We can create drama, or minimize it with words we choose to use.

In the "Four Agreements", Ruiz goes on to say, "You can measure the impeccability of your word by your level of self-love. How much you love yourself and how you feel about yourself are directly proportionate to the quality and integrity of your word. When you are impeccable with your word, you feel good; you feel happy and at peace."

Our goal in the Wisconsin softball family, is to create a competitive environment where the student-athletes feel challenged, supported and respected. We want our athletes to be successful students and people. Hopefully we all take a moment this holiday season to reflect on how lucky and fortunate we are. Our goal is to use our words to make this softball team, athletics department and university a better, happier, more successful and productive place.

The Voice: Special senior class can leave lasting legacy

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The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgFor a tough dude who grew up on a hog farm and went on to play defensive line in the Big Ten, Bret Bielema can be a softie. The sixth-year Badgers head coach does not hide the fact that he can be sentimental, especially when it comes to his family, close friends and his football team.

This Saturday, the Badgers play their final home game of the season, with the Leaders Division title on the line. The winner of this week's Penn State-Wisconsin game will advance to the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, where a Rose Bowl trip is at stake.

Saturday also is Senior Day, when 21 players will make their final Camp Randall Stadium appearance. This is what makes the head coach's eyes water. It happened a couple of times during his Monday news conference. It has been known to happen when we tape Bielema's TV show. Whenever he talks about players nearing the end of their careers, the farm boy from Prophetstown, Ill., has a difficult time holding back the tears.

"Senior day is going to be very tough here," Bielema said on his show following the win at Illinois. "You are playing the last game at home with a lot of kids that you love, parents that you love, people you have grown close with for four or five years, and you are never going to want to say goodbye."

As the seniors run on to the field, one-by-one, there is a good chance that Bielema will not be the only person in need of a hanky.  

As is generally the case, this senior class is made up of an interesting mix of young men, each with his own story, and each has made his mark on the Wisconsin program. I can only sit back and admire someone like Josh Oglesby, who has endured six knee surgeries and continues to suit up every week. Had he decided to give up the game, there would have been no shame, but he kept pushing. He remains an important part of the Badgers' offensive line.

Imagine what it is like to be Nick Toon. To the credit of his father, Al, who will be this week's honorary captain, it always has been important for Nick to carve his own niche. Nick is very proud of his father's accomplishments, on and off the field, but clearly Nick has made a name for himself, as well.

The list goes on and on. Bradie Ewing could have pursued a college basketball career, but luckily for Bielema, the Richland Center native chose football, and after battling through his own lousy luck with injuries, has turned into a standout fullback who might be best known for his crushing block that helped David Gilreath score on the opening kickoff in last year's game with Ohio State.

There is long snapper Kyle Wojta, who last October tore his ACL. It was the week of the Ohio State game. Bad knee and all, there was no way he was going to miss that game, or any game for that matter. He continued to snap on field goals and extra points the rest of the season, and this year has returned to his role of snapping on both kicks and punts. Maybe you do not know the name Kyle Wojta. That is good. Long snappers thrive on keeping a low profile. He has, which means he is very good at what he does.

For both teams, emotions will be running high Saturday. From strictly a football standpoint, this Wisconsin squad has had to fight through its share of adversity, and it has done so with distinction. After losing back-to-back games in heartbreaking fashion, it would be easy to point fingers. This team seem to have avoided that trap, and a conference title remains in play.

Everybody loves a rivalry game at the end of the season. There will be plenty of those this weekend. In time, perhaps the Badgers and Penn State will turn into a good rivalry, as well.

In the meantime, rivalry or not, this is the Big Ten's Big Show for the week. The winner gets to play on an even bigger stage the following week.

Not a bad storyline for senior day.

And now for Montee Ball's resume

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Total Touchdowns
1. Montee Ball, Wisconsin 30
T4. Trent Richardson, Alabama
T8. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska
T12. LaMichael James, Oregon
T17. Marcus Coker, Iowa
NR. David Wilson, Virginia Tech

Rushing Yards

2. Montee Ball, Wisconsin 1,466
3. David Wilson, Virginia Tech
4. Trent Richardson, Alabama
7. Marcus Coker, Iowa 1,295
9. LaMichael James, Oregon 1,285
22. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska

Yards Per Carry (min. 100 carries)

4. LaMichael James, Oregon 7.4
13. Montee Ball, Wisconsin 6.6
15. David Wilson, Virginia Tech 6.2
25. Trent Richardson, Alabama 5.9
71. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska 5.0
74. Marcus Coker, Iowa 5.0

Total Rush & Receiving Yds Among RBs

2. Trent Richardson, Alabama 1,702
3. Montee Ball, Wisconsin 1,699
5. David Wilson, Virginia Tech 1,549
9. LaMichael James, Oregon 1,465
12. Marcus Coker, Iowa 1,415
21. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska 1,238

Touches Per TD

Montee Ball, Wisconsin 8.0
Trent Richardson, Alabama 12.0
LaMichael James, Oregon 13.1
Rex Burkhead, Nebraska 14.9
Marcus Coker, Iowa 20.0
David Wilson, Virginia Tech 31.0

Total Rushing Yards Lost

Montee Ball, Wisconsin 23
Marcus Coker, Iowa 31
Rex Burkhead, Nebraska 44
LaMichael James, Oregon 47
Trent Richardson, Alabama 56
David Wilson, Virginia Tech 89

Rushing yards per game vs. FBS teams

Montee Ball, Wisconsin 137.8
David Wilson, Virginia Tech 128.0
Marcus Coker, Iowa 125.6
Trent Richardson, Alabama 120.5
LaMichael James, Oregon 108.1
Rex Burkhead, Nebraska 103.3
On Oct. 16, 2010, the Badgers rolled up 184 rushing yards against a rush defense ranked fourth in the country, toppling No. 1 Ohio State, 31-18. Montee Ball never left the sideline.

In the two weeks prior, a loss at Michigan State and a home win against Minnesota, Ball carried a total of five times for 16 yards.

Heading into a road game with No. 12 Iowa, Ball's last significant action had come in the fourth quarter of a 70-3 win over Austin Peay. But in the second quarter of the Iowa game, with the Badgers trailing 6-3, freshman sensation James White went down with a knee injury.

On his first play from scrimmage, a 3rd-and-12 from the Iowa 21-yard line, Ball took a shovel pass from Scott Tolzien and scampered 14 yards for a key first down. On the next play, Tolzien hit Bradie Ewing for a TD to put the Badgers back on top.

Starter John Clay continued to get most of the reps at tailback but Ball was called upon at key times. None bigger than the Badgers' final drive. He caught a fourth-down pass to help keep the drive alive, but his biggest play was an 8-yard run that punctuated the drive and gave the Badgers the lead. Seemingly carrying the entire Iowa defense on his back, Ball has first hit around the 5-yard line but just kept churning and reaching, finally stretching his arm across the goal line with 1:06 left in the game.

Since that point, Ball has been on one of the most remarkable runs (pun not intended) in Badger history. He ran for at least 127 yards in each of the final five games of 2010, including 132 against the No. 3 rush defense in the country, TCU, in the Rose Bowl. He also scored 14 TDs in those five games.

In 2011, Ball has reached an even higher standard. He leads the NCAA with 30 total TDs. He is just the fifth player in FBS history to score at least 30 touchdowns in a season and has a shot to reach the NCAA record of 39 set by Barry Sanders in 1988. Ball has already broken the Wisconsin and Big Ten records for touchdowns in a season and is averaging a touchdown every 8.0 times he touches the ball.

Ball is averaging 133.3 yards per game and ranks second in the country with 1,466 yards on the ground (just two yards behind the NCAA leader). He is even better during Big Ten play, averaging 158.0 yards per game. That's the best average for any RB in one of the six BCS conferences during league play.

Instead of "MoneyBall" Montee's nickname should probably be "Mr. November." In the last three weeks Ball has run for 613 yards, an average of 204.3 per game. In four November games last season, he averaged 161.3 yards.

Ball has also raised his game against the top competition. In three games against teams ranked among the top 16 in the country in total defense (Michigan State, Ohio State and Illinois), he has averaged 141.3 rushing yards, 159.0 all-purpose yards and scored seven touchdowns (four rushing, three receiving).

An added dimension this season for Ball has been his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He ranks fourth on UW with 233 receiving yards and has caught five TD passes. His total of 1,699 rushing and receiving yards ranks third in the country among RBs.

As the season winds down and the national and conference award races heat up, the names that continually pop up on the national scene are Ball, Richardson (Alabama), James (Oregon) and Wilson (Virginia Tech). Within the Big Ten, Nebraska's Rex Burkhead and Iowa's Marcus Coker are having great years as well.

And with the Heisman Trophy race wide open, "MoneyBall" seems to be playing his way into that conversation as well.

Wilson picks up third Big Ten Player of the Week award

FB_111114_Wilson_Russell.jpgHe wasn't quite perfect, but Russell Wilson's nearly-spotless performance Saturday against Minnesota was enough to earn the Badgers quarterback his third Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week award this season.

Wilson completed 16 of 17 passes for 178 yards and four touchdowns as the Badgers cruised past Minnesota, 42-13, in Minneapolis. He connected on his first 16 throws before a long pass to Nick Toon was broken up in the third quarter.

His 94.1 completion percentage ranks as the fourth-highest in a game in Big Ten history.

The honor ties Wilson with RB Ron Dayne for the second-most Big Ten weekly awards by a UW player in a single season, as Dayne picked up three weekly conference honors as a freshman in 1996. He also claimed four awards as a senior in 1999, the highest single-season total in Badgers history.

Wilson's nod gives the Badgers a total of five offensive honors this season, with RB Montee Ball also picking up a pair of weekly awards.

Wilson's ultra-efficient work Saturday improved his nation-leading mark in passing efficiency to 201.6, well ahead of the NCAA record of 186.0 set by Hawaii's Colt Brennan in 2006. Wilson also leads the nation in yards per attempt (11.1) and yards per completion (15.1) as well as yards of total offense per play (9.9.).

A semifinalist for both the Davey O'Brien Award and Maxwell Award, you can read more about Wilson's place among the nation's best in this blog post.

The case for Russell Wilson


Pass Efficiency
1. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin 201.6
2. Case Keenum, Houston 193.4
3. Robert Griffin III, Baylor 188.6
4. Kellen Moore, Boise State 177.2
5. Andrew Luck, Stanford 169.0
8. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State 164.2
15. Landry Jones, Oklahoma 155.1
17. Matt Barkley, USC 152.5

Completion Percentage

1. Case Keenum, Houston 74.2
2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor 74.2
3. Kellen Moore, Boise State 74.1
4. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin 73.4
5. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State 73.1
7. Andrew Luck, Stanford 70.6
19. Matt Barkley, USC 66.8
27. Landry Jones, Oklahoma 64.6

Yards Per Attempt

1. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin 11.1
2. Case Keenum, Houston 10.5
3. Robert Griffin III, Baylor 10.2
11. Andrew Luck, Stanford 8.6
12. Kellen Moore, Boise State 8.6
14. Landry Jones, Oklahoma 8.5
15. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State 8.5
49. Matt Barkley, USC 7.5

Yards Per Completion (Min. 100 Comp.)

1. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin 15.1
3. Case Keenum, Houston 14.2
4. Robert Griffin III, Baylor 13.8
16. Landry Jones, Oklahoma 13.2
38. Andrew Luck, Stanford 12.2
53. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State 11.6
54. Kellen Moore, Boise State 11.6
64. Matt Barkley, USC 11.3

Yards Per Play (Total Offense)

1. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin 9.9
2. Case Keenum, Houston 9.7
4. Robert Griffin III, Baylor 8.5
5. Landry Jones, Oklahoma 8.2
7. Andrew Luck, Stanford 8.2
8. Kellen Moore, Boise State 8.1
9. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State 8.0
23. Matt Barkley, USC 7.1

TD Percentage (TDs/Attempt)

1. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin 11.5%
3. Kellen Moore, Boise State 10.4%
5. Case Keenum, Houston 9.8%
6. Robert Griffin III, Baylor 9.6%
7. Andrew Luck, Stanford 9.3%
14. Matt Barkley, USC 7.8%
19. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State 7.2%
21. Landry Jones, Oklahoma 7.1%

TD-INT Ratio (Min. 20 TDs)

1. Case Keenum, Houston 37-3 (12.3)
2. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin 25-3 (8.3)
3. Kellen Moore, Boise State 31-5 (6.2)
4. Robert Griffin III, Baylor 29-5 (5.8)
6. Matt Barkley, USC 29-6 (4.8)
10. Andrew Luck, Stanford 29-7 (4.1)
15. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State 31-9 (3.4)
19. Landry Jones, Oklahoma 28-9 (3.1)

Average Rank of Defenses Faced
(FBS Only - Total Defense)
-- Matt Barkley, USC
  Games left: #63 Oregon, #87 UCLA
-- Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
  Games left: #9 Illinois, #8 Penn State
-- Kellen Moore, Boise State
  Games left: #105 Wyoming, #117 New Mexico
-- Landry Jones, Oklahoma
  Games left: #110 Baylor, #91 Iowa State,
  #101 Oklahoma State
-- Andrew Luck, Stanford
  Games left: #16 California, #36 Notre Dame
-- Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
  Games left: #91 Iowa State, #46 Oklahoma
-- Robert Griffin III, Baylor
  Games left: #46 Oklahoma, #113 Texas Tech,
  #14 Texas
-- Case Keenum, Houston
  Games left: #33 SMU and #79 Tulsa
It started with a bang. On national TV, the opening night of the college football season, Russell Wilson burst onto the national scene by doing just about everything right in his Badger debut, a 51-17 win over UNLV. The buzz was instantaneous.

He showed up on the front pages of ESPN.com, SI.com and Yahoo.com, among others. Wilson and the Badgers breezed through the rest of the non-conference schedule, UW's offense putting up huge numbers with Wilson directing it all.

At the beginning of October, the Badgers were 4-0, ranked seventh in the country and Wilson and his unique story were making national headlines. The eyes of the college football world descended upon Madison that first weekend of October for No. 8 Nebraska's first-ever Big Ten game. ESPN College GameDay was there and the game was on primetime on ABC.

Wilson responded with probably his best game up to that point, starting with his opening pass when he sidestepped an unblocked Jared Crick and uncorked a 21-yard completion to Jared Abbrederis to convert a third down. He finished the game 14-of-20 for 255 yards and two TDs while also running for 32 yards and another score as the Badgers rolled to a 48-17 win.

The next week, Wilson was at or near the top of every Heisman Watch. RussellManiaXVI was launched and picking up steam. A bye week was followed by a rout of Indiana, in which Wilson CAUGHT a TD pass that made all the highlight shows. Things were good, especially with two primetime showcase games on the horizon.

But RussellMania hit an unexpected bump. Things started out well enough, as the Badgers dominated the first quarter and jumped out to 14-0 lead at Michigan State. A disastrous second quarter put the Badgers in a hole, one that Wilson nearly pulled them out of. Down 31-17 with less than 10 minutes left in the game, he ran for a TD and threw for another as UW tied the game with 1:26 left. I think we all remember what happened next.

The next week, at Ohio State, a familiar script played out. Wisconsin jumped out to a first-half lead, Ohio State dominated the third quarter and Wilson led a furious comeback. This time, he threw two TD passes and added a 2-point conversion in the final four minutes to give the Badgers a 3-point lead. Once again, I think we all know how the game ended.

His fourth quarter numbers in those two games: 10-of-19 for 173 yards, three TDs and one interception (pass efficiency of 170.7). That pass efficiency would rank fifth in the country (ahead of Luck, Weeden, Jones and Barkley). Add to that a rushing TD and a completed two-point conversion pass.

As you can guess, the two losses not only dropped the Badgers down the national polls but also derailed RussellMania. Fair or not, many of the national awards, chief among them the Heisman Trophy, have a lot to do with which teams win games. I've been around long enough to understand that. I also know that if we had held on to win the Ohio State game, Wilson would have been hailed for leading an unbelievable comeback and been talked about with all the other frontrunners.

And that's the reason for this blog. I realize that this year's quarterback class is one of the best in recent years. Each week it seems a new QB pushes himself into the national spotlight with an outstanding performance.

After 11 weeks, though, it seems as though a group has separated itself at the top. The QBs who are most often discussed are Wilson, Andrew Luck (Stanford), Kellen Moore (Boise State), Landry Jones (Oklahoma), Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State), Case Keenum (Houston), Matt Barkley (USC) and Robert Griffin III (Baylor). It's a terrific QB class and is seems as though each on has "won" the Heisman at some point or another this year.

The thing that I think separates Wilson from the others is his efficiency. He ranks 81st in the country in pass attempts. While the other seven QBs mentioned above all throw the ball at least 31 times a game, Wilson is averaging 21.8 pass attempts per game. So in order to be successful, the emphasis at Wisconsin is placed on efficiency at the QB position. And Wilson has taken the word to a whole different level this season.

He leads the country and is on pace to break the NCAA record in pass efficiency. With yesterday's performance at Minnesota, that number is at an other-worldly 201.6. He is also on pace to break the NCAA records for yards per attempt and yards per play. His yards per completion are also the best in the nation and nearly a full yard better than Keenum, who is second. Wilson is on pace to become only the fourth QB in Big Ten history to throw at least 30 TD passes in a season despite only attempting 21.8 passes a game.

The quality of defenses Russell has faced also measures up favorably against the other QBs. Wisconsin has played five teams that are ranked among the top 70 in total defense. That's compared to just one for Baylor, two for Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Houston (none higher than 57), and three for Boise State and Stanford (none ranked higher than 49). USC and Barkley have also faced five teams among the top 70.

There's still two games left and for the Badgers and that means facing two defenses ranked in the national top 10. My hope is that the folks who vote for the national awards take all the numbers (wins and losses included) into consideration and let the season play out before leaving Wilson off any ballot he may be deserving of.

Lucas at Large: Ball means more than big numbers to Badgers


When Marcus Cromartie was informed of the number, he did a double-take.

The number was 24.

Shaking his head, the Wisconsin cornerback conceded, "Wow, I honestly didn't know that.''

Cromartie paused to reflect on the number before continuing.

"I just know that he's in there a lot,'' he finally said.

"In there'' is the end zone.

Montee Ball has been "in there'' a lot -- 24 times through nine games.

That matches the school record set by tailback Brian Calhoun in 2005. For perspective, Ron Dayne had 21 touchdowns in 1996 and 20 in '99 -- the year that he won the Heisman Trophy.

Ball is two touchdowns shy of the Big Ten record which is shared by three prominent former running backs: Ohio State's Pete Johnson, Indiana's Anthony Thompson and Penn State's Ki-Jana Carter.

(Note: In 2006, Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan threw for 58 touchdowns, the NCAA record. In 1988, Oklahoma State tailback Barry Sanders had 39 touchdowns in 11 games.)

"Whenever I'm sitting on the bench and getting a breather or the coaches are talking to us about some adjustments,'' Cromartie said, ''when I hear, 'Touchdown' I know it's Montee.

"He just has a knack for the end zone.''

Having a "nose for the end zone or the goal line'' is an old sports cliché. But it would seem to be a fair assessment on how Ball has accounted for 46 touchdowns in 30 career games (13 starts).

"I'm surprised Montee doesn't have more touchdowns; he's extremely talented,'' said quarterback Russell Wilson. "You notice that on the practice field and in the film room.

"He always wants the ball in his hands and that's a great thing to have in terms of a running back that can make big time plays when things aren't necessarily always there.''

When UW coach Bret Bielema was an assistant at Kansas State, he came to appreciate the running talents and work habits of Darren Sproles. Ball has reminded Bielema of Sproles.

"I loved the kid (Sproles) and his competitive nature and I knew he'd have success,'' Bielema said. "It reminds me a lot of Montee's personality; just the vibe that he can give an entire team.''

Ball has definitely shown a presence in the red zone; dating to the late game-winning touchdown that he scored at Iowa last season. That gave him a huge confidence boost.

"I think he does know where he's at on the field,'' said UW running backs coach Thomas Hammock. "What I've tried to explain to him is if it's third-and-short it should be the same mentality.

"That's something that he has to continue to work on. We're third-and-short (in the first half) at Ohio State and we don't get it. If that was a goal line, would he have scored?

"That's how you have to have the same sense of urgency every time you carry the ball.''

In practice, Ball will "run out'' every run. Bielema remembered hearing how the late Walter Payton programmed himself to finish every run by running an extra 40 yards in drills.

Payton preached running with long strides and extended legs.

"The coaches have stressed with Montee,'' Cromartie said, "to keep running through to the end zone even if he gets tapped after a five yard gain in practice.

"That carries over to games. You want to get into the habit of running through things.''

In non-tackling drills, the tap from a defensive player signifies that the runner is down.

"I truly believe what you do in practice you do in a game,'' Hammock said. "You look at the Purdue game, he made a couple of guys miss at the second level and was running physical.

"He was also finishing runs, which is something that he has to continue to do. It's a week-by-week thing. Some weeks may not be as good as others.''

Cromartie can relate to that last point. After enduring some rough moments at Michigan State and Ohio State, he had one of his better all-around games against the Boilermakers last Saturday.

Cromartie subscribes to an old John Wooden quote:

"Success is never final and failure is never fatal.''

Wooden had a way with words.

"You have to go through hard times,'' Cromartie said, "and you will see good times at the end of the road. Part of football is having good days and bad days, the ups and the downs.

"As long as you keep competing, you're going to be OK in the end.''

On successive defensive possessions against the Boilermakers, Cromartie attacked the ball aggressively and broke up passes to wide receivers that could have kept the drives alive.

Along the Purdue sidelines, coaches and players were chirping for pass interference.

There were no flags.

"A lot of times they're trying to take the physicality out of football,'' Cromartie said. "But I was looking for the ball, I was going for the ball and I was trying to make a play on the ball.''

Opposing defenses have taken the same steps on the Ball with little success -- Montee Ball.

"I'm happy to see him do well after everything he went through last year,'' Cromartie said.

"Saturday is the reward for all the hard work that he has put in,'' said Hammock.

"The way he's wired has just kind of been special,'' Bielema said.

NBA All-Stars Finley, Harris jump into UW's practice

Finley_Harris_Ryan2b.jpgThere just might be a silver lining to the NBA lockout.

With the NBA season on hold while players and owners negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, unexpected free time has become available for league employees and players. Some players have participated in Pro Am or exhibition games, others (like Jon Leuer) have chosen to play in Europe.

In the case of former Badgers Devin Harris and Michael Finley, they have used the NBA lockout to re-connect with their alma mater. Harris is taking classes this semester to get closer to obtaining his UW degree. Finley has established an endowed scholarship at Wisconsin.

With both NBA All-Stars on campus last weekend, Bo Ryan invited them to stop by the Kohl Center and practice with the team.

Finley, Harris practice with the Badgers:  VIDEO  |  PHOTOS

"It was fun to play against these young guys at Wisconsin," Finley said. "Coach Ryan opened the doors for me, not only here at the University, but as his house as well. So I'm going to keep him to that when I need a place to stay out here."

"It was good to get back and see the coaches and see the players," Harris added. "It's good to actually get some running and some practice in with the fellow Badgers."

Dressed in team-issued practice gear, Finley and Harris went through practice just like every other member of the team, participating in passing drills, situational work and 5-on-5 full court games.

Treated like every member of the team, Finley and Harris were not exempt from doing sit-ups with the team after a missed a free throw at the end of practice.

All eyes were trained on the entertaining match-up of UW's past All-American, Harris, against this year's version, Jordan Taylor. Another noteworthy head-to-head battle featured the 38-year old Finley facing 18-year old Traevon Jackson. Finley was teammates with Jackson's father, Jimmy, on the Dallas Mavericks.

"I played with Jimmy. For as much as Jimmy took at me in practice, I'm taking it at Trae as much as I can," Finley joked.

Harris, who was traded to the Utah Jazz in the middle of last season, said he's anxious to get back to Utah and start up the season. Finley, who most recently spent time with the Boston Celtics during the 2009-10 season, said he still has an interest in playing and if a team calls, he'll be ready.

For now though, both Finley and Harris are enjoying their productive down time and being back in the Cardinal and White.

"This University will always have a special place in my heart, and it helped me become what I am today," Finley said. "I like this year's team, too. I've watched them throughout the last couple years and it's fun to get out here and compete. It's good to be home."

WCHA Women's Notebook (Nov. 9, 2011)

Welcome to this week's installment of the WCHA Women's notebook. Each week Ross LaDue from the UW Athletic Communications office will break down the past weekend of action in the women's side of the WCHA and preview the coming weekend.

Three of the four series this past weekend resulted in sweeps as North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin all claimed two wins. Bemidji State was upset in overtime against Minnesota State, but the Beavers salvaged the weekend split. A couple players were missing as Team Canada called-up its team in order to prepare for the Four Nations Cup taking place in Sweden this weekend. Because of the international tournament, seven of the eight teams in the WCHA will remain idle this weekend. The only item on the docket is Bemidji State playing one game against Lindenwood on Thursday.

Weekend Recap

No. 7 North Dakota at St. Cloud State
No surprises in this series as the Sioux skated to two fairly easy victories. I expected St. Cloud State to net a couple of goals and they did just that, they even had a 1-1 game going for the majority of the first period on Friday. After UND scored to take a 1-0 lead, the Huskies answered back within 21 seconds to tie the game up. Unfortunately for St. Cloud State they wouldn't get any closer than that for the rest of the weekend. UND would win by scores of 6-2 and 5-1.

North Dakota notes: The line of Monique Lamoureux-Kolls, Jocelyne Lamoureux and Michelle Karvinen had another great weekend together. They accounted for five of the six goals on Friday, but only one of five on Saturday. Monique Weber and Allison Parizek were the only other two UND players to record multiple point games on the weekend. A total of seven players in addition to Lamoureux-Kolls, Lamouruex and Karivine tallied points for UND on the weekend as the Sioux are starting to show some depth in their lines. Stephanie Ney played in net on Friday making 22 stops, while Jorid Dagfinrud made her second start of the season on Saturday and made 19 saves.

St. Cloud State notes: Abby Ness, Molli Mott and Brittany Toor combined for two goals on the weekend, with Mott scoring Saturday's lone goal and Ness scoring the second SCSU goal on Friday. Tayler VanDenakker played both games in net for the Huskies and made a total of 65 saves in the 120 minutes of action.

No. 3 Minnesota at No. 4 Minnesota Duluth
I expected a close series between the two teams and after Minnesota took the first game, Minnesota Duluth nearly forced a split on Saturday. UMD jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Friday, but three-straight Minnesota goals would doom the Bulldogs as the Gophers scored an empty netter just seven seconds after UMD opted for an extra attacker to clinch a 4-1 win. Saturday saw Minnesota jump out to a 1-0 lead within the first minute and that would hurt the Bulldogs. A late rally by UMD fell short and the Gophers finished the sweep by a score of 3-2.

Minnesota notes: Amanda Kessel and Jen Schoullis had strong weekends for the Gophers. Kessel assisted on both game-winning goals, while Schoullis scored three of the seven goals on the weekend. Minnesota received offensive support from the blue line on Friday as both Anne Schleper and Megan Bozek had two assists, while Bozek also scored a goal. Goaltender Noora Räty posted her third sweep over a WCHA team this season, making 42 saves on 45 shots for a .933 save percentage.

Minnesota Duluth notes: The Bulldogs top three scorers, Audrey Cournoyer, Katherine Wilson and Jessica Wong were held to a combined one point on the weekend as Wong tallied one assist. Senior Haley Irwin was not in attendance for the series as Team Canada called-up its players to prepare for the Four Nations Cup. Top newcomer Jenna McParland was also kept off the score sheet in both games. Jenny Harss had a solid weekend in net, but the Gophers proved to be too tough and her 66 saves weren't enough for a Bulldog win.

No. 10 Bemidji State at Minnesota State
I knew Minnesota State would play Bemidji State well, but I wasn't expecting anything less than a sweep for Bemidji State. In their first-ever game with a national ranking, the Beavers faltered and dropped a decision in overtime to the Mavericks. Minnesota State out-shot Bemidji State, 31-21, in the upset and scored with 17 seconds remaining in overtime to pick up their fifth win of the season. Rebounding on Saturday, Bemidji State shut out the Mavericks, but the scoring woes continued as the Beavers only managed a 1-0 win.

Bemidji State notes: The Beavers were missing one of their top forwards in Emily Erickson due to an injury. Even with that in mind, Bemidji State lacked any scoring from their other top goal producers in Sadie Lundquist and Montana Vichorek. Mackenzie Thurston was the only BSU player to record multiple points on the weekend. While the scoring may have struggled, goaltending was not a problem as Zuzana Tomcikova made 52 saves on the weekend with a .963 save percentage.

Minnesota State notes: Ariel Mackley scored the OT-goal, while Kari Lundberg scored the first goal of the game on Friday. Alli Altmann played in net on Friday and recorded 20 saves for her fourth win of the season. Danielle Butters played in goal on Saturday and made a season-high 31 saves in the 1-0 loss.

No. 1 Wisconsin at Ohio State
The Buckeyes always seem to play the Badgers well at the OSU Ice Rink and this past weekend was no exception. While the Badgers did walk away with the weekend sweep, it was no cake walk. A combination of a high-pressure forecheck and the small ice surface seemed to bottle-neck Wisconsin at times. After UW opened the scoring on Friday night, OSU responded to make it 1-1. However that would be the last goal for the Buckeyes all weekend as the Badgers netted four consecutive goals to close out the weekend with 3-1 and 2-0 scores. Ohio State out-shot Wisconsin on Saturday, behind a third period rush of 16 shots on goal, but the Badgers remained unfazed and picked up their second win while being out-shot this season.

Wisconsin notes: Alex Rigsby was the Badgers' best player over the weekend as she shut down the Ohio State power play, killing off all eight OSU man advantages. Rigsby made 55 saves on 56 shots to post the best goaltending stats in the conference over the weekend. Newcomers Blayre Turnbull and Karley Sylvester both recorded goals on Friday, while Hilary Knight tallied the game-winner. On Saturday, Brooke Ammerman scored both goals in the 2-0 win.

Ohio State notes: Kayla Sullivan scored the lone goal on the weekend with Taylor Kuehl and Danielle Gagne recording the assists. Lisa Steffes made her third consecutive start and made 29 saves in the 3-1 loss on Friday. Chelsea Knapp made her first appearance in between the pipes since the North Dakota series on Dec. 21-22. Knapp played well and recorded 24 saves.

Possible WCHA Player of the Week winners (in order of likeliness):
This week's potential Offensive Player of the Week may be a bit of a tossup. Both Amanda Kessel and Jocelyne Lamoureux had great weekends as Minnesota and North Dakota swept their WCHA opponents. Kessel's performance stands out a bit more as she tallied assists on both game-winning goals against Minnesota Duluth. Lamoureux put up one more point than Kessel, though it was against a weaker St. Cloud State team. Brooke Ammerman also had a decent weekend, with a hand in both game-winning goals against Ohio State.

For Defensive Player of the Week it's hard to look past Alex Rigsby's performance at Ohio State, a total of 55 stops on 56 shots in a sweep over the Buckeyes. Minnesota's goaltender Noora Räty did well in net for the Gophers against Minnesota Duluth, making 42 saves on 45 shots. North Dakota's Candace Molle assisted on a game-winner against St. Cloud State. Bemidji State's goaltender Zuzana Tomcikvoa had another great performance in net for the Beavers, but Bemidji State being unable to pull off the sweep will hurt her chances.

Rookie of the Week looks to be going back to UND's Michelle Karvinen who led the Sioux in scoring against the Huskies. In a five-point night, she netted the game-winner on Friday. Wisconsin's Blayre Turnbull scored a shorthanded goal against the Buckeyes as the Badgers swept in Ohio. None of the newcomers at Minnesota put up any numbers this weekend. UMD's Brigette Lacquette had two points, but being swept by the Gophers may hurt her chances.

Offensive Player of the Week
Amanda Kessel (UM) - 5 points (1G, 4A), 2 game-winning assists vs UMD, 10 shots, +4 plus/minus
Jocelyne Lamoureux (UND) - 6 points (2G, 4A), two wins vs SCSU, seven shots, +4 plus/minus
Brooke Ammerman (UW) - 3 points  (2G, 1A), 1 game-winning goal and assist vs OSU, 8 shots, +2 plus/minus

Defensive Player of the Week
Alex Rigsby (UW) - 55 saves, 1 goal against, .982 save percentage, 2 wins vs OSU, 1 shutout
Noora Räty (UM) - 42 saves, 3 goals against, .933 save percentage, 2 wins vs UMD
Candace Molle (UND) - 2 points (1G, 1A), 1 game-winning assist, 2 wins vs SCSU, 4 shots, +3 plus/minus
Zuzana Tomcikova (BSU) - 52 saves, 2 goals against, .963 save percentage, 1 win vs MSU, 1 shutout

Rookie of the Week
Michelle Karvinen (UND) - 6 points (2G, 4A), 1 game-winning goal, 2 wins vs SCSU, 7 shots, +4 plus/minus
Blayre Turnbull (UW) - 1 point (1G, 0A), 1 short-handed goal, 2 wins vs OSU, 2 shots, +1 plus/minus
Brigette Lacquette (UMD) - 2 points (1G, 1A), 4 shots, even plus/minus

Looking Forward

Lindenwood vs Bemidji State (at Eveleth, Minn., Nov. 10)
This will be a single-game match up instead of a normal two-game series and it will be played in Eveleth, Minn., at the Hippodrome. Even with this game being away from the comfy confines of the Sanford Center, the Beavers should skate to an easy victory. Excluding a close 4-3 loss to Minnesota State, Lindenwood has lost to DI opponents this season by a combined score of 85-9. The struggling team from St. Charles, Mo., will surely get better, but I don't see them beating any of their DI opponents this season.

Minnesota State at No. 7 North Dakota (Nov. 18-19)
The Sioux finally return to Ralph Engelstad Arena after almost a month without a home game. North Dakota has put up some blistering numbers on the scoreboard while at home and the series against Minnesota State may be another opportunity for the Sioux to keep on lighting lamp. The Minnesota State goaltending corps is playing well now, but it may be a different story in two weeks. North Dakota should come away with both wins.

Bemidji State at No. 6 Minnesota Duluth (Nov. 19-20)
The Bulldogs are 1-4-1-1 to start off conference action, and I'm not entirely sure, but this could be one of their worst starts in the WCHA. It's not a reflection of the quality of the UMD squad by any means, as the four losses have come against Wisconsin and Minnesota. However, returning home and gaining Haley Irwin back from the Four Nations Cup, Minnesota Duluth will be a very difficult team to beat. If Bemidji State has forward Emily Erickson back from her injury and if the Beavers can play a full 60 minutes of hockey, then they may be able to pull out a win. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see Minnesota Duluth improve to 3-4-1-1 with these games being in Duluth, Minn.

Ohio State at Syracuse (Nov. 18-19)
Syracuse had a great season last year, losing to CHA powerhouse Mercyhurst by one goal in the CHA tournament championship game. However, Syracuse looks a lot weaker this year. Ohio State will have forward Natalie Spooner back and the Buckeyes will be looking to reheat their cold offense they've had lately. The Buckeyes should sweep this series and potentially in high scoring fashion.

St. Cloud State at Niagara (Nov. 18-19)
If these games were in St. Cloud, Minn., I would call for a Husky sweep. However, having to travel all the way to upstate New York may hinder St. Cloud State. This is the last nonconference series for the Huskies and it may be the last chance for them to get a sweep. With this in mind, the games should be fairly close, one or two-goal games. I think the Huskies win at least one, and if they stay focused, they can win both.

New Hampshire at No. 3 Minnesota (Nov. 18-19)
This will be a weekend sweep for the Gophers at home. There's a good possibility that Noora Räty and the Minnesota defense will not allow a single goal on the weekend.

No. 1 Wisconsin at Rensselaer (Nov. 18-19)
The series will serve as the third and fourth meetings between the two teams and the first visit for Wisconsin to Rensselaer. The Badgers will have Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker and Stefanie McKeough back from Four Nations. The Engineers have been struggling this year and for the Badgers to win all they need to do is to continue to play their style of hockey. The biggest challenge for Wisconsin will be staying away from complacency as it heads into the weekend series and not look past RPI.  

The Voice: Badgers not in giving mood with Axe on the line

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgTo some, trophy games might seem a little silly. When we hear the cliche "Throw out the records," we are inclined to chuckle.

Silly, humorous, whatever -- the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe means a ton. Just ask anyone who ever has played or coached in this game. I have said it before and I will say it again -- this is college football's most underrated rivalry. It certainly is not underrated in Wisconsin and Minnesota, where bragging rights, and a victory lap for the players with Axe in hand is part of what makes winning so sweet, and losing so painful.

Wisconsin has won the last seven meetings, but Minnesota leads the all-time series 58-54-8, so yes, this remains very much a rivalry.

For the last two decades, part of the tradition has been the close games in Minneapolis. Wild and crazy tussles were the norm at the Metrodome, and the close encounters continued two years ago at TCF Bank Stadium, as Wisconsin held on for a 31-28 victory.

It is a series where kickers have delivered in the clutch -- Rhys Lloyd for the Gophers (2003) and Vitaly Pisetsky for the Badgers (1999).

Sometimes the big name players make the big plays. In 1995, the Badgers snapped a two-game skid in the series with a 34-27 victory in Minneapolis. Defensive lineman Jason Maniecki had a huge sack in the closing minutes, taking out an offensive lineman and the quarterback in one fell swoop. After the game, linebacker Eric Unverzagt told reporters that the defensive call in the huddle was for "Maniecki to just kill everybody."

Sometimes players who might not be household names emerge. In 1991, it was Melvin Tucker saving the day for Wisconsin by breaking up a pass in the end zone to preserve a 19-16 Badgers victory. It gave Barry Alvarez his first conference win as the Badgers head coach.

The Gophers have had their share of heroes as well. From 1995-97, Tutu Atwell averaged 126 receiving yards a game against Wisconsin. In the 2005 "Miracle at the Metrodome," when the Badgers won on a blocked punt in the final minute, Laurence Maroney ran for 258 yards, including a 93-yard touchdown sprint.

Fans from both sides have seen plenty of amazing performances and dramatic finishes. It makes me wonder what we will see this Saturday.

The Badgers are big favorites to keep the Axe. Those who understand the rivalry are aware that in a series such as this, it is best to take nothing for granted.

This year's Gophers are 1-4 in the Big Ten and just 2-7 overall. However, under first-year coach Jerry Kill, the Gophs are improving. Two weeks ago they rallied from 11 down in the fourth quarter to beat Iowa. Last Saturday in East Lansing, they gave Michigan State all it wanted.

With three games remaining, the Badgers remain very much in the Leaders Division race. Fans will watch the Badgers and the scoreboard, knowing if a few things break the right way, a trip to Indianapolis can happen.

Yet as far as the Wisconsin Badgers are concerned, it is all about the Axe, as well it should be. They have had it for awhile, and the Gophers want it back. My guess is they believe they are playing well enough to take it.

From this side of the border, here is hoping the Badgers are not in a giving mood.

Badger Newcomers: Baer, Horwath, Liegel and Weber

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The Wisconsin wrestling team is full of young talent, featuring eight true freshmen wrestlers.

UWBadgers.com sat down with four newcomers, Frank Baer, Brock Horwath, Scott Liegel and Brandon Weber, to discuss what they have been working on in the wrestling room and how their first year in Wisconsin wrestling is going at UW.

Frank Baer

How is your freshman year going?

"It's going good. It's different from high school, but I'm transitioning well. It's a lot of fun, but wrestling is a lot of work too."

Is there any particular skill that you have picked up in college?

"Overall, my toughness is much better. I went to a pretty tough high school, but this is that much of a higher level."

How does Wisconsin wrestling compare to what you have done in the past?

"There is a demand to go 110 percent every time you are out there."


Brock Horwath

What do you like about Wisconsin wrestling?

"I love that its competitive, a lot more than high school. It's a lot better."

What's the biggest difference between high school and college wrestling?

"The commitment for sure is the biggest difference. In high school, I didn't have morning practices. I like it though."


Scott Liegel

How are practices going so far this year?

"I like the competition in the wrestling room. I'm getting better every day. It's tough, but so far it's going really well."

Is there any wrestler in particular that you love to compete against?

"Everyone around my weight class pushes me. We push each other every day. We have a lot of guys around my weight class that are good. I'll learn from their experience."


Brandon Weber

How is your freshman year going so far?

"It's going great. The biggest thing for me is I really like the guys on the team and the coaches. Day in and day out they're pushing us to be the best we can be."

Has any coach in particular been working with you?

"I've been working a lot with coach (Eric) Bugenhagen, especially with the lifts and our group drills in the morning. He's been pushing me and helping me transition from high school wrestling to college wrestling."

What is the biggest transition from high school to college wrestling?

"I'd say hand fighting and having heavy hands. When you wrestle in high school, you can kind of rest at certain points in the match, but when you get to college, guys are always beating on the head. I think that's one of the things that coach Morningstar stresses the most is being physical on the head so you can wear your opponent down."

How do you like Madison?

"I love the city. It's a ton of fun."

Lucas at Large: Badgers look for another boost from Boilers

FB_111104_Fletcher_Jamar_Purdue_98.jpgDavid Gilbert celebrated his 18th birthday by learning how to fly.

That was 2009; the last time Purdue played Wisconsin in Madison.

Late in the first half, Gilbert, then a true freshman, went airborne and flew over 6-foot-6 Peters Drey -- one of the blockers in the Boilermakers' shield -- and smothered Chris Summers' punt.

Aaron Henry scooped up the ball and ran nine yards for the touchdown. That gave the Badgers a commanding 24-0 lead at halftime. The overwhelmed Boilers never recovered and got skunked 37-0.

Earlier that year, Gilbert had been on the receiving end of punt block when he fell on the ball in the end zone after Chris Borland had leaped over the shield to block a punt against Wofford.

That convincing late October win over Purdue was a turning point in the '09 season for the Badgers, who had lost consecutive games to Ohio State and Iowa before getting back on track.

Wisconsin ended up winning five of its last six, including a bowl victory over Miami (Fla.).

The Badgers are hoping to use the Boilermakers as a springboard again here Saturday.

While Gilbert's punt block was memorable, the game itself was not; it was a rout.

But there have been a handful of memorable games in the Purdue-Wisconsin series.

Here's the short list from Camp Randall Stadium:

Nov. 6, 1971
Wisconsin 14, Purdue 10

Trailing 10-7, the Badgers had the ball on the Boilers' 3-yard-line with no timeouts left and 13 seconds remaining in the game.

"It was a real gamble to go with Allan Thompson up the middle,'' said UW coach John Jardine, who knew if the "A-Train" had been stopped there would not be enough time to run another play.

Not to worry. Quarterback Neil Graff, who had success on his option keepers, finally gave the ball to Thompson on the fullback dive and he scored allowing the Badgers to escape with the victory.

Nov. 10, 1984
Wisconsin 30, Purdue 13

The Badgers exploded for 551 yards of total offense as tailback Marck Harrison ran for 225 and quarterback Mike Howard threw for 290, offsetting the presence of Purdue's All-American Jim Everett.

"I think that's the best team in the Big Ten,'' said Boilermakers coach Leon Burtnett.

In the end, it was a devastating loss for the Boilermakers - costing them a trip to the Rose Bowl.

In the end, it was the perfect ending for the UW seniors.

"I remember taking the final lap around Camp Randall Stadium,'' said wide receiver Al Toon, reflecting on his final home appearance. "Wearing that uniform was pretty special.''

Toon went out in style, catching seven passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

The following spring, Toon was one of three UW players taken in the first round of the 1985 NFL draft. Joining Toon were defensive tackle Darryl Sims and defensive back Richard Johnson.

Center Dan Turk, tackles Jeff Dellenbach and Kevin Belcher, tight end Brett Pearson, linebacker Jim Melka, defensive tackle Scott Bergold, tailback Gary Ellerson and corner Ken Stills were also drafted.

That might have been one of the most talent-rich teams ever assembled at Wisconsin.

Yet the '84 Badgers finished with a 7-4-1 record and a loss to Kentucky in the Hall of Fame Bowl.

How do you think that would play today? Exactly.

Oct. 18, 1992
Wisconsin 19, Purdue 16

UW coach Barry Alvarez didn't mince words after a lifeless first half.

"We were extremely flat on both sides of the ball,'' he said.

After falling behind 16-6, the Badgers started the third quarter with a few defensive stops and wound up limiting the Boilermakers to only three first downs and 80 yards over the final 30 minutes.

Backup quarterback Jay Macias, who was forced into action after the starter Darrell Bevell injured his shoulder in the first half, helped spark the rally with some clutch throws to Lee DeRamus.

With 38 seconds remaining, Rich Thompson, a fifth-year senior, kicked a 49-yard field goal for the win. It was his fourth field goal of the game and 15th of the season (15-of-17).

"There was no question when I hit - no question,'' Thompson said.

Nov. 2, 1996
Wisconsin 33, Purdue 25

The Badgers had lost by three points to No. 3 Penn State; three points to No. 2 Ohio State and four points to No. 14 Northwestern before getting blown out by 17 points at Michigan State.

Saddled with an 0-4 Big Ten record, they had no margin of error against the Boilers.

That may have explained the urgency in Ron Dayne's play.

Dayne, who had lost a fumble in the closing seconds of the Northwestern loss, gashed Purdue for 244 rushing yards; the most ever by a UW freshman.

Dayne credited his offensive line, which included Aaron Gibson at tight end.

The 378-pound Gibson, a converted offensive tackle, traded his No. 79 for No. 81.

Gibby was a physical freak: 47-inch waist, 33-inch thighs, 20-inch neck.

"I thought the best line of the day,'' Alvarez said, "was when one of the officials came over and told me one of the Purdue kids wanted to know if there was a weight limit on 80 numbers.''

Oct. 10, 1998
Wisconsin 31, Purdue 24

The year before, the Boilermakers had embarrassed the Badgers, 45-20, in West Lafayette.

Looking for an edge, Alvarez got one when the kickoff was scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

"It's very hard to execute when the crowd is at a fever pitch,'' Alvarez said.

Tell that to Purdue quarterback Drew Brees who completed 55-of-83 passes for 494 yards.

"We were in the two-minute drill basically the entire game,'' Brees said.

Wide receiver Randall Lane had 18 catches. Moreover, the Boilers had the ball for 103 plays.

But the Badgers limited the damage. Brees longest pass completion was for 21 yards.

Unless, that is, you count Jamar Fletcher's 52-yard interception return for a touchdown.

That was one of five Purdue turnovers and broke a 17-17 tie.

"It was one of the craziest games I ever played in -- ever in my life,'' said Brees.

What made it even crazier was the debut of "Jump Around.''

Previously during the third and fourth quarter exchange, the UW band had struck up, "If you want to be a Badger just come along with me.'' Nice, but soft; not easy to rock to.

On this night, Kevin Kluender, a member of the UW marketing department, dialed up the "House of Pain'' and Jump Around has since become a Camp Randall tradition.

Varsity Magazine: Badgering Jared Berggren

The popular Varsity Magazine feature "Badgering..." focused on Badger big-man Jared Berggren this week. The weekly Q&A piece can be found here.

111030MBB-8458-40.jpgA redshirt junior from Princeton, Minn., center Jared Berggren appeared in 29 games in 2010-11. Berggren possesses some of UW's best interior post moves, but also has the ability to step outside and knock down shots, hitting 7 of 22 from 3-point range as a sophomore. He scored 18 points in a winning effort at Sunday's Red/White Scrimmage.

What is your earliest basketball memory?
"I remember early on going to Timberwolves games. We had a big group that went every year beginning when I was in about third grade. I got a Kevin Garnett jersey when I was a kid, but it's kind of a funny story. The KG jersey was my third choice. I really wanted a Tom Gugliotta jersey, but if I couldn't get that I wanted a Stephon Marbury jersey. And if I couldn't get either of those I'd get a Garnett one. We went to the store and all they had was Garnett jerseys. He turned out to be my favorite player and the jersey was one of my favorite things."

What was the non-basketball highlight of your off-season?
"In the spring I went up to a friend's cabin near Brainerd, Minn. for four or five days. We just hung out and fished and relaxed. We caught mostly pan fish, but a few bass too. We didn't feel like cleaning them, so it was just catch-and-release."

Do you guys take notes when you're scouting an opponent?
"Yeah, we all maintain a notebook throughout the season. When we're watching film of our next opponent we'll write notes on things we learn and we want to emphasize like, certain player tendencies or defensive principles we want to use against teams. So we'll take notes during film and look back at it again before the game. Then after the game we'll pull them out again while breaking down the previous game and write down any mistakes we made. That really helps during conference play when we play teams multiple times. We can go back and look at the keys we used and maybe the ones we didn't use from the last time we played them."

Do you feel pressure stepping into the roles vacated by Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil?
"I wouldn't say that I feel pressure, I feel more excitement than anything. More is expected of me now. I put a little pressure on myself because I know I'm ready for the opportunity. I feel confident that I can step into an increased role."

Badger Blog: Fall festivities

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about celebrating the fall season in Madison.

What a beautiful fall in Madison. This fall has been filled with pumpkins, football and falling leaves. The leaves are all changing colors, with red, orange and yellow trees everywhere on campus. We've had beautiful weather with a few sunny 60 and 70 degree days over the past few weeks. People are jogging along the lake and out playing with their dogs everywhere you look. Our campus looks like fall postcard right now with the sun shining on the lakes and the leaves changing colors all around us.

The softball team celebrated Halloween with a costume contest, dinner and pumpkin carving party at my house last week. My three year old daughter Grace was a fairy princess with big purple wings and a butterfly mask. Grace has prayed for the "Badger softball girls" every night since the party. Her favorite costumes were the Bee Catcher and the Nerds. Our team gatherings make me feel so fortunate as a wife, mom and coach. There are many times when the travel and rigors of the job make it tough to balance. Yet, when my husband Shawn and I have the team, coaches and staff over to our house, and we see Grace playing with the student-athletes -- looking up to them as role models -- everything seems to fit together perfectly.

We had a fun two-hand touch football game with our staff and the team at the field last week too. It was a great workout and non-stop laughs. We have some hilarious personalities on our team. I really enjoyed mixing in and playing too. Coach Schneider played football in college, so his team had a bit of an advantage, but we still finished in a tie. This is the second year that we've ended the fall with flag football and I think this tradition will stick.

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgWe will start with a quick refresher course on how Big Ten divisional play works, and how the Badgers are still in the race for a trip to Indianapolis.  They need some help, and as the saying goes, they need to help themselves.  Here is how it can happen:

1. The Badgers right the ship and win their remaining regular season games.

2. Ohio State loses one more game, giving it three conference losses. The Buckeyes will play Indiana and Penn State at home, and will travel to Purdue and Michigan.

3. Penn State loses either at home to Nebraska or on the road against Ohio State. Of course, the Badgers would need to give the Nittany Lions their second conference loss.

In this scenario, Wisconsin and Penn State would finish 6-2 and tied for first in the Leaders Division. Since the Badgers beat Penn State (again, in this scenario), Wisconsin would win the tie-breaker, and thus would earn the trip to the Big Ten championship game.

Does it sound farfetched? I don't think so. Perhaps the most challenging task is the Badgers winning four in a row in a hotly-contested conference race.

Last week, I was not all that concerned with the Badgers' emotional state. Coming off a tough game at Michigan State, I was more worried about the physical toll. This week, it might be a little bit of both.  

I have not seen a team go through anything quite like this. The only stretch that is comparable is in 1996, when the Badgers lost their conference opener to third-ranked Penn State on a late field goal. The following week, Wisconsin was a huge underdog at second-ranked Ohio State.  In an old-school Big Ten slugfest, the Buckeyes prevailed 17-14.  The very next week was the heartbreaker against No. 14 Northwestern, when a late fumble set up the Wildcats winning score.  

In last week's Varsity magazine, Barry Alvarez talked about how a coach tries to move on from such a gut wrenching loss. I would guess it is easier said than done.

The difference is that stretch in 1996 knocked Wisconsin out of the league title chase. The 2011 Badgers are still alive for a trip to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy.  Yes, they are out of the national title conversation, but quite honestly, opinions vary whether even a 13-0 Wisconsin squad would have made it to New Orleans.  It would have been fun to find out, but I tend to believe the computers would have been unkind to the point where a one-loss team would have passed the Badgers.

That is open to debate, but what cannot be questioned is the Badgers are still in play for the Rose Bowl, and getting there does not necessarily require a miracle, something those connected with the program seem to understand.

No doubt this group is hurting right now. As Bret Bielema admitted in his Monday news conference, you tend to feel the bumps and bruises more after a loss. The test will be how this team comes out both mentally and physically for Saturday's game with Purdue. Hopefully, there will be a good atmosphere for 2:30 p.m. game, but that remains to be seen.  

The Badgers have lost consecutive games in lousy fashion. They have made critical mistakes, and they have had some bad luck. Yet they remain a very good team with a chance to do something special. If the Badgers can rally and still find a way to reach the conference title tilt, it could say more about this team than any words can describe.

I would like to think the players believe this can happen. The question is, do you?

WCHA Women's Notebook (Nov. 1, 2011)

Welcome to the This Week in Women's WCHA. Each week Ross LaDue from the UW Athletic Communications office breaks down the past weekend of action in the women's side of the WCHA and look ahead to the coming weekend.

Out of three conference series this past weekend, only one resulted in a sweep and it wasn't the No.2 Minnesota Golden Gophers at Bemidji State. Ohio State got the weekend sweep over Minnesota State in two very close defensive games. Minnesota Duluth routed North Dakota, 6-1, before the two teams skated to a 2-2 tie on Sunday. Minnesota took the first game in Bemidji, 4-1, but the Beavers rebounded to claim a big upset over the Gophers on Saturday. In nonconference action, St. Cloud State tied and lost to Robert Morris, while Wisconsin breezed past an injury-riddled Boston University in Madison, Wis.  

Weekend Recap

Robert Morris at St. Cloud State
The Huskies saw a promising start to the weekend, as they battled back from a 2-1 deficit to tie the game in the third period. A penalty at the end of regulation gave Robert Morris a two-minute man advantage to start overtime and while that hurt the Huskies, they withstood the pressure and forced the tie. They went on to win a shootout, 2-0, but it was just for bragging rights. In Saturday's game, St. Cloud State out-shot the Colonials, but fell by a score of 3-1.  

St. Cloud State players of note: The goaltending duo was solid over the weekend, their numbers may not have been absolutely stellar, but they were definitely good enough to give the Huskies a chance to win. Talyer VanDenakker played in the 2-2 tie on Friday making 25 stops, including four in OT. Julie Friend played on Saturday and made 21 saves in the 3-1 loss. Abby Ness tallied two helpers on the weekend as she was the only Husky to record more than one point, she also scored on her attempt in the shootout on Friday.

No. 4 Boston University at No. 1 Wisconsin
The Terriers entered Madison for the first time in program history, but Marie-Philip Poulin and Jenelle Kohanchuk didn't make the trip as they were out with injuries. Boston University still had last year's top scorer in Jenn Wakefield and sophomore goaltender Kerrin Sperry who helped the Terriers reach the Frozen Four final as a freshman. However, the Kohl Center is a difficult venue for visiting teams. The Badgers played nearly 120 minutes of solid hockey and swept the Terriers by scores of 3-0 and 6-1.

Wisconsin players of note: With a knack for showing up on the score sheet, Brianna Decker's name appeared on it both nights, punctuated by a hat trick on Saturday. With her five points on the weekend, she now has 50 points in the past 20 games. Both Brittany Ammerman and Blayre Turnbull recorded two-goal games over the weekend. Alex Rigsby made a total of 42 stops and picked up her first shutout of the season on Friday.

Ohio State at Minnesota State
This series was an even bigger defensive battle than the St. Cloud State-Robert Morris series. Only four goals were scored and nine penalties were called all weekend. It looked like the weekend was going to be another rough one for the Ohio State goaltending after an early MSU goal in the first period on Friday. However, Minnesota State's first goal of the weekend would also be their last, as OSU would go on to win 2-1 on Friday and 1-0 on Saturday. Both teams had great goaltending, but struggled offensively to get quality chances on net.

Minnesota State players of note: Lauren Smith opened the scoring for the Mavericks on their first power play on Friday for the lone MSU goal of the weekend. Alli Altmann had a great night in net making 28 saves, including 14 in the second period, in Friday's 2-1 loss. The following game saw the Mavericks opt for sophomore Danielle Butters in net and she rose to the occasion making 31 saves in the 1-0 loss on Saturday.  

Ohio State players of note: After letting in the early goal, sophomore goaltender Lisa Steffes kept the Mavericks scoreless for the remaining 116 minutes of the weekend, making 44 saves for the two wins. Ohio State needed the solid goaltending as its offense has been in bit of a slump lately. After scoring 19 goals in their first four games, the Buckeyes have only scored five goals in their last four. Hokey Langan, Laura McIntosh and Kelly Wild all had two points over the weekend, while Natalie Spooner was left without a single point after eight attempts on net.

No. 6 North Dakota at No. 7 Minnesota Duluth
After getting swept by the Badgers at home, the Bulldogs wanted to make sure they didn't start off the conference season with a 0-4-0 record. Coming off an 18-goal weekend, North Dakota was looking to keep their offense rolling. However, it was the Minnesota Duluth offense that would trump UND in the first game on Saturday. The first period was scoreless, but UMD would score three goals in the second, including a shorthander, and two more to start the third to take a 5-0 lead en route to a 6-1 win. The following game saw a closer defensive game as the two sides played to a 2-2 draw. UND needed an extra-attacker goal in the final minute to force the tie, though the Bulldogs would claim the shootout victory. In the history of WCHA shootouts, North Dakota has yet to win one.

Minnesota Duluth players of note: Katherine Wilson scored a hat trick on Saturday in the 6-1 victory and only tallied one assist in the 2-2 tie. Audrey Cournoyer helped on each of Wilson's goals on Saturday and recorded her own goal along with an additional assist on Sunday. Jenna McParland, Haley Irwin and Pernilla Winberg each had a goal on Saturday. Goaltender Jenny Harss made 56 of 59 saves on the weekend, including three stops in the shootout.

North Dakota players of note
: Only four players recorded points for UND all weekend. Monique Lamoureux-Kolls assisted on all three UND goals. Jocelyne Lamoureux scored the lone goal on Saturday and assisted on both in Sunday's game. Michelle Karvinen scored the tying goal with 17 seconds left in the third period on Sunday and Josefine Jakobsen scored the first goal in the same game. Stephanie Ney made a total of 58 saves on 66 shots over the weekend.

No. 2 Minnesota at Bemidji State
In the Minnesota Daily, head coach Brad Frost said that Bemidji State is "probably the hardest working team" in the conference. Bemidji State proved Frost right when they rebounded from a 4-1 loss on Friday and upset the No. 2 Golden Gophers on Saturday night by a score of 2-1. The Gophers took a total of 92 shots on goal over the weekend and only scored five times. In addition to those 92 shots on goal, the Gophers took another 46 shots that never found their way on net, being blocked by the BSU defense. Since moving into the Sanford Center in Bemidji, the Beavers have only been swept once on home ice. The lone sweep came at the hands of No. 1 Wisconsin last year and even then it took overtime in the finale for the Badgers to pull off the sweep. With the split against Minnesota, the Beavers own a 6-6-2 record against nationally-ranked teams at the Sanford Center.

Minnesota players of note: Jen Schoullis scored an empty netter on Friday to record a hat trick. Amanda Kessel assisted on all four goals and Megan Bozek assisted on three in Friday's, 4-1, win. Sarah Erickson had the remaining point from the win, scoring the Gophers third goal of the game. On Saturday, Emily West scored the lone goal in the 2-1 loss. Noora Räty made 48 saves in the two games.

Bemidji State's players of note: Goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova made 87 saves on the weekend, including 18 in the third period of Saturday's, 2-1, win. She helped kill off three BSU penalties as the Gophers were scoreless on the power play for the weekend. Sadie Lundquist scored in both games, including the game-winner on Saturday. Emily Erickson assisted on both her goals. Freshman Rachael Kelly scored her fourth goal of the season to put the Beavers on the board first on Saturday.

Possible WCHA Player of the Week winners:
Unlike last week, the offensive player and rookie of the week will be a bit hard to predict. With 87 saves and an upset win against the Gophers, there's no question that Bemidji State's goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova deserves the honor for Defensive Player of the Week. If for some reason she wouldn't win, Alex Rigsby had the next best performance with two wins and a shutout against a top-5 team.

On offense, there were three hat tricks over the weekend, but only Katherine Wilson and Brianna Decker recorded points in both nights, while Decker had one more point and two wins. Audrey Cournoyer was the only player, other than Decker, to get five points on the weekend, but four of those points came from assists. BSU's Sadie Lunquist has a chance with a goal in each game against Minnesota, including the game-winner in Saturday's upset.

For rookies, no one recorded points in more than one game. UW's Blayre Turnbull had two goals and UMD's Jenna McParland had one goal and one assist. Both of those players recorded their points in 6-1 wins. Rachael Kelly scored a goal against Minnesota in Bemidji State's upset win.

Offensive Player of the Week (in order of likeliness)
Brianna Decker (UW) - 5 points (3G, 2A), hat trick, 11 shots, +3 plus/minus
Katherine Wilson (UMD) - 4 points (3G, 1A), hat trick, 10 shots, +3 plus/minus
Audrey Cournoyer (UMD) - 5 points (1G, 4A), 3 shots, +1 plus/minus
Sadie Lundquist (BSU) - 2 points (2G, 0A), 1 game-winning goal, 6 shots, -3 plus/minus

Defensive Player of the Week (in order of likeliness)
Zuzana Tomcikova (BSU) - 87 saves, 4 goals against, .946 save percentage, 1 win
Alex Rigsby (UW) - 42 saves, 1 goal against, .977 save percentage, 2 wins

Rookie of the Week (in order of likeliness)
Blayre Turnbull (UW) - 2 points (2G, 0A), 1 game-winning goal, 4 shots, +3 plus/minus
Jenna McParland (UMD) - 2 points (1G, 1A), 1 game-winning goal, 2 shots, +2 plus/minus
Rachael Kelly (BSU) - 1 point (1G, 0A), 5 shots, -1 plus/minus

Looking Forward

No. 7 North Dakota at St. Cloud State
The wide ice sheet at the National Hockey Center should play to the advantage of North Dakota's Jocelyne Lamoureux and Monique Lamoureux-Kolls. UND should leave St. Cloud, Minn., with two wins, but not without conceding a goal or two to the Huskies.

No. 4 Minnesota Duluth at No. 3 Minnesota
The Bulldogs are only 1-2-1-1 in their first four conference games and they'll be looking to improve that this weekend. The Gophers have shown that they can be shutdown, it's just up to the UMD defense and goaltender Jenny Harss to make it happen. In similar fashion to the Minnesota-Wisconsin matchup earlier this season, I think both games will be very close and after everything is said and done, the Bulldogs and Gophers will split the weekend.

No. 10 Bemidji State at Minnesota State
With their first-ever national ranking to their name, the Bemidji State Beavers hit the road to take on the Minnesota State Mavericks. I think Bemidji State has the edge on this one and should pull out a weekend sweep against the struggling MSU offense. However, if the Minnesota State goaltending plays like it did last weekend, the games could be a bit closer than BSU would like them to be.

No. 1 Wisconsin at Ohio State
After completing an arduous eight-game stretch the Badgers can claim a 7-1-0 record against some of the toughest competition in the nation. However, Wisconsin can't take time to relax as they travel to Ohio State this weekend and face a Buckeye team looking to return to its scoring ways. The problem with carrying the No. 1 title is that it tends to bring out the best performances in opponents. Even though the Buckeyes haven't scored many goals as they would have liked to recently, the forwards of Laura McIntosh, Natalie Spooner, Hokey Langan and Ally Tarr are always dangerous and can't be overlooked. The Badgers will need to continue playing solid on defense and should look to get a lot of shots on whoever is in net for the Buckeyes.

Big Ten champs vault to No. 1 in national poll


Just two days after proving themselves the class of the Big Ten for the 13th-consecutive season, the Badgers now find themselves atop the list of the nation's top teams, as well.

For the first time since 2007, the Wisconsin men's cross country team is ranked No. 1 in the USTFCCCA National Coaches Poll.

UW received seven of the possible 12 first-place votes to vault Oklahoma State for the top position in the latest poll, which was released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The Cowboys picked up the remaining five first-place votes and come in at No. 2.

BYU, Colorado and Oklahoma round out the top five.

"Of course it's an honor to be ranked No. 1 in the country, and I'm very happy for our athletes," said fourth-year UW head coach Mick Byrne. "But that does nothing to change the challenges ahead of us."

The move to No. 1 comes on the heels of the Badgers' dominant win Sunday at the 2011 Big Ten Championship, where UW used a team score of 17 points to claim its 13th-straight conference crown. Indiana, which finished runner-up to the Badgers at the Big Ten meet, follows No. 6 Stanford and checks in at No. 7 in the national poll.

Behind the Hoosiers, No. 8 Portland and a tie for No. 9 between Iona and Princeton round out the national top 10.

Byrne is pleased voters took notice of his team's performance at the conference meet, but he says the role of favorite for the upcoming NCAA championship hasn't changed.

"Oklahoma State is the two-time defending champion, returns everyone from last year and is the clear favorite for the NCAA meet," Byrne said. "They have looked fantastic this season and Girma Mecheso hasn't even competed yet. That's a guy that was seventh at the national meet last year.

"They are the team to beat."

Byrne was cautious to put much stock in rankings heading into the heart of championship season.

"Coach (Martin) Smith's teams often fly under the radar, but what Oklahoma did to compete with Oklahoma State at the Big 12 meet has them on my radar," Byrne said. "The same thing goes for Coach (Mark) Wetmore, because Colorado is always a team that shows up and performs on the day. You can count on it.

"Plus, we know that BYU and Stanford both have very talented teams and will be a factor when we get to Terre Haute."

For Wisconsin, the return to No. 1 marks UW's 22nd week as the nation's top-ranked team since 1998. Only Stanford, at 31, has been atop the USTFCCCA rankings more often than the Badgers.

Wisconsin, Stanford, Colorado and Arkansas are the only programs to be ranked in each of the 99 polls released since the start of the 1998 season.