UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: We shouldn't be surprised Badgers continue to surprise

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The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgWho knew that one of the top passes in Wisconsin football history would be a non-scoring play? One of the top passing plays in history? Yeah, given the game's high stakes, I do not believe that is overstating the case.

Hail Wilson-to-Duckworth.

Officially, it was fourth-and-6 from the Michigan State 43-yard line. The Spartans led 39-34. It might not have been a "game on the line" play, but then again, maybe it was. Russell Wilson was flushed from the pocket and rolled to his left. For a moment, it looked as though he was going to take off, but the Michigan State defense was in hot pursuit.

Wilson then did what he does so well. I would think it is difficult to find many college quarterbacks who can roll to his off-hand and throw as well as Wilson.

He did it again at a rather critical moment. Wilson let it fly deep to the right side. Waiting for the ball was sophomore receiver Jeff Duckworth, and with two Spartans defenders near him, Duckworth pulled it down at the MSU 7-yard line. One play later, Montee Ball ripped through the line for what proved to be the game-winning, Big Ten title-clinching touchdown.

But back to the catch. The Badgers talk a lot about receivers attacking the ball. That is exactly what Duckworth was able to do. It was one three catches he had on Saturday night. Those numbers give him a grand total of 15 receptions this season, and 18 for his career. Duckworth also scored the game's first touchdown. It was his first TD this season. It was the first touchdown of his college career.

Michigan State has an outstanding defense. I doubt the Spartans expected Jeff Duckworth to be much of a factor in the passing game. That is the beauty of sports -- it is never a bad idea to expect the unexpected. 

As I wrote last week, the recent history of games between these two teams has given us plenty of such examples.

Now for True Confession Part I. At halftime, I thought the Badgers had little, if any, chance to win. I just did not like the matchup. After another hot start, the offense was struggling.  Wisconsin's defense could not get a stop. Kirk Cousins was in rhythm with his receivers, especially B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin.

Someone who must have been thinking the same thing asked me about spending late December in Tempe, Ariz., instead of Southern California.

Silly me. Silly us -- at least some of us.

In the second half, the defense hung in there, and allowed just 10 points against an offense that has been nearly as hot as Wisconsin's. It forced a three-and-out on the Spartans final possession.

Maybe just as important was the previous Michigan State series. Leading 38-36, the Spartans were on the move, and marched to the Wisconsin 8-yard line. The drive stalled, forcing a field goal to keep it a one-possession game.

Time for True Confession Part II. While I avoid publicly predicting games I am announcing (kind of my own Broadcasting 101 rule), I thought there was no way the second Badgers vs. Spartans game could approach the original for drama.

Silly me again.

This game had just about everything. A fake PAT in the second quarter. A receiver who ad libs a lateral near the boundary that results in a touchdown. A running back completing a pass to his quarterback (note: Montee Ball is now 2-for-2 as a passer this year). A quarterback with two receptions in the same game. A replay reversal that went in the Badgers' favor, and a special teams miscue that secured victory.

I don't know about you, but I was worn out just watching it. Try to imagine how the players and the coaches felt after such a game.

Even though I will admit to whiffing on my thoughts before and during Saturday's classic, please allow me to try one more time with this bit of "wisdom" -- if Badgers-Spartans II exhausted you, make sure you are well-rested before the Rose Bowl.

If ever a game had the potential to be even wilder, this might be it.

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The Defense as major adjustments to address prior to the Rose Bowl game,if not the speed alone of the'Ducks' will be a Nightmare!!