Recently in Brian Mason Category

The Voice: Don't start looking for the lifeboats just yet

| 1 Comment
The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgBack in October, I wrote about what a great time it was to be a sports fan in Wisconsin. The Brewers were rolling into the playoffs. After pounding Nebraska in the much-anticipated Big Ten opener, the unbeaten Badger football team was enjoying a bye week. The Packers, with Aaron Rodgers and company, were putting on a show each week.

Hopefully, that show in Green Bay will continue for a few more weeks.

However, given the fragile nature of sports, we witnessed the Brewers' season end to rival and eventual World Series champion St. Louis. Later, we learned that Ryan Braun might be in line for a 50-game suspension for a positive drug test. Brewers fans nervously await the final word from MLB officials.

As for the Badger football team, a thrilling victory in the first-ever conference title game was followed by a heart-breaking Rose Bowl loss to Oregon.

To be sure, there is no shame in losing to the Ducks. It was a wildly entertaining game featuring two prolific offenses, but Wisconsin fell just short.

In the days following the Rose Bowl, Bret Bielema finds himself needing to replace five assistants. Paul Chryst, Bob Bostad, Dave Huxtable and Joe Rudolph are moving to Pittsburgh, while DelVaughn Alexander will join the Arizona State staff.

While assistants will move on, this is an unusually large hit. In some corners of Badger Nation, there exists a state of panic. Badgers fans nervously await word from Bielema regarding the new hires.

At the risk of sounding like the uptight guy in the movie "Animal House" who, during the parade scene, desperately shrieks "All is well. All is well!" let me suggest that it is too early to press the panic button. Perhaps it makes sense to sit back and allow Bielema the chance to reassemble his staff. In six years as the head coach, he has demonstrated the ability to follow a living legend, and his program has bounced back quite well after the 7-6 season of 2008.  

Just consider it another example of the head coach's favorite saying, "It's not what happens, it is how you respond."

We move onto basketball, where Bo Ryan's team is going through an awful shooting slump that has resulted in three straight losses, two coming on the home court. This is the same Badger squad that thumped 12th-ranked UNLV, a team that has not lost since. It also is the same Badger group that took North Carolina to the final minute.

It is fair to be concerned, but I would think it is a bit early to jump off the ship.

On Thursday night, the Badgers have another tough road test at Purdue, followed by a home game with Nebraska on Sunday afternoon.

Yes, Sunday afternoon, while the Packers are playing the New York Giants. Tough timing for a Wisconsin basketball game, but the NFL has other scheduling matters to worry about.  

It makes me wonder what kind of atmosphere there will be at the Kohl Center. It is no secret that the reputation is slipping.

When it comes to noise level, a writer from Las Vegas compared it to a library.

Look, I have little if any right to tell folks who pay very good money to support the Badgers to get off their butts and cheer louder. So please allow me to suggest that the team might need a little more help these days.  

If nothing else, the past week-and-a-half should remind everyone that winning is not a given.  

Yes, the Badgers can do their part to create more excitement, specifically by making more shots.

But let's be real -- it is easy to get behind a team when it is smooth sailing. Now that the waters are a tad choppy, it will be interesting to see how everyone responds, players and fans alike.

'Great Times' for the Badger Band and Badger fans in L.A.

It took nearly a year (and a second-consecutive Rose Bowl appearance for the Wisconsin football team) but the wait was certainly worth it for the UW Marching Band -- and the fans that crowded the street outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 1.

Michael Jurkovac, a UW alumnus who is the founder and CEO of New York-based production company cYclops, originally reached out to the Badger Band and spirit squad over a year ago, when the Badgers were poised to make the first of back-to-back trips to Pasadena.

His connections resulted in a New Year's Eve show for the band and spirit squad at L.A. Live, the multi-billion dollar entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles.

This time around, Jurkovac collaborated with spirit squad director Josette Scheer and assistant band director Dr. Justin Stolarik to pull off something even bigger.

Jurkovac developed a soft spot for the UW Marching Band when taking a class by Dr. Michael Leckrone during his time in Madison and again reached out to the group when the Badgers won the Big Ten championship game to secure a second-straight appearance in the Rose Bowl.

Among Jurkovac's clients is, one of the voices of the Grammy award-winning group The Black Eyed Peas, who happened to be interested in having the UW band perform a version of his yet-to-be-released single "Great Times."

With the artist's blessing, Leckrone got to work on a special arrangement of the track, which the band spent nearly three weeks practicing before arriving in L.A.

That's when the surprise came. 

As the band went through a final rehearsal for its latest L.A. Live performance, dropped in to pay an unexpected visit to the parking lot adjacent to the J.W. Marriott hotel.

The even bigger surprise came when he took the stage just outside the Staples Center to provide matching vocals to the band's performance of "Great Times" -- something he had not planned to do originally.

It doesn't stop there for the band, however, as plans to make use of a recording of the band's take on "Great Times" when the single is released in the coming months.

If one surprise wasn't enough, Jurkovac also helped line up another star for the Badgers' show at L.A. Live. He enlisted Everlast, who fronted House of Pain when the group recorded "Jump Around" in 1992, to perform his signature hit -- and a Camp Randall favorite -- with the band.

Check out video of the L.A. Live performance (above), as well as's visit to the band's rehersal (below).

Badgers finish 10th in AP, 11th in coaches poll

The Wisconsin football team finished the season ranked No. 10 in final edition of the Associated Press Top 25 released Tuesday, giving the Badgers a top-10 finish for the second-consecutive season.

UW also earned a No. 11 ranking in the final USA Today Coaches Poll.

Alabama finished the season No. 1 in both the media and coaches' polls after defeating LSU in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game on Monday.

The Big Ten champion, Wisconsin (11-3 overall) finished as the highest-ranked team from the conference in the final AP poll, just ahead of No. 11 Michigan State (11-3) and No. 12 Michigan (11-2).

In the coaches' poll, the Badgers trailed the No. 9-ranked Wolverines and the No. 10 Spartans.

Nebraska, ranked 24th in both polls, was the remaining Big Ten team to find a place in the final rankings.

After scoring a 45-38 win over the Badgers in the Rose Bowl last week, Oregon finished the season ranked No. 4 in both polls.

The Badgers have finished the year ranked in the final AP poll in seven of the last eight seasons, including three top-10 finishes under sixth-year head coach Bret Bielema.

Wisconsin was seventh in the final AP poll of 2010 following a loss to No. 2 TCU in the Rose Bowl and finished 16th in 2009 after a win over Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl.

The Badgers were eighth in the final USA Today Coaches Poll of 2010 and ranked No. 16 in the finals coaches' rankings in 2009.

Wisconsin in the final
Associated Press Top 25
2011: 10th
2010: 7th
2009: 16th
2008: NR
2007: 24th
2006: 7th
2005: 15th
2004: 17th

Wish Upon a Badger: A special day with one of UW's biggest fans

It's a very common sight at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison to see large men decked out in red roaming the halls and paying visits to children who are there seeking treatment for various conditions.

It may be the time of year for Santa Claus to visit the hospital, but the men in red I'm talking about spend most of their time visiting patients during the football season. Each week, a number of players from the Wisconsin football team choose to give some of their time to some of their smallest -- but most passionate -- fans.

However, when one of those fans can leave the hospital to pay the Badgers a visit, it's even more special. That was the case earlier this season with Nelson Happel, a 7-year-old from Madison whose appearance at Camp Randall Stadium was a great sign of success in his battle against Nueroblastoma, a cancer of the brain.

Sandwiched between what doctors believed to be a successful surgery and the last of many week-long stays at American Family Children's Hospital, Nelson paid a visit to a Badgers practice.

Photos: Wish Upon a Badger - Nelson Happel

Nelson was already familiar with a number of Badgers from encounters during their visits to the hospital, including his favorite player, sophomore wide receiver Jared Abbrederis.

After meeting head coach Bret Bielema and taking behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium and the team's facilities -- where he was reunited with another familiar Badger, senior punter Brad Nortman -- Nelson was introduced to the team and received a special gift from Abbrederis himself.

After getting to know the Badgers, Nelson and his father, Gary, had the opportunity to watch the team's win over South Dakota that Saturday from a suite at Camp Randall. Since then, things have continued to look up for the aspiring football player.

Just last week, Nelson's doctors declared him to be cancer free.

Now the young lefty can focus on working toward his dream of playing quarterback for the Badgers.

Speaking as someone who did his best wide receiver impression for Nelson that day at practice, If his arm strength at age 7 is any indication, I like his chances.

Reflecting on 2011: 'Hello, Russell Wilson!'


The hype started in earnest on June 27 when Russell Wilson announced that he was transferring from NC State to Wisconsin. A three-time All-ACC performer, Wilson was seen as the missing piece to the Badgers' championship puzzle.
It didn't take long for those who watched UW's practices in August to realize that Wilson was the real deal. However, doing it with a green non-contact jersey on in an empty stadium is a far cry from delivering in front of a sold-out crowd at Camp Randall Stadium.
And his debut wasn't just another game, it was a Thursday night, prime time affair to kick off the college football season on ESPN.

If he had any pre-game jitters, it certainly didn't seem that way as Wilson led the Badgers 65 yards in just over three minutes on their opening possession and capped it with 4-yard TD pass to Montee Ball. But it wasn't until late in the second quarter that Wilson truly put his stamp on Wisconsin.
UW got the ball on its own 44-yard line with 1:37 left in the half looking to add to a 27-3 lead. After a 10-yard pass and an incompletion set up second-and-10 at the UNLV 46, Wilson dropped back to pass but couldn't find anyone open.

He took off up the middle and cut to his right to avoid a defender at about the line of scrimmage. He got a great block from Nick Toon at about the 25-yard line, cut to the sideline and used his speed to burst towards the end zone. Jared Abbrederis was locked up with a UNLV defender at the goal line and Wilson tiptoed the sideline into the end zone.
As the "Voice of the Badgers" Matt Lepay said, "Hello, Russell Wilson!" It was a great introduction to a player who would go on to re-write the UW record book.

Game Recap: For starters: Badgers run off Rebels in rout, 51-17



AP awards highlight Badgers' All-America additions

FB_111215_Ball_Montee.jpgWith awards season ongoing in college football, All-America teams continue to be released by media outlets and other groups. It's no surprise to see junior RB Montee Ball's name headlining several of those lists.

Ball added to his list of All-America awards with first-team nods from, Pro Football Weekly and Phil Steele. Carrying the most weight, however, was Ball's spot on the Associated Press All-America first team, an honor he shared with senior RG Kevin Zeitler.

Ball has been named a first-team All-American on nine major lists and was a second-team selection to the Walter Camp All-America Team, which includes just one running back each on its first and second teams.

Zeitler added a first-team selection by Pro Football Weekly this week, matching his selection by both the AP and the American Football Coaches Association. He also was named this week to Phil Steele's second team and was an honorable mention by

Also earning first-team All-America nods was junior C Peter Konz, who was tabbed by both and Pro Football Weekly. He also was named to the AP second team and was a third-team pick by Phil Steele.

Senior QB Russell Wilson also earned a third-team nod from Phil Steele to go along with an honorable mention by

The same went for sophomore LB Chris Borland and sophomore WR Jared Abbrederis -- who was recognized as a punt returner -- as both earned honorable mention from

Wisconsin's 2011 All-Americans

Jared Abbrederis, So., WR/PR
- Honorable mention,

Montee Ball, Jr., RB
- First team, Associated Press
- First team, American Football Coaches Association
- First team, Football Writers Association of America
- First team,
- First team,
- First team,
- First team, Yahoo! Sports
- First team, Pro Football Weekly
- First team, Phil Steele
- Second team, Walter Camp Foundation

Chris Borland, So., LB
- Third team, Yahoo! Sports
- Honorable mention,

Peter Konz, Jr., C
- First team, American Football Coaches Association
- First team,
- First team,
- First team, Pro Football Weekly
- Second team, Associated Press
- Second team, Yahoo! Sports
- Third team, Phil Steele

Russell Wilson, Sr., QB
- Third team, Yahoo! Sports
- Third team, Phil Steele
- Honorable mention,

Kevin Zeitler, Sr., RG
- First team, Associated Press
- First team, American Football Coaches Association
- First team, Pro Football Weekly
- Second team, Walter Camp Foundation
- Second team,
- Second team, Yahoo! Sports
- Second team, Phil Steele
- Honorable mention,

Ball headlines Badgers named to All-America squads


Three more All-America teams were announced over the weekend and, not surprisingly, Badgers junior running back Montee Ball earned a place on all three.

Ball, who finished fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, was named a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America, and Yahoo! Sports.

The nation's leading rusher can add those distinctions to the recognition he had already earned on the American Football Coaches Association, and Walter Camp All-America teams.

In addition to Ball's first-team nod, the Badgers' offensive line duo of guard Kevin Zeitler and center Peter Konz were named to Yahoo! Sports' All-America second team, while senior quarterback Russell Wilson and sophomore linebacker Chris Borland each picked up third-team honors.

Both Konz and Zeitler earned spots on the AFCA All-America squad last week, as well, while Zeitler has also been honored by both Walter Camp and

Ball not only was a Heisman Trophy finalist, but also a finalist for the Doak Walker Award presented to the nation's top running back. He was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, claimed the inaugural Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year award, was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten pick and earned the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the league's top player.

With 38 touchdowns on the season, Ball stands one TD shy of matching Barry Sanders' all-time FBS record of 39 and leads the nation in rushing with 1,759 yards.

At 191.6, Wilson ranks second nationally in pass efficiency behind Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III -- but well ahead of Colt Brennan's NCAA record of 186.0 -- and finished ninth himself in the Heisman voting.

He is just the fourth Big Ten quarterback to pass for 30 or more touchdowns in a season and was named the first-ever winner of the Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year Award, as well as the inaugural Grange-Griffin Championship Game MVP award for leading UW to a 42-39 win over Michigan State in the first Big Ten title game.

Borland ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten this season with 131 total tackles and averages 10.1 stops per game.

Konz started the first 10 games of the season for UW before suffering an ankle injury in UW's win over Minnesota on Nov. 12. Zeitler has started at right guard in all 13 games this season, blocking for an offense that has averaged 467 yards and ranks No. 4 nationally in scoring at 44.6 points per game.

Wisconsin's 2011 All-Americans

Montee Ball, Jr., RB
- First team, American Football Coaches Association
- First team, Football Writers Association of America
- First team,
- First team,
- First team, Yahoo! Sports
- Second team, Walter Camp

Chris Borland, So., LB
- Third team, Yahoo! Sports

Peter Konz, Jr., C
- First team, American Football Coaches Association
- First team,
- Second team, Yahoo! Sports

Russell Wilson, Sr., QB
- Third team, Yahoo! Sports

Kevin Zeitler, Sr., RG
- First team, American Football Coaches Association
- Second team, Walter Camp
- Second team,
- Second team, Yahoo! Sports

Ball and blockers Konz, Zeitler named All-Americans


Record-setting running back Montee Ball and two of the Wisconsin teammates who have helped pave the way for his remarkable season, offensive linemen Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler, were each named to the 2011 AFCA Coaches' All-America Team released Monday by the American Football Coaches Association.

The Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Ball has scored 38 total touchdowns this season to stand one score shy of Barry Sanders' single-season NCAA record of 39 TDs. He also ranks fourth nationally with 135.31 rushing yards per game and leads the nation with 32 rushing touchdowns.

His average of 6.4 yards per carry is second-best nationally among players with at least 200 carries on the season.

The Badgers' starting center, Konz also was named a finalist Monday for the Rimington Trophy, which is presented annually to the most outstanding center in the nation. Selection to the AFCA All-America squad should help Konz's chances, as it is one of four All-America squads the Rimington committee uses to select its winner.

Konz started the first 10 games of the season for UW before suffering an ankle injury in UW's win over Minnesota on Nov. 12.

Zeitler has started at right guard in all 13 games this season, blocking for an offense that has averaged 467 yards and ranks No. 4 nationally in scoring at 44.6 points per game.

The Badgers' three offensive selections are the most of any team. Alabama, Oklahoma State and Stanford each had two players selected to the All-America team's offensive unit.

Wisconsin had two All-Americans on the AFCA list last season, LT Gabe Carimi and TE Lance Kendricks. Both were selected in the 2011 NFL Draft.

A viewer's guide to Big Ten Championship Game weekend

| 1 Comment

The usual flood of college football games flowing through your TV will slow to a trickle as conference championship weekend gets underway this Friday and Saturday.

It's not necessarily a bad thing, with quality taking the place of quantity as leagues look to crown their champions and teams await their bowl-game fates.

In the middle of it all is the first-ever Big Ten Football Championship Game, meaning there will be no shortage of Badgers-related programming for you to consume leading up to kickoff Saturday. Not surprisingly, BTN will have blanket coverage from Indianapolis.

It begins Friday with live coverage of the coaches' press conferences for Bret Bielema and Mark Dantonio, live from Lucas Oil Stadium at 3 p.m. (CT). The pressers also will be streamed live on

You can also watch a replay of the Spartans' 37-31 win over the Badgers on Oct. 22 at 6 p.m., followed by a special edition of the Big Ten Football Report, live from Indy. The 60-minute preview show features Dave Revsine, Mike Hall, Howard Griffith, Gerry DiNardo and Glen Mason talking all things Badgers-Spartans.

The action gets going early Saturday, with ESPN College GameDay featuring record-setting Badgers RB Montee Ball as part of its broadcast that begins at 9 a.m.

A special edition of BTN Live is set for 10 a.m., live from the Big Ten Fan Fest in Indianapolis. Revsine, Griffith, DiNardo and Mason will take questions from Twitter and Facebook.

BTN is back to Indy at 5:30 p.m. with a one-hour pregame show, which leads directly into Fox's live pregame show that begins at 6:30 p.m. Kickoff from Lucas Oil Stadium is set for 7:17 p.m., live on Fox.

You can catch a replay of the championship game at 8 p.m. Sunday, immediately following BTN's one-hour Bowl Selection Special at 7 p.m.

If you can't be near your TV, be sure to watch a live simulcast of the BTN broadcasts on or grab the BTN2Go app for iPhone or iPad.

Big Ten Championship Game TV Schedule (All times Central)
3 p.m. BTN Coaches Press Conferences
6 p.m. BTN Replay: Wisconsin vs. Michigan State (Oct. 22)
8 p.m. BTN Big Ten Football Report Special Edition
8 a.m. ESPNU College GameDay
9 a.m. ESPN College GameDay
10 a.m. BTN BTN Live
5:30 p.m. BTN Big Ten Championship Pregame Show
6:30 p.m. FOX Pregame Show
7:17 p.m. FOX Big Ten Championship Game
8 p.m. BTN Replay: Big Ten Championship Game

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.