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Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson has some history with championship games. Indirectly, he also has some history with the infamous Sports Illustrated
This is not to suggest that Wilson's appearance in Saturday night's inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game could lead to an SI
cover for the UW senior or teammate Montee Ball -- jinx be damned.
This is merely revisiting another entry in Wilson's extensive resume, which may or may not serve to frame or foreshadow the rematch with Michigan State at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Consider: The Dec. 18, 2006 issue of Sports Illustrated
featured Tennessee Titans rookie Vince Young on the cover. Young had just sparked the Titans to a four-game winning streak.
"I can do whatever it takes to win,'' Young crowed.
How did that turn out for Young, a Titans bust, who was last seen throwing four picks in Seattle and leading his self-anointed "Dream Team'' Philadelphia Eagles (4-8) into NFL purgatory?
Also consider: The Dec. 18, 2006 issue of Sports Illustrated
featured the "Faces in the Crowd" department -- a weekly piece that shines the spotlight on young, up-and-coming athletes.
More to the point, it gives some national media exposure to individuals who are otherwise overshadowed by the higher profile jocks in professional sports.
Consider these "Faces:"
There was Krystina Orwat, a volleyball player, who led Kishwaukee College to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II championship in Scottsdale, Ariz.
There was Josh Rohatinsky, a cross country runner from Brigham Young who won the men's 10K race at the NCAA championship in Terre Haute, Ind.
There was Melissa Gonzalez, a high school field hockey player who led her school to the New York State Class A championship.
There was Jachelle Bigornia, a high school golfer in California who led her school to a perfect season and an eighth-straight conference title.
There was Kerri Hanks and Joseph Lapira, soccer players at Notre Dame who became the first athletes from the same school to be named the top women's and men's college players of the year.
And then there was "young'' Russell Wilson, a senior quarterback/defensive back at Collegiate School in Richmond, Va., who led the Cougars to a 38-16 win over Fork Union.
It was Collegiate's fourth-straight Virginia Independent Schools Football Association Division I title. Wilson passed for 291 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 223 yards and three scores.
That was his last appearance in a championship game.
"I remember the emotion part of it is a little bit heightened for a championship game,'' he said Monday. "I guess everybody is a little more aware for whatever reason.
"There's a natural awareness because you're playing for a lot. At the same time, you have to be cool, calm and collected.
"That's where I've really grown as a quarterback through my experiences -- being poised no matter what the situation, whether we're winning by 25 or 30 or we're down by 25 or 30.
"I've tried to be the same -- always attacking with the mindset, 'What can I do to excel?'''
That's how Wilson is approaching the Spartans.
"There's going to be a lot of emotion, a lot of fire,'' he said, "and I have to be the one to make sure everybody is on the same page and communicating well.
"Whether that's on the sideline or in the huddle, I have to make sure everybody understands what our goal is for that one particular play or that next series, whatever it is.''
During his Monday press conference, UW coach Bret Bielema mentioned that the presence of Wisconsin and Michigan State in the first Big Ten championship game was refreshing.
Bielema's perspective was related to the thought process behind divisional alignment.
"I knew they wanted to separate those four big boys just because of tradition and history and national championships,'' he said of Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska.
Minutes later, Wilson was taking questions from the same assembled media contingent and Bielema's "big boys'' reference was brought up in a question that was posed to Wilson.
It was conveyed to Wilson that the league title game was an opportunity for Wisconsin to demonstrate that maybe it's the new face of the Big Ten.
With a smile on his face, Wilson prefaced his remarks by saying, "Well, I think that Wisconsin is a big boy.''
Saturday night will be most telling in that regard.
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.
David 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.
UW men's cross country coach Mick Byrne was paying Ryan Collins a compliment when he put the Virginia transfer in context with one of his former distance runners, Landon Peacock.
A year ago, Peacock won his first individual Big Ten championship while sparking the Badgers to their 12th-consecutive league crown -- which they will be defending Sunday at the University of Illinois Arboretum in Champaign.
"He's not an artist like Landon,'' Byrne said of Collins. "He's not as far out there as Landon was.''
Byrne later clarified his use of the word "artist.''
"I wasn't referring to him being an artist in the sport,'' he said, "as much as I was referring to him in general terms. Landon was a little eccentric. He was a dreamer. He'd get into his own little world.
"He wouldn't mean to. He was trying to focus on the race and he'd be off drawing some landscape in his mind. Maybe that's why he was such a good athlete. It didn't faze him.''
Meanwhile, Byrne said Collins brings a "certain amount of calmness to the team'' in addition to bringing "this amazing passion for what he does'' which has led to a seamless transition as a teammate.
"Ryan is very much in tune with what's going on,'' Byrne said, "and in a very positive way he also has a great perspective on what we do. He kind of has that sense about him.
"Like, 'This is cross country, this is what we do' but we're playing a football game Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, and what they're doing is a huge deal.
"So let's go watch the game and let's not talk about cross country.''
Byrne endorses that attitude in his athletes.
"From a coach's perspective, they have a great team and school spirit,'' he said. "They're not going to spend Saturday night in a hotel room worrying about what they have to do on Sunday.
"They know what they have to do. They know what Indiana is going to throw at them. They're excited about it. At the same time, for two or three hours Saturday night they're going to be Badgers.''
So they'll be watching Wisconsin-Ohio State from their team hotel, he said.
You can tell Bryne likes this team a lot -- his No. 2-ranked cross country team. Mostly, he likes how his runners compete and take care of their business and "get after it'' every day.
"They do the work, and they're real serious about it,'' he said. "They're real motivated, real determined and real focused on not just this Sunday but what's coming down the pipeline.''
That would be the NCAA championship on Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Ind. Byrne said Collins has "kind of meshed'' with that vision and his new teammates and "they're all on the same page.''
The Badgers are returning four scorers from last season's Big Ten meet: Mohammed Ahmed (fourth), Elliot Krause (fifth), Maverick Darling (sixth) and Reed Connor (12th). Collins replaces Peacock.
"I believe we've got five guys who have a really good shot at winning the individual title,'' Byrne said. "They're all leaders. Every one of those guys knows what's at stake here and down the road.
"Over the last two meets the most important thing was that we came out of them not banged up. We came out of these meets able to continue with our training plan.
"It's a process as you head from that early part of the season into the championship part.''
Wisconsin has won each of its last three meetings: the Orange and Blue Preview (Champaign, Ill.), the Bill Dellinger Invitational (Springfield, Ore.) and its own Wisconsin adidas Invitational (Zimmer Championship Course).
While the Badgers were competing in Oregon on Oct. 1, there was mini-reunion with a handful of former UW distance greats like Chris Solinsky, Matt Tegenkamp, Simon Bairu and Evan Jager, who joined Byrne's current athletes to take in the football Badgers' win over Nebraska.
"They came down from Portland where they're training,'' Byrne said. "And it's always a positive when our young guys get to see those guys and be around them.''
Success, after all, breeds success.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema will likely be listening to Kid Rock when the Badgers arrive at Ohio Stadium early Saturday afternoon for their walk-through. That's a game day staple.
Less than three hours before kickoff when the chartered buses depart from the team hotel and return to the 102,000-seat Horseshoe, he will be tuned into U2. That's also part of his routine.
Neither Bob Ritchie, nor Bono will show up on Derek Landisch's play list. The UW freshman linebacker favors Five Finger Death Punch and Disturbed, a couple of heavy metal bands.
That's how he gets charged up for a game.
"It's the same stuff that I've been listening to since my junior and senior year of high school,'' said Landisch, a four-time letter winner at Hartland Arrowhead.
"You find a song that you like and it gets you going -- it gets the heart racing and the blood pressure boiling. It gets me in an angry mood.''
The conflict is that the soft-spoken, polite Landisch could be mistaken for an Eagle Scout.
"He's got a little Eddie Haskell in him,'' Bielema kiddingly suggested.
The reference was to the TV character in the old "Leave it to Beaver'' series.
Landisch does seem to play with a little bit of an edge. During a recent practice, he tackled a scout team tailback and flung him to the turf so hard that the runner threw the football at him.
Landisch ran back to his position and got ready for the next snap. "He does remind me a little bit of Chris Borland,'' Bielema said. "He's not as big as Chris but he's real slippery and real feisty.''
As a prep, Landisch wore No. 44, which is Borland's number with the Badgers.
"I get that question a lot,'' Landisch said about being compared to Borland. "Chris has proven himself on the college level. That's something I haven't done yet.''
Borland, a third-year sophomore, and Landisch room together on the road. They'll have plenty to talk about Friday night since Borland is an Ohioan; a native of Kettering, 80 miles from Columbus.
"We talk about everything, life and football -- he's a good role model,'' Landisch said. "If I can, I pick his brain a little bit. He's a great guy to look up to and he has definitely helped me out a lot.''
Whereas Borland has bulked up to 245 pounds, Landisch has dropped down to 220 from the grind of his first season in college football. But it's fair to say that he has been playing "bigger.''
Bielema had so much confidence in Landisch that he put him on the field in the Big Ten opener against Nebraska in passing situations to help contain quarterbacks Taylor Martinez, a sprinter.
Borland rushed off one edge, and Landisch off the other.
Despite giving up anywhere from 80 to 100-plus pounds to offensive tackles, Landisch is starting to understand and learn the nuances of being an undersized pass rusher.
When he got his first look at the UW offensive line in training camp, Landisch admitted, "They were the biggest people that I've ever seen in my life. But I'm used to it now, I'm used to the size.''
A number of his teammates, including Borland and senior defensive tackle Patrick Butrym, have passed along some pointers. "That really means a lot to me,'' Landisch said.
What he has going for him is what Borland has going for him: leverage. "You have to play with your hands and stay low,'' he said. "I try using my height and lower center of gravity to my advantage.''
Landisch has been particularly grateful for Borland's input.
"If I get blocked on a play, Chris will tell come up to me and tell me what I did wrong,'' he said. "Or if I do well, he will tell me what I did right, so he has definitely helped me.''
Last Saturday, Landisch had a chance to make a play on special teams when he came close to blocking a punt off the foot of Michigan State's Mike Sadler. But he failed to execute his technique.
"It's kind of disappointing because it was a fundamental error,'' Landisch said. "I had my hands too high. Coach Bielema is always talking about shooting our hands out, instead of up.
"I thought I had it blocked. That's what coach always talks about, 'Expect to come free.' I will live and learn from and it will make me stronger.''
It has been well documented on how quarterback Russell Wilson is a strong proponent of visualization. That also holds true for Landisch.
"I'll visualize the stadium and what it's going to be like,'' he said, "even though I have no idea since I've never played in Ohio Stadium. But it's something I picture and think about a lot.
"We expect to do well. But we talk about going into games expecting adversity and overcoming adversity, so it's definitely important to visualize, 'If this happens, I'm going to do this.'''
That's another characteristic that has endeared Landisch to Bielema. "He's very very smart,'' Bielema said, "He knows what he's going to do out there, and he has a great memory.''
Not so much this week; not after the heartbreaking loss at Michigan State.
"Coach B talks about moving on,'' Landisch said. "That game can either make you stronger or weaker. If you learn from it, you can be a stronger and a better football player.''
"Believe'' is not only the second studio album for Disturbed, but it might be the word of the week for the Badgers. Believe in yourself. Believe in your teammates. Believe in the plan.
Wednesday was a great day for hockey. It was also a great day to recognize former Wisconsin men's coach Jeff Sauer and current UW women's coach Mark Johnson for their impact on the sport.
Sauer and Johnson were among four recipients of the 2011 Lester Patrick Award that honors special individuals for their contributions to hockey in the United States.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand for the event at the River Centre in St. Paul, Minn., where Bob Pulford and Tony Rossi joined Sauer and Johnson as Patrick Award honorees.
Johnson said that after he received a phone call from Bettman notifying him that he was a winner, "You step back and say, 'Wow!' It puts a smile on your face.''
Sauer got the same phone call and said, "I looked at my phone and saw it was a call from Gary Bettman and I thought it was someone playing a trick on me.''
It was no joke. Sauer and Johnson were most deserving. Plus, it was most timely that they were honored in the same class given that their history together dates back to when Jeff babysat for Mark.
Badger Bob Johnson -- Mark's dad -- was a common denominator. Keeping it all in the family, Jeff Sauer was a former Bob Johnson assistant and Mark Johnson was a former Jeff Sauer assistant.
There have been numerous intersections on their career timelines.
* * *
Before the UW Athletic Board could get around to confirming his appointment as the new hockey coach, it had to clean its desk of some old business and tend to other bureaucratic matters.
Colorado College's 39-year-old coach, Jeff Sauer, was told to take a seat and wait.
Not a problem. The job was his. And since the former Badger assistant had waited a long time for this day -- July 8, 1982 -- he was prepared to wait a little longer, however long it would take.
It took nearly two hours.
Sauer wound up in the UW basketball office, where he visited with an assistant coach who was helping hold the program together in the midst of a transition from Bill Cofield to Steve Yoder.
Neither Sauer nor Bo Ryan had any inkling what the future would hold for their respective careers. (Or that their paths would cross again in 2001 when Ryan moved from Platteville to Madtown.)
Shortly after the athletic board gave its official blessing to Sauer, a press conference was held at Camp Randall Stadium to formally introduce Bob Johnson's successor to the Madison media.
Sauer not only skated for Johnson at Colorado College, but he was a volunteer assistant under Johnson while completing his degree. Later, he was Johnson's first full-time assistant at Wisconsin.
He and his wife Jamie even babysat for the Johnson boys, Peter and Mark.
But he wanted to make it perfectly clear, "I'm not Bob Johnson, I'm Jeff Sauer. And I hope everyone realizes that we're going to do some things a little bit differently.
"Once you get to know me, I think you'll get to find that emotionally -- as far as wins and losses -- I try not to peak and valley. You have to keep your sanity somehow in this game.''
Sauer managed to do so longer than anyone -- for 31 years as a head coach in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association; 11 at Colorado College and 20 at Wisconsin.
Sauer won 655 games overall, including two national championships with the Badgers.
That Sauer was able to escape the long shadow of Bob Johnson and establish his own identity, separate from that of his lionized predecessor, speaks volumes for his system and perseverance.
"When I was a young coach in the league, I'd sit in those meetings and listen to everything the older coaches had to say,'' Sauer said after his 556th win moved him past the legendary John MacInnes.
"I don't know if I ever talked to any of them about coaching. You just didn't discuss those things back then. It's not like calling Sertie (Mike Sertich) on a Monday morning and talking about the series.''
Sertich was the longtime coach at Minnesota-Duluth and one of Sauer's closest friends.
"You just didn't do that back then,'' Sauer went on. "Everyone was so much more guarded. But you could still learn something from all of them.
"Denver's Murray Armstrong was businesslike in the way he approached the game. Michigan State's Amo Bessone was a true coach. Minnesota's John Mariucci was a good old guy.
"I'd have to say Bob Johnson did have the biggest influence on me,'' Sauer said. "I played for him, I coached with him and I coached against him. I went through a lot of things with Bob.''
Bob Johnson received the Lester Patrick Award in 1988.
Mark Johnson recalled, "When my dad received the recognition for what he did -- whether it was at Wisconsin, USA Hockey, Calgary or Pittsburgh -- it was a special evening for him and our family.''
To also receive the Patrick Award now makes it even more special.
Mark Johnson, the celebrated 1980 Olympian, cut his teeth as a head coach at Verona High School and with the minor league Madison Monsters before joining Sauer's staff at Wisconsin.
More recently, he has been collecting rings; NCAA championship rings. Johnson has guided the UW women to four national titles in the last six years.
The most recent of which was last season when Wisconsin defeated Boston University, 4-1, in the finals. Fittingly, the Badgers will face the BU Terriers on Friday and Saturday at the Kohl Center.
Faceoff both days will take place at 2 p.m.
"Having defeated them last year in Erie (Pa.) you know they're going to be excited to play us again,'' Johnson said. "They're going to be coming into the building looking for revenge.''
Over the last six games, the Badgers have tested themselves against North Dakota, Minnesota and Duluth. "It's been three weekends of playoff hockey,'' said Johnson. "And it elevates your play.''
Wisconsin has gone 5-1 over this challenging stretch.
"It's only October,'' he said, "but we've become better as a team playing each opponent.''
Not only were the Badgers able to walk out of Duluth with a sweep, but Johnson saw something that he had never seen before in all of his years in hockey as a player or a coach.
On a delayed penalty, the Bulldogs pulled their goaltender for a sixth attacker. But, in attempting to set up a teammate, a Duluth player inadvertently shot the puck into her own empty net.
The goal was credited to Wisconsin's Saige Pacholok, who took the initial penalty.
"The fans that were at the game,'' Johnson said, "and certainly the referees and both coaching staffs were a little stunned at what happened.
"Saige went into the penalty box and they announced her penalty first and then they announced her goal in the next sentence. I haven't seen that before going back to my playing days.
"But again, we found a way to win.''
Another common denominator between Johnson and Sauer, the Patrick Award winners.
Bo Ryan is not prone to hyperbole when discussing freshmen. So his words tend to carry more weight when the UW basketball coach does single out a first-year player as a potential contributor.
That was the case during last season's media day when Ryan volunteered a thumbnail sketch on the strengths of guard Josh Gasser, which clearly indicated that he had a chance to play right away.
"His knowledge of the game and court sense are really good; he's ahead of a lot of freshmen," he said at the time. "Josh can play. Josh is smart. Nothing seems to rattle him. That's what I like about him."
As it turned out, there was plenty to like about Gasser who scored 21 points in the season opener, started 30 of 34 games and produced the first triple-double in school history.
During Monday's media day, Ryan was asked about freshman Jarrod Uthoff, a 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward from Cedar Rapids, who was named Mr. Basketball in the state of Iowa.
"He'll play at the University of Wisconsin and he'll play early," Ryan said. "He's a player; better than expected. But don't tell him I said that. I think the other guys (freshmen) have a chance to play.
"I'm just saying that he's right now, kind of picking up things like Josh (Gasser) did last year. Coaches like good listeners and fast learners and I've never seen a more conscientious guy."
Earlier in the press conference, Ryan fielded a question on his expectations for UW's freshman class - Uthoff, George Marshall, Traevon Jackson, Frank Kaminsky and Jordan Smith - based on what he had seen already.
"Well, if you asked me last Tuesday, I could have given you an answer," Ryan said. "If you asked me yesterday, I could have given you an answer.
"You know what? After eight practices I could have given you eight different answers which is not unusual. But here's what I do like.
"They don't like to lose in the drills. If you come in second, you come in last. There are three teams of four or five guys and you go against each other; red, white and black jerseys.
"There are two teams that have to run, because only one team wins. It's pretty competitive. That's a good sign. If we don't have guys who are competing we're not going to get better."
The faces may change from class to class; the message never does to his freshmen.
"For the 40th time, since this is my 40th year of coaching," Ryan said. "You tell them on the first day that if you don't go hard against me, you are disrespectful to me.
"If I don't go hard at you every possession then I'm being disrespectful of you. We just tell guys, 'If you really want to accomplish something each and every day, try to beat the guy across you.
"Try to make sure you're making him work as hard as he can to get to the rim and to get a good shot and make him move his feet to stop you when you're on offense.'
"If you have those kinds of (competitive) drills, guys will develop."
The mere mention of player development struck a chord with Ryan, who was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame last weekend along with former Princeton coach Pete Carrill.
"I got goose bumps when Petey told me Saturday night that he doesn't watch a lot of teams on television but he watches us play," related Ryan.
"I said, 'Why, because we're slow?' He goes, 'No, because you move the ball and you play the way the game is supposed to be played.'
"I thought that was pretty nice. Here's a guy who's 81 years old and still working in the NBA and he actually had something nice say about our guys."
Ryan has always had the utmost respect for Carrill because "he was such a good teacher getting guys to understand their roles and how to play off each other."
Who does that sound like? Exactly.
After that brief detour, Ryan got back on point and concluded, "If these freshmen are competing, we have a chance to get better."
For someone who had been little more than an afterthought through the first five games, UW punter Brad Nortman was now hearing tongue-in-cheek comments about being "overworked.''
Against Indiana, Nortman had six punting opportunities -- or two more than he had in the three previous games combined. Prior to last Saturday, he had punted only 10 times overall.
Nortman definitely made each punt count against the Hoosiers. Besides averaging 43.8 yards per kick -- including a long of 52 -- he had four punts downed inside Indiana's 20-yard line (at the 14, 8, 18 and 1).
"I had some good hang time and pooch punts,'' said Nortman, a senior from Brookfield Central. "I was proud of that. Even though it was a windy day, I worried about what I can control, not the wind.''
Indiana's Nick Stoner had a 10-yard punt return; marking only the second time this season that Nortman had a punt returned. Nebraska's Tim Marlowe had an 11-yard return in the Big Ten opener.
Nortman has turned his kicks into non-returnable items. That's huge, especially in the context of the Badgers' 2010 loss at Michigan State, when Keshawn Martin returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown.
You don't have to remind Nortman of the consequences; how a single play on special teams can impact the outcome. He has often confided that the Martin return has been "seared in my mind.''
In retrospect, Nortman outkicked his coverage; an old school cliché that still rings true. Could the specialists -- kickers or returners -- factor into Saturday night's rematch in East Lansing?
Martin is still around; still dangerous.
Meanwhile, the UW's Jared Abbrederis leads the nation in punt return average (22.75). That includes a score against Indiana and one that was called back because of a penalty against South Dakota.
"Coach (Bielema) always says it's one-third of the game, along with offense and defense,'' Nortman said. "Special teams are kind of an X-factor, a momentum swing, for the good or the bad.
"It's my job to make sure it's for the good. And there will be a time in this game, if not another game, where special teams, whether it's punt or kick return, will be called upon to make a big play.
"Even though I personally haven't gotten a lot of opportunities to make my presence felt in a game, inevitably I will be thrown into a situation that will require me to have a good punt.''
Nortman was quick to add, "I expect every punt to be a good punt.''
While Nortman has been in big games and pressure situations before, Michigan State's Mike Sadler has not been. Sadler, a redshirt freshman, has replaced Aaron Bates, a second-team All-American.
Bates was a four-year fixture.
Sadler has 23 career punts; 136 fewer than Nortman.
Spartan Stadium can be unforgiving to kickers; experienced or inexperienced.
"Besides the chilly Midwest weather,'' Nortman pointed out, "it's a challenge because of the way the stadium is shaped; the openings and such -- allowing wind drafts to come in and swirl.''
It can be particularly tricky for placekickers, whether it's Michigan State's Dan Conroy, who's 6-of-9 on the season, or Wisconsin's Philip Welch, who's just rounding into form after being injured.
As such, Nortman is hoping the Badgers have an edge since each member of the "field goal operation'' is a senior: the snapper (Kyle Wojta), the holder (Nortman) and the kicker (Welch).
"We've just been around for a long time,'' Nortman conceded.
Welch is just happy to be kicking again after dealing with a frustrating quad injury. Last Saturday, he converted on his first field goal attempt of the season; a 38-yarder against Indiana.
"It helped a lot to get that first one out of the way,'' said Welch. "I'd say that I'm about 90 percent (physically) but with the adrenaline on game day I'll be 100 percent.''
In some ways, the injury might have been a blessing.
"I've learned to appreciate what I had -- coming back now is actually more fun,'' Welch said. "It helped me appreciate the football can be taken away from you at any moment.''
Asked whether he felt any degree of urgency to return as soon as possible from the injury to enhance his NFL marketability, Welch said, "The main thing is helping the team.''
Nortman believes that Welch can be a big help in potentially a close game. "Kyle French stepped in and did a great job; he has a bright future,'' he said. "But having him (Welch) back is an asset.''
Curt Phillips was patient with the questioner who had lost track of the count.
Phillips was OK with that memory lapse. Just don't count him out. Not yet.
"Three surgeries,'' said Phillips, the 21-year-old UW quarterback. "I've had three ACLs.''
All three anterior cruciate ligament procedures have been performed on his right knee.
"After the third one,'' said Phillips, a senior from Kingsport, Tenn., "they don't think that having additional surgeries compounds it or makes it any worse.
"I honestly think having the experience of having done it twice is going to help me. I'll be able to push it. While I say that, I want to be safe. I know what I can do to progress it.
"I don't really have a timetable,'' added Phillips, who's working on his second major.
"I want to make sure I do everything right and heal up this time, however much time it takes. Obviously, I'd like to get as much spring ball as I can but ultimately I need to be ready to go next fall.''
Phillips was speaking after Tuesday's practice, during which he spent most of his time standing next to Nate Tice, one of the backup quarterbacks who signals plays on to the field during game days.
Phillips is planning on standing next to Tice on Saturday, too, when the Badgers play Homecoming host to the Indiana Hoosiers at Camp Randall Stadium.
"I'm excited to get back on the sidelines even though I'm not playing,'' said Phillips, who will not be in uniform. "I've been watching the games from the press box.
"Just having the headset back on and communicating (with the other quarterbacks and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst) is definitely a step in the right direction and I'm excited for it.''
Phillips has not played in a game since the 2009 season. He first tore his ACL during a spring scrimmage in March of 2010 and then tore it again during practice in early November of the same year.
Last spring, Phillips took some reps in seven-on-seven, non-contact passing drills, which prompted UW coach Bret Bielema to say afterward, "He's kind of a genetic freak.''
Subsequently, though, a knee infection necessitated a third surgery.
"Honestly, the second time it happened might have been even more frustrating than the third time,'' he said, "just because I knew that there wasn't anything I could have done about the last one.
"It wasn't like I made a move too quickly on the field. It was an infection and I couldn't control it. The only thing I can control now is the effort that I'm putting into it (the rehab) to come back.''
The school will have to petition the NCAA in order to get Phillips another year of eligibility. "I haven't played in two seasons,'' he said pleading his case. "That's kind of what the rule is for.''
That begs the question, why? Why does he still want to play football?
"When something is taken away from you that you love it shows you how much you do love it,'' Phillips said. "It shows you how you take certain things for granted. Now you're even more hungry.''
Throughout the multiple surgeries and rehabs, Phillips has been grateful for many things in his life, not the least of which has been the support of his parents, Jim and Drenda.
"Obviously, they're looking out for my health in the long run,'' he said, "but they never wanted to tell me what to do. They leave the decisions up to me.''
It doesn't hurt that Phillips' dad is a radiologist.
"Being a physician, he knows what's going on,'' he said. "While he's not an orthopedic surgeon, he can communicate with the physicians here. He always makes sure I'm informed.
"My mom is just hoping for no more surgeries. She doesn't necessarily want me to give it up. They've both been very supportive and encouraging through the whole thing.''
If his knee heals, what kind of quarterback can Curt Phillips still be?
"I honestly I think I will be a more complete quarterback,'' he said, adding that he has picked up things from watching Scott Tolzien and Russell Wilson. "I've been able to learn from both guys.''
This fall, Phillips has also shared some of his frustrations with quarterback Jon Budmayr, who has been sidelined indefinitely with an elbow injury that has resulted in some nerve damage to his arm.
"Jon is a good friend,'' Phillips said, "and we've talked about things. He's kind of in the same boat. But he's extremely self-motivated and I have no doubt he will be ready to go, too.''
The operative word would be "too.''
Phillips is counting on being ready -- too.
"Initially when I was on crutches, I wasn't really around that much,'' he said of practice. "But the past two weeks, I've been around the team more and it has been kind of a pick-me-up.''
His dad has shared a Neil Young line with him: Better to burn out than to rust out, or fade away.
"I think that applies,'' Curt Phillips said.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema generally likes to stand directly behind the linebackers when the scout team defense is matched against the No. 1 offense during an inside drill.
From his vantage point, Bielema exhorts the linebackers to "Fill hard!'' or "Play with your hands!'' Usually those linebackers are Jake Keefer from Woodville and Derek Watt from Pewaukee.
Both are true freshmen who are being redshirted this season.
"He'll watch every single play, and he definitely hones in on the scout defense,'' Watt said of Bielema. "It's good to know that's he's watching and evaluating and we're not off on our own.
"It would be no different if he wasn't watching; we'd still play the same way. But it's comforting to know that he's taking the time and paying attention to what we're doing.''
Not much gets past Bielema, who's constantly encouraging and pushing his younger players to get better. That's especially true during the developmental practices each Sunday.
These sessions are designed for anybody on the depth chart who didn't play the day before -- and some who did play but got limited work. Starters are excluded.
Bielema likes to use the examples of tight end Jacob Pedersen and offensive lineman Ryan Groy as players who have developed the fastest and made the greatest strides during these practices.
"We may not be preparing you this week to win a game next week,'' Bielema will tell the players. "But we may be preparing you to win the third game next year.
"I want them to think that way.''
Bielema has already formulated some positive thoughts on Keefer and Watt.
"Anything you throw at him,'' he said of Keefer, "he goes a million miles an hour. Out there the other day, he was screaming and yelling because he wanted to get more reps."
"Derek Watt is going to be OK," Bielema added. "If he doesn't stay at linebacker, he might grow into big brother's (spot). He's got those size 14 canoes and he's a really, really hard worker just like J.J. Watt was.''
Former Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt, a first-round NFL draft choice of the Houston Texans, stands 6-6 and weighs 292. His younger brother, Derek, is 6-2, 215.
Derek Watt has already had a growth spurt from the comprehension standpoint.
"When you come here, you get so much better the first few days,'' he said of the August training camp. "It's the things that you learn and the guys that you're going against that makes you better.
"Every day in practice I've been going up against the top offensive line in the country -- at least in our eyes -- and I've gotten better in my techniques, playing with my hands and getting off cut blocks.''
Besides playing linebacker, Watt rushed for 2,685 yards and 44 touchdowns as a prep tailback.
"Playing both ways in high school, you know what they (running backs) are thinking and you can kind of anticipate things,'' he said. "You can see what they're seeing when the hole opens up.''
Derek Watt communicates once a week with his older brother.
"J.J. knows what it's like being on the scout team and he just reminds me to stay motivated and keep working hard,'' Derek said.
"He tells me, 'Let your work do the talking. There are eyes on you at all times; cameras at all angles during practice, so you can't take any plays off. Do what you can do to help the team out.'''
He appreciates the advice because it hits so close to home. "I'm not getting on the field anytime this year,'' he said, "so I'm just trying to help the guys who are and hopefully get my time next year.''
Watt and Keefer are going through similar transitions as redshirts to college football.
"We spent so much time together all summer,'' Watt said, "and now that Derek is over in the two deep and actually getting playing time, it's just me and Jake working together on scout team.''
Derek is Derek Landisch, a true freshman linebacker from Hartland-Arrowhead High School. In addition to contributing on special teams, he has been getting more and more snaps on defense.
"He's not No. 44 (Chris Borland),'' Bielema said of Landisch. "But he's not far away.''
Bielema suggested moving Landisch to Mike linebacker. At the moment, he sees Jake Keefer in the middle, too, with Derek Watt on the outside. "It's just a good group,'' Bielema emphasized.
Bound only to get better while developing at their own pace.
If nothing else, they each know that Bielema will be watching.