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The Voice: They're not Big Ten, but BYU is big time

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There are times when a non-conference football game in November can be a difficult sell. In recent years, the Badgers have had a couple. In 2006, Wisconsin closed its regular season against Buffalo. Two years later, Cal Poly came to town and very nearly ruined Senior Day. 

Cal Poly was a very good FCS team that year, but it simply is not the type of opponent fans expect to see during the final month of the regular season.

Which brings us to this week's opponent. Forget that BYU does not play in the Big Ten, or any conference for that matter. The Cougars are very good, and this game is huge for both programs.

After losing two of its first three games, BYU has won five straight, including a convincing 37-20 victory against Boise State on Oct. 25. The Cougars had a bye last weekend, so they come to town rested.

They also will arrive in Madison with at least some hope of getting into the BCS picture. 

Sound familiar?

In the case of BYU, it might appear to be long shot, but in this week's coaches poll, the Cougars are ranked 29th. While not in the BCS top 25, perhaps BYU is not far removed.

The Cougars certainly can help themselves down the stretch. Two weeks after facing the Badgers, ranked 24th in the BCS, BYU will play at 23rd-rated Notre Dame.

The Cougars already have punched their ticket to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, but should they stay hot, who knows what could happen? Much like Wisconsin, BYU wants to keep winning and at least give the voters something to think about. Both have work to do to get into the top 14, but it never hurts to roll through November.

All the possible scenarios can be fun to talk or write about, but Saturday's game will feature two teams that are playing good football, and it will feature some of the nation's best players.

Badgers fans know all about the home team's stars. You might not know as much about some of BYU's top players, but you will by this weekend.

Chris Borland says he expects to be good to go this Saturday, which means we will see a couple of the nation's premier linebackers. BYU's standout is Kyle Van Noy, an All-America candidate who has 26 career sacks, second best among active FBS players.

Offensively, the Cougars play fast. Very fast. They run nearly 90 plays per game, and sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill appears to be improving by the week. After a choppy start, the dual-threat QB is rolling. In his last five games, Hill has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,455 yards and 11 touchdowns.

It is worth noting that Hill also leads the team in rushing with 841 yards and eight touchdowns.

When Hill throws the ball, there is a good chance that Cody Hoffman will be the target. He has the BYU record with 31 career touchdown catches, and he is on the brink of breaking the school mark for receiving yards.

Fans in Big Ten country might not be familiar with BYU, but Badgers coach Gary Andersen knows the Cougars well. "They seem to follow me wherever I go, so here we go again," he said with a smile.

When asked to describe BYU, Andersen called it a "Tough, mature team. Blue collar. Hard workers. Tough guys."

Sounds a lot like Wisconsin. The style of offense might differ, but these teams could be very much alike in other areas.

Both Wisconsin and BYU are 6-2. Both are good teams with aspirations of being among the elite. It will make for an interesting, and most likely, highly-entertaining afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium.

If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, I hope you use it. This is a non-conference game, but it figures to be big-boy football with two big-time programs.

The Voice: Now here's where it gets interesting...

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Let me start by offering a round of applause to UW and all the fans who were at the Kohl Center for Saturday's Red/White Scrimmage. That was one of the best turnouts I can remember for the men's basketball team's intrasquad game, and as scrimmages go, it was a high-quality show.

From the creative player introductions, where each of the Badgers had the chance to show off a move or two with a member of the UW Dance Team, to Vitto Brown's excellent performance of the national anthem, to the down-to-the-wire game itself, it was a fun way for Wisconsin hoops fans to spend a couple of hours.

As I wrote last week, the scrimmage included one of my favorite words -- free. It was a good weekend for that word. Last Friday, UW Athletics hosted its annual Kids Day at the Kohl Center, where young boys and girls had the chance to meet a number of student-athletes. As usual, the players seemed to enjoy the day as much as the youngsters.

The cost of attending sporting events is well documented, but we also should note that UW offers a number of low-cost or no-cost events. Hopefully you were able to take advantage of at least one of those outings last week. If not, hopefully you will in the future. After all, the price is right, and those who do attend have a great time.

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For this observer, November is when the Badgers' sports world kicks into high gear. Basketball season is here. After Wednesday night's exhibition game with UW-Platteville, Bo Ryan's Badgers set their sights on the regular season opener one week from Friday against St. John's. 

The Badgers and the Red Storm will help break in the new Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.. It is a 3,200-seat facility with a parquet floor that might remind you of the old Boston Garden. A couple of weeks ago, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Minnesota Timberwolves played an exhibition game there.

This game counts, and it will be fun to see coach Steve Lavin again. During his days as an ESPN analyst, Lavin was the keynote speaker on two occasions for Bo's Coaches vs. Cancer gala in Madison. This season will be Lav's fourth as St. John's head coach. 

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Now to football, where after two bye weeks in October, the stretch drive begins. In an odd schedule, the Badgers will play nearly half of their slate in November, starting this Saturday in Iowa City.

It is good to see Wisconsin crack the BCS rankings at No. 24. I am biased, but I believe they deserve a higher ranking. At least they broke into the Top 25, so I will spare you the complaining -- for now.

The Badgers have five games remaining, and while none features an opponent currently in the BCS rankings, this month will be anything but easy. 

Iowa is coming off an emotionally-charged overtime victory against Northwestern and most expect a very physical battle this weekend. The Hawkeyes-Wildcats game had an old-school feel to it, and I would think it will be more of the same when the Badgers roll into town.

BYU is playing well, and it has a bye this week before visiting Camp Randall a week from Saturday. The Cougars have a very good dual-threat quarterback in Taysom Hill, who leads BYU in rushing and has accounted for 20 touchdowns so far this season.

On and on it goes. Minnesota is looking better and better. Indiana can score in bunches, and while Penn State had a long Saturday night in Columbus, the Nittany Lions can be a dangerous team. Just ask Michigan.

The hectic month of November is about to begin. Yes, it can be crazy, and it also has a chance to be special.

I am looking forward to it. I am guessing you are as well.

The Voice: Badgers' fresh faces expect same old success

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Ready or not -- and I would guess most of you are more than ready -- another season of Wisconsin basketball is about to begin.
This Saturday, while the football team enjoys its second bye of the month, the men's basketball team will have its annual Red/White Scrimmage. Tip time at the Kohl Center is 5 p.m., and admission is one of my favorite words -- free. (Media motto:  "If it's free, it's for me. I'll take three.")

Once again, it figures to be an interesting season for Bo Ryan's group. While an August trip to Canada allowed the team to get a jump start on the season, Saturday's run will mark the first opportunity for most fans to get an up-close look at the Badgers, including the six new faces in the program.

There are minutes to be had in the front court, and everyone is eager to see the next step in Frank Kaminsky's growth, as well as the development of rookies Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown.

How much this first-year class will contribute right away remains to be seen, but based on some very early observations, both mine and others, this will be enjoyable bunch to watch and get to know.

Let me put it another way -- Ryan and his staff did not go out and recruit a class of wallflowers. At last week's Steak Fry, Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Patrick Herb was quizzing seniors Ben Brust and Zach Bohannon on the newbies. When they told the crowd that Brown can carry a tune, the entire team urged him to give a little sample. Young Vitto obliged, and yes, he can sing.

Actually, the man stole the show. 

Herb accurately pointed out that "women's hearts are melting."

Yeah, I know that has nothing to do with understanding what Ryan wants done on the floor, but it was a fun moment at a preseason function.

It is hard to believe that this is the 13th year for Bo Ryan as the Badgers' head coach. Time flies when your team is winning most of its games, right? For the good times to continue, it is a good guess that Ryan and his staff will be counting on veterans such as Ben Brust, Traevon Jackson and the return of Josh Gasser to help lead the way. 

There is also no doubt that defenses will be dialed in to sophomore Sam Dekker. As impressive as he was last year, keep in mind he averaged just a bit more than 22 minutes of playing time per game. I would imagine there is a decent chance his workload will increase this season.

Next Wednesday, the Badgers host UW-Platteville and then the regular season begins. In what is an aggressive non-conference schedule, the Badgers will jump right into the deep end of the pool. They open with St. John's in Sioux Falls, S.D. Four days later, Wisconsin has its home opener with Florida.

So much for easing into the season.

Most believe the Big Ten will again be a very strong conference. Perhaps the best in the nation. The good news is the Badgers have been good enough for long enough that they have earned nationwide respect.
 
When in doubt, many just assume they will be very good -- again.

Late Saturday afternoon is your chance to get a sneak peek at what this year's Badgers have to offer.

The Voice: Committee a year away, so Badgers must win

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We are one year away from the four-team College Football Playoff, but there is no shortage of talk about it, especially as reports surfaced with the names of those who will make up the selection committee.

One name in particular raised some eyebrows. That name would be Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State.

I will admit to a bit of surprise. Not because of gender, but rather because Rice is not directly involved in the sport. Like many of us, I expected the committee to be made up of former players, coaches, administrators and perhaps a media member or two.

After giving it about five seconds of thought, I believe that Rice's involvement is not just interesting, but also sound. 

This is no attempt at making a political statement. I just tend to believe that Rice can process information and bring solid reasoning to a discussion involving the best teams in college football. I would guess the ability to process information was a rather important skill in her previous jobs.

There will always be questions about any selection committee, but I have to believe it will be a step forward from the current system.

I do believe the BCS era will go down as an improvement from the previous method. While flawed and tweaked along the way, the Bowl Championship Series generated a ton of interest, created some memorable games, and of course gave fans, writers and broadcasters plenty to talk about.

This weekend we will see the first BCS standings of the season. A projected ranking from Jerry Palm of CBS Sports has the Badgers at No. 29. Currently, Wisconsin is rated 26th in both the USA Today Coaches Poll as well as the Harris Poll.

At the risk of overreacting, I wonder whether the selection committee might have a more favorable opinion of the home team.

The record says the Badgers are 4-2, but nearly every neutral observer is putting an asterisk on the Arizona State game. While calling last Saturday's tilt against Northwestern, ABC/ESPN broadcaster Sean McDonough said he considered Wisconsin a one-loss team.

That one defeat would be the seven-point setback at Ohio State, currently rated fourth in the Harris Poll, third in the coaches poll and fifth in Palm's projected BCS standings.

The Badgers just dismantled a Northwestern team that came to town ranked in the top 20 of both major polls.

Yet, to this point it is not enough to impress the current pollsters into believing Wisconsin is top-25 material.

There is a month and a half remaining in the regular season, so it is a bit early to press the panic button. But keep in mind to be considered for an at-large birth to a BCS bowl, a team must finish in the top 14 of the final BCS standings. 

That is important to note. We keep hearing that the goal of the BCS is to determine the two teams that will play for the national title, but the current system also can help determine the other big-boy bowl matchups.

There are a thousand and one things that can happen between now and the end of the regular season. 

Yes, one more loss would likely knock out the Badgers from any BCS bowl consideration. However, I would like to believe that should this team go on a run the rest of the way, the coaches and Harris poll voters will do something the computers are unable to do -- take another long, hard look at what happened in Tempe.

Hopefully that will occur. Yet to be honest, I will be more confident next year, when a committee made up of very smart individuals will process information, discuss it and make reasonable decisions based on sound evidence.

The Voice: After bye, time to say hello again to football

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I have to admit that I enjoy bye weeks. Part of it could be my naturally lazy nature, but it was fun to sit back and watch nearly 12 straight hours of college football. I took a peek at the Illinois-Nebraska game, and watched with even more interest as Indiana scored an impressive victory against Penn State.

I found myself glued to the TV during the Georgia-Tennessee game, and later took in part of the Florida-Arkansas tilt, which featured former UW assistant coaches Tim Davis and Brian White for the Gators, plus -- well, you know -- the first-year head coach of the Razorbacks and the staffers who followed Bret Bielema to Fayetteville. Since I happen to like everyone involved, I had no real rooting interest. Sorry to play the role of Switzerland here, but I am telling the truth.

Moving right along, the Northwestern-Ohio State game was as good as advertised, maybe even a bit better than the hype.

While the Buckeyes pulled out the win, the Wildcats continued to make a statement that they are no longer a cute little story. This is more than a team full of bookworms who will play a little football in their spare time.

For those who have yet to notice, it is time to state what should be obvious -- Northwestern is good. Very good. It is hard to believe that Pat Fitzgerald is in his eighth season as the head coach. The College Football Hall of Famer is just 38 years old, but if ever there is a perfect fit for a program, it is Fitzgerald and Northwestern football.

When the national pundits talk about good rivalries and crazy games, it is unlikely many will mention the Badgers and the Cats, but in the last couple of decades, there have been some wild ones between these two teams.

The gut-wrenching loss in 1996, followed by a dramatic 27-26 UW victory a year later on a Matt Davenport field goal in the closing seconds.

A Northwestern double-overtime win in 2000. A shootout in 2005, when the Wildcats outscored the Badgers 51-48. On that October afternoon, the teams combined for 1,189 yards of offense.

In 2009, a late fumble allowed Northwestern to hold off the Badgers, 33-31.

In 2010, Wisconsin erupted for 70 points in route to clinching the Big Ten championship. No close-game drama, but it was a terrific day for the Badgers as they collected the first of three straight conference titles.

Given the fact that the campuses are less than three hours apart, it is good to see these teams meet again. This often-interrupted series should be stable for the time being. Starting next season, the Badgers and Northwestern will be in the same division, so fans from both sides can hope for -- if not expect -- more wild games in the coming years.

Simply put, this is a huge game. The Wildcats still control their own destiny in the Legends Division. The Badgers need help in the Leaders, but regardless of what happens with Ohio State, the home team knows full well there is plenty of season remaining, and plenty to gain by getting back on track this weekend.

Yes, bye weeks are good. Then again, it seems like it has been a month since the Badgers last played.

During a beautiful autumn week in Madison, it is time to get back to football.

Bring on the Wildcats, and let the season resume.

The Voice: Bye brings chance for Badgers to hit reset button

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To the credit of coach Gary Andersen, he refuses to harp on the number of injuries the Badgers are dealing with right now. In last week's game at Ohio State, tight end Jacob Pedersen was hoping to play but simply was not ready. In the fourth quarter, the Badgers were without Melvin Gordon, who was on pace for a 100-yard night against a Buckeyes defense determined to stop the run.

While the coach believes the overall health of the team is pretty good, this seems to be a very good time for a bye. With some luck, most of the banged-up Badgers will be up and running in time for the Northwestern game a week from Saturday.

That would be a good thing, because in my humble opinion, the league race is far from decided.

Yes, Ohio State has the inside track for the Leaders Division crown. For Wisconsin to advance to the conference title game for the third-straight year, it would need to run the table in Big Ten play and OSU would need to lose twice.

That might be asking a lot, but it is not asking for the impossible.

Don't get me wrong. Ohio State is very good. On Saturday in Columbus, it was the better team, and the Buckeyes won fair and square. However, I am not ready to say the Buckeyes are national title good, at least not yet.

As for the Badgers, I still believe they are very good as well. Not great, but very good.

Last week's game provided the latest example of how just a handful of plays can make the difference between winning and losing. A missed opportunity in the red zone. A chance to force a turnover but not quite finishing the play. A split-second breakdown that results in a big play, or as Andersen might say, a layup. Too many penalties.

Otherwise, one can make a good argument that the game was evenly matched.

Another popular saying in sports comes to mind -- minimizing mistakes is more important than making the spectacular play.

To repeat, I want to be careful not to take anything away from coach Urban Meyer's team. It is very gifted. Braxton Miller is a much improved passer, and there is no shortage of speed on either side of the ball.

That said, the best wide receiver on the field was Jared Abbrederis, and one could make a strong case that the best linebacker was Chris Borland.

Those are just two positions, but my point is the overall gap might not be as wide as some would lead us to believe.

Logic should tell us as much. Wisconsin was error-prone, yet still had a chance to force overtime. The mistakes are obvious. What also should be obvious is the Badgers' ability to keep fighting and stay in games that otherwise could get out of hand.

If Ohio State wins out, so be it. But to this observer, the Buckeyes will have their hands full this week in Evanston (as will the Badgers when they host the Wildcats). There is another tricky game or two in OSU's future, including a late November road trip to Ann Arbor.

The Badgers missed an opportunity last weekend. The good news is there is a long way to go. While helping themselves is priority number one, it is a bit early to dismiss the possibility that the Badgers could get a little outside help along the way.

The Voice: Relationships don't change reality of rivalry

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It has become one of the Big Ten's more entertaining rivalries, enhanced because both teams have been championship caliber of late. In fact, in the last eight years, either Wisconsin or Ohio State has won the league title.

Taking it a step further, in the last 20 years, the Buckeyes and the Badgers rank 1-2 in the conference for number of victories.

It is the mark of a true, hotly-contested series. Add to it both programs have loyal, vocal fan bases that don't seem to care for one another, and you have the makings for good theatre.

But these days, there is a little twist. Former UW coach Bret Bielema did not see eye-to-eye with OSU's Urban Meyer. In a highly-competitive business, that will happen. However, there is a much different relationship between Gary Andersen and the Buckeyes boss. 

Actually, Andersen and Meyer are good friends and former co-workers. When Meyer was the head man at Utah, Andersen was the defensive line coach. The year they were together, the Utes went 12-0.

Granted, going undefeated is a good way to get along, but both Meyer and Andresen have made it very clear there is much respect and personal admiration between the two men.

It reminds me of the relationship basketball coach Bo Ryan has enjoyed with his Ohio State counterpart, Thad Matta. (For that matter, of much lesser importance, our broadcast team gets along extremely well with the Ohio State radio crew. Knowing that, I am sure you will sleep much better tonight.)

Sure, every one of these coaches is a fierce competitor, and when the teams square off, each wants his squad to beat the daylights out of the opponent. But each is careful to make it about the players, not coach versus coach. 

So, knowing that Andersen and Meyer are buds, does that alter your view of this rivalry?  Does it lesson the hype?  Does it make it any less enjoyable?

Nah, didn't think so. It is still Ohio State. Be honest -- you don't like the Buckeyes -- and they are not fond of the Badgers.

Understandable. Think about some of the recent meetings. It was 10 years ago when Matt Schabert connected with Lee Evans for the game-winning touchdown toss at Camp Randall Stadium. Good ol' 56 Jerk. That was the name of the play, with Evans running an out and up past star defensive back Chris Gamble.

Three years ago, there was David Gilreath's opening haymaker, a 97-yard kickoff return that sent the home crowd into a frenzy. Actually, the crowd had been in a frenzy for hours. The return ramped it up another notch -- or three.

Ohio State has had its moments too, especially recently. Last November Curt Phillips engineered a clutch scoring drive in the final minute of regulation, only to see the Buckeyes win in overtime. Two years ago was even worse, when a Russell Wilson-led rally was washed out by Braxton Miller's 40-yard strike to Devin Smith.

This Saturday night, I have the feeling it will be another close game. If that is the case, perhaps it is the Badgers turn to land the final blow.

Whatever happens, Andersen and Meyer will remain friends. At some point in the offseason, they likely will get together.

Friends and rivals. While not exactly a new concept, it is a change of pace in this series. 

It is just another interesting storyline in what has become a much-talked about matchup between two very good football programs, and two very good coaches.

The Voice: Reaction reveals Badgers' true character

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Before I started writing this column, I thought maybe I should move on to another topic. The old line "The horse is dead. Get off of it," comes to mind.

Then again, as an observer I have a luxury that a coach or a player does not have -- I can hang on to a topic a bit longer.

In the aftermath of last Saturday's baffling ending in Tempe, it has been amazing to see how UW head coach Gary Andersen and his players have dealt with it. Of course fans are upset. I was ticked off. Still am. 

Yet try to imagine how they feel. The players and coaches who worked all week, and all night, at Sun Devil Stadium only to have a bungled piece of officiating deny them a chance to win the game fair and square.

Leaving the stadium that night, one could not help but be impressed by how the head coach and the players handled the media session.

I was thinking about that, and about how the officiating crew simply ran off the field, with no worries about facing questions from reporters.

What is wrong with that picture?

Look, when talking about officials, a team's radio announcer is walking a tight rope. We are all homers, right? So I'll stop there and focus on other matters.

Such as the postgame interviews. On our radio broadcast, we always interview the head coach and when possible, a player. Last Saturday night we did our usual interview with Andersen, which included a few questions about the final play. He answered the questions on point, and was a complete professional.

After thanking him, I stalled for a few moments, not sure whether we would be able to talk to a player. I then went into a rather lengthy commercial break. Just as I went into the break, our sideline reporter, Patrick Herb, informed me that Chris Borland would be available. I told Patrick to relay the message that the break would last a few minutes, and with the team wanting to get home, we would understand if Chris just wanted to move on.

Nope. Borland waited out the long break, and we had our interview. 

It may be a minor thing, but to me it is just another example of what Chris Borland is about, and what this program is about. Credibility and accountability.

Every Monday, Andersen meets with the media. As you would expect, this week's session was very well attended, and everyone was eager to hear more from the coach regarding Saturday's bizarre ending.

Perhaps he was still steaming on the inside, but on the outside, he was cool, calm and collected. He made it clear that, while the outcome of the game will not change, he wants accountability. Just as he expects from himself and his players.

As he was answering question after question, I just kept thinking to myself "This guy is good."

By the nature of our jobs, Gary Andersen and I spend a fair amount of time together. We conduct various radio interviews as well as a couple of segments on his weekly TV show. Still, I can't say we really know each other that well yet. 

However, with each passing day, I am more and more convinced the Badgers football program is not in good hands. It is in great hands.

So to the fans, go ahead and be upset about how the game ended. But I would hope you are proud of how your team, led by its coach, responded after a game ended by circumstances beyond its control.

Matt Lepay is the Voice of fhe Badgers and provides play-by-play coverage of Wisconsin football and men's basketball on the Badger Sports Network. Read "The Voice" each Thursday in Varsity, the official digital magazine of Wisconsin Athletics.

The Voice: Showcase of Badgers' excellence a great wrap-up

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As sports fans, it is only natural to view a favorite team or a favorite player simply by performance in the athletic arena. Did it win or lose? How many points did so-and-so score? How many goals? How fast did he or she run?

Badger fans have enjoyed the opportunity to view a number of memorable performances in a variety of sports. On a yearly basis, UW teams have given fans ample reason to cheer.

For the last five years, the University of Wisconsin has had an event that celebrates the student-athletes' successes beyond the playing field. It is called The Buckinghams, and it is quite a show. The purpose is to recognize those who have excelled in the classroom and in the community. The program also gives several student-athletes the opportunity to display their unique talents, which this year ranged from tap dancing to performing an opera piece.

It truly is a showcase of excellence

The organizers, with special mention to Director of Student-Athlete Development Bridget Woodruff, somehow manage to gather student-athletes from every sport in the same room for a well-planned, entertaining evening.

In addition to the official award winners, an unofficial trophy for toughness should go to women's hockey player Katy Josephs. In addition to her gifts as a forward for Mark Johnson's hockey team, Josephs also possesses a beautiful signing voice. However, earlier in the day during rehearsal, she was feeling lousy -- as evidenced by her constant coughing.

As someone who speaks for a living, having a cold or the flu can be a nightmare. I figured she would be listed as doubtful for the event. I was wrong. The show must go on, right? So Katy sang, and she was outstanding in her rendition of "Try" by P!nk.

Never doubt the focus of a determined Badger.

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Also, never doubt the loyalty of a Badger. Last Friday night, 175 former UW football players were in town to take a look at the new locker room and players' lounge, as well as the new varsity sports and football weight rooms. The word "impressive" hardly does justice to the finished product. Those who attended probably understand more than most the importance of the project. I also should add this group came away very impressed and excited about coach Gary Andersen.

During the reunion weekend, some 500 former players and their families were in attendance for Saturday's spring game. It was a treat to see players from several eras. On a personal note, I really enjoyed seeing some of the guys from my first years here in the late 1980s. Those seasons might have been difficult, but there were some very good players on those teams, and many of them were on campus last week. It was fun catching up with them.

That connection is important. Hopefully every athlete who has gone through this university understands that he or she is part of a special group. Think of the number of young boys and girls who dream of being a Badger. Yet in the grand scheme of things, only a select few get that opportunity.  You might be an ex-player, but you are never an ex-Badger. I spoke to those who have not been around very much in recent years. My message is simple -- don't be a stranger. 

In the last week, I have visited with a number of current athletes as well as those of yesteryear. Watching them perform, or listening to some old stories simply reminds me that I am very lucky to be associated with this institution. 

As the spring sports season continues, I wish all the best for a strong finish. 

Thank you for checking out my blog this season. Have a great spring and summer!

The Voice: Spring game an audition for young players

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With any luck, this Saturday's spring game at Camp Randall Stadium will unfold with actual spring weather.

Then again, since that is out of our control, why worry about it? A day in the high 40s is football weather, right?

Outdoor practices have been infrequent this spring, but on Monday, coach Gary Andersen had his team scrimmage during a steady rain. While the offense had its struggles, Andersen was encouraged with a seemingly little thing that can become a big thing.

"We didn't drop the ball in the snap," he said. "That was impressive, especially from a rookie center (redshirt freshman Dan Voltz) and a bunch of different quarterbacks. (The players) didn't say a word about the weather. That's a good thing. They go out and take care of business, which is what we would expect to have done."

During an interview this week on Madison radio station The Big 1070, Andersen talked about the development of his team in general, and of some of the younger players specifically. Players such as outside linebackers Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert, as well as defensive lineman James Adeyanju.

Regarding the young players, or the not-so-young Badgers who could be in line for bigger roles this fall, Saturday's scrimmage matters.

"They need to get out there," said Andersen. "Saturday is big for them to get out there and play in front of people. They need to get out and do more than run down on a kickoff."

The defense is developing, especially the front seven. While you will not see some of the familiar faces on Saturday, spring practice has given the team a chance to develop some depth. 

"There are a lot of kids fighting for positions," said Andersen. "There are kids who have played for two and three years here, and played at a high level and played well that are getting pushed. And that is a good thing."

Andersen seems to fit the definition of a players' coach. He has sprinkled in some fun things during spring ball, such as having a dance contest, and having his players sing "On, Wisconsin." He says the team will sing the fight song after every game, both home and away.

My guess is Badgers fans will love it.

My guess is Badgers fans also will appreciate Andersen's sometimes candid nature. Candid without calling out specific players. During the radio interview, Andersen made it clear he wants to see more punch from the offense.

"Football is a hard game to play when you have to do everything exactly right. We need to be more explosive on offense. And that is hard sometimes when you don't have Jared (Abbrederis) out there, and James (White) doesn't get as many carries as you want. 

"At the end of the day, those are just excuses. We need to be more explosive as a football team.

"We need to get some throws over 25 yards, and we need to get some runs over 15 yards consistently. When you do that, you are a good offense," he added. "Show me a good offense that just trudges down the field, you know, 12 plays, three or four times a game, and goes four or five yards at a shot -- they are not a great offense. It is impossible. There is not enough time in a game, and there are not enough quarters in a game to be able to do it that way."

Andersen acknowledges those long drives can serve a purpose in wearing down a defense. He simply would rather not have to rely solely on long, time-consuming marches. He wants to see the ball move in bigger chunks.

"We can get it done in the backfield, there is no question," said Andersen. "We have tight ends that can make some big plays. Jared can make big plays. After that, we have got to challenge ourselves as coaches, myself and players to be able to have some young men on the offensive side of the ball that can consistently make big plays down the field."

While it is one scrimmage to conclude spring practices, maybe that is something to keep an eye on. 

Hope to see you this Saturday.
ON WISCONSIN