Dec. 6, 2011
BY MIKE LUCAS
INDIANAPOLIS -- Following Saturday night’s victory over Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten championship game, Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler each accessorized their suits by using a rose for a pocket square.
Standing side-by-side in the UW locker room, they answered questions while morphing into Cheech and Chong. Or Harold and Kumar. Or maybe they were just being Peter and Kevin.
“The Rose Bowl is always special,’’ Konz said.
“The Rose Bowl is always good,’’ Zeitler added.
“It’s going to be warm and there are going to be things to do,’’ Konz said.
“So many various activities,’’ Zeitler added.
“Like the arcade; we’re going back to the arcade,’’ Konz said.
“Got to go (Big Buck) Hunting; set records there,’’ Zeitler added.
“Phenomenal,’’ Konz said.
“Goooooood,’’ Zeitler added.
There may be some discrepancies on who babbled what during the exchange, but this type of whimsical communication is fairly commonplace between Konz and Zeitler.
Turning serious, Konz said, “I could have played (Saturday). It was one of those things where if there was a situation that occurred, I would have been the first man in.’’
Konz injured his ankle at Minnesota and missed the Illinois and Penn State games. He was suited up Saturday and went through the pregame but did not play against Michigan State.
Will Konz be ready for Oregon?
“Absolutely,’’ he said without hesitation.
Turning serious, Zeitler said, “Those two games in the middle of our schedule were just heart-breaking, gut-wrenching and we did not want that to happen again.’’
He was referencing the October road losses at Michigan State and Ohio State.
“We knew how to handle it this time,’’ Zeitler said.
After the Spartans rocked the Badgers with 22 unanswered points in the second quarter to take a 29-21 lead, there were some strong words spoken at halftime by a few of the seniors.
Patrick Butrym was among them.
“Butrym gave a good one. He got very emotional, very loud,’’ Zeitler said.
“He just said, ‘You cannot accept this, you cannot accept losing,’’’ Konz related
“I really appreciated that,’’ Zeitler said.
“It really pumped everyone up,’’ Konz said.
How would Butrym describe what took place?
“It was a very spirited conversation,’’ he said softly.
What was his message?
“As dumb and simple as it sounds, it was about playing football,’’ Butrym said. “And we weren’t doing that -- guys were hanging their heads (in the second quarter).
“It was like, ‘Look, we’re only down by eight points. It’s very manageable. We’re in a better situation now than we were at halftime the last two times that we played them.’’’
In 2010, the Badgers trailed by 10 points, 20-10. They lost 34-24.
In October, the Badgers trailed by nine points, 23-14. They lost 37-31.
They would not lose on this night in Indy.
“The guys were optimistic at halftime,’’ said Bradie Ewing. “That’s what is great about this team -- everyone had faith that we were going to come back and win. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind.’’
“We’ve been in that situation before and we knew how to respond,’’ Jeff Duckworth said. “There was no panic, but there was definitely a sense of urgency.’’
“The senior leadership really stepped up,’’ Travis Frederick said.
“We fed off the seniors,’’ Marcus Cromartie said.
Shelton Johnson was searching for just the right word to describe this team and his teammates.
“Resilient,’’ Johnson finally said. “That’s the only word that comes to mind when you think of this team. Resiliency is the best term to describe us.
“We were not going to leave this stadium with a loss.’’
Call it a will to win. Or a refusal to lose.
“It’s just the way we are trained,’’ said Josh Oglesby. “We know it’s going to be a physical, four quarter game. And we’re all in. That shows the stick-to-itiveness and perseverance of this team.’’
“The second half was a testament to our leadership and toughness,’’ Chris Borland said. “We under-performed in the first half and had a lot of mistakes. But they were playing well, too.’’
A television anchor asked Borland if it felt good to get some revenge on Michigan State.
Pausing to measure his response, Borland said, “Yeah, it does. Revenge feels good.’’
A few feet away, Aaron Henry reiterated, “This was a game of redemption. That’s what we were calling it pretty much. We looked at it as an opportunity to come back and redeem ourselves.’’
By any word, or any account, there was a strong sense of fulfillment.
“With those back-to-back losses, we could have easily folded as a team,’’ Ewing said. “But I thought this game was kind of a snapshot of our season.
“Some ups, some downs. We faced some adversity. But we kept fighting and we stayed true to the plan. It’s such a blessing to be going back (to Pasadena).’’
While Antonio Fenelus was parading around with the Big Ten championship trophy in the locker room, Cromartie grinned and said, “After all we’ve been through this year, it was the perfect ending.’’
“Now all we have to do,’’ Cromartie said, “is go out and win the Rose Bowl.’’