LOS ANGELES – In football, statistics rule.
Passer ratings track the best quarterbacks. Rushing yards denote the finest running backs in the game. Tackles and yards allowed indicate the fiercest of defenses. But the mark of a strong offensive line is hard to find.
“Offensive linemen don’t really have too many awards or statistics that say you are the best or everybody should cheer for you during this play,” junior center Peter Konz said.
There is no specific statistic that testifies to the overall power of an offensive line – except maybe the eight prime ribs sophomore lineman Travis Frederick ate in the Beef Bowl, helping lead Wisconsin to a 723-pound to 612-pound victory over Oregon.
Jokes aside, UW’s offensive line has been sculpted into one of the best by O-line coach Bob Bostad and hours of hard work on and off the field.
“Their excellence is due to the hard work they put in on a daily basis,” senior quarterback Russell Wilson said.
UW’s strength and versatility on the offensive line could not have been evidenced better than when Konz dislocated his ankle against Minnesota.
With Konz out through the rest of the season, sophomore lineman Ryan Groy was given the starting spot at center. After a few mishaps through much of the Illinois game, Frederick shifted from left guard to center and righted the Badgers, bringing them all the way to the Rose Bowl.
“It’s been different, obviously we’ve been shifting around a little bit,” Frederick said. “I think Ryan is doing a great job filling in there and doing what he can. I think whatever happens – if [Konz] plays, if Ryan plays – we’re going to be fine either way.”
But a little over six weeks later and the O-line’s fearless leader is ready to get back in the middle of the biggest line in the league.
“The last 72 hours I’ve been taking all the reps with the [first team],” Konz said. “I’m still pushing through a little bit of pain, but the good thing is it hasn’t gotten any worse. Actually my ankle is starting to loosen up as I do more and get some more strength. I’m real happy with the progress. I didn’t even expect to be this far along.”
Due to his injury, Konz was forced to sit out through make-or-break games in Penn State and the Big Ten Championship game against Michigan State. Watching from the sidelines wasn’t the easiest task for the injured linemen.
“It’s been tough just because we’ve had a lot of big games,” Konz said. “We had to beat Penn State to get to the Big Ten Championship, we had to win the Big Ten Championship and now the Rose Bowl is looming … I’ve been out most of the time so I’ve been trying to keep mentally sharp … it’s been real tough watching us have success without me.
“Any time you sit back and you’ve got to watch somebody do a great job like Travis Frederick has at my position, it’s just tough.”
In light of the past frustration, he made it very clear he wasn’t going to miss out on a chance to play in the Rose Bowl for a second time.
“That’s all I’ve been working for,” Konz said. “I’ve been in film, I’ve been doing everything in practice, I haven’t taken one rep off. I’ve been pushing as hard as I can and in the mean time doing treatments too. I’ve given it my all.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound junior is already being scouted for the National Football League and his return for next season is starting to be questioned. Pending that decision, with his focus on The Granddaddy of Them All, he remains a jolly, unfailingly optimistic character. Ask him any question and chances are he’ll respond first with a husky, staccato laugh.
The buoyant Neenah native hopes to get the chance to start in the second Rose Bowl of his career – a decision the coaches will make on game day – but either way he knows he leads one of the hardest working, highly touted lines in the nation.
“You got to live up to strength standards, the weight standards,” Konz said in a press conference on Wednesday. “You’ve to live up to the knowledge that they had about the game. We pride ourselves on being extremely smart, understanding blitzes, understanding formations, and really being on target so that we can be as successful as possible.”
Getting back in the mix, Konz is simply giddy for the opportunity to even play the game one more time this season.
“I love football. I love to play the game. It’s fun competing and that’s why I’m just excited to be out there again, just to show what I’ve got.”