Nick Davis is no stranger to putting games out of reach. During the last home game of his freshman year, Davis returned a punt against Penn State for a touchdown that helped clinch the game for Wisconsin and allowed the Badgers to go to the Rose Bowl.
Last Saturday Davis was again the maker of a big play that helped his team seal a victory. The receiver’s 32-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter against Western Kentucky eliminated any hope the Hilltoppers might have had of winning the game.
It was Davis’ only catch of the game, and it is characteristic of the frustrating season he has had thus far. The receiver has put up somewhat disappointing numbers, gathering in only nine catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
A player turning 22 percent of his catches into touchdowns usually earns a spot on the All-America team, but unfortunately for Davis, his struggles with consistency and concentration have kept him from success.
“It’s just a matter of being able to concentrate,” Davis said of his poor performances this season. “The Penn State game, I felt like I had a really good game, and then this week the first half I came out and struggled a little bit, kind of re-gathered myself and re-gathered my thoughts at halftime, made the adjustments and came out there and just kind of made up my mind that I was going to play well.”
Though Davis caught the touchdown pass on Saturday, a reception that head coach Barry Alvarez said he hopes gives him some confidence, he has struggled in the previous four games.
The most noticeable of Davis’ receiving struggles came against Oregon. With a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds of the game, quarterback Jim Sorgi heaved a pass towards Davis on the final play. The pass went through his hands, effectively ending the game for the Badgers.
After the game many among the media and the fans blamed Davis for costing the Badgers the game. But he refuses to let the negative responses bother him.
“You go out there, and people don’t know how much time you put in for this or how you make those plays all the time in practice,” Davis said. “It wasn’t just me. I wasn’t the only one that had a chance to make a play on that last drive . . . [fans and media] can blame me for the world coming to an end. As long as my teammates believe in me, and my coaches believe in me, that’s all that matters.”
The coaching staff has stuck with Davis through his struggles, both as a receiver and as a punt and kickoff returner. This season, Davis has returned 11 punts for 80 yards, and 10 kickoffs for 236 yards, with no touchdowns in either category. These numbers are low by Davis’ standards, but he has adjusted to the position and put the fear behind him that he had in his first season on the special teams unit.
During his freshman year in a game at San Diego State, Davis found himself trying to field a punt and refocus himself on the field at the same time. He simultaneously saw himself in the Jumbotron at Qualcomm Stadium, trying to catch a knuckling punt, all the while hearing the footsteps of Aztecs rushing toward him. It made him think, “What am I doing here?”
With Davis’ struggles this year, many critics have wondered the same thing about the receiver. But with last week’s touchdown reception and the confidence of knowing he has the talent to be successful, Davis will continue to refocus and do what it takes to once again produce consistent success.