Wisconsin’s victory on Saturday was a microcosm of their play this season. The Badgers’ inconsistency during their game against Ohio State was just another curve in their roller coaster of a season.
En route to allowing the Buckeyes to score the game’s first 17 points, UW played poorly throughout the first half. However, the Badgers were able to regroup in the second half and rally for the comeback win in Columbus.
Such inconsistency has characterized this team throughout the season. UW’s head coach Barry Alvarez attributes much of this to his team’s youthfulness.
“It’s a young team, and we’ve had some inconsistencies,” Alvarez said. “If you have a veteran team, I think you are more consistent.”
The young Badger team depends heavily on its freshmen, especially offensively, where three first-year players start. Included in this trio are running back Anthony Davis, who is on pace to rush for 1,000 yards this season, and cornerback Scott Starks.
These youngsters have succeeded under the leadership of experienced team members. One such player is senior defensive back Mike Echols, a captain of this year’s squad.
“You have to be a good leader,” Echols said. “With me being a captain, I have to lead well after such a tough loss the week before. It shows character when you can bounce back from a loss like that.”
Alvarez also attributes his team’s ability to rebound to the guidance of this coaching staff. He noted that even team captains need leadership, and UW’s personnel have contributed by offering direction to the team.
“Players have to follow somebody,” Alvarez said. “There is obviously some leadership [from the coaching staff]. [The players] spend a lot of time with the staff, and certainly, if they aren’t made up of that same character, you really don’t have much of a chance.”
Alvarez also gives some credit to his players. He especially commended his seniors for their efforts, maintaining the concept of leaders playing an important role for the developing Badger team.
“When you have a rough week, then you really find out how good your leaders are, and I thought a lot of them stepped up,” Alvarez said. “I really like the way our seniors stepped up.”
The Badgers’ football team has a knack for consistently bouncing back after a terrible loss. In recent years, they have shown the ability to generate a huge win when pressed with their backs against the wall.
“The guys on the team, you know no matter what happens, they just regroup and do whatever it takes find a win,” said junior quarterback Brooks Bollinger.
After doing just that against Ohio State, the Badgers improved their record to 4-3. Yet many people around Madison have come to expect a postseason bowl from the Big Ten power. If this year’s team anticipates playing after their November game at Minnesota, they need to win three of their five remaining games.
Badger players don’t take time to think that far down the road. Most players admit that they must focus on the week at hand and play one game at a time. Bollinger knows that Illinois will be a tough test for the Badgers next week, making it easier to concentrate solely on the Fighting Illini.
“I don’t think that [a bowl game is] really something that we’re worried about right now,” Bollinger said. “Our goal is still to win each one we play and to go out and prepare to do that each week.”
Echols echoed the mindset of Bollinger when he stressed the importance of the Illinois game and not looking past that. He feels that the Badgers can put a streak together and win enough games to qualify for a bowl game without looking ahead.
“I don’t think that we look at the long-term picture, because if you continue to look down the line, then you are going to lose games coming up,” Echols said. “I think we just need to concentrate on Illinois and take it a game at a time, and if we do that, we’ll be in a bowl game.”
The UW football team understands that if they believe in each other as they did during their comeback against Ohio State, they can consistently win one game at a time and play in a bowl game at season’s end.