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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Intensity ignites for Big Ten play

The UW football team finds itself on the brink of excellence — and now it is time to take the next step. The Badgers’ non-conference season is complete, the Big Ten season is here, and conference play will distinguish between which teams are powerhouses and which teams are merely presenting a facade.

The No. 15 Badgers (5-0) take the turf Oct. 5 in its Big Ten opener against the No. 21 Nittany Lions (3-1) in a crucial early game.

After enjoying a bye week, Wisconsin resumed practice Monday, and players began preparing for a contest that could prove to be quite a challenge.

Head coach Barry Alvarez is approaching the game as he would any other, but he concedes there is more importance felt in Big Ten competition. That sense of importance often leaks down to the players.

“There is more of a sense of urgency. We put more emphasis on it,” Alvarez said. “This is the part of the season that counts, and [players] recognize the other things. All of that together, I think, puts more emphasis and more importance on the game.”

In order to offset the strengths of Penn State, the Badgers will have to turn up their level of intensity. As a team captain, quarterback Brooks Bollinger is familiar with the increased level of play in the Big Ten season and suggests it will come naturally.

“There is no doubt the intensity level will be picked up,” Bollinger said. “For a lot of reasons, but No. 1 is it’s Big Ten and it’s time to get the conference season rolling.”

Inside linebacker Jeff Mack, who leads the team in tackles with 46, agrees.

“There is a lot of pride that goes into trying to win the Big Ten and trying to compete in the Big Ten,” Mack said. “There is definitely an increase of intensity and all around attitude around here.”

“You want to go and compete the same as you do every other week,” Bollinger said, “but I think there is that much more on the line.”

Also on the line this week is the Badgers’ five-game winning streak. In those wins, UW held opponents to a Big Ten-best 15.2 points per game while taking care of the football well enough to rank them at the top of the NCAA in turnover margin.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno brings a quick defense and an explosive offense to Camp Randall, both bulging with immense size and strength. Penn State suffered its first loss against Iowa last weekend, a 42-35 overtime thriller.

In order to defeat the Nittany Lions, sound execution is imperative, and it has become a top priority among the players.

“With Big Ten games, a lot of times there is (an) equal level of skilled players, equal level of athletes on the field,” Mack said. “And a lot of times it comes down to who executes best.”

It is still unclear whether wide receiver Lee Evans will be cleared to play this weekend. Alvarez refused to speculate but suggested Evans’ playing status would be a game-time decision.

“I think the most important thing to me is just having a guy like Lee back in the huddle,” Bollinger said. “He’s a captain, a great leader, a great guy to have around. And the way he carries himself will be a great help to this offense, let alone his physical ability.”

Without Evans in the lineup, the Badgers will have to continue searching for other ways to win football games.

“On offense we showed spurts of being explosive, and I think we definitely need to build on that and have some explosiveness along with consistency,” Bollinger said. “We showed the consistency we need in the Arizona game. That’s definitely one thing that I know we will try to carry on for the rest of the year.”

While Alvarez marvels at the play of his team, particularly those filling in for Evans, his point of emphasis for underclassmen remains to treat the contest as they have for the non-conference schedule in order to reach a nationally praised level of excellence.

“It is not nuclear physics,” Alvarez said. “I do not want them to make magical plays or anything else because it is a league game. Take care of your responsibility. Do not make it bigger than what it is.”

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