Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


A rugged victory in the Alamo

Brooks Bollinger had been here before.

Over his four-year career behind center for the Wisconsin football team, the resilient quarterback became UW’s own comeback kid, directing his Badgers to eight wins after they trailed in the fourth quarter, including four times in the 2002 season.

So when the Badgers lined up on their own 20-yard line in a 28-21 hole with 2:25 on the clock in their Alamo Bowl showdown with Colorado, Bollinger didn’t panic. He coolly slipped under center and guided his team downfield for a touchdown in the last game of his UW career.


Mike Allen’s extra point sent the game into overtime, and after Pat Brougham missed a 45-yarder for Colorado in the extra period, Allen calmly knocked a 37-yarder straight through the uprights in the Alamodome, sending the Wisconsin players into a frenzy and giving the Badgers a 31-28 bowl win after a one-year postseason absence.

“I was definitely very confident,” Allen said of his mindset on the game-winning kick. “I had a few of those kicks in high school and I put them right through. I was like, ‘It’s not a big deal. Just don’t think about anything, kick the field goal, it’s just like practice.'”

But Allen wouldn’t have had his chance if Bollinger hadn’t displayed the tools and propensity to make the key play that had made him Wisconsin’s all-time winningest quarterback.

Twice faced with fourth-and-long on the Badgers’ final drive of the fourth quarter, Bollinger delivered, making two of the biggest throws of his career. On a seemingly hopeless fourth and 18 from the Wisconsin 44-yard line, Bollinger connected with Brandon Williams, who found a pocket in the Colorado secondary, for 27 yards and a first down.

Bollinger then threw two incompletions before hitting an open Jonathan Orr in stride on the five-yard line. It appeared Orr, the Badgers’ standout freshman receiver, was going to waltz into the Colorado end zone for six points, but the ball bounced clumsily off his hands, and UW seemed finished again.

As Orr trudged, head down, back to the Wisconsin bench, where he found consolation from injured UW star and mentor Lee Evans, Bollinger shook off the drop and focused on the next play.

On the fourth and 10, Bollinger dropped back and fired a strike out to the left sideline, where Darrin Charles, who had his own share of drops this season, dispelled the notion that he doesn’t play aggressively enough by reaching high in the air and using his 6-foot-6 frame to rip Bollinger’s pass from Colorado’s Phil Jackson and pick up the critical first down at the one-yard line.

“It felt great [to make that catch]. I think that’s something I lacked all season long, aggressiveness, and I needed to compete a whole lot more,” Charles said. “I took this game into consideration, focused, and kind of rebuilt myself up mentally and physically and things took care of themselves.”

One play later, Bollinger took the ball in himself for a touchdown on a quarterback sneak.

“Jonathan dropped one, and I said, ‘Hey, we’re going to make this play, guys,'” Bollinger said. “It doesn’t always work out that way, but today we had an opportunity and we made the plays when they counted at the end.”

Bollinger, who was named the game’s offensive MVP, finished with 163 yards and two touchdowns through the air while piling up 82 yards and that late touchdown on 20 carries.

The Wisconsin defense clamped down in overtime, stifling Colorado’s rushing attack, which played much of the fourth quarter and all of overtime without Doak Walker finalist Chris Brown, who left the game with a concussion. Brown’s replacement, Wisconsin native Brian Calhoun, couldn’t manage positive yards in overtime and the UW defense forced Brougham to kick the 45-yarder, which he missed.

When it came time for Allen’s attempt, Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez had no doubt his kicker, who struggled with consistency throughout the season, would make the kick.

“Mike Allen, it’s amazing. I don’t even want to try and figure out kickers. But for some reason, I was confident on that last kick.” Alvarez said. “He had the best look in his eye, he was hitting everything all game. I didn’t look into his eyes and see the back of his head or anything.”

The game started dubiously for Bollinger, who drove UW down to the Colorado 17-yard line before throwing an interception that Don Strickland returned 91 yards for a touchdown.

UW quickly got the score back quickly, though, after Scott Starks picked off Robert Hodge on the Buffaloes’ second play from scrimmage. Three Anthony Davis runs, including a four-yard TD scamper, and an Allen extra point later, it was 7-7.

Colorado answered on their next possession, putting together a masterful 83-yard drive capped by a 10-yard TD pass from Hodge to D.J. Hackett on the last play of the first quarter.

Wisconsin took a 21-14 lead into the locker room, however, thanks to two Colorado turnovers. The Badgers turned interceptions by Jim Leonhard and Darius Jones into touchdowns, with Bollinger finding Williams in the back of the end zone to tie the game at 14 and connecting with Charles on a quick slant for the Badgers’ third score.

After an impressive first half in which they dominated time of possession and rushed for 117 yards, compared to only 44 for Colorado, the Badgers looked shaky at the start of the second stanza.

Leonhard, UW’s normally sure-handed punt returner who was hindered by protective padding on his hand, muffed a punt after the Badgers stopped Colorado deep in their own territory and the Buffaloes recovered.

On the Buffs’ next possession, the hulking, 6-foot-3 Brown, who is built more like a defensive end than a tailback, displayed why he is the most workmanlike back in the nation, carrying the ball seven consecutive times before punching the ball into the end zone on a 4-yard run to tie the score at 21.

Misfortune struck the Badgers again, as on the first play of the next series, Davis fumbled on the UW 17-yard line and Colorado recovered. Three plays later, Zac Colvin found D.J. Hackett in the end zone from 11 yards out, and Brougham’s extra point made it 28-21 Colorado.

The Badgers struggled to move the football in the fourth quarter, and couldn’t get closer than the Colorado 37-yard line before Bollinger’s game-tying drive with less than three minutes remaining.

It seemed the Badgers might not get another chance after Bollinger’s 45-yard fourth-down heave sailed through the hands of Williams near the end zone with 3:29 remaining. But the Wisconsin defense played the best it has all season on Colorado’s next possession, forcing the Buffs to go three-and-out and giving Bollinger a chance to work his magic one last time. Linebackers Alex Lewis and Jeff Mack, who was named Defensive MVP thanks to his nine tackles, including three for a loss, both came up with big stops on the final Colorado drive of regulation.

“I’m very proud of the way our guys competed. I thought they really went after things, never gave up, and just refused to lose, led by our quarterback,” Alvarez said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been with someone who has competed as hard and led the way he did. It’s contagious, his competitiveness, and I thought he saved his best for last. It was an awesome ball game.”

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