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Former Wisconsin running back James White set two Super Bowl records on Sunday night

Super Bowl hero James White, Wisconsin winning with defense and a boost from Brevin Pritzl

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Today is Monday, Feb. 6, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.


The real MVP

Two years ago, James White watched from the sidelines as quarterback Tom Brady rallied New England to a hard-to-believe win against Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX. On Sunday, the former Wisconsin running back played a starring role in the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, as the Patriots stormed from 25 down to beat Atlanta 34-28 in overtime.

Brady took home the Most Valuable Player award, but it was the ex-Badgers star that had everyone buzzing in Wisconsin. White caught a Super Bowl-record 14 passes, scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime, and joined Alan Ameche, the 1954 Heisman Trophy winner at Wisconsin, in NFL playoff lore.

White had been a big part of New England’s offense for much of the year, catching 60 passes and scoring five touchdowns. But he took his game to another level on Sunday. In addition to the single-game receptions record, he also set the record for most points (20) scored in a single game and tied the Super Bowl record for most combined touchdowns (3) in a single game. The effort had people remembering the ridiculous outings he, Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon put on during their time in Madison.

White is still young, just finishing his third year in the NFL. He’s got a bright future ahead in New England, even if they do roll through running backs like they are a dime a dozen. But if this is the highest point of his career and it very well might be what a heck of a high point.

Super Bowl hero, James White. That sounds pretty good. Oh, and he’s going to Disney World.

Wisconsin reacts

With all eyes on the Super Bowl, the role White played in the comeback had former teammates and other former athletes at Wisconsin taking to social media in droves.

On the defensive

Wisconsin’s offense continued its extended absence on Sunday, as the Badgers managed to hit just 40 percent of their shots against Indiana. Luckily for them, their defense has suddenly become a big-time strength. And it allowed them to earn a 65-50 win at the Kohl Center the 19th straight victory at home.

“Thank goodness there’s two sides of basketball, and we’re able to make up some things on defense,” senior Nigel Hayes said. “This is a high scoring Indiana team, so to hold them to 60 points is a really good deal for us. It’s the only reason why we won.”

The Badgers forced 15 turnovers, scoring 16 points off them, including an Ethan Happ steal and dunk that brought the building to its feet.

Wisconsin’s defense wasn’t perfect. Far from it. Indiana missed some open shots and at least five of the turnovers were the result of travels. But it would also be foolish to think that the Badgers didn’t force some extra thinking on the part of the Hoosiers, especially big man Thomas Bryant, who got called for multiple travels and was clearly bothered by Wisconsin’s pressure.

The formula the Badgers used to win isn’t one you’d want to rely on the rest of the way. The offense must come alive if Wisconsin wants to accomplish its Final Four goals. But until it does, the defense should give them a fighting chance each night.

Pritzl in crunch time

No one thought much of it when guard Brevin Pritzl entered the game with 12:19 left. He’d come off the bench to play a few minutes here and there in Big Ten play, and this would likely be another short stint.

It wasn’t. After playing a total of 22 minutes in the first nine conference games this year, including 13 in a blowout of Ohio State, Pritzl played the rest of the game on Sunday, finishing with six points and two fouls.

“I was just trying to help out these guys get the offense moving, allow them to get open,” Pritzl said of his minutes. “Really, whether it’s just cutting, screening, just trying to move and make their jobs easier by making other people pay attention to me.”

Pritzl was Wisconsin’s top-rated recruit in the class of 2015 but a foot injury set him back, and he missed essentially his entire freshman year. Now, more than a year removed from a second surgery, Pritzl is starting to show flashes of his game in practice, which allows him to see the floor during actual games.

“I think over the last six-to-eight weeks he’s started to get more of his swagger back,” coach Greg Gard said. “The appreciation for things other than just shooting. Diving on the floor, taking charges, rebounding, taking care of the ball. All those things he was good at before he got hurt over a year ago. And it’s really taken him a long time to get back into that rhythm.”

The De Pere, Wis., native is as pure of a shooter that Wisconsin has on its roster. That he’s willing to do everything else that will get him on the court is a boon for a Badgers squad that is scuffling on the offensive end. It’s a year later than he probably would have wanted, but the redshirt freshman could provide a big late-season boost for a team with big goals.

Catching up