We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
Today is Thursday, Nov. 17, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
Impactful play for both schools
It may have been a play that changed the direction of two programs.
In 2004, unbeaten and No. 5-ranked Purdue hosted No. 12 Wisconsin, and ESPN’s College GameDay was in town because it was the marquee game on the docket. It was a defensive battle, and the Boilermakers led 17-14 with 2:49 left and facing a third-and-3 and their own 37-yard line. A first down there, and the Badgers without timeouts, would have likely sealed the game for coach Joe Tiller.
They dialed up the right play, with Heisman Trophy candidate Kyle Orton faking the handoff and running a naked bootleg for what would have been enough to move the chains. But as the senior quarterback got helicoptered in the air, the knee of safety Robert Brooks knocked the ball out, and cornerback Scott Starks recovered it and ran it back for a touchdown. It was, as play-by-play man Mark Jones said, a “cataclysmic turn of events.”
Wisconsin, who was 6-0 at the time, would go on to win 20-17 and start the year 9-0 before losing its final three games to finish 9-3. Purdue never recovered, though. Not that year — the Boilermakers lost the next three games and finished 7-5 — and perhaps not since. The school is 31-70 in Big Ten play since that night and has just one winning record in conference, after having four in the previous seven years.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin, who had fallen off in the years after Ron Dayne led the Badgers to back-to-back Rose Bowl titles, had a Big Ten record of just 9-17 from 2001 to 2003. But since Orton’s fumble, they are 75-33 in the conference, with only Ohio State topping that mark.
Who knows where Purdue would be if Orton picks up the first down and finishes off the Badgers. Maybe it would have set the Boilermakers on a path where Tiller leads them to greater heights instead of getting let go following the 2008 season.
What is clear, though, is the opposite directions the two programs went after that night. It was the jumping off point for both. One to despair and disappointment in nearly every year since, and the other to three Big Ten titles, with a fourth in its sights this year.
Injured players stay involved
College football programs are allowed nine on-field coaches in addition to the head coach. But as this season has gone along, and injuries have claimed the season of a few starters, the Wisconsin football team has gained several new on-the-field coaches. Pan to the sideline of a recent Badgers game, and you can find linebackers Chris Orr and Jack Cichy, with headsets on, calling out to players on the field.
"I'm a happy person; joyful person.
"Football makes me happy.
"I'm not going to just run away because I can't play." https://t.co/ijYpxs9Q3A
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) November 16, 2016
The duo, which opened the season as Wisconsin’s starting inside linebackers, each had their year ended early due to injury. Orr went down with a knee injury on the first play of the opener against LSU, and Cichy was lost with a torn pectoral muscle against Iowa on Oct. 22. Both would have been and were big parts of a Badgers defense that has been among the best in the country this year. But instead of going in the tank mentally, which would have been totally understandable, both have continued to play different but vital roles for the Badgers.
The two have been there to help sophomore Ryan Connelly, who replaced Orr in the opener and then Cichy when he went down. And they’ve continued to bring their unique personalities to the team dynamic. Orr is among the more vocal guys in the locker and constantly has a smile on his face, while Cichy has an intensity that few can match.
It’s cliché, but the fact that both still play key roles despite their injuries is one example of how close and tight-knit this team is. Everyone is important to the success of the final product — coaches, players, trainers and, yes, even injured players turned coaches.
Interesting Obasih quote on #Badgers D: I think team chemistry is enormously up than it has been in years past. .. There’s no egos right now
— Jason Galloway (@Jason_Galloway) November 11, 2016
Play like Wisconsin
Nigel Hayes joked after the Wisconsin basketball team won its opener 79-47 against Central Arkansas that the 29 3-point attempts they had were just fine. If the shot is going to be there, then the Badgers will take it, Hayes surmised.
Nigel Hayes on team's 29 3FGAs: "we don't necessarily want to shoot that many 3s every game, but hey, it works for the @warriors."
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 12, 2016
Wisconsin hit 11 3-pointers that night, which was an acceptable number for coach Greg Gard. So when the opportunity came to let them fly again on Tuesday night against Creighton, the Badgers were once again more than happy to oblige, taking 39 long-range shots. But this time the 11 they hit were not nearly enough. Their 28.2 percent average from 3-point range was a significant factor in the 79-67 loss to the Bluejays.
As related by Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal, Creighton coach Greg McDermott said the plan all along was to double the post and let the Badgers shoot from the outside.
“I might be wrong, I don’t coach their team, but I don’t think that’s what they want to do,” McDermott said. “When they isolate you in the post … for us to think that we’re going to guard them one-on-one without fouling them, it wasn’t happening. …
“I think with a team like Wisconsin, you have to pick your poison. We decided to take away the interior and take some chances with certain shooters. Nigel hit three early, but if he’s shooting 3s, he’s not around the basket. And for us, that’s a good thing.”
The 39 3-point attempts were the second-most in school history, and though the Badgers feel like they have some capable shooters, it’s not the way Wisconsin usually wins games. Yes, the team got hot early, hitting 8 of the first 13 from the outside, but once it was pretty clear the touch had worn off, Wisconsin was never able to fully adjust Add in an uncharacteristically high 16 turnovers and just five free throw attempts for the game, and it’s a recipe for defeat, the Badgers’ first of the year.
The good thing for Wisconsin is the quick turnaround. The Badgers host Chicago State at the Kohl Center Thursday night. It’s the final game before the team heads to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, where it could see some of the better squads in the country. That means a focus for Hayes and company should be on getting back to what makes Wisconsin tough to beat. That’s defense, post touches, getting to the free throw line and hitting open 3-point shots when available.
He’s (likely) gone
The more he plays, the better chance Ryan Ramczyk has of leaving after just one year of starting at left tackle for Wisconsin. From the moment he held up against LSU in the season opener, Pro Football Focus has loved the junior, who transferred from Division III UW-Stevens Point and sat out last season due to NCAA rules. In their first mock draft released Wednesday, PFF has Ramczyk going No. 28 to the Seattle Seahawks.
“How many offensive tackles will be mocked to the Seahawks this draft season? We’ll get the ball rolling with Ramczyk, who has been one of the most incredible stories of the year as he’s gone from Division III player to potential top pick. The sample size is small, but he’s acquitted himself nicely in the Big Ten with an 82.6 grade while showing the necessary skills to pass protect and the power and movement skills to run block at all levels.”
Ramczyk has said he’ll discuss his options after this season is over, but it would be a major upset for him to return to Madison for his last year.
- Nebraska’s three most underrated recruits in the class of 2017
- Akrum Wadley goes from disaster as a defensive player to one of the Big Ten’s most explosive runners
- Michigan seniors reflect on adversity and resurgence as they get ready for their last home game
- Playoff committee chair says they have the ‘right’ not to pick a conference champion
- ESPN host: ‘I’d lose my flippin’ mind’ if Penn State wins the Big Ten and isn’t in the playoff