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 Tuesday, Oct. 18, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
Empty trophy case
Wisconsin and Iowa will meet for the 90th time in their history on Saturday in Iowa City, and if there was any concern the Badgers would have some kind of hangover from an overtime loss to Ohio State last week, the events of the 2015 game between the two rivals in Madison should quell those fears.
If you remember, Wisconsin fell 10-6 in the Big Ten opener last September and had to watch as the Hawkeyes rushed the home sideline and took the Heartland Trophy for a victory lap. Though the bronze bull itself is relatively new, presented for the first time in 2004, that doesn’t make it any less important.
“It literally feels like someone is taking something from you,” Wisconsin wide receiver Jazz Peavy said Monday. “You come into the locker room, we have the trophy cases and all that, and you see the trophies in there and to not see one in there. … Someone took that from us and we definitely want that back.”
Wisconsin played horribly in the loss to the Hawkeyes. Former quarterback Joel Stave turned the ball over four times, including on the 1-yard line as the Badgers were about to take the lead in the fourth quarter. It sent Iowa on its way to a 12-0 record and essentially extinguished any hopes the Badgers had of repeating as Big Ten West champions.
“Those of us who were a part of it last year, we understand what happened,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “And yet none of that carries over.
“We have a ton of respect for Iowa. I do, certainly, for their program. But it’s about this Saturday, who is the best team.”
As opposed to Minnesota, which Wisconsin has beaten 12 straight years, there is a genuine rivalry between the Badgers and Hawkeyes. Right now, the series sits with Wisconsin in the lead 44-43-2, with the road team winning the last five meetings. And like last year, a win by either side gives them a legitimate chance to find themselves in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game. The stakes are high and that’s what makes this rivalry game a little bit bigger than others.
“I think it adds a little spunk, a little energy to the mix,” Badgers linebacker Jack Cichy said of the rivalry. “It’s just how it is.”
Building back the confidence
Derrick Tindal is almost always smiling, dancing or joking around — sometimes all at the same time. But when the Wisconsin cornerback took to Twitter early Sunday morning, there was none of that in the wake of the Badgers’ 30-23 loss to No. 2 Ohio State in overtime just hours earlier.
Two games in a row I let my team down the pain I'm feeling is unbearable ?
— Derrick D.T Tindal (@TindalIsland) October 16, 2016
Wisconsin has lost the past two games by seven points each, and the deciding score came on touchdown passes to guys being guarded by Tindal. That was the reason for the tweet, but the outpouring of support for the junior was overwhelming, both from inside and outside the program.
@TindalIsland keep ya head up you that dude
— Calvin RidleyⓂ️ (@CalvinRidley1) October 16, 2016
The truth is Tindal has nothing to apologize for or feel bad about. Wisconsin didn’t lose the game on Noah Brown’s touchdown in overtime, nor did the game two weeks earlier end on Michigan’s Amara Darboh’s 49-yard touchdown.
The way Wisconsin plays defense, where the cornerbacks are on an island by themselves for a large majority of the time, players are going to get beat. And that was the message fellow cornerback Sojourn Shelton had for Tindal.
“There’s no time for it,” Shelton said Monday. “That’s just the mentality you have to grow playing this position. I say that now because I’ve been through it. I think overall, every time I get a chance to talk to him, it’ll be just growing from that moment. It’s the life that we live.”
Cornerbacks, probably topped only by quarterbacks, have to have a certain amount of sports amnesia. The game is played with confidence and any slip in that department can be catastrophic for a player. Knowing what Tindal has been through in his life, losing his mother to cancer and seeing other family members killed, the two plays are barely a speed bump.
He’s vital to the team’s success — he leads the Badgers in interceptions — and for Wisconsin to continue to play defense at the high level it has, it needs Tindal to be at his best. There’s no reason to think he won’t deliver exactly that.
Wisconsin’s basketball season ended in heartbreaking fashion last March, with the Badgers blowing a 3-point lead in the final 19 seconds in a loss to Notre Dame in the Sweet 16.
The game was especially painful for forward Ethan Happ, who fouled out with less than two minutes to go and had to watch the rest from the bench, a towel over his head. Asked Monday during Wisconsin’s media day about the game, Happ says he has yet to watch it.
“I can’t get it out of my head now. If I re-watch it on tape, (I really won’t be able to),” Happ said. “There’s flashbacks to the last two minutes, and I can’t really shake it. And the only way I’m going to be able to shake it is to get wins in a new season and hopefully go further (in the NCAA tournament).”
The Badgers are a motivated bunch as a result of the painful exit. Point guard Bronson Koenig said the loss to the Irish cut deep, and served as an energy boost this offseason, one in which he dedicated himself both on and off the court like never before.
Others, like guard Zak Showalter, said the game was constantly brought up during the summer, so there was no chance for the pain to slip away. Still, others called it a learning moment, one the Badgers don’t want to repeat.
“You accept it and move on,” forward Vitto Brown said. “I’m not going to say you get over it, but we also think maybe it was better that way. I definitely think we learned a lot from losing that game in that way.
It was definitely in our control, and the way we literally gave the game to Notre Dame, I think now, going into this year, we know we have a greater chip on our shoulder. That’s definitely not the road we want to go down again.”
It would be hard to convince Wisconsin fans that going out the way the Badgers did was “better that way.” But, if it led to a more focused and hungry team in the summer, and as a result a stronger and improved team this season, fans will grow to accept it. Especially if it leads, as more than a few analysts believe, to a third trip to the Final Four in the last four years.
Brevin Pritzl has played four minutes of college basketball. Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitski is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. And yet, Pritzl, a redshirt freshman guard, has drawn comparisons to the German superstar from his Wisconsin teammates.
Vitto Brown said they call Brevin Pritzl "short Dirk" as in Dirk Nowitzki: "He doesn't just look like him, he can shoot that ball." pic.twitter.com/xM1PRuShv0
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) October 17, 2016
Short Dirk or not, the Badgers would take any semblance of Nowitski’s game in Pritzl, who missed most of his freshman season after undergoing foot surgery in July 2015 and then re-injuring the same foot in December. But he’s healthy now and is the best shooter, like Dirk, on his team.
“If he comes across half court, he’s in range,” guard Khalil Iverson said.
- True freshman tight end catching on quickly for Iowa
- When Wisconsin’s Sojourn Shelton sees Iowa, he sees the Badgers
- ESPN releases updated bowl projections
- Nebraska still has non-believers despite 6-0 start, but coach Mike Riley doesn’t care
- From Buckeyes to Boilers: 3 Ohio State coaches that could fill the void at Purdue