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Today is Tuesday, Oct. 11, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
It’s just different at night
Wisconsin’s players have heard about Camp Randall Stadium at night, how the feel around the fifth-oldest college football stadium in the country is just different once the lights come on. Most experienced a toned-down version of it last September when the Badgers beat Hawaii. But not a single one of them understands what it’s like to play at the former Civil War training grounds when a top-5 team pays a visit.
“From what I’ve experienced, it’s awesome,” Wisconsin redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook said Monday. “Everybody talks about how it’s a little different here at night.”
Wisconsin’s quarterback had yet to take a snap in high school the last time Ohio State and the Badgers met at night in Madison, a 2010 contest that started with a kick return for a touchdown by the home team and ended with fans storming the field following a 31-18 victory over the No. 1 team in the country.
One of those on the field was outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who at 16 years old, was still in high school, but came to the game with his family to watch his older brother, J.J., play.
“Just from talks the past two weeks, it’s going to be pretty crazy,” Watt said. “I was here in 2010, the atmosphere was absolutely crazy. I would not be surprised to see something similar to that.”
Wisconsin is 7-0 since 2009 in home night games, and coach Paul Chryst has been a part of six of those wins. But he’s also been there when the Badgers have come out on the losing side, like they did in back-to-back weeks in 2008. So he knows it’s more about the play on the field than what’s going on in the stands.
“The night games have been really electric. I anticipate that,” Chryst said. “I think it’s up to us to give the fans some (more) energy. They’ll have it, but you still have to go out and play, and play well. That’s what I want our kids to focus on.”
Camp Randall Stadium has gotten a reputation as a tough environment to play in, and that’s completely accurate. Early kickoffs against nonconference opponents and the lower rungs of the Big Ten don’t generate the type of atmosphere that is difficult to deal with. But where it lacks in those moments, it more than answers the bell when kickoff comes in the dark and the stakes are high.
Madison and the fans will hold up their end of the bargain on Saturday. If the team does as well, it could go down as one of the more special nights in program history.
A bounce-back performance
A week after being everyone’s favorite quarterback in an upset over then-No. 8 Michigan State, Hornibrook found out how fast things can change when you don’t play well at the most visible position in football in a loss at No. 4 Michigan. As Sean Keeler here at Land of 10 details, the move from the top of the heap to the bottom happens quickly.
But the thing Hornibrook has going for him, like last year’s starting quarterback Joel Stave, is the ability to tune out everything that doesn’t matter. For Stave, that meant no social media or smartphone. For Hornibrook, it means staying true to who he is and not letting the positive or negative into his head.
“I know if I’m doing something wrong, I usually don’t need someone to tell me I’m doing it. Everything you hear after a game like we had last week, I already felt all those things,” Hornibrook said Monday. “I feel like I do a pretty job of not letting other people influence me and what I think of myself, what my abilities are. I know what I can do. Hearing all those outside things doesn’t really affect me too much.”
Things obviously don’t get easier for Hornibrook and the Wisconsin offense. Yes, Michigan’s defense was fantastic, but the Buckeyes are on the same level. So, faced with a similar mountain to scale, how does coach Paul Chryst think Hornibrook will react?
“It’s another new challenge, new experience for him,” Chryst said. “But I’m very confident that he’ll be himself, and that’s a good thing.”
For a good cause
Bo Ryan may no longer be coaching basketball at Wisconsin, but one of his most important contributions while in charge of the program continued on under coach Greg Gard on Monday.
Time to pay up, Greg & Michelle!
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) October 10, 2016
These days it’s almost impossible to find someone that hasn’t been affected by cancer, be it a family member, friend or a co-worker. It’s the fight to find a cure that led Ryan to start the Shooting Down Cancer event five years ago and Gard, along with his wife Michelle, were not about to let the tradition fall to the wayside, according to UWBadgers.com.
“This event is great because regardless of the amount of money that we raise, we understand the awareness that we’re trying to raise and the fight that we’re trying to finish,” Gard said. “A lot of people are able to raise awareness and put money behind it, but when you’ve lived through it as well, that really adds an extra level of uniqueness to it that my family and I have gone through.
“Every dollar counts as we continue to try and fight this. I’m just really proud to be the coach here and proud of the students that came out here today.”
Gard’s father, Glen, passed away from brain cancer last October. In addition to Monday’s event, Wisconsin’s Oct. 30 exhibition game against UW-Platteville, coached by Gard’s brother, Jeff, has been deemed the Brain Cancer Awareness Game, with designs on bringing more attention to all forms of cancer.
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) October 11, 2016
Women’s volleyball hits No. 1!
For the first time in school history, the Wisconsin women’s volleyball team is ranked No. 1 in the country.
What that means just seven games into a 21-game Big Ten schedule is debatable, but the accomplishment should be celebrated.
— Tom Oates (@TomOatesWSJ) October 10, 2016
Anytime you do something for the first time in program history, it’s significant. Sometimes overlooked because it plays in the same season as the football team, coach Kelly Sheffield has done one of the best coaching jobs in the country in his four seasons, returning the Badgers to among the best in the nation.
With three-straight NCAA tournament berths, including a spot in the NCAA title game in 2013, Sheffield and his team have consistently put a very good product on the floor, bringing life back to the Field House on a regular basis.
— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) October 10, 2016
But because of that success, and the goals to finish this season with a national championship, Sheffield told reporters on Monday that the ranking means very little.
“You better be spending very little amount of attention on that,” he said. “It’s a non-factor because of what’s in front of us. We won’t even talk about it in practice. We don’t talk when we’ve been unranked or second or 12th or whatever. We just don’t ever talk about it.”
The team may not, but fans and observers of the program should. Whether it lasts one week or the rest of the season, it’s a moment that needs to be noted and remembered.