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 Wednesday, Oct. 26, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
Not a rivalry
A trophy doesn’t make a rivalry. History and fan bases do. So while some have tried to paint Nebraska and Wisconsin as a budding rivalry in advance of the team’s top-15 matchup on Saturday, it feels a little forced.
Chryst said this is one of those games his players know will be challenging, and they know what they’re up against.
“It’ll be a well-coached and talented team and we’ll have to prepare well to give ourselves a best chance got to do a great job,” Chryst said.
But a rivalry?
“I don’t know about the other stuff,” he said.
You can’t make up rivalries. They make themselves over decades of games and the stories that surround them. When you’ve been playing against each other since 1890 — like Wisconsin and Minnesota — the build-up of angst between teams and fan bases can grow and grow, and not be affected by down years by either side. The tension between the Gophers and Badgers is still as palpable as it was at any time in the series. Same for Wisconsin and Iowa. Right now, it’s not that way with Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Maybe it’s because of the newness — the Huskers just joined the Big Ten in 2011 and the two teams had played just twice before that — or the fact that two of the four games are noteworthy simply because of the lopsided scores between two highly ranked teams. While those embarrassments might have Nebraska fans a little more riled up, the dislike and hate on Wisconsin’s side of things just isn’t there.
A @landof10 poll asked who Iowa's biggest rival is, and Wisconsin was the overwhelming choice. Who is Wisconsin's biggest rival?
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) October 20, 2016
Players this week mentioned playing for the Freedom Trophy, the 2-year-old award given to the winner of the Wisconsin-Nebraska game, but there was no impassioned speech about holding onto it like reporters got last week in the lead up to the game at Iowa, where the Badgers were trying to recapture the Heartland Trophy. Sure, the Wisconsin players will carry it around after the game if they win, but then the odd-shaped trophy will go back into the display case and not be mentioned again until next year. That’s not the case with Paul Bunyan’s Axe, or even the much less heralded Heartland Trophy.
Could Wisconsin and Nebraska turn into a rivalry down the road? Sure. The two schools play in the same division, have similar values as programs and are important to the people in the states they represent. But if you have to ask whether something is a rivalry, then you’ve already got your answer.
Remembering Sam Foltz
This weekend will mark the first time that Nebraska kicker Drew Brown will return to Wisconsin since a car accident about 30 miles west of Milwaukee took the life of his friend and teammate Sam Foltz in July. The tragedy that also saw former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler killed sent shockwaves through the very tight-knit specialists community in college football, including those in Madison.
Foltz and Sadler were friends with former Wisconsin punter Drew Meyer, while junior kicker Rafael Gaglianone had come to know Foltz very well through kicking camps in recent years. The bond was so close that Gaglianone went to Nebraska for Foltz’s funeral, changed his number to 27, the same as Foltz’s, and still speaks with Foltz’s father on a regular basis.
Gaglianone has gotten to know Foltz's parents well since the car accident in July. Said he talks to Foltz's father every Friday.
— Jason Galloway (@Jason_Galloway) October 25, 2016
This weekend will be emotional for all involved, especially Brown, who was mentored by Foltz from the moment he stepped on campus in Lincoln. Gaglianone can’t imagine what Brown and the rest of the Huskers have gone through this year, or what the team will be dealing with in returning to the state where the accident occurred.
“I can’t express what it’s going to be like for him or anyone on that team that got to know Sam even more than I did,” Gaglianone said when he met with reporters on Tuesday. “I can’t speak for what he’s going to be feeling. I know it’s not going to be easy on him. Obviously he’s focused on the big game ahead but it’s tough.”
Gaglianone plans to walk out with Nebraska K Drew Brown holding Sam Foltz's No. 27 jersey on Saturday for warm-ups.
— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) October 25, 2016
Saturday is a big game, but it’s also evidence that it is just a game. These are 18- to 23-year-old kids going through some of the toughest moments of their lives. That the Nebraska players, as well as the other schools that have honored Foltz this year, have handled it in such a classy way speaks to what Foltz meant to them and the respect he had around the conference.
Shuffling to continue
The win over Iowa on Saturday was the definition of a team victory for the Badgers, especially on offense. It’s where they played two different quarterbacks and eight different offensive linemen, while seeing eight guys credited with a rushing attempt and eight different players with a reception. The spreading of the playing time will almost certainly continue this week against Nebraska, particularly along the offensive line.
As Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel details, the Badgers used six different combinations against the Hawkeyes, a shocking number for the seventh game of a season. But it’s where Wisconsin is right now as a myriad of injuries and inconsistent play have Chryst and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, who also coaches the offensive line, still looking for their best five up front.
Chryst said UW still working through the starting OL combinations. Says part of it is health driven.
— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) October 24, 2016
Wisconsin went through similar issues a year ago, starting seven different lineups over 13 games, but the Badgers have never done anything like this. The rotations from series to series, which also happened to a lesser extent the previous week against Ohio State, are unprecedented, and yet the team has had pretty good success, especially in the running game. The Badgers have put up 201.5 yards per game, easily the best back-to-back performances of the year.
Clearly Wisconsin would like to have its five best offensive linemen on the field. But until it becomes clear who those are, the rotations will continue. And so far, so good in the Badgers’ minds.
Stave done in Minnesota
The winningest quarterback in Wisconsin history was released on Tuesday from the Minnesota Vikings practice squad. And if it’s the end of the football road for Joel Stave, he’s accomplished more than anyone ever thought he could. A former walk-on, he became a three-year starter and then got his shot in the NFL. It’s not a bad little career for a guy who so often was overly criticized and under-appreciated.
Vikings released Joel Stave from the practice squad. Packers don't have a 3rd QB on the practice squad. And Joe Montana Callahan is in CLE
— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) October 25, 2016
A polarizing figure, no doubt, Stave’s career should be looked back upon as moments of very good laced with times of very bad. But the guy won games and that’s what quarterbacks are supposed to do.
He overcame a head coach in Gary Andersen who didn’t want him and a fan base that ridiculed and continually called for his replacement. And he did it without lashing out or trashing those that looked down at him.
Stave will never be remembered as a great quarterback. But he was a winner and that’s a legacy he can live with.
- CFP expert: Nebraska needs substance more than Wisconsin needs style
- Nebraska defense not intimidated by Camp Randall despite past failures
- Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz shoulders responsibility for offensive flaws
- ESPN’s Paul Finebaum still thinks Ohio State will beat Michigan, make the playoffs
- Despite the win/loss records, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh isn’t downplaying rivalry with Michigan State