Phillips Makes His Mark

Fifth-year senior Curt Phillips wasn't asked to do much in his first collegiate start, but the work he did leading the offense in Wisconsin's 62-14 victory over Indiana was worth all of the rehabilitation he's gone through.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - As he was caught from behind and brought down at the 10-yard line following a failed stiff arm attempt, senior quarterback Curt Phillips knew he was going to get some grief from his teammates, particularly roommate Mike Taylor.

"I've had a couple more ACL (surgeries) than him, so that's my excuse," said Phillips.

Saturday was going to be a good story regardless with Phillips coming back from multiple injuries and setbacks, but Wisconsin's running game, including Phillips, made it easy on the senior by rushing for a school-record 564 yards in a 62-14 victory over Indiana at Memorial Stadium Saturday.

Phillips only had to attempt seven passes to become the fifth straight starting quarterback to win his opener at Wisconsin (Scott Tolzien – 2009, Russell Wilson – 2011, Danny O'Brien – 2012, Joel Stave – 2012), but the end result didn't matter as much as finally being given the opportunity.

"The plan was to not put a lot on Curt, and obviously it worked very well," said UW coach Bret Bielema. "Curt is very good at certain throws. We just got into a situation in the second half when we didn't need to run it … He really did a nice job all day with the clock, managing the situation and everything involved."

With Stave out presumably for the rest of the season after breaking his collarbone in the second half against Michigan State, Phillips was named the starter for the first time in his collegiate career, and brought in career numbers of completing 7 of 12 passes for 65 yards and one interception in 2009.

"I was excited," said Phillips. "I try to always be not too high or too low emotionally."

In a way, his teammates were more excited than he was. Freshman fullback Derek Watt praised Phillips for standing in the pocket and taking a hit on a fourth-and-2 pass to the flat; a throw he caught for a 17-yard gain that led to a Montee Ball touchdown three plays later.

He also hustled down field on a number of Wisconsin's long touchdown runs to try to infer with pursuing defenders, adding more than his 4-for-7 passing for 41 yards suggests.

"It was awesome," said tackle Ryan Groy of Phillips' blocking. "I was probably 40 yards back just watching him trying to pick somebody off. He's a good player ... It's something we really wanted for Curt."

His first attempted pass in a game since October 31, 2009 was an incomplete pass amidst heavy pressure from the interior. He was crushed later on when safety Greg Heban came untouched on a third down blitz, knocking UW out of field goal range.

Phillips relished all of it. After all, he had been through much worse.

"I've done as much as I can to strength me knee," said Phillips, "so I am not worried about it."

The victory allowed Phillips to finally come full circle. After winning scout team player of the year in 2008 and playing five games his redshirt freshman year, Phillips entered spring in a battle with Jon Budmayr for the No.2 quarterback role, but tore his ACL in his right knee on a non-contact scramble during a spring drill in March 2010.

Phillips' comeback was entering its eighth month when he re-tore his ACL during scout team work in November 2010. He persuaded then-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to let him participate in 7-on-7 passing drills the following spring, but started feeling discomfort in his damaged knee after two weeks of workouts.

An exploratory surgery revealed an infection in the knee that occurred during his second surgery, resulting in his body rejecting the new knee ligaments. Instead of being on the road to recovery, Phillips had to spend time in the hospital and spent his summer in Tennessee wearing a fanny pack full of IV antibiotics.

"So many other people put so much in trying to give me a chance to come back," said Phillips.

Even with the obstacles he overcame, Phillips' demeanor didn't reflect the struggles when he connected with Sam Arneson for his first collegiate touchdown pass in the first quarter.

"That's how Curt is – he doesn't get involved in the moment," said Bielema. "He's a real dry guy, very matter of fact, handle the business."

Phillips is also a realist, especially considering Wisconsin will have to develop more of an aerial assault in its final four games. He's confident that when asked, he'll be able to push the ball down the field with his arm.

"We know teams are going to zero us down and make us throw," said Phillips. "I am confident with it. We didn't necessary need to do it today."

After waiting for so many years, did Phillips want to air it out?

"I really could care less," said Phillips. "As long as we're moving the ball and scoring, I could care less."


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