Saturday afternoon, Kendricks painted a beautiful picture for the Wisconsin offense.
Combined with John Clay's 123 rushing yards and game-winning 19-yard touchdown, Kendricks was the metronome of the Wisconsin offense, delivering key blocks and even bigger receptions to help No.11 Wisconsin hold off upset-minded Arizona State for a 20-19 victory Saturday.
Take away Kendricks' seven-catch, 128-yard performance against Miami in last year's bowl game, this was the senior's best performance and it came at a critical time with Wisconsin (3-0) playing without starting wide receivers David Gilreath (concussion) and Nick Toon (turf toe)
"I think it was great having a breakout game in the bowl game last year," Kendricks said. "This year, getting a lot of catches in early and just compete, even get the blocking going, has been excited."
Kendricks was already an impressive specimen before this season. A standout track athlete at Rufus King High School in Milwaukee, Kendricks was getting recruited by southern schools like Arkansas and LSU as a track athlete. Although he came to Wisconsin rated the No.12 wide receiver in his class by Scout.com, Kendricks slowly began the transformation from a 205-pound wide receiver to a 245-pound multi-faceted tight end, sound in the passing and blocking game.
"Travis [Beckum] and Garrett [Graham], I love them to death and I'm not just saying that because I want Lance to be good this year, he's just as good as those guys are, if not maybe a little bit better, because he's probably a better athlete," UW Coach Bret Bielema said.
Like a typical senior leader, Kendricks put no added pressure on himself with Gilreath and Toon sidelined. Instead, Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst had Kendricks split out as a wide receiver where the missing duo would have been.
"It felt like practice again," Kendricks said.
The presence certainly helped at the end of the first half, especially when two of Wisconsin's four first-half drives stalled and ended with field goals and another ended with a field goal miss. Down 10-6, Wisconsin engineered an 11-play, 71-yard drive that ended with Kendricks outmuscling an Arizona State cornerback to register an athletic touchdown grab, a give UW a lead in never relinquished.
"It was nice to get that momentum swing going in the first half," Kendricks said. "We stumbled a little bit … but we finished strong."
Added Arizona State Coach Dennis Erickson: "He's a big-time player. I was impressed with him coming in."
Strong is the optimal work for Wisconsin's offense. With the storylines dominated by mostly lackluster and sometimes clutch special teams play and UW's secondary limiting Arizona State quarterback Steven Threet to only 211 passing yards, the Badgers' offense gained over 400 total yards for the third straight game and play its first turnover free ball game since the Hawaii game last December.
Of course, ask the scouts from the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers in attendance what their main headline was, the response should be on how Kendricks is developing into another NFL-quality tight end, right out of the offense at Wisconsin.
"Lance is playing great football," Bielema said. "He has played a lot of good football here, and he just goes about his business … What he's done this year, he's probably had the most ferocious hit on the team this year, he has great hands, but that's kind of who he is."