Gilreath Becomes the Tone Setter

Mere weeks ago, David Gilreath was carted off the field on a stretcher. Against No.1 Ohio State, he was basically carried off the field by the UW students. Taking the opening kickoff 97 yards for the score, Gilreath set the tone for a Wisconsin upset victory over No.1 Ohio State

MADISON - Bubbling anticipation was simmering all day long, in and around Camp Randall Stadium.

It took a mere 12 seconds for Wisconsin senior David Gilreath to blow the lid off Madison's collective cover. He was barely touched on his 97-yard touchdown journey on the opening kickoff.

Take your pick, fans of the four-year Badger who never chose to legally change his name to David Ochocinco, for some odd reason.

Which particular significance brought about by that touchdown was your favorite?

No doubt, Gilreath's big run sparked a fired-up Wisconsin team to dig a giant hole for its guests, top-ranked Ohio State. The Badgers prevailed 31-18, and to say Gilreath's TD set the tone is like surmising Erin Andrews has a few fans in this town.

This was Wisconsin's first kickoff return for a touchdown since the 2000 Badgers got one from Lee Evans, who just happened to be on the honorary captain Saturday with the Buffalo Bills' bye week off.

Also, for a guy who made his name at Wisconsin as a game-breaking returner, you probably didn't know this was the first time Gilreath brought a kickoff all the way back to the house on his 117th try. In 2009, Gilreath recorded a 68-yard punt return TD against Northwestern, but that's it in the special teams scoring department.

"I've been pressing about it for a while now," Gilreath said. "Just to have it in that moment, I hope people will forget that I didn't have one before."

Finally, Saturday's kick-six gave Gilreath 2,611 kickoff return yards for his career, surpassing Michigan State alum Derrick Mason's Big Ten Conference record. Gilreath will check in to next week with 2,677 yards.

"It was a great time to get it," Gilreath said. "A lot of hard work and preparation went into it, and a lot of years, lot of returns."

All the same, it's appropriate on this night to acknowledge the impact Gilreath has had on opposing teams as a kickoff return threat since his freshman year in 2007.

The Minneapolis native has shown remarkable durability, suiting up for all 13 games his first three seasons. His attempt at perfect attendance was derailed, however, in the second game of the season Sept. 11, getting knocked out with a concussion against San Jose State on a third-quarter punt return.

"At first, I didn't know if he was ever going to return (another) kick or punt in his career for us," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "He was excited about this week."

Gilreath did not play in the Arizona State or Austin Peay games, and while he did come back for the conference opener at Michigan State, James White handled the kick return duties.

No. 85 is back there on the goal line, and he feels so great physically that he gave the perfect answer to the needed question: are the effects of your concussion gone?

"What concussion?"

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