Senior Sendoff

They are certainly small in numbers, but the 14-member Wisconsin senior class provided big dividends, not only in Saturday's 70-23 win over Northwestern, but in the Badgers' successful run for a Big Ten championship.

MADISON – Isaac Anderson always wondered what it would take to get his dad out of his Minnesota gold.

Anderson's father, Melvin, was a wide receiver at Minnesota and left the school with the fourth-most receiving yardage (1,265) in school history, and has not been shy about coming to Badgers-Gophers games, or any game for that matter, either in a maroon sweatshirt, an old Gopher jersey or some other kind of paraphernalia.

When he entered the stadium with his 13 other honorees, there was not one sign of maroon and gold in front of him.

"He had a rose and a big smile," Anderson said

Anderson admits his numbers aren't as high as he would have liked in 2010, but quickly countered by describing the smile on his face he experienced after touching the Big Ten Championship trophy, which No.5 Wisconsin earned after beating Northwestern, 70-23, Saturday afternoon.

The Badgers will have to share the conference title with Ohio State and Michigan State, but they won't have to share their trip to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl. With all three schools tied with identical records, the automatic berth goes to the team with the highest BCS standings.

Entering the week, Wisconsin sat seventh in the BCS, .054 points ahead of Ohio State, a considerable margin to make up with both teams winning and no more games to play. The UW students were convinced, especially since the ‘Pasadena' and ‘Rose Bowl' chant broke out periodically through the final quarter and again as they rushed the field and fireworks exploded overhead.

"You look back at all the years you've been here and the hard work you put it," Anderson said. "My freshman year, I came in and we went 12-1 and now I am going out on top."

Anderson ranks 22nd in school history with 1,028 career receiving yards, but has caught just four passes for 41 yards after the bye week. A moot point, according to senior quarterback Scott Tolzien, who sees the offense's balance as one of the main reasons the Badgers will play in their first BCS game in 11 years.

"It was special because we started this back in January," Tolzien said. "That's what makes it special, be able to do it with the guys you work so hard with."

Tolzien, the fifth-year senior who is now 21-4 as starting quarterback, is the big reason for that. He tied a career high with four touchdown passes against the Wildcats, finished the game 15-for-19 for 230 yards, equaling a pass efficiency rating of 250.1, the fifth-best single-game pass efficiency in school history.

"I've got a lot to be thankful for (and) there's a lot of guys to help me get here," Tolzien said. "There are 10 other guys out there that make my job easier."

Tolzien isn't the only Badgers senior who delivered a career year.

- Senior cornerback Niles Brinkley has started all 12 games and has set career highs in tackles (46) and added nine pass deflections.

- Left tackle Gabe Carimi, a finalist for the Outland Trophy, and left guard John Moffitt have started 48 and 41 games, respectively, including 27 together, developing chemistry and consistency that make them naturals to lead a big run play. With senior Bill Nagy overcoming wrist and ankle injuries that sidelined him for most of last season to starting at tight end and center, including filling in during the second half of the Iowa win after never player center, UW's line has become deep and versatile.

"It's incredible, just to see the talents that they have," Tolzien said. "They are strong and big guys, but sometimes it flies under the radar how athletic they are."

- Lance Kendricks, a Mackey Award finalist, has emerged from the shadows of his predecessors to set career highs in catches (39), yards (627) and touchdowns (5). Not only does Kendricks rank 21st all-time at UW with 1,124 career receiving yards, he consistently persists Bielema to play on all four special teams unit.

"I went out there, played my all, gave 100 percent and that's all I can do," Kendricks said. "We think if we go out, prepare and focus like we do, we can compete with anybody."

- David Gilreath overcame a scary concussion in week 2 and two missed games by registering the play of the year, returning the opening kickoff 97 yards (tied for fourth-longest in school history) for TD in win over No. 1 Ohio State on Oct. 16. Gilreath holds Big Ten record for career kickoff returns with 127 and career kickoff return yards with 2,866 yards and holds school record for kickoff return yards in a season (967) and in a game (189). Saturday, he scored his fourth career receiving touchdown.

- With injuries to Mike Taylor and Chris Borland, people expected Culmer St. Jean to be the pulse of the defense. While the captain has done just that (56 tackles, three pass deflections, one interception), Blake Sorensen's versatility has allowed the coaching staff to put him at all three positions without a letdown. In nine starts, he hasn't disappointed, leading the team with 60 tackles and notched two interceptions.

- One of the more passionate players on the defense, Valai has struggled with injuries this season, but has started 35 games over the past three seasons and when on the field, has been playing with confidence and balance. Saturday, he was the beneficiary of a big hit by Aaron Henry that jarred the ball loose and into his hands for his second career interception.

"It's been amazing," Valai said. "Doing what we did today in the closure … it's an amazing feeling."

With a program wanting to send the seniors out on the highest note possible, that little group made the biggest statement.

"We wanted to send the seniors out the right way and they helped themselves out in a big way," junior defensive end J.J. Watt said. "They did a lot of the work for us. You can't thank them enough for the work they've done the last four, five years and putting us in the position to go play in the Rose Bowl."

Other honorees

Kirk DeCremer – Promising defensive end from Verona, DeCremer recorded 5.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman at defensive end and was named a first-team freshman All-American by The Sporting News before chronic back injuries cut his career short. His legacy lives on, as he shares the same number with J.J. Watt.

Rob Korslin – The redshirt junior is your typical Wisconsin player. A walk-on athlete from Brookfield whose grandfather played football for the Badgers, Korslin has been solid on special teams and was rewarded a scholarship before the beginning of the season.

Kyle Jefferson - His 412 receiving yards was fifth-best all-time by a UW freshman, but concussions have marred the Glenville, Ohio, native's career. Despite only 10 career starts and a combined eight catches over the past two seasons, Jefferson continues to be one of the most resilient players on the offense.

Ryan Wickesberg – Who? Exactly. You never hear the back-up punter's name because Wickesberg has made no mistakes as the holder for PATs and field goal attempts. You can bet Phillip Welch certainly appreciates it.

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