Speaking from the Gut

Of the four senior captains on the University of Wisconsin, it can be stated confidently that defensive tackle Patrick Butrym is the quietest. You wouldn't have known it if you were in the locker room at halftime of the Big Ten Championship game, as Butrym's passionate speech is one of the season's defining moments.

LOS ANGELES - It's a moment that doesn't usually call for a Patrick Butrym speech. Maybe it's why the timeliness of the moment registered such a powerful message.

Wisconsin had just entered into its locker room at Lucas Oil Field feeling emotionally battered and beaten. In the rematch of its Hail Mary stunner, Wisconsin's defense still looked the part of a deer in headlights. The Spartans had rolled up 317 yards - 181 passing and 136 rushing - in the first two quarters, and trailed 29-21.

Although soft spoken, choosing to let his actions on the field do the talking, Butrym, one of Wisconsin's four senior captains, decided on a whim that something needed to be said and needed it to be blunt.

"It just needed to happen," said Butrym, as seeing players with their heads down spurred him to speak. "Guys were down about things and I just didn't want to regret anything. I didn't want to think to myself, ‘What else could I have done?' I was sick of losing to Michigan State, two times in a season and three times in a row is unacceptable."

According to his teammates, the results were Butrym getting animated, getting harsh and laying everything out in front of his team. Most of the words aren't suitable to be repeated, but the message was simple: UW wasn't playing up to its abilities and needed to start playing the way they knew now.

How it was delivered, too, also made a statement.

"Pat was going nuts," said sophomore Chris Borland. "I thought he was going to pass out. He was turning blue … He was fired up and we needed it."

The results reflected a spirited, re-energized, tougher group. Wisconsin, with a couple minor adjustments, held Michigan State to 10 points and 154 yards - 100 passing and 54 rushing - in the second half to set the tone for a 42-39 victory.

Michigan State scored on two of its five second-half possessions but the Badgers forced three punts after forcing zero in the first half. After the Spartans got the ball first, Wisconsin also forced a three-and-out and drove 62 yards in eight plays for a touchdown to pull within 29-28.

"Patrick is a natural leader, and naturally takes on the leadership of the whole defensive line," said senior Nick Toon. "I think a lot of people don't, and wouldn't, realize that Patrick was a big leader for us last year. J.J. (Watt) led the defensive ends and Patrick led the d-tackles."

Butrym's season has been quiet by his standards. After finishing with 24 and 28 tackles the last two seasons, respectively, the senior from New Berlin, Wis., enters Monday's Rose Bowl with 22 tackles and one quarterback sack.

Those numbers don't tell the story as much as the numbers of his fellow defensive tackles, as Beau Allen, Ethan Hemer and Jordan Kohout all are on pace to set new career highs in tackles. For a group of sophomore, the leadership Butrym has provided is invaluable.

"He's a great leader," said Allen. "He is really vocal and it's really helped at crucial points, like halftime in Indianapolis. That was a turning point for us. To me and the other defensive tackles, he's been a great mentor. I think we have learned a lot for him. It's just kind of those intangibles that he has."

It's also been welcomed considering the amount of injuries Wisconsin's defensive line has been forced to cope with. Junior David Gilbert had 10 tackles and three sacks in his first four games, but broke his foot prior to the conference opener and was forced to redshirt. Senior defensive end Louis Nzegwu also had battled through various injuries, meaning Butrym's presence for nearly every crucial snap has been all that more rewarding.

"He's a classic Wisconsin kid," said UW coach Bret Bielema. "He just works his tail off and it just means a lot for him to play here. As that light is going to be shut off at playing at your home state institution and playing at such of high level, he really drew upon that to play well in that game and he has."

Including their second performance against Michigan State, the Badgers have been a much-better defense in the second half. In their past five games, they have allowed 76 points in the first half and 17 in the second. Considering that Oregon has outscored opponents 151-50 in the first quarter this season, Butrym said UW's defense will need an assist from the offense, which ranks 22nd in the nation, averaging 31 minutes, 58 seconds per game.

The Ducks are No. 120 at 25:03, but still have scored 82 touchdowns this season. It's a tall task, but a challenge that would leave a lasting impression if they can accomplish it. If they do, Butrym's poignant remarks would certainly be a popular footnote on the road to redemption.

"To leave a senior legacy like (back-to-back Rose Bowls) is something special and hopefully with a cherry on top being winning the game," said Butrym. "I want to win this game and leave a legacy as a senior, and parallel the highest of highs this program has ever had, pass the torch to younger guys and turn us into an elite program. I think we're headed in the right direction."

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