IOWA CITY, Iowa – Senior Vince Biegel said he’s not the type of guy who is in favor of watching a football game from home or the sidelines, especially one where he could be involved in it.
So after missing two of the biggest games of the seasons, a personal hell for Biegel, he found himself right back where he belonged Saturday, returning to action and registering one tackle in No.10 Wisconsin’s 17-9 victory over Iowa Saturday.
“I’ll continue to shake off the rust,” Biegel said. “I feel very fortunate 23 days off surgery to be able to be out there and make some plays for my team.”
Registering nine tackles and a sack through Wisconsin’s first four games, Biegel had been experiencing discomfort in his right foot since the beginning of the nonconference season that reached a peak during the 30-6 win over Michigan State.
“I’ve played through tougher injuries,” Biegel said. “The Wednesday going into the Michigan game, we had our staff there, I was like, ‘Let’s get an x-ray on it.””
An x-ray revealed a small fracture and a decision. Biegel could continue to play and have surgery after the season. He might make it through the year, but breaking the bone further would have sidelined him for eight weeks, causing him to potentially miss the rest of the season and jeopardize his participation in college all-star games or the N.F.L. combine.
He chose the other option, miss two of the biggest games of the season against No.4 Michigan and No.2 Ohio State and guarantee his health for the stretch run.
“There was a lot of praying, a lot of family talk that Wednesday, but I felt very confident that the surgery was the right route for me,” Biegel said. “I feel confident. I feel it was a good decision. I’ll continue to get better the rest of the season. I feel it’s going to get stronger, as well. It feels good right now. It felt good cutting on it and I was able to practice all week on it.”
“I would have killed to be out there,” he added. “I came back for those games.”
While he said he felt good going through warmups last week prior to the Ohio State game, Biegel said the foot felt fatigued, a sign that he needed more time. He returned to practice Tuesday, a welcomed site for his teammates.
“Huge, not only on the field but also vocally,” outside linebacker T.J. Watt said of Biegel’s return. “He had good things to say before the game and throughout the game. To have someone on our side who is well respected by offenses helps me to get some runs by way.”
Biegel credited his surgeon for keeping him in good hands and the Wisconsin training staff for the rehab work they did with him over the last three weeks.
“I feel very blessed to be back out here on Saturdays so quickly,” Biegel said. “It’s a credit to those guys.”
Houston Shines in Cameo
After seeing his replacement shine in the second half against Georgia State, senior quarterback Bart Houston had spent the last four weeks on the bench, relegated once again to reserve status. While it doesn’t appear he’s closer to getting his job back, Houston still found a way to make an impact.
Coming in on the third series of the game, Houston went 3-for-3 for 38 yards and a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Troy Fumagalli. The score put the Badgers up 7-0 and represented the only points of the half for UW.
“I’ve been saying for years now, it’s whatever I can do to help this team move forward,” Houston said. “There’s a lot of things I can get better at, Alex can get better at, us as a team can get better at. That’s the awesome thing.”
Houston’s appearance was planned, as the Badgers had been working on a package of plays for Houston to run over the past several weeks. He immediately hit receiver Jazz Peavy for 12 yards, found Corey Clement for nine to the Iowa 29 and hit Fumagalli between the numbers on an inside slant for his touchdown pass. The play had the option for Houston to run, as well.
Houston also commanded the huddle on the first series of the fourth quarter. Although going 1-for-3 for 21 yards, Houston scrambled on a read-pass option for a first down on third-and-8, putting his shoulder down and taking on a defender for the extra yards. Houston finished 4-for-6 for 59 yards.
“For us to be the best team we can be, we’re going to need everyone,” head coach Paul Chryst said. “Bart gives us some stuff.”
With Alex Hornibrook going 11-for-19 for 197 yards, Chryst acknowledged that the Badgers could use both moving forward.
“When this whole started I thought we probably needed both,” Chryst said. “It’s a real possibility (we use two). I think it’s good for us, maybe not put all the onus on one guy.”
Offensive Line Carousel
Wisconsin started the game with the same offensive line it has had the last four weeks, having Michael Deiter work at left guard and Brett Connors work at center. Things got creative after that.
Missing the last four games with a leg injury, redshirt freshman Jon Dietzen was inserted at left guard and Deiter moved over to center. On the third drive Dietzen and Deiter stayed and sophomore Micah Kapoi came in at right tackle and redshirt freshman David Edwards took the snaps at right tackle.
Wisconsin offensive coordinator/line coach Joe Rudolph kept that combination for the fourth drive, too, but switched things when he inserted sophomore Beau Benzschawel at right guard.
Deiter and left tackle Ryan Ramczyk played all 73 offensive snaps and a total of six other linemen filled the rest.
Chryst said some of the decisions were based on health of players and others were rewarding those that had earned the right to play.
“We’re still working our way through it, so we wanted to give guys opportunity,” Chryst said. “I thought every guy went out and played, earned those opportunities.”
Although the Badgers put only 17 points, Wisconsin produced 423 yards and moved the ball efficiently at times against Iowa’s defense, having at least five drives of at least eight plays.
Freshman A.J. Taylor on Iowa’s visiting locker room painted pink
“I haven’t experienced anything like that. It was definitely a little different, but it really didn’t change the game for us though. We just have to go out there and play. It didn’t bother us the all. If anything it made us more amped.”
Extra Points: A targeting call on Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell for a hit on Hornibrook was reversed after video replay near the end of the first quarter … Wisconsin had seven different players gain a rushing yard and eight different players catch a pass … Kicker Andrew Endicott said he was disappointed in his performance, seeing him miss from 32 and 52 bit hit from 36.