A Senior's Day

Despite a loss, three Wisconsin linebackers left it all on the field in their final game at Camp Randall. An unlikely hero led the way

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For the many Badgers leaving Camp Randall for the last time, it was the relatively anonymous linebacker Kyle McCorison that was holding his head the highest. Despite the 27-21 loss to rival Iowa, the senior from Altoona, Wis. played the game of his life, leading the team with 10 tackles, two and a half for a loss, including one sack, two quarterback hurries and one interception.


"Kyle played his butt off," fellow senior linebacker Jeff Mack said. "I love him to death.  He made a lot of plays and that's what you expect from him. I don't expect anything less from Kyle."


Inserted into the starting lineup as an eagle linebacker, McCorison made the best of the prospect, playing from sideline to sideline and with reckless abandon trying to put his team in a position to win.


In moving regular eagle Alex Lewis to the drop linebacker position, the Badgers inserted McCorison on the inside while Jeff Mack held down his familiar spot in the middle.  Coach Barry Alvarez hoped the move would give his team a strengthened presence on the outside, while giving McCorison a chance to contribute.


"We started Kyle at linebacker and Alex at drop, we thought we'd be a little more physical with Alex there," Alvarez said. "We knew we'd get some solid play from Kyle. I thought he played very well. I saw him around the ball, making a lot of tackles and the interception. I thought he really played a solid game."


The interception came at the start of the second quarter when the Hawkeyes took over after the Badgers failed to convert a fourth down play at Iowa's 34 yard line. After a big 23-yard sweeping rush from Iowa tailback Fred Russell, Hawkeye quarterback Nathan Chandler forced a pass over the middle that ended up in the hands of McCorison who returned the ball 33 yards down the right sideline. The turnover, one of three on the day committed by Chandler, set up Matt Schabert's first drive of the game culminating in a one-yard touchdown run to give the Badgers a cushy 21-7 lead.


"I just made the play when I had the opportunity," McCorison said. "I was just in the right place at the right time sometimes. That's just how it goes. If the play comes to you, you've got to make it." 


And while McCorison kept making plays for the Badgers, the offense couldn't get restarted after senior quarterback Jim Sorgi left the game with a concussion at the start of the second quarter. That 14-point lead would disintegrate behind three Schabert interceptions that gave the Hawkeyes easy field position down the stretch.


But for McCorison, the outcome of the game did not damper a performance in which he left everything on the field, delivering a key sack in the fourth quarter that halted the Hawkeyes from what looked to be a scoring drive.


"I definitely take pride in how I played, but everyone else played really well as well," McCorison said. "We just didn't make enough plays in the end like we needed to and we just fell short. You have to give credit to Iowa. They are a heck of a team and they did a really good job. It has been great playing with these guys. That is the hardest part, knowing that it's your last time here."


A transfer from Northern Iowa, McCorison made a name for himself as a solid special teams contributor who had appeared in 25 straight games for the Badgers, including four starts. Over the summer the blue colored senior even worked construction for the Cullen-Smith association that is responsible for the $83 million overhaul of Camp Randall Stadium.


And while McCorison made a name for himself for the first time to many on Saturday, the other members of the starting Wisconsin linebacker corps once again seemed to give the game their all in search of a victory and a New Year's Day Bowl game that would never materialize.


Jeff Mack, the senior team captain and leader of the Badger defense, did not put up the greatest statistics of his career, but made his presence felt. Mack totaled three tackles, but pestered Chandler throughout the day, hurrying the Hawkeye quarterback three times.


After the game, a dejected Mack was fighting back his feelings when describing the emotional toll of the game. With a Jan. 1 bowl game out of the picture, Mack was disinterested in where the postseason will take the Badgers.


"I don't care," Mack said. "Just one more time to play with my guys."


For Alex Lewis, a junior college transfer from SUNY-Morrisville, the game again did not yield the best numbers of his career either, but again the senior made an impact and left Camp Randall feeling content with what he's achieved in his two short years on the Badger sideline.


"(Every time) playing at ‘the Camp' is an amazing experience," Lewis said. "For the last time it was an emotional one. But I'm happy at the same time. I'm happy at what I accomplished."


As for McCorison, his last time at the Camp held similar feelings to that of his two teammates.


"It is very tough having (the game) so close," McCorison said. "It's the last game at home and the last game at the Camp for all of the seniors. It is definitely a heartbreaking loss for sure. It is emotional. We just have to look forward to a bowl and get ready."

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