Badger Notebook: Tail of Two Halves

A lackluster first half that had the 81,300 natives in attendance ready to pack it up turned out to the inspiration for a exciting come from behind home victory against Illinois, 30-24. We discuss the Juice, the Zew's hands, and bowl bids in this post-game notebook.


I said in my pre-game notebook that Illinois quarterback Isiah "Juice" Williams was a kid that is feast and famine with both his legs and arm. He showed that in the first half as he ran 11 times for 51 yards and threw for another 122 and a touchdown. "Isiah is a special talent," Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said. "He has the ability to make plays when nothing is there...he is going to be a good one in this league for a while." In the second half, Williams was limited by the strong Badger defense. He only managed 51 total yards in the second half, with 37 of those coming in the final two drives. But I think you noticed the talent that he can be. "Juice is going to be a good one because he can beat you in many ways." Badger QB John Stocco said. "I can't run like him or I might be a little better." If you look at second half film you will see who the better QB, and team, on the field is.


Don't try and tell Bret Bielema that Mark Zalewski can pull off the Andy Crooks switcheroo and move to offense from linebacker. Zew intercepted a Williams pass early in the third quarter which led to a Badger touchdown bringing the score to 24-17. "Zew doesn't have the best hands in the world," Bielema said. "I was just happy to see him catch it. That set up a big score for us. He put himself in position and caught it." Asked if he was ready to make the change to offense, Zalewski thinks he can make a difference. "I was telling Coach (Paul) Chryst a couple of weeks ago to get me into that goal line package." the senior captain states. "I could be a (Mike) Vrabel type of guy and catch a touchdown." He ran a pretty good pass route and Juice hit him in stride.


Luke Swan is becoming a fan favorite with each game. He hauled in four balls for a team-high 85 yards and one touchdown. Coach Bielema loves the humility with which Swanny plays. "Luke has caught the ball very well for us," Bielema said. "When I gave him a scholarship at the beginning of the season, it was neat to watch and see someone who truly appreciates what you just did for him. Each rep he gets on the field is just a blessing and a way for him to do something with his ability." I think there is a new nickname for Luke as well. "The Fennimore Flash," as proclaimed by Bielema. I think that Swanny will wear the name well.


Again, as I eluded to in my pre-game notebook, Illinois head coach Ron Zook referred to Wisconsin defensive tackle Matt Shaughnessy as "the bell cow of the Badger defense". The sophomore rush end did not disappoint, finishing with eight tackles - three of them for loss, including a sack of Williams as time expired. "I was just in the right position today." the very reserved Badger says. "The coaches kept us calm and are not worried and knew what we had to do." He has had to battle a knee injury and he has bad to deal with playing with that. "I think my knee is fine and I quit worrying about it a couple weeks ago." Bruce Dickinson, where are you now.


With an 8-1 overall record, the bowl picture is becoming a little less cloudy each week. Representives from the Champs Sports Bowl and Capital One Bowl, both played at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, were in attendance today. A representative from the CapOne Bowl, wishing to be known as just Tony, had this to say about Wisconsin's prospects for playing on January 1st in Orlando for the second straight year. "I think the prospects are good. When we select the teams, we try to select the best teams available to us for an intersectional battle. Also, we want to get national television appeal. Wisconsin would definitely do that. They were in our bowl last year. The fan base, players, and coaching staff made for a wonderful experience." As for wondering if playing in the game last year makes a difference in the decision. "It does not really matter. It is a very small percentage of the decision making process." Tony was the representative assigned to the Badgers last year and would be happy if they were to come back again this year.

BN take -- Today's win all but guarantees a Wisconsin New Year's Day performance. At worst, the Badgers will have three Big Ten losses and be 9-3 overall (assuming a win on Nov. 18 versus Buffalo). Even if they split the next two games, they are going to be third place in the Big Ten standings, again assuming a few things (ie - OSU and Michigan being undefeated before their battle in three weeks.)

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