Centering the Ball with Derek Engler

This week, the big guy talks about another dominating performance. He also talks about what it is like for a player in a big game, and what it is like for a recruit on a visit. Finally, he tackles this week's battle in Iowa City as we 'Center the Ball' one more time

1) Another big game, another Badger win. Was this as tough as it looked?

It definitely was tough for the Nittany Lions. The Penn State offense had not faced a complete defense as physical and tough as the Badger D this season. That includes Ohio St. and Michigan. The Badgers defense held the Nittany Lion offense to 200 total yards which was their lowest total year to date. The paltry rushing total of 36 yards was their second lowest this season behind the Michigan game. 20 first downs to their 12, 167 rushing yards to their 36, 341 total yards to their 200. What the Michigan defense does not have is a suffocating pass defense like the Badgers that is second in the country in passing yards allowed per game. The Nittany "Pussycats" were introduced to a complete package with the Badgers dominating defense. It seems that this defense gets better every week. If only we could have played Michigan later in the season. If I had never heard of the tradition of linebackers at Penn St. and someone asked me which team was known as "Linebacker U", I would have said Wisconsin at least we were on this past Saturday. Our linebackers are fast, really fast. They run downhill with explosive speed and they hit gaps like banshee warriors. ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK. That is their motto. They even have haircuts like tribal warriors. These three look like it is 1976 and they should be in line for a Sex Pistols concert at the CBGB in Manhattan. Sid Vicious would be proud of those 'doos. They were not born until a decade later so I highly doubt they have ever heard of Sid Vicious or the Sex Pistols.

2) When you were a player in a big game like Penn State or Iowa, what went through your mind?

The big games when I was playing were Penn St. and Ohio St. We beat Michigan in '93 and '94 and then did not play them my junior and senior years. Cory Raymer was the center in '93 and '94 but I remember those games very well. The game in Ann Arbor is '94 was a game that we felt nobody gave us a chance to win and we rallied behind that with the "us against the world" attitude. Joe Rudolph was our captain and definitely the team leader and he called us all up in the end zone of the "big house" and gave us an inspirational speech. He made us fully aware that nobody there in the stands or across the field had one ounce of respect for us. We took that to heart and got behind Joe and rallied to an underdog victory. When we played Ohio State in the horseshoe in '96 they were ranked #3 in the country and we should have beat them. The Buckeyes ended up 11 - 1, Big Ten Co-Champions, and ended up ranked #2 during the 1996 football season...they had an all star roster: Demitrious Stanley, David Boston, Mike Vrabel, Joe Germaine, Pepe Pearson, Orlando Pace, Shawn Springs, Andy Katzenmoyer, Matt Finkes, Josh Jackson, Damon Moore, Rob Kelley, Ryan Miller, Greg Bellisari, Joe Montgomery, DJ Jones, Matt Calhoun, Stanley Jackson all had stints in the NFL and some of them are still stars and Pro Bowlers in the NFL today.

We lost that game 17-14 and we had a chance to win it and I still to this day give Mike Samuel and Coach Childress a hard time. Our offensive line that year was the largest in the country. I was the smallest at 6'4 307. Jerry Wunsch 6'7 335, Chris McIntosh 6'7 325 were our offensive tackles and Aaron Gibson 6'7 385 wore an eighty number in our "big" formation with an extra offensive tackle. We were able to move the ball all day long on the ground in between the tackles but we just could not get the outside run going due to their speed on defense. We were second and goal on the half yard line. Mike Samuel called the play and it was an outside run to Carl McCullough. We got no gain on the play. It was 3rd down and I told Sammy to call a sneak because I was dominating the NG, Luke Fickell and with Cayetano Castro 6'8 325 on my right and Jamie Vanderveldt 6'5 320 on my left we better get a half yard or we did not deserve to be out there. He told me not to worry and that Chilly would probably call a sneak. The play came in and it was a playaction and I immediately told him to call an audible at the line of scrimmage. Mike would not dare to go against Coach Childress' call, especially as a sophomore QB. The pass was incomplete. We go for it on 4th down and I immediately tell our Offensive Line to dig in because this is our call and we need to pave the way for Mike to sneak the ball over the goalline. The call comes in from Chilly and it was another outside zone to McCullough. I screamed over the 90,000 Buckeye fans to Mike to change the play and he shook his head.

As I was approaching the ball, Katzenmoyer was calling out the play and cheating towards the direction of the outside running play. He made a TFL for a seven yard loss. Turnover on downs. No points and we end up losing by three. That was a tough one to swallow but having been on both sides in a big game like Michigan and Ohio State those are great memories and those are the games that you dream about when you are a kid.

3) All of this talk about bowl games, tell us what is going through a player's mind when they hear this talk?

If the coaching staff is doing their job and I am sure Coach Bielema and his staff are then the players understand that they cannot control any of the bowl game discussion. They can only focus on who they play that week and if they take care of business then they will put themselves in a position to play in a Jan. 1 bowl game. The cool thing is that all of the bowl games now alligned with the Big 10 conference guarantees that you are going somewhere warm and as a former player, let me tell you that was a big deal. We were ecstatic in '96 when we found out we were going to Tucson, AZ to play Utah in the Copper Bowl. Players view bowl games as a reward for a successful season and it is especially nice when you are traveling to somewhere warm from Wisconsin in December. Unfortunately the FUBAR system of the BCS allows teams like Boise St. and Rutgers or teams with two losses to be ranked ahead of a Wisconsin Badger team whose only loss is to the #2 team in the country. I know if I was a CEO for Frito Lay-Tostitos corporation I would not be too thrilled to be spending millions to have a Louisville or a Boise State play in my bowl game.

4) Give us insight to what a recruiting visit/trip is like.

A recruiting visit is pretty standard at every school. You have a player host who shows you around campus and introduces to other players on the team. This is the most important aspect for the recruit and the team that is recruiting the player. If the current players do not like the recruit or they feel that individual is not a good fit for their team or what they are trying to accomplish with the program the players will let the coaches know how they feel after the recruit's visit. That feedback is vital and many times will make a decision for a coach on whether or not he is going to offer a scholarship to that individual. This has happened at the UW and sent players to other Big 10 schools who ultimately ended up having character issues. There also have been ones that we took a chance on or slipped through the cracks. That is the game of recruiting young kids. The maturity is not always there and you are never can be 100% sure of character. There are many tours of the facilities and meetings with academic staff and personnel. There are meetings with the administrators, training staff along with the equipment and media/public relations staff. You meet one on one with your position coach which is also a huge selling point for a recruit because that is who you will be dealing with on an one on one basis for the next four to five years. A recruit is inundated with as much information as possible in 48 hours with why it is in their best interest to commit to the University they are visiting on that weekend.

5) Hawkeyes and Badgers - who wins and why?

The Hawks are struggling right now and their defense is as bad as the Badgers defense is good. Drew Tate has been injured and has disappointed when healthy under center this year for the Hawkeyes. That being said the University of Iowa has a lot of pride under Coach Kirk Ferentz and after a loss like that to the lowly Wildcats of Northwestern there is no doubt that he will have them ready to scrap and fight against the Badgers on Saturday in Iowa City. The Badgers have always had a difficult time playing in Kinnick stadium and I am not sure whether it is being downwind of the nearby pig farms or the visitor's pink locker room but for some reason or another we have not got it done on the road at Iowa. I think this time is different. The Badgers defense will be too much too handle and they seem to be getting better every week. I think they all remember all too well the Hawkeyes rubbing our nose in defeat in the last home game last season and Barry Alvarez's final game of his career. Coach Bielema is Hawk alum and even has a tattoo to prove it (we have all made some sort of late night mistake in our lives) there is nothing more that he would love to do then to coach a team that dismantles the Hawkeyes on the field where he sweat and bled for the black and gold.

Former Badger offensive lineman/center Derek Engler joins us each week for "Centering the Ball" . He will give us a look at the previous week's game from the field. Currently, Engler works for Morgan Stanley as a financial advisor. If you have any questions regarding investments, reach him by email . Or reach him by phone (800) 776-7797.

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