It was a great Big 10 football game. It was back and forth and a hard fought contest. I think there may have been some Hawkeye alums in the zebra stripes. I thought there were a lot of questionable and flat out blown calls. The losing streak against the Hawks is over and despite the bush league efforts of the refs, the seniors deserved this one. I have wrote and talked about the senior leadership on this team all season. It was vital to the team's success. Leadership is not just done by verbal direction but more importantly it is done by achieving success through actions. When you can talk the talk and back it up by walking the walk, that is when you earn respect from your peers. Joe Stellmacher, Joe Monty, Mark Zalewski, Joe Thomas and John Stocco are the core of this football team. These are the leaders of the 10-1 Badger football team. They are the players that rallied a talented but young football team and through their leadership were able to turn youth and inexperience into a smart, unified, veteran team that displayed their character by overcoming adversity in tough games. Injuries to Randle El and Pressley, rebounding from Michigan loss, second half of Illini game, a physical and momentum tight Nittany Lion game where the Defense came up with a huge turnover and finally an offense overcoming the loss of their leader in John Stocco and rallying behind an unproven Tyler Donovan and pounding the nails in the coffin on the "drive" in the 3rd quarter. These are all examples of the character of this football team which can be found right at the top in the Seniors. Congratulations to the Senior class on their first victory againt the Iowa Hawkeyes. You all deserve it.
2) What do you make of all the rankings/BCS hoopla?
I really do not understand the BCS and I do not feel it is an appropriate way of finding the best of the best in college football. For the life of me I do not know how you can even have a ranking system until halfway through the season. The preseason rankings predetermine everything and you have teams that never really have control of their own destiny. It will be a shame if Michigan goes on to win the national championship and the Badgers do not even get invited to a BCS game. I would love to meet some of the MIT grads that come up with the computer rankings that analyze who is the best of the best in the NCAA. Do you think any of those guys really have a clue who is the best on the gridiron? I would love to see a tournament that starts at the end of the regular season in November with a sixteen team, four game playoff system with the National Championship on New Years day. If you don't have that then go back to the old bowl system rather than having this mythical BCS national champion. I am always rooting for the most confusing end to the NCAA regular season that will completely throw the defenseless BCS into an unending controversy. GO RUTGERS! GO BOISE ST! GO USC! GO FLORIDA! I am rooting for Michigan to lose to OSU by one on a last second fluke play. Who is the best? Nobody can answer that question definitively and until the best of the best can play each other mano y mano, nobody will truly ever know who the best is in college football. I think whoever goes undefeated should have a parade, throw a party and order national championship rings.
3) Tyler Donovan - did you expect this?
I was really happy to see Tyler Donovan step up to the plate and get the job done in such a big game on the road. I have to admit I was surprised to see such a stellar perormance from Tyler. I thought that he would commit a few turnovers and make some bad decisions but he did exactly the opposite. It goes back to that Senior leadership that obviously has wore off on they younger guys. Tyler has studied behind John Stocco all season and he has definitely done his homework. He made good decisions all day and when the pass was not there he got it done with his athletic ability and legs by running the ball to sustain key drives. Badger fans should feel much more comfortable about who will be taking the ball under center for the 2007 season.
4) Which game do you remember the most as a player, and why?
Unfortunately the game I remember the most is a loss in 1996 against the Northwestern Wildcats. At that time we had a pretty intense rivalry with Northwestern. They had won the Big 10 the prior year and they felt they were the new Wisconsin taking over the Big 10. I was facing a defensive lineman by the name of Matt Rice who was a Middleton native and had a pretty big chip on his shoulder for not being offered a scholarship from the UW. I also was facing a pretty good linebacker in Pat Fitzgerald who is now heading the program where he was an All Big 10 linebacker a decade earlier. It was a very physical game with Ron Dayne racking up his average of 250 rushing yards. Pat even told me after the game that we were the most physical front they had faced and we had won it up front that day. This was the famous "take a knee" game where rather than have Mike Samuel take a knee or play call, "victory", we handed the ball off to Ron Dayne who subsequently fumbled the ball to the Wildcats who then had a minute to move the ball roughly 50 yards and score a touchdown to win the game which of course they did and went on to win the game. Ron Dayne to this day still tells me that this was the roughest game for him to take afterwards.
5) What will the Badgers' record be for the 2007 season?
Since the '06 Badgers set the bar pretty high there really is only one answer to this question. There is only one record that would be an improvement and that would be an undefeated season and a shot at the National Championship in 2007. I believe I did write after the Michigan loss that the Badgers would run the table and my Nostradamus qualities came to fruition as I believe they will in 2007.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org . Or reach him by phone (800) 776-7797.