Badger Notes - 2007 begins on a solid note

The stat sheet was very lopsided, but the scoreboard was not. Arkansas outgained Wisconsin 368-203, and held one of the nation's leading rushers in PJ Hill to just 37 yards. Well, paper champions are just that - bowl champions win it on the field.


When a defense ranked in the bottom third of the nation against the rush holds a team ranked in the top third in rush offense to minus-four yards on the ground, that is usually a pretty bad thing for the scoreboard. Well, paper champions and statistics are not what decide a win or a loss. The scoreboard does. PJ Hill, who entered the game averaging 127.8 yards per game, was held to a season low 37 yards on 19 carries. His previous low for the year was 50 yards against Illinois.


In a bowl game, you hope that your leader(s) show up, and that is exactly what happened today. At least for the beginning and the end of the game. John Stocco, making his first start since injuring his shoulder against Penn State, finished the first half 11 for 19, 172 yards and two touchdowns. He found the wide receiver Paul Hubbard in the right corner of the end zone in the first quarter from 22 yards out. Stocco then found the number one Badger target, Travis Beckum, for a 13-yard scoring strike in the left corner of the end zone in the second quarter. However, he then finished the game 3-15 for 35 yards. Thankfully, he found Beckum on a crossing route on a late drive to keep the chains and clock moving. Stocco was named MVP of the Capital One Bowl.


Wisconsin entered the game allowing just 138 yards through the air to each opponent. They allowed 136 in Orlando on Monday. By the end of the second drive, they forced Arkansas to be a one dimensional team - rushing. Arkansas averaged 240 yards a week before Monday - the Badgers give up only 105. Something had to give, and it was the Wisconsin defense. The Razorbacks had success running the ball. Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden finished the game with 91 yards on 19 carries. His running mate, Felix 'The Cat' Jones, tore up the Badgers. He broke loose early and often en route to 153 yards on just 14 carries. In total, they gained 232 yards on 33 carries. But if you cannot take advantage of that with play action or, well, just passing the ball anywhere, you are not going to be very successful in the long run. And that is exactly what happened.


Joe Stellmacher made some hits that had ABC announcers Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, and Paul Maguire ooo-ing and ahh-ing. Zach Hampton, whom the afore mentioned Mr. Nessler said is from 'Texarkana, TX', had an interception and two big one on one tackles in the open field on McFadden. Linebacker Mark Zalewski made some strong plays plugging gaps on the run, just like he did all season. We have already chronicled Stocco's day. Defensive back Roderick Rogers made a fine run stop in the first quarter on third down before his game was cut short with an MCL injury. I could go on and on, but that would take a while. Big Joe made more money today as well. The bottom line - Thank you for giving your heart and soul to the Wisconsin program in the past four to five seasons. Your contributions will not soon be forgotten


Assuming Michigan and Ohio State both take care of business, the Big Ten will more than likely end the season with three teams top five teams in the final rankings. The Badgers return 16 of their 22 starters. Tyler Donovan seems to be the heir apparent to Stocco at QB, and filled in admirably against Iowa and Buffalo. The Elijah Hodge era could soon begin at the mike-backer position, as he should be the front runner for replacing Zew. In the secondary, Kim Royston and Jay Valai have been the most mentioned names in stepping in for Rogers and Stellmacher. Of course, the toughest, and biggest, shoes to fill will be at left tackle. JT is gone, but the rest of the line is returning.

What do I see? Well, I think you can expect the Badgers to get the respect from voters they did not get in 2006. Being a top 10 preseason team is a near guarantee after today's win. The schedule gets a bit tougher, with Ohio State coming back. November is going to tell the tale. Wisconsin could seemingly be undefeated in September and October, with its toughest game probably being the conference opener at home versus Iowa. The first two weeks in November, however, are bad news. They travel to the Horseshoe to battle the Buckeyes, and then the Michigan Wolverines come to CRS. IF they get through unscathed, the Paul Bunyan battle should be a formality for a trip to the National title game. Will it happen? Well, on paper, and we know those things don't matter, it does look quite good

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