Worgull: A Complete Wisconsin Team

Badger Nation's Senior Columnist gives his final thoughts from Orlando on a mind-boggling game and a truly special Badger team that exceeded all pre-season expectations.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Maybe it was the long hours and 1,400 miles in the car on the way down to Orlando. It could have been the shady motel that the Badger Nation travel posse was staying in. It even could have been the 100 degree fever that I came down with the day of the game.

Whatever the reason was, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw the final stats from Wisconsin's bowl victory on New Year's Day.

Wisconsin was averaging 175.6 rushing yards and finished with negative five against the second best team in the SEC.

The Badgers had scored 164 points in the second half during the 11-game regular season and score zippo in a January 1st bowl game.

Seriously, how did Wisconsin win this game?

After a night to let the cold medicine sink in and a visit to MGM Studios to clear the mind, the answer is as plain as the Florida sunshine.

The 2006-07 Badgers are one of the best squads in Wisconsin football history, ranking them right up there with those historic Rose Bowl teams.

Monday's Capital One Bowl was a culmination of an 11-1 team that had gotten little respect all season long and what respect they did get was sorely misplaced.

Wisconsin's P.J. Hill was well deserving of all the accolades he received this season. But without senior quarterback John Stocco and the emergence of three young and unproven wide receivers in Travis Beckum, Paul Hubbard and the ‘Fennimore Flash' Luke Swan taking the passing game to unexpected heights, Wisconsin's running game would have been an easy stop for opposing defenses.

The passing game had grown so much since the Bowling Green game that when a team finally did shut down Wisconsin's running game, the Badger offense could still survive. While Stocco's numbers weren't impressive, 14 of 34 for 206 yards, but he made the plays when he needed to, including two perfect fade routes to Beckum and Hubbard for touchdowns.

"We knew they were going to pass the ball, but we didn't think they were going to be that effective with the pass," Arkansas' Keith Jackson said after the game.

Stocco's leadership alone was able to out weight the fact that Arkansas rushed for 237 more yards than Wisconsin.

Even the Badgers' special teams did all the little things right on Monday afternoon, even when things blew up in their face. Perhaps the turning point of the game was the heads up play of punter Ken DeBauche and defensive back Joe Stellmacher.

DeBauche, who punted well with a 42.7 average on seven punts, was faced with a punter's worst nightmare during the second quarter, regaining control of the ball after having his punt blocked. With a breakdown on the special teams, Arkansas was able to block DeBauche's punt, sending the ball flying back over his head.

While most punters would have fallen on the ball, DeBauche stayed calm, picked up the rock, looked down field and found a wide-open Stellmacher for a first down. Although the play was called back for ineligible man downfield, DeBauche's next punt went off without a hitch, netting the Badgers a gain of over 50 yards and keeping Arkansas out of Badger territory.

"That was a very big situation and a heads up play by Kenny," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "It was also a heads up play by Joe Stellmacher, which shows why he is one of the most intelligent players on the field."

"In bowl games, special teams always have special plays," UW kicker Taylor Mehlhaff said, who kicked a Capital One Bowl record 52-yard goal in the first quarter. "Blocked punts and Kenny's discipline on his pass attempt were changing points in the game for us today. [Arkansas] could have had great field position but it worked out."

Still, being out-rushed and out gained against an SEC team? How did Wisconsin prevail?

Look no further than those Badgers on the other side of the ball. Led by a senior class that Bielema describes as "the greatest group of guys I have ever been around," the defense was able to stymie the Razorbacks big plays and their fast drives. In 2006, the Razorbacks had scored 29 touchdowns in five plays or less, including Felix Jones' 76-yard touchdown sprint on their first play from scrimmage.

The second half showed only two Razorbacks' drives over 25 yards and their longest play going for 19 yards.

"We were tired in there and it was a tough game in the second half," senior captain Mark Zalewski said. "You have to overcome those things and just play hard.

"Finishing like this, the whole team can cherish this win for the rest of our lives," he added. "We knew we were a lot better than most people thought we were."

With Wisconsin well represented in the stands (an estimated 35,000 Badger fans were in attendance), the football Badgers put their exclamation point on the season by beating their first ranked team this season. Whether that brings validation to the Badgers season or not, Wisconsin has built the foundation for more success on the horizon and, perhaps, the school's first birth in the BCS.

"This win goes to show what kind of team we have and the level we can play at," Stellmacher said. "You can't ask for a better way to go out. This program is in very good hands."

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