Senior Memoir at Camp Randall

As the 2007 senior class of Wisconsin Badgers played the 13th ranked Michigan Wolverines at Camp Randall, it couldn't have gone any better in their last home game ever as they pulled off the 37-21 upset on Saturday.

MADISON - This year's class of seniors began the season with high expectations and played well from the start to beat Michigan in their toughest home game of the season. The end of the home schedule traditionally marks Senior Day, signaling the end of the careers for 19 seniors at Camp Randall.

"It's a fun day if you approach it the right way and obviously we capped it off with a win," said head coach Bret Bielema. "It's great to see those [seniors] have an effect on the game."

The graduating players' preparation and dedication allowed for a fantastic sendoff. This year's class – while not as star-studded as last year with quarterback John Stocco and left tackle Joe Thomas graduating – has filled in remarkably well for those two leaders.

Yet, some players have contributed more to this team than others, such as a fifth year-senior who had to sit on the bench for four years to wait his turn, an unheralded defensive player who continually got overlooked and an injury-prone player who just seemed to be unlucky.

The quarterback position has been somewhat of a rocky ride this year for Tyler Donovan, as he's had to deal with immense pressure and scrutiny. He's had to replace a stellar three-year starter, while leading a team that began the season ranked seventh in the country.

As someone who only had two starts during his previous four years, Donovan had to quickly learn how to play his own game using his unique abilities to scramble and move around within the pocket.

Last year, Donovan gained some valuable experience when Stocco was injured and had to miss the last two regular season games. In somewhat of an ironic incident, Donovan injured his hand during the middle of the fourth quarter against Michigan and was replaced shortly after by backup Allan Evridge. The only time where he's been forced to miss time, Donovan's toughness was noticed by his teammates from the start of the season when he replaced Stocco.

"Tyler takes lot of shots, and he gets out there and he doesn't slide like a lot of quarterbacks would," said Badger wide receiver Paul Hubbard. "He goes out there and takes the hits, bounces back and gets back out there and makes it happen again."

For the better part of this year, Donovan has done a fair job of making his own mark. By completing 59 percent of his passes and throwing 14 touchdowns, he hasn't tried to duplicate what Stocco did for past Wisconsin offenses.

As the leader of the offense, Donovan has more influence on this offense than anyone else. Before his injury, he completed 14-of-27 passes for one touchdown against Michigan by combining his passing abilities with a resilient rushing attack.

"Tyler played phenomenal today, he was finding receivers, he was making things happen and getting out there with his feet," said Hubbard.

The most important attribute that Donovan contributes to the team is not his rushing and passing numbers, but instead it's his toughness.

"Tyler is an unbelievable competitor," said Bielema. "The first time he scrambled last week versus Ohio State he lowered his shoulder on (Ohio State's Anderson Russell), and (he) left the game, not (Donovan)."

As part of the less-heralded position of defensive tackle, Nick Hayden gets unnoticed while playing phenomenal. He, along with fellow tackle Mike Newkirk, stopped the run and created havoc on Michigan's passing attack.

Hayden perhaps played his best at Camp Randall and dominated when he was needed most. On two crucial third down plays he forced two punts, once by sacking Michigan quarterback Ryan Mallett for a seven-yard loss and another time by knocking down a Ryan Mallett pass at the line of scrimmage.

When he asked if this was his finest hour at Camp Randall Stadium, Hayden replied, "Definitely. I'm gonna miss it."

As someone who gets much less recognition and attention for playing on the defensive line, Hayden took his final day playing on this field to make a speech to other players about how important playing in this stadium means to him.

"I'm not a big talker in front of people, but I just said what came from my heart and I guess people responded to it," Hayden said. "I didn't have a great year my last year, but I just fought through it and worked hard."

Hubbard began this season as Wisconsin's premier threat at wide receiver, but along with Luke Swan, had to miss significant time due to injuries. He has played well this year when he's been healthy, but has spent a lot of time on the sideline wondering how he would walk off this field for the last time.

"At that time [of the injury] I had no clue what was going to happen, and when it came to the point where I didn't know if I'd start playing again," said the fifth-year senior. "I had an idea of how I wanted to leave the stadium, but I didn't know if it was going to work."

On Saturday, Hubbard left the field the best way possible. In his best game of the season, he finished with seven catches for 134 yards.

This season meant so much for Hubbard because of how much he has spent recovering from injuries. Being able to walk off the field, not only while playing in the game, but during a win made the day special.

But what made the day perfect was that his father was able to see him play for the first time in person at Camp Randall, making it truly a senior day to remember for Hubbard.

"I told my family I'm gonna produce," said Hubbard. "I'm playing everything that I got for you guys."

Although, they weren't the only seniors contributing to the win, Donovan, Hayden and Hubbard made sure against their toughest opponent at Camp Randall that they came away with the victory.

"Right now, it's sort of surreal, I really don't know what to think," said an ecstatic Hubbard. "We needed a win like this. We went into Ohio State and poured our hearts out and we just didn't come out with a win.

"I was telling those guys earlier before the game even started, I know what you're going through, but everything I got is for you guys," he added about a pre-game speech to his teammates. "I laid it out on the line for them and I had to let them know that."

The complete list of graduating seniors includes Donovan, Hubbard, Hayden, wide receiver Luke Swan, tight end Andy Crooks, offensive linemen Marcus Coleman, Andrew Weininger and Danny Kaye, linebackers Casey Hogan and James Kamoku, cornerbacks Joe Sibley and Ben Strickland, ends Jamil Walker, Brandon Kelly and Kurt Ware, punters Ken DeBauche and Paul Standring, long snapper Steve Johnson, and kicker Taylor Mehlhaff.


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