Donovan Takes a Beating

Tennessee said they were going to bring the pressure to try and limit senior quarterback Tyler Donovan in the Outback Bowl and made good on that promise, punishing Donovan throughout the afternoon.

TAMPA, Fla. - Tyler Donovan will never forget this game.

Sure it's his last game as the quarterback for the Wisconsin Badgers, the last time he was going to put on the white jersey and the last time he's going to bark out signals in the huddle.

But odds are that all of those reasons will fail in comparison to the constant pounding and punishment he received from the Tennessee defense.

"I have never seen anybody, all year, take the kind of hits that he's taken," said senior tight end Andy Crooks, who is also a roommate of Donovan's. "He's a real tough kid and I tell him that every time. He takes some ridiculous hits that it's unbelievable. He's got more heart than any kid on the team."

Although Tennessee had only 21 sacks on the season, the Volunteers had little problem getting through the Wisconsin offense line and getting to Donovan. The Wisconsin quarterback was pressured constantly from the pocket and with the Tennessee secondary blanketing favorite target Travis Beckum, Donovan was forced to improvise with his legs, scrambling for his livelihood throughout the afternoon.

"Their defense blanketed him pretty good," Donovan said. "There were times when there were some longer developing plays that we had Travis in there, but they were able to put pressure on me. It all factored into me not getting the ball to him as much. Not too many teams can do that."

Even when Donovan found his mark, his offensive lineman had to help pick him off the ground after being drilled seconds after getting his throw off.

On his six-yard touchdown scramble, which was caused by the receiving core being completely covered, Donovan received a Tennessee helmet to the head for his efforts.

Woozy and slow to get off the field, UW coach Bret Bielema was irate that no personal foul penalty was called.

"I was very upset that the helmet-to-helmet issues that we have gone over as coaches weren't called," Bielema said. "It looked pretty significant. I was under the impression that those hits were going to be called and the back judge did the right thing and apologized for missing the call."

Even the natural grass was against Donovan.

With an overnight rain passing through the Tampa area the night before, temperature in the low 70s and cloudy, the field at Raymond James Stadium was slick from the opening kickoff.

Being pressured and forced to scramble, Donovan planted his left foot into the turf and watched it roll over on him. Combine that with a physical hit by a Tennessee defender and Donovan's knee bent awkwardly, forcing him to remain on the ground for several minutes.

"It wasn't a good feeling at first," Donovan said. "Whenever you tweak something, you are always thinking the worst. After I started moving around a little bit, it was going to take a lot to keep me off that field today. I wanted to be there for my teammates."

True to his word, the senior quarterback kept right on ticking. He completed 7-of-9 passes in the first half for 84 yards and found his roommate Crooks wide-open in the end zone for the senior's first catch of the season.

For the game, Donovan finished 14-for-24 for 155 yards and the one touchdown, but it was his one interception that proved to be the difference between a Wisconsin win and loss.

"I was just going to where a guy could make a play," Donovan said. "After the snap, I pretty much knew where I wanted to go with (the ball). It just did not happen for me this time."

Finishing his season with 2,607 passing yards (second most in school history) and a career record of 11-4 as a starter, Donovan leaves Wisconsin with no regrets, proud of the way his team fought this season.

"You never want to leave with a loss," Donovan said. "Then again, we had a special year and I am not going to take anything back from what I've learned. All the guys can speak for that. We preserved through things throughout the year."

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