Badger Nation's View from the Box

After Wisconsin football's completed its own 'choke job' in East Lansing, Badger Nation's Aaron Brenner goes back into radio lore and relives the infamous radio meltdown after the Spartans failed to close out a 16-point fourth-quarter lead over Notre Dame in 2006. Two years later, the same rules apply.

MADISON — There is an urban legend amongst your faithful journalists here at Badger Nation. Most of them aren't fit to print, but that's neither here nor there.

We all enjoy a good laugh courtesy of YouTube videos, of course, be it Mike Gundy convincing us he's a man or Allen Iverson talking about practice, or even a six-year-old kid getting, uh, a little excited about his Christmas gift.

But for true sports fans, nothing – I mean, NOTHING – beats this radio clip of a Michigan State fan and talk show radio host named Mikey D absolutely going off on his beloved Spartans blowing a 16-point fourth-quarter lead to the hated Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The 15-minute clip is still posted on a blog called "The House Rock Built," which attributes the bite to 1270 AM's "The Sports Inferno".

If you haven't heard it, well, strap in for a wild ride when you do have a listen. Try not to pass out from laughing.

What does this have to do with the University of Wisconsin football team? There are striking similarities in that Notre Dame-Michigan State affair on Sept. 23, 2006 and UW's 25-24 crushing blow last Saturday.

The correlations lie not only in the game itself, but in the state of both programs. The publisher of this finely-tuned web site, Benjamin Worgull, and I were making "pucker pucker pucker" jokes on the seven-hour drive to East Lansing … and on the late-night drive back, we marveled at the irony we had just witnessed.

So, for those still woozy this morning – whether it be from trying to figure out how the Badgers lost that game, or just from one too many tricks or treats – here's a collective attempt at an explanation for UW's 4-5 season, accompanied by a sampling of what I like to call, "The Best Of Mikey D."

Mikey's quotes in bold:

"You want to see the definition of choke in the dictionary, you will see the Michigan State Spartans"

In its history, Michigan State has developed somewhat of a knack for blowing big leads, particularly against top opponents, and most painfully at home in Spartan Stadium. In 2008, well, that torch has been passed to the Badgers, who have now blown a 19-point halftime lead at Michigan, a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter against Ohio State under the Camp Randall lights and most recently an 11-point advantage in the fourth quarter at Michigan State.

During UW head coach Bret Bielema's first 29 games as head coach (in which his team compiled a 24-5 record), the Badgers had won all 19 games in which they led at halftime. They're 0-3 since.

"From the very top of John L. Smith to the very last player on this football team with an irrelevant number and no name, it was an out-and-out choke job. You will never sell me that Notre Dame won that football game. On the contrary. Michigan State handed it away like a nice three-button coat at the Salvation Army."

Coach Bielema made some mistakes Saturday – namely, the 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for yapping at the officials – and so did a large sampling of his players. Give Michigan State credit for taking advantage of what was given, and making big plays through the air when it had to … but it helps when your opponent commits 12 penalties and badly manages the game with a lead by playing scared to lose.

"It hurts my heart to say it, but you know what? Every single stereotype about Michigan State University football came true on Saturday night. They choked! They absolutely gagged! While Notre Dame played with fire, emotion, poise and tact, Michigan State sat there and choked on apple sauce! (incomprehensible gagging noises) They choked! They choked! (starting to lose voice)"

Sort of sums up the last quote, so nothing new here … it's just a funny quote. There'll be more of these, I promise you. At this point, his co-host and the producer attempt to restrain Mikey D … um, to no avail.

"You're sitting on a 37-21 lead! Make plays! Don't sit there and pucker! MAKE PLAYS! You don't sit there and turn to your quarterback, and with a puppy dog face, and say, (in his best attempt at a puppy-dog voice) help us! We don't know what we're doing out there! Help us!"

When UW players talked in fall camp about the three road losses from 2007 – the big upset at Illinois, the colossal rout at Penn State, and the near-knockoff of No. 1 Ohio State – they spoke of struggling with communication issues and looking at each other to do their own jobs, or trying too hard to do other people's jobs. Several different positions have played poorly for great stretches of games this season … and you wonder if certain teammates are trying too hard to cover up for those miscues rather than focusing on their completing their own tasks to the best of their abilities.

"Michigan State took their foot off the accelerator. They mismanaged the clock…again! They didn't use their timeouts right…again! And they allowed an opponent to get into halftime and make adjustments…AGAIN! It's the same tired-ass story!"

This is where our buddy Mikey D redirects his wrath toward the coaching staff, and continues the segment despite sounding like he's enduring the beginning stages of laryngitis. His co-workers are begging him to stop, even offering him hot tea and honey to soothe his throat, but again, ah, to no avail.

How do the, er, questionable decisions of the coaching staff match up with those three sets of mistakes?

Mismanaging the clock? Check. When quarterback Dustin Sherer drove the Badgers deep into MSU's zone in the last minute of the first half with a 7-6 lead, he was ordered to spike the ball instead of using one of UW's two remaining timeouts. Bielema explained he wanted to have the option to run the football. Fair enough … except the part where Wisconsin threw the ball on second and third downs, were unsuccessful, and had to settle for three points.

Not using your timeouts right? Check. The above sequence was one example; another was letting 15 seconds bleed off the clock in the final 30 ticks of the game when MSU was setting up for a go-ahead field goal. Bielema finally used his second timeout of the half with 12 seconds left … but only because there were 10 men on the field ready to block the kick. Whoops.

Allowing an opponent to get into halftime and make adjustments? Triple check. During UW's conference schedule, the Badgers are getting outscored 61-59 in the first half. Not too bad, right? "Note to John L. Smith: learn the effing rules, and understand that your timeouts are not like cell phone minutes! They don't carry over!"

See, above explanation. Sadly, nobody asked Bielema after the game if he understood that his timeout are, well, not like cell phone minutes. Although I'm sure some of us considered it for a fleeting moment.

"Shame on this coaching staff for puckering. It is evident to me they cannot coach with a lead. 38-17 at Notre Dame last year (kissing noises, and then, pucker pucker pucker! Pucker up, change what you're doing, and allow the opposition back in."

No extra thoughts here…just thought you'd like some context for pucker pucker pucker.

"Put the best 11 guys on the field! Jehuu Caulcrick was a bowling ball, yet Javon Ringer saw exclusive carries in the second half! Explain it! Somebody in East Lansing today, have the balls to ask Dave Baldwin, where the hell was Jehuu Caulcrick?"

Give Wisconsin credit for one thing Saturday: both P.J. Hill and John Clay came to play. Both burly tailbacks pounded their way for over 100 yards, and the offense seems to be back in tune. But Hill's lack of production all season is part of the reason UW isn't dreaming of roses right now.

Oh, and interesting to think Javon Ringer – now Michigan State's all-time leader in all-purpose yards – was part of the problem in that Notre Dame loss. Ringer ran 14 times for 76 yards; the 6-foot, 235-pound Caulcrick ran just eight times for a healthy 111 yards.

"Get Chris Smeland out of town! He is the single worst defensive coordinator ever born into this world! This guy is absolutely atrocious! … I would rather have H.R. PufnStuf with Teddy Ruxpin as an assistant, than to have you in this booth one more week!"

Anybody rather have this, colorful individual running the UW defense over Dave Doeren? Maybe not, but it's worth mentioning that Doeren's predecessor, Mike Hankwitz, now runs the Northwestern defense, which is allowing six points less per game than Wisconsin.

(finally calming down) "I'm tired. I'm hurt, I'm emotional, I'm shot. I've got nothing left. I've got nothing left."

Pretty well sums up your average Wisconsin football fan these days, doesn't it?


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