Start of Something Special?

The Badgers' 31-28 overtime win over Colorado Saturday night was one of the most thrilling victories of the Barry Alvarez era. Did Brooks Bollinger help set the stage for the Badgers to build on his legacy and springboard themselves back to championship status?

SAN ANTONIO – There couldn't have been a more classic storybook ending to what was a topsy-turvy season for the University of Wisconsin football team.

The Badgers partied late into Saturday night in San Antonio, celebrating one of the biggest wins of the Coach Barry Alvarez era – a 31-28 overtime upset over No. 14 Colorado in a thrilling overtime finish at the Alamodome.

Wisconsin improved to 7-1 in bowl games under Alvarez, and its small but infinitely important senior class put an exclamation point on its legacy. Senior quarterback Brooks Bollinger was named the game's Offensive Most Valuable Player, notching his 30th career victory in his final game in a Wisconsin uniform.

It was the ninth time Bollinger has led the Badgers from behind to win.

"It was a very fitting way for him to end his career," said Offensive Coordinator Brian White. "I hope the way he played is the image that all the Wisconsin people get burned in their heads forever. I know that will be the memory that's etched in my mind. He's one of the great ones that has ever walked through this university, make no mistake about it. He's a champion, and will always be a champion."

Prior to the Alamo Bowl, Alvarez said the most important aspect of becoming bowl-eligible was to obtain extra practice for a young team, helping inexperienced players prepare for next season.

Winning the game was not considered as crucial as simply being there. But the way Wisconsin battled to knock off Colorado, the stage has been set for a very promising 2003 season.

"It springboards them into the offseason and into spring practice," Alvarez said. "With as many young guys that played, they know what it takes to win, they know what it takes to beat good teams. They made the plays down the stretch to get the job done, and hopefully we can take it from there and move forward and progress next year."

The Badgers will return 16 starters next season, not including the return of All-American wide receiver Lee Evans. Freshman Brandon Williams, sophomore Darrin Charles and sophomore Mike Allen made the crucial plays that won the game in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The victory showcased a wealth of talented young players that could be the foundation of Wisconsin's next championship contender.

But before the Badgers start working hard in winter conditioning, they will allow themselves to enjoy the hard-fought win that helped salvage their 8-6 season.

"This means a great deal," Charles said. "We had so much potential for this season, going back to last spring, and having all those things go wrong. It was just a rolling effect from there. (The Colorado win) was something to put our stamp on the end of the season, to show all of the doubters we made it."

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