A group that is small is numbers but big in heart and contributions, Wisconsin won a big 45-24 victory over Michigan Saturday, the most points any UW team has ever scored against the Wolverines, and everybody was grateful that the seniors got to experience another Camp Randall victory.
"I can't say enough about the senior leadership that our guys have provided to get this team to where it is today," UW coach Bret Bielema said. "Starting last year in January, to have a bump in the road that we did, and to have these guys respond, they've led the way the whole way. Our senior captains, our seniors, guys like McFadden, Dan Moore, Jeff Stehle, a lot of unsung heroes out there that were just selfless and gave a lot and bought into what we were saying as coaches.
"I know we haven't won every game this year, but we've won a fair share that I think our guys went out and earned."
Badger Nation salutes the 18 Wisconsin football seniors who played their final game at Camp Randall Saturday.
Defensive Lineman Dan Cascone
Only playing in three games prior to 2009, it was a surprise when Cascone decided to return for a fifth season, especially when others in the same position usually choose to move on with their careers. Going through a physical and mental makeover the last couple seasons, Cascone has been a big benefit on UW's scout team and has seen time on the field, appearing in four games and making his first career tackle against Wofford.
"He just didn't put forth the effort that I thought he would need for him to come here and be a football player," Bielema said. "To his credit, he changed his body, he changed his attitude and he hasn't played as much on the field, but he's been great in the classroom and he's been a great chemistry guy."
Wide Receiver Nate Emanuel
Originally not on the roster when fall camp opened, Emanuel was added when Prather went down with his injury. Emanual, an Appleton native, has never quit working, a big reason Bielema offered him a scholarship in fall camp. This year, Emanuel has one tackle in one game played.
Tight End Garrett Graham
Despite playing through aches and pains, Graham has proudly carried on the tight end tradition at Wisconsin. Already entering the season with the necessary size and speed to excel at the position, Graham worked tirelessly in the off season with tight end coach Joe Rudolph on his run blocking, a stat that has paid off greatly this season when he's on the field and healthy.
Ranking eighth in school history with 13 career receiving touchdowns and 16th with 1,210 career receiving yards, Graham hasn't missed a start this season and his numbers show. Entering the Michigan game, Graham is third on the team with 30 receptions and second on the team with 390 receiving yards.
It was only fitting that Graham scored the first touchdown, diving over the goal line for a 22-yard score, and ending the game with five catches for 62 yards and that score.
"It was special and the senior definitely enjoyed it," Graham said. "Offensively, it was just a great day and I couldn't be more happier."
Defensive Lineman Jordan Hein
A wrestler in his first two seasons at Madison, Hein walked on to the football prior to the 2008 season. It's been a solid transition to a football player, who has made one tackles in five games in a reserve role.
Special Teamer William Hartmann
You would be hard pressed to find a player that takes more pride in his special teams work than Hartmann. Considered the captain of the special teams, Hartmann has a passion for the role, something that comes across when he talks about his units. A Badger fan since he was a kid growing up in Sheboygan, Hartman, a 07 and 08 Academic All-Big Ten selection, has made eight tackles in 10 games and was one of four players Bielema awarded a scholarship to in fall camp.
Hartmann's day wasn't perfect, as he broke his arm making a tackle on the final Michigan kickoff. He will miss the last two games, but should be ready by the bowl game.
Special Teamer Tyler Holland
A 07 and 08 Academic All-Big Ten, Holland has been a productive special teams player and back up throughout his career, playing in 41 games throughout his four-year walk-on career, earning a letter in each season.
He's been rather quiet this season, especially since UW has used more starting players on its units. Even so, Holland was named offensive scout team player of the week for the Fresno State series, the third time he has earned that honor, recorded one tackle and returned one kickoff for 13 yards against the Bulldogs. Prior to the season, he was one of the four players awarded a scholarship.
Wide Receiver Richard Kirtley
Considered the veteran of the group, Kirtley has not seen game action, but that hasn't stopped him from helped sophomores Nick Toon and Isaac Anderson find their niche. Kirtley's career was derailed when he tore his ACL at the end of the first week of the 2007 fall camp, forcing him to miss the entire season, and severely pulled his hamstring on the third day of the 08 fall camp.
"Other than that, I've been healthy," he joked.
Although he hasn't seen game action since his freshman season, Kirtley hasn't stopped working, one of the big reasons he was one of four walk-ons rewarded with a scholarship before the season started.
"He has done enough to definitely be recognized," wide receiver coach DelVaughn Alexander said. "He's caught the ball; he's been out there and competed against the ones. He's healthy for the first time, while in past years he's been injured and has had to stop and start from where he was going. He's done a really good job."
Free Safety Chris Maragos
From a transfer wide receiver to starting free safety to scholarship player and team captain, it's hard to not root harder for anyone other than Maragos. A man who doesn't make excuses, works hard everyday and believes immensely in his faith, Maragos got his walk-on chance when he gave his highlight tape to former Badger Luke Swan, who in turn gave it to the coaching staff. The rest is history.
Before every game, Maragos always takes a peak up into the stands in the seats he use to sit in to watch UW football games, which he sees now are a boat load of No.21 jerseys of family and friends supporting the Racine native.
In 15 career starts, Maragos has a team-high four interceptions (including two against Michigan State), 38 tackles, including three TFLs and a sack. Some of his best moments this year include deflecting a fourth-down pass attempt to seal UW win over Northern Illinois, a double overtime interception to help UW beat Fresno State and scoring a nine-yard touchdown on a fake field goal attempt at Ohio State.
Linebacker Jae McFadden
One of the few remaining fifth-year seniors on the UW squad that was recruited by former head coach Barry Alvarez, McFadden has switched linebacker positions countless times during his career - moving from will to mike linebacker for his junior year and back to will for this season – and has taken it all in stride.
His 62 tackles is a team-high, as his ability to know all three linebacker positions has helped him in making plays and reading coverages better than his previous seasons. That showed on Saturday, making six stops and 2.5 TFLs.
Cornerback Prince Moody
A 2008 Academic All-Big Ten selection, Moody has been a big contributor on special teams for Wisconsin in his tenure. After appearing in six games in 07, Moody played all 13 games for UW a year ago, registering nine tackles (seven solo) and recovering a fumble against Michigan State. In 2009, he has tallied four tackles in six games played.
Defensive Lineman Dan Moore
When he left Eastern Illinois, Dan Moore didn't know where he was going to do. All he knew was that he wanted to play Big Ten football. After a solid season at Joliet Junior College, Moore's dream came true, earning a scholarship offer from Wisconsin.
Although he's only played two seasons for the Badgers, Moore has brought more than depth to the defensive line. After playing in all 13 games last season, totaling 19 tackles, Moore has been able to rotate in and record 19 tackles, 2.5 TFL's and two sacks, including two against Michigan.
Linebacker Erik Prather
It was a tough way for Prather's career to end. During a spring scrimmage, Prather went down behind the play, grabbing his right knee and screaming in pain. The results were what most feared – complete destruction of his knee that effectively ended his career.
That hasn't stopped Prather from being involved. He's always talking with the special teams players before practice and game days. Chris Borland even gave Prather credit for helping him block the punt against Wofford.
Quarterback Dustin Sherer
Starting the final seven games of the 08 season, it was right to believe Sherer would be the starting quarterback heading into his senior season. After all, he recorded a 121.78 passer rating as a starter, and his numbers weren't bad (93-of-172 for 1,246 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions), but when he was passed over in favor of Scott Tolzien, Sherer thought about bailing.
After sitting down and weighing his options, Sherer decided to stick it out as the third-string quarterback and help Tolzien become a starting quarterback in the Big Ten. The results have led head coach Bret Bielema, offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and Tolzien to all publically state how much Sherer has meant to the team.
If there was any doubt, the fact that Sherer got the game ball after the Indiana victory speaks to how much the Indiana native has meant to the team this season.
Defensive Lineman O'Brien Schofield
If Schofield becomes a first-team All-Big selection, and even if he doesn't, it will go down as one of the more inspirational stories of the season. Brought in as a linebacker, Schofield, who has had to deal with the death of his brother and struggles to stay focused, was moved to the defensive line during Outback Bowl preparation and has never given up the position, making his 24th straight start against Michigan.
Although his numbers were decent last season (40 tackles, 8.5 for loss, five sacks), Schofield canceled all his summer plans to spend countless hours in the weight room and the McClain Center, working on his technique, strength and pass rushing capabilities.
The results shine through. Through nine games, he leads the nation in tackles-for-loss (18.5) and has 7.5 sacks. Against Michigan, Schofield continued to shine, registering seven tackles, two QB hurries, one TFL and a half sack.
Defensive Lineman Jeff Stehle
Bielema said on Thursday that if his seniors were to be playing their best football in their final year, the team was going to have success. That statement holds true for Stehle, a fifth-year senior who patiently waited his time, continued to work hard to improve his strength and agility until he was final able to get the chance to start.
That opportunity has come this season. After playing in 25 of 26 games entering the season, Stehle hasn't missed a start, recording 12 tackles and one sack in UW's eight-man defensive line rotation. Against Michigan, Stehle recorded back-to-back tackles for loss, including a sack on an impressive stunt play that went for a 10-yard loss.
"He came out of himself today," Schofield said. "To see that being a senior and working so hard all year, he finally gets some blocks and some plays his way. He was pretty special."
Wide Receiver Elijah Theus
Theus earned his first letter in 2008 after seeing action in five games. Although he finished with only two catches for 17 yards, Theus caught his first career touchdown pass, a 20-yard strike from Dustin Sherer, in the Champs Sports Bowl
Tight End Mickey Turner
Although he doesn't start, it's not hard to see why Turner was elected one of the team captains. His blocking ability in the backfield has made up for the Badgers losing two talented fullbacks and his leadership skills have been stellar. After back-to-back losses, Turner, with Schofield, gathered the group of seniors together to encourage the group to take pride in their work and not to take the season for granted.
"You only get so many shots at it," Turner said. "Today was a lot of fun."
Long Snapper Drew Woodward
After sitting on the bench for his first three seasons, Woodward has gotten his chance to compete in 2009. Through 10 games, his name hasn't been brought up, the biggest reward possible for a long snapper. The Badgers have had no problems on punts or field goals, a credit to Woodward's work ethic.