Wilson gets his wish: Badgers play for B10 title
When Russell Wilson chose Wisconsin for his one-year return to
college football, he did so with the hope that he and his new
teammates would be playing for something significant at the end of
And while the 15th-ranked Badgers threw away a potential shot at
the national championship with back-to-back road losses in late
October, Wilson still got his wish.
The Badgers will play No. 11 Michigan State in the Big Ten
championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday, with a trip to the
Rose Bowl on the line. And if Wilson was disappointed after the
Badgers fell out of the national title picture, he shook it off
”Every season you start off you want to end up No. 1,
obviously,” Wilson said Monday. ”It all starts with winning your
conference, and we have an opportunity to do that this weekend.
That’s the way we look at things right now. I love the game of
football. Win, lose or draw at any point, I love the game, and
that’s what I play for.”
The former North Carolina State quarterback left minor league
baseball to return to college football this season, choosing
Wisconsin over Auburn – in large part after meeting the XXL-size
Badgers offensive linemen who would be protecting him every week.
Wilson already had graduated from N.C. State, so he could play
Wilson immediately filled the team’s only significant void.
Through 12 games, he has completed 72.7 percent of his passes for
2,692 yards with 28 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Wilson
has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 36 straight games, tying
former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell’s NCAA record.
With Wilson and running back Montee Ball, who has 34 touchdowns
this season, the Badgers’ offense has perhaps the best 1-2 punch in
the nation. Asked who he’d vote for if he had a ballot for Big Ten
offensive player of the year, offensive lineman Travis Frederick
just threw up his hands.
”It’s not my job to pick that and I’m glad it’s not my job to
pick that,” Frederick said. ”I think there’s a couple guys on our
team that have done a phenomenal job and a couple guys throughout
the rest of the conference who have done a good job, so I’m happy
it’s not my choice.”
And Wilson’s stock has gone up during his short time with the
Badgers. Although he isn’t as tall as the prototypical NFL
quarterback – he’s listed at 5-foot-11, and that might be a tick
generous – Badgers coach Bret Bielema says pro scouts have spoken
highly of his chances at the next level.
For now, though, Wilson just wants to get the Badgers back to
the Rose Bowl.
”I knew that if I came here that we’d have an opportunity to
excel, and possibly have an opportunity to play for the first-ever
Big Ten championship and go to the Rose Bowl,” Wilson said.
But that means getting past Michigan State, the team that
derailed Wisconsin’s season on a shocking last-second pass for a
37-31 Spartans victory on Oct. 22.
The Spartans have beaten the Badgers two straight years, and
three times in the past four seasons.
”It’s going to be a battle,” Wilson said. ”I think that’s
usually the case pretty much every season.”
Wilson took a safety in that game, and still wonders if he could
have done something different on that play.
”We got caught there in a funny situation on the two-yard line,
I come out, play-action fake, the guy’s blocked initially and all
of a sudden, he comes out of nowhere,” Wilson said. ”And I have
to think about, `OK, what can I do in that situation?’ The only
thing I could have possibly done is maybe before the play, possibly
think about, `What’s my escape plan? How am I going to do this?’
That’s growing as a quarterback.”
Having an escape plan usually isn’t a problem for Wilson. His
mobility is one of his strongest assets, and he was able to break
several tackles for big gains in Saturday’s victory over Penn State
to demoralize the Nittany Lions’ defense.
”I believe that I go through my progressions first, and if
something’s not there, now it’s time to improvise,” Wilson said.
”A couple of times against Penn State, I knew it was third down,
we had to come up with a huge first down. Things weren’t there, and
I had to make sure we got the first down to keep the drive moving.
A couple times, I broke some tackles – I don’t know what happened.
Broke some tackles, got some key first downs. I think that will
help against Michigan State, obviously.”
With the Badgers preparing to play in the Indianapolis Colts’
Lucas Oil Stadium, Wilson says it will be ”awesome” to play in an
NFL venue. He noted it’s the first time he’s played a game
”We obviously practice indoors sometimes here, so I’m sure
we’ll do that quite often this week,” Wilson said. ”It’s going to
be a great atmosphere. I know it’s going to be loud in there,
obviously, with everything being pretty much in tight quarters and
being indoors, it’s going to be pretty loud in there. That’s the
fun part about it.”
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