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

the season.

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

quickly.

”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

right away.

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

indoors.

”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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