Janesville75.3°

Badgers can’t mess this up now

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Michael Hunt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
November 14, 2011
— By all the ruckus coming from the visiting athletic director’s box about an hour before Saturday’s kickoff, you knew something was happening.

Barry Alvarez and his entourage had just become the biggest Purdue and Nebraska fans on the planet, not that it takes much to nudge Alvarez into the other big-red realm. And you could hear ’em offering their support from here to St. Paul.


By then, I had grown weary of everything Penn State. Had no interest in seeing that incredibly sad episode spill over into a football game on TV, but the on-field circumstances mattered very much to the Badgers. To the great approval of the UW brass, Nebraska beat Penn State about the time Purdue was putting an end to Ohio State’s little charade, and suddenly all was right in Bucky’s universe.


Of course, Wisconsin had to go out and beat Minnesota, which is like saying the sun must rise in the east for the good of status-quo existence. Well, of course the Badgers were going to throttle the bad-news Gophers like it was their birthright, and when the 42-13 beating was complete, UW defensive back Aaron Henry summed up the weirdness of Saturday about as well as the Badgers took that overgrown hatchet to the Minnesota goal post.


“It’s back where we want it to be, and hopefully we don’t screw it up,” Henry said.


Now that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?


After all the wailing and gnashing of teeth after the boneheaded losses to Michigan State and Ohio State, the Badgers have arrived at the point that natural selection had demanded all along.


The lame Big Ten has come back to them.


Question is, what do they do with it now?


All they have to do is win at Illinois and then come back home in a couple of weeks to complete the downfall of


the Penn State empire. And then, they would go to the league’s first championship game like they were supposed to in the first place before things became twisted in those two brutal road games.


Henry had to temper his words with “hopefully,” because his coach, who has become a disciple for in-the-moment living, would make him run the Camp Randall steps today if he had uttered anything more definitive. But since Bret Bielema can’t make me stay after class, I’ll one-up his DB by saying there’s no way the Badgers can mess this up now.


Illinois is in the tank. Penn State, well, what else can anyone say about that horrible mess? I’m guessing the Badgers won’t let a kicker stiff-arm one of their defenders anymore or allow either of the last two opponents to run a kick back 96 yards. Clean that up, and they’re pretty much good to go on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.


“Coach B is big into karma,” Henry said.


But really, this has nothing to do with destiny, kismet or any other outside force. The Badgers never should have been in a position where they needed a terribly wounded Penn State to lose and then for Ohio State to find its rightful level. But now that everything has played right back into their laps, there is nothing for the Badgers to do but update their season goals with “Rose Bowl” at the head of the list, like it should have been all along.


“We’re in the construction phase of getting back to where we want to be,” Bielema said.


Which, of course, means the Badgers got Purdue and Minnesota at a time when Joe Paterno’s world was collapsing. Karma doesn’t have much to do with a weak league and horribleness over in State College. That’s about as silly as Minnesota getting itself worked up by the Wisconsin players taking the Axe to their goal post.


If the Gophers didn’t approve, they could do something about it. You know, like beating Wisconsin every now and then.


“They didn’t like it, but hey, that ain’t my problem,” Henry said.


Note to the outside world: Henry is a senior. Somebody needs to hire this kid as a minister of truth or something.



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