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Badgers upset No. 1 Buckeyes … (Again)

February 14, 2011 Comments off

MADISON — The Kohl Center, where streaks come to die.

One of the 17,230 fans packed inside the building on Dayton Street made a sign Saturday with the above statement. Another read “24-1.”

After a hard-fought 40 minutes, they were right on both accounts.

Behind an incredible second-half performance by junior guard Jordan Taylor, one that came when his team needed it most, Wisconsin handed No. 1 Ohio State its first loss, 71-67. With the win, the UW became just the eighth school since 1969-70 to defeat the AP No. 1 team in both football and basketball during the same academic year.

“It’s Madison, Wisconsin,” said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan of the upset. “It’s been said a lot of times about what this campus is like, what this school is all about. … Like I was telling people before, I think the basketball thing is a little different in February with Ohio State being No. 1.

“I don’t know about football rankings, and Ohio State was No. 1, I understand that. I just think in our sport, to be [24-0], you’ve had to win in November, December, January and into February. So, I kind of like ours because it just happened. I loved football’s because I was there at the game. It’s just all good for the school.”

Last time a school upset the nation’s No. 1 team in both sports? Florida, in 2006-07, also over Ohio State.

Heading into the matchup, Keaton Nankivil and the Badgers talked about looking to get off to a hot start and maintain a high level of intensity throughout, something that worked tremendously for the football team back on October 16.

Instead, the basketball version took a little different trajectory.

After a highlight montage from that victory at Camp Randall pumped up the crowd just before tipoff, Wisconsin jumped out to a fairly hot start, building a 12-6 lead through the first 6 1/2 minutes of play. Unlike the football team, however, that hot start did not translate into a dominant wire-to-wire victory.

In fact, the Badgers fell behind by as many as 15 points with 13:21 to play in the second half, stunning the home crowd. The next trip down the floor, trailing 47-32, Taylor hit a floater in the lane that sparked a 15-0 run to tie it.

“You have to give Wisconsin a ton of credit,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “We got that lead and had some great looks, I thought, but it just kind of went in and out on us. It flipped, we started missing shots and they started making shots.”

Just like that, in a matter of four minutes, the Badgers took what looked to be a sure blowout and flipped it into the type of back-and-forth battle it had been throughout the first half. Only, they weren’t done there.

After dropping behind once again by four points with 7:40 to play, the Badgers tied it at 55 just 42 seconds later on a Mike Bruesewitz 3-pointer. Over the next 2 1/2 minutes, Wisconsin reeled off nine unanswered for its largest lead of the game at 62-55.

Now, not only was Ryan’s squad not going to be blown out, it was in control against the nation’s best. And while Taylor’s 21 second-half points stand out, it was a true team effort that got them there.

“When we were down, I don’t think things really changed,” Taylor said. “They made a run, and we knew we had a run in us. … We eventually we started getting stops and started making plays and everybody made a big play. Not one person didn’t.”

Ohio State kept things interesting over the game’s final minutes, but with the raucous crowd behind it, Wisconsin would not relinquish its lead.

Despite their best efforts, William Buford‘s 21 points and Jared Sullinger‘s 19 point and 12 rebounds just weren’t enough. Despite all the talk surrounding Sullinger as a national player of the year candidate, he and Buford could not do it alone.

“Our game plan [was] to kind of limit his touches, because when he gets it down there, he is pretty much unstoppable,” said Jon Leuer of Sullinger. “It is hard to score if you don’t have the ball, and that is what we were trying to do with him.”

Taylor, who struggled in the first half, finished with a game-high 27 points and seven assists against just one turnover. Leuer, Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser joined him in scoring double digits, with 27 of the points between the four coming from beyond the arc.

As the clock ticked to zero, fans stormed the court, mobbing the Badgers for the second time in four months following a thrilling victory over the Buckeyes.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Taylor said. “We were at the football game when they beat Ohio State and a few of us got to go down on the field. Just to be in another court rusher game like that, similar to Duke last year, it was unbelievable.

“It’s something you remember forever.”

 

Ready to upset No. 1 Ohio State

February 11, 2011 Comments off

MADISON – Watching from the packed and highly energized stands at Camp Randall Stadium, one play in particular jumped out at Keaton Nankivil during the Oct. 16 football game between No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State.

It’s a play that stood out to everyone else, too, as David Gilreath‘s 97-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff set the tone for the Badgers’ 31-18 upset and was voted play of the year by UW fans.

“Gilreath returning the kickoff, to me shows right off the bat they’re ready to play,” Nankivil said. “They’re not going to back down from anybody and they kind of made that first move. Secondly, the intensity throughout the entire game. I don’t think Wisconsin in that game really let up or gave Ohio State a chance to keep chipping away at it.”

Nankivil was joined at that memorable victory by each of his teammates, and they all got a great lesson in stepping up to a challenge.

When they host No. 1 Ohio State tomorrow at the Kohl Center, the Wisconsin basketball team will have a chance to show its ability to rise to the occasion as well.

To be successful, they’ll likely need to do the two things that most impressed Nankivil about the football team in that upset.

“In a little different fashion,” Nankivil said. “But those are two important things to what we can do against Ohio State as far as hopefully making that first move and hopefully keeping the intensity high. I think those are two things that would really help us out.”

Of course, head coach Bo Ryan‘s players are no strangers to big games, either. Just last season, Wisconsin – unranked at the time – knocked off No. 6 Duke, handing the Blue Devils their first-ever loss in the 10-year history of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

In that game, much like the football team did against Ohio State in October, the Badgers jumped out to a hot start with an early 19-9 lead and never let up. In fact, UW never trailed against Duke en route to the thrilling 73-69 victory.

For senior forward Jon Leuer, that hot start is exactly what sticks out in his mind about the big nonconference victory.

“We got off to a great start and we were able to knock some shots down early,” Leuer said. “Against a team like Ohio State, you can’t get in a hole, otherwise it’s tough to dig your way out. That’s the main thing is just to get off to a good start. But if you don’t, you have to be able to handle that adversity and climb back from it.”

Typically, the mentality heading into a big game such as Saturday’s is one of treating it like any other game. Ryan’s team does its best to maintain the same approach before and after each game, so as to avoid getting to high on any win and too low and any loss.

That being the case, the Badgers still recognize the opportunity presented by the matchup against the top-ranked team in the nation.

“Any time you get the No. 1 that’s kind of a once in a career type of thing,” junior guard Jordan Taylor said. “I don’t think a lot of guys get to play against the No. 1 team in the country, especially at home. I expect it to be fun, and loud, and we’ll be ready to go.”

With the opportunity comes the challenge, and the Buckeyes certainly provide a formidable one for Wisconsin.

In order to come away with the big victory, the Badgers will need to effectively limit freshman Jared Sullinger, a national player of the year candidate, while being sure not to forget about guys like William Buford, Aaron Craft, David Lighty and Jon Diebler.

Even if they can do all that, things will not come easily on the offensive end, either. Ohio State’s length and athleticism could cause plenty of problems for Wisconsin.

And finally, there’s that unbeatable factor, as OSU enters the matchup with a flawless 24-0 record. But that should only serve to further motivate the Badgers.

“Nobody else has been able to beat them, and we’d be the only team to have proven that we can beat them,” Leuer said. “So there’s a little extra incentive, but any time you step on the court you have the same motivations. You’re just hungry and you want to win, and that’s how we’re going to play.”

 

Clay, Bielema focused on offensive line before OSU

October 18, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — Standing behind John Clay with his helmet off Saturday, you’d see the following numbers in his head: 68, 74, 66, 70 and 58. Lining up in the Wisconsin backfield, Clay sees the same set of numbers every time he takes the ball.

It took Clay about 20 minutes of work in the barbershop to show his appreciation for what his teammates do. Within the game’s first five minutes, Clay was thanking them again.

Clay burst through a big hole created by the Wisconsin offensive line and rushed 14 yards for the touchdown. Less than 12 minutes of game time later, Clay found the end zone again. As the Badgers led 21-0 over the No. 1 team in the nation, hard work by Clay and the offensive line paid off in a big way.

“He practiced as hard as I’ve ever seen him practice and really executed ball security, and he gave the tribute to the five offensive linemen, shaving their numbers in his head,” UW head coach Bret Bielema said of Clay. “It was a way of John saying, ‘I respect what you guys have done.’ His success is a lot about what they do, so again, just a good example of team chemistry.”

Wisconsin’s offensive line guided Clay to 104 yards rushing on 21 carries, as well as those two first half touchdowns.

Afterward, as he does after every game, Clay credited his success to the hard work up front by Peter Konz, John Moffitt, Gabe Carimi, Kevin Zeitler and Ricky Wagner.

“I just told them they’ve been working hard for me all week and this whole year, so I told them I’d do something special when the big game came,” Clay said. “It worked out in a good way.”

With the Badgers facing one of the toughest defensive lines in the country in Ohio State, Clay was not the only one focused on the offensive line this week.

Knowing the battle in the trenches could very easily determine the outcome of the game against the top-ranked Buckeyes, the head coach looked to give his front five a little added motivation.

“I did challenge them,” Bielema said. “I don’t do that very often as a head coach. I don’t want to set kids up for failure. If I do something like that, it’s usually that I have a really strong belief that it’s going to come through.

“Everybody made a big deal about the 29 games that Ohio State had played without a 100-yard rusher. I threw it in those guys’ faces all week. I threw it at our running backs, but it all starts up front for us. For us to have success, we have to play well at the offensive line.”

Konz, Moffitt, Carimi, Zeitler and Wagner answered the challenge in a big way. Not only did they pave the way for Clay to become the first opposing player in 30 games to rush for 100 yards or more against OSU, they also kept their quarterback upright.

Attempting 16 passes on the day, Scott Tolzien was not sacked a single time. But did the offensive line need to challenged?

“I don’t know. I mean, that’s a good question,” Moffitt answered. “We play our game and we always try to play our game. Obviously, when the head coach calls you out, you just have to raise the bar, and I think that’s what we did.

“It feels great. We did the right things and we won the game.”

Fans flood field after upset victory

October 17, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — Pandemonium.

That was the consensus description of the scene on the field at Camp Randall Stadium after the Badgers’ 31-18 win over No. 1 Ohio State. And why shouldn’t it have been?

Despite repeated warnings not to do so, fans poured onto the playing surface as the clock wound to zero, mobbing the 18th-ranked Wisconsin football team as it secured its biggest win in recent program history.

Within minutes, the green field turf was replaced by a sea of red.

“I’ll remember how quickly that thing can fill up,” Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. “Mark Taurisani, my office guy, told me, ‘If they rush the field, go out the far tunnel,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, you better tell everybody else the same thing.’ We hadn’t exactly gone through an evacuation plan.”

Without any briefing on what to expect after such a momentous victory, a number of players found themselves in precarious situations, surrounded by classmates and alumni.

With the Badgers defeating the nation’s No. 1 team for the first time since 1981 and the fourth time in school history, everybody wanted to be a part of the big moment.

“It’s so much excitement and so much joy,” free safety Aaron Henry said. “Coming into this game, we knew what to expect. I know a lot of people on the outside looking in, they didn’t really give us a chance, and that’s fine. As long as the core group of guys in that locker room believe in each other man, the sky’s the limit.”

Before the game, the Badgers were a picture of quiet intensity, according to Bielema and other players who recalled their teammates showing a surprising, but intense, calmness.

Afterward, as Camp Randall exploded in excitement, the Badgers celebrated their first win over Ohio State in the Bielema era.

“That was nuts,” said linebacker Blake Sorensen, who had a big late-game interception. “It was a big win for the team and the fans as well. That was huge. The last I saw the goal post was rocking back and forth when I left. It was awesome.”

Five things to watch: Ohio State

October 16, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — Top-ranked Ohio State is in town, and they brought ESPN College GameDay along with them. For the third straight time dating back to 2003, the Buckeyes and Badgers will play under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium.

The stage has been set, and all eyes are on Madison tonight. Only one question remains: Will 18th-ranked Wisconsin raise to the occasion, or crumble under the pressure?

Before things kick off at Camp Randall tonight, BadgerBlitz.com offers a number of things to watch during today’s game, as well as a prediction.

1. Strength versus strength

Wisconsin has one of the best offensive lines in the nation. Ohio State has gotten similar recognition for its front four on defense. When it comes down to it, the winner in the trenches will likely be the winner on the scoreboard as well.

Last year, Cameron Heyward and the Buckeyes got the best of John Moffitt, Gabe Carimi and UW offense. Six times OSU got through to sack quarterback Scott Tolzien. Two more times, the Ohio State pressure in the back field forced bad throws from Tolzien, which resulted in pick sixes.

If Moffitt, Carimi and Peter Konz can limit the effectiveness of Heyward, Brian Rolle and the Buckeyes defense, it will go a long way toward a Wisconsin victory. If not, Tolzien and the Badgers will be in for a long night.

2. Pryor focus

Two of the most impressive drives of Terrelle Pryor‘s career have come against the Badgers. The last thing J.J. Watt and the Wisconsin defense want is to let him add a third to his highlight reel.

UW shut down the duel threat quarterback effectively in two prior meetings, but he still managed a big scoring drive in each game that made an impact. As head coach Bret Bielema has emphasized since the Michigan State loss, even one or two poor plays for the Wisconsin defense could be the difference.

Defensive coordinator Dave Doeren and the Badgers will no doubt look to force Pryor’s teammates to beat them. If they keep Pryor quiet, the home team could come out on top.

3. Embrace the hype

For most of the players on the Wisconsin sideline, this will be the biggest game of their careers so far. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, are no strangers to the national spotlight.

Aside from three straight losses to OSU, the Badgers have enjoyed some success against the Buckeyes this decade. UW won three straight in Columbus before losing the last two, and they’ve given them all they can handle in Madison.

Last time the Buckeyes visited, a last-minute scoring drive combined with a game-ending interception tipped the scales in Ohio State’s favor. In 2003, the Badgers came up with the big score late. A year earlier, the Buckeyes needed an interception to seal a close victory late.

If the Badgers can embrace the hype without letting it get the best of them, they should have all the motivation needed to rise to the occasion.

4. Special delivery

Last year, both the Badgers and Buckeyes scored a touchdown on special teams. For UW, it was Chris Maragos’ 9-yard run for the near pylon on a second-quarter fake field goal. For OSU, it was a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

The chances of a game-changing touchdown coming on special teams are better than usual. Wisconsin’s coverage unit continues to have fans holding their breath every time Philip Welch boots the ball down field. With Ohio State boasting the conference’s best return average, things could get interesting.

Of course, the Buckeyes aren’t real strong on kick coverage either. With the skills of James White, David Gilreath and the potential shown by Aaron Henry, special teams could provide some fireworks on national television.

5. Clay, Kendricks, Toon

As they handed it to Minnesota last week and retained Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the seventh straight year, the Badgers got their three-headed offensive attack working as well as it has all season. When John Clay, Lance Kendricks and Nick Toon all get rolling, the Wisconsin offense becomes near impossible to stop.

Clay tallied 69 yards on just 10 carries against Ohio State in 2008, but managed just 59 yards on 20 carries a year ago. If his offensive line can withstand the Buckeyes’ pressure attack to open up some holes, the Badgers could get things rolling.

But while Clay’s effectiveness will have some impact on the outcome, the key for the UW offense will be getting Tolzien in rhythm with Kendricks and Toon. If the passing game can be effective, it will open things up for Clay and White.

Schelling’s prediction

More than any game this season, this is one I’ve gone back and forth on all week. Immediately following last week’s win, I had the Badgers by nine. Two days later, Buckeyes by three sounded pretty good.

It’s hard to bet against the No. 1 team in the nation, even in a hostile environment at Camp Randall. But it’s equally hard to expect a team that’s 40-4 at home since 2004 to go down in front it’s home crowd.

This is a must-win for the Wisconsin, and even more so for Bielema, who has yet to add a signature win to his coaching resume. For that reason, I’m taking Wisconsin to win, 24-20.

Revisiting recent Buckeye battles

October 15, 2010 Comments off

MADISON – Over their past five matchups, the Badgers and Buckeyes have put together a number of thrilling battles. With top-ranked Ohio State coming to town to battle No. 18 Wisconsin in front of a national television audience, BadgerBlitz.com takes a minute to revisit some recent tilts in the rivalry.

No. 3 Ohio State at No. 23 Wisconsin

Date: Oct. 11, 2003

Final Score: 17-10 Wisconsin

Key players:

-Lee Evans – One reception, 79 yards, one touchdown

-Matt Schabert – 105 yards passing, one touchdown, 467.87 rating

-Craig Krenzel – 202 yards passing, one touchdown, one interception

Quick recap:

The defending national champion Buckeyes came into Camp Randall Stadium looking to extend their winning streak to 20 games before a raucous crowd of 79,793 on a chilly, rainy October night.

Backup quarterback Matt Schabert and Lee Evans made sure that wouldn’t happen.

After Ohio State cornerback Chris Gamble had shut down Evans, the Big Ten’s leading receiver, throughout the first 55 minutes of the game. With 5:20 remaining in the game, Schabert and Evans struck for a 79-yard touchdown down the Buckeyes’ sideline for the game-winner.

Schabert had just two previous touchdown passes in his career, but the junior was forced into action when Jim Sorgi was injured at the bottom of a pile in the third quarter.

After Robert Reynolds had shoved his fingers into Sorgi’s throat, it made it difficult for the UW signal caller to swallow and impossible to call out plays. Schabert made the most of his opportunity, completing two of three passes, including the 79-yard strike to Evans.

Wisconsin’s defense effectively limited the Buckeyes offense all night, holding them to just 271 total yards, including only 69 yards rushing.

No. 15 Wisconsin at No. 18 Ohio State

Date: Oct. 9, 2004

Final Score: 24-13 Wisconsin

Key players:

-Anthony Davis – 168 rushing yards, 39 carries, one touchdown

-Ted Ginn Jr. – 72 all-purpose yards, 65-yard punt return touchdown

-John Stocco – 160 yards passing, two touchdowns

Quick recap:

One year after snapping the Buckeyes’ 19-game winning streak, the Badgers ended Ohio State’s streak of 18 consecutive home wins. With the 24-13 victory, Wisconsin also extended its winning streak to three straight at Ohio Stadium.

Trailing 10-0 early, the Badgers kicked their offense into gear, outscoring the Buckeyes 24-3 the rest of the way, due in large part to the impressive performance of the UW defense.

Defensively, the Badgers sacked OSU quarterback Justin Zwick five times, while forcing and recovering a pair of fumbles. Defensive end Erasmus James led the way with six tackles, two for loss, and a sack.

Brett Bell and Jim Leonhard also added six tackles apiece, while Leonhard added one pass breakup and Bell forced a fumble.

While the stingy Wisconsin defense shut down Ohio State, it was running back Anthony Davis that stole the show. Davis rushed for 168 yards, including a 31-yard scamper in the second quarter that put UW on the board and turned the game in Bucky’s favor.

Wisconsin at No. 1 Ohio State

Date: Nov. 3, 2007

Final Score: 38-17 Ohio State

Key players:

-Beanie Wells – 169 rushing yards, 21 carries, three touchdowns

-Travis Beckum – nine receptions, 140 receiving yards, one touchdown

-James Laurinaitis – 19 tackles, two for loss, fumble recovery, one sack

Quick recap:

Three years removed from their last trip to Columbus, the Badgers entered Ohio Stadium riding a three-game winning streak there. Top-ranked Ohio State had won 19 straight Big Ten contests.

Thanks to a second-half offensive explosion, the Buckeyes extended that streak to a Big Ten record 20 consecutive conference victories.

With just over 21 minutes to play and the Badgers leading 17-10, the Buckeyes finally played like the nation’s No. 1 team, reeling off 28 unanswered points to put the game away. After Beanie Wells and the OSU offense had been effectively limited for nearly three quarters, Wells scored three touchdowns and quarterback Brian Robiskie added one of his own.

Until that point, Wisconsin put together an impressive showing, especially considering the absence of No. 1 running back P.J. Hill. Trailing 10-3 at the half, quarterback Tyler Donovan led the Badgers to quick scores on each of their first two possessions of the third quarter with touchdown passes to Travis Beckum and Chris Pressley.

That turned out to be all the Badgers had in them, however, and the top-ranked Buckeyes cruised to victory the rest of the way.

No. 14 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin

Date: Oct. 4, 2008

Final Score: 20-17 Ohio State

Key players:

-Terrelle Pryor – 144 passing yards, 20 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown

-Beanie Wells – 168 rushing yards, 22 carries, one touchdown

-Jay Valai – seven tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles

Quick recap:

Another night game at Camp Randall, another Ohio State-Wisconsin classic. Unfortunately for the home fans, the 2008 version went in the Buckeyes’ favor, thanks to Terrelle Pryor.

In a fitting payback for OSU, the Badgers’ 16-game home winning streak was snapped as the 19-year-old Pryor led Ohio State on two fourth-quarter scoring drives. After an early fourth-quarter field goal gave OSU a 13-10 lead, Wisconsin answered with a P.J. Hill touchdown, putting the Badgers up 17-13 with six minutes remaining.

That was more than enough for Pryor.

Utilizing his skills as both a passer and runner, Pryor hit Brian Hartline twice for big gains, but kept the ball for himself when the time came for the game-winning play. Running an option with Wells out wide, Pryor took it into the end zone with just over a minute left, giving the Buckeyes the 20-17 victory.

As the Badgers looked to get within field goal range and send the game to overtime, OSU cornerback Malcolm Jenkins sealed it, intercepting Allan Evridge on the first play of the drive.

Wisconsin at No. 9 Ohio State

Date: Oct. 10, 2009

Final Score: 31-13 Ohio State

Key players:

-Kurt Coleman – 14 tackles, 89-yard interception return touchdown

-Jermale Hines – 11 tackles, 32-yard interception return touchdown

-Ray Small – 119 all-purpose yards, 96-yard kickoff return touchdown

Quick recap:

The numbers didn’t add up. Wisconsin outplayed Ohio State in all facets of the game at Ohio Stadium a year ago, but thanks to two defensive touchdowns and a special teams score, the Buckeyes left with a big win.

Take those three mistakes away and a 31-13 loss turns into a 13-10 victory for the Badgers.

Ohio State scored first, turning what looked to be a Badgers scoring drive into an 89-yard touchdown the other way as he picked off an errant throw by a heavily-pressured Scott Tolzien. Early in the second quarter though, the Badgers answered in a big way.

As kicker Philip Welch lined up for a 26-yard attempt, the Badgers got the look they had hoped for, and senior captain Chris Maragos took the snap as holder and sprinted for the goal line. Stretching the ball out as he dove out of bounds, Maragos broke the plane, tying the game at seven apiece and electrifying the visitors sideline.

Over the final 40 minutes of the game, however, the Badgers would add just a pair of Welch field goals. The Buckeyes took a 14-10 lead into the half thanks to a Terrelle Pryor touchdown pass and extended that lead with another interception return for a touchdown, a kickoff return touchdown and a field goal.

Minimizing mistakes key for Tolzien

October 13, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — One year ago, Scott Tolzien learned just how tough it was to be a quarterback in the Big Ten Conference.

With four minutes to go in the first quarter of his third conference game as a starter, Tolzien dropped back to pass as his team looked to strike first against No. 9 Ohio State.

Suddenly, the pocket collapsed around the him. With three Buckeye defenders surrounding him, Tolzien fired a pass over the middle, hoping to avoid the first-down sack. Due to the pressure, his pass sailed well over the head of receiver Nick Toon, and into the arms of Kirk Coleman.

Instead of putting points on the board first at Ohio Stadium, UW quickly found itself trailing 7-0 after Coleman took Tolzien’s pass 89 yards the other way for the score.

“I just threw it late across the middle and threw it high,” Tolzien told reporters afterward.

That interception was just the beginning of what turned into a long day for Tolzien. Down 14-10 early in the second half, Tolzien found himself under pressure again, this time on second-and-17.

As Tolzien tried to find Isaac Anderson near the right sideline, Jermale Hines undercut the pass, tipping it to himself before finding the end zone and pushing the Buckeyes’ lead into double digits.

“I thought I could get it over the top of him, and it was too close to call,” Tolzien said. “At that point you shouldn’t throw it.”

In those two games, Tolzien’s pass efficiency ratings were 97.78 and 84.05, respectively. Since then, he’s averaged a 160.22 rating.

Just twice since that two-game stretch has Tolzien’s rating been less than 140: against Purdue on Halloween last season, and two weeks ago at Michigan State.

A little more than a year after the loss in Columbus, Tolzien sees his struggles at Ohio State in a positive light.

“It’s a part of my history and something that I’ve learned from,” Tolzien said. “You’ve got to be smart with the football. Looking back on it, I can almost view it as a blessing now just to have gone through that. You just see the way that affects the swing of the game.”

Based on his numbers, the biggest thing Tolzien would appear to have learned over the past 12 months is how to limit those kind of mistakes.

Following that two-interception performance, Tolzien added three more a week later in the Badgers’ loss at home to Iowa, giving him five in Wisconsin’s back-to-back losses. In 12 games since, the Badgers signal caller has thrown the ball away just five times, and never more than once in a game.

“Scott’s a great player,” Toon said. “He doesn’t make very many mistakes, but everybody makes mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.

“Obviously those were two plays we all wish we could have gotten back, but you’ve just got to move forward and clean it up for the next time.”

With the top-ranked Buckeyes boasting the Big Ten’s best pass defense while allowing the second-fewest points per game in the conference, Tolzien will face one of the toughest challenges of his career.

If he once again finds himself in the unenviable situation of having thrown an interception returned for a touchdown, it’s a pretty safe bet it won’t happen twice this time.

“It’s one thing if the first one happened, but don’t let it affect you in a way where you got to learn to make sure the second one doesn’t happen, and vice versa,” said Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema. “During the course of the game, it’s not what happens, it’s how you react to what happens. And he learned himself how to kind of turn those situations from negatives to positives.”