MADISON, Wis. – We’re only two weeks into the college football season, but the #9 Wisconsin Badgers have already seen it all.
Prior to the season, there were big question marks at the quarterback position, the young offensive line, and how the defense would be with the departure of ex-defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
All of that is gone now.
Early signs point to a capable, gun-slinging quarterback, a back track to a traditional offensive line, and a defense possibly better than the defense that finished #2 in the nation last year.
You can look at all of the stats after two games, the dominant defensive numbers, the high quarterback ratings, and big games from receivers, but what is really striking about this team is the intangibles and the non-game day preparation that is putting this team ahead of many others.
Back in the LSU game, one of the lowest points for fans came when wide receiver George Rushing fumbled the ball in Wisconsin territory. LSU would score on the second play after that, putting them in the lead.
One would assume that it was a low point for the Badgers as well, but not for this team.
“The team responded very well. For myself, it was just like, damn, we made a big play, it turned bad but I mean, it happens,” Rushing said. “The DB didn’t mean to do it, his helmet was just in the right place at the right time. It happens, can’t really do much about that.”
Maybe winning the game makes it easier to forget and not dwell on mistakes, but the resilience shown bodes well for a team that has one of the toughest, if not the toughest, schedule in the nation.
“I think just us as a team, no matter what the circumstances, we all stand behind each other, and nobody is on the sideline like, you know somebody do something bad, you’re not pointing fingers,” Rushing continued.
Resilience is big, especially for a team going into a game as an underdog. And from what Rushing said, it sounds like a team buying into one another.
After a huge win against LSU, it would be hard to not dwell on how great of a victory it was. But this team moved on. All of last week it was about Akron and no one else. This week, it is now all about Georgia State.
“No not at all. Georgia State is not a warm up at all,” team captain Dare Ogunbowale said when asked if Georgia State was a good practice game before running the gauntlet of the Big Ten.
“We don’t look at this lightly at all,” Ogunbowale continued. “The Big Ten is going to be what it is but we got to make sure we take care of our last non-conference game first.”
So take a break here and remember the resilience from earlier. Now add focus.
The last intangible to check is non-complacency. A perfect example of that is the defense’s response to their dominating performance over Akron.
“It’s one of those things where we are a defense that is always hungry to get better,” senior safety Leo Musso said. “We’ll never tell you that we played our best game. There’s always things you can improve on and that’s the truth. I think as we become one like we are, it’s just all about that communication and how much fun we have out there and that’s I think what everybody’s seeing.”
The Wisconsin defense did not give up a single touchdown to Akron last Saturday, got a safety, and followed basically every single big play Akron had offensively with a turnover.
But the players, much like their coach, are constantly itching for more.
“I wouldn’t limit this group, but we’ve got to get better,” Coach Paul Chryst said.
At this point, if you’ve been following the Badgers from all the way back in spring camp, Chryst sounds like a broken record. As more and more players echo the same words though, he sounds like a broken record that his team is buying into.
The three songs on that record? Resilience, focus, and non-complacency.
This team seems to have the intangibles down. Time will tell if they have the on the field talent to make those intangibles count.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Haas, Sconnie Sports Talk.