Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Season wrap: Wisconsin
By Adam Rittenberg
Wisconsin had a new coach, the same group of core players and a similar, close-but-no-glory result in 2013. The start of the Gary Andersen era was marked by three things: an officiating debacle at the end of a game at Arizona State, an impressive midseason surge and a poor finish with losses to Penn State and South Carolina.
The coaching transition went smoothly, and the Badgers displayed many of their signature traits, such as a dynamic run offense with two premier backs in Melvin Gordon and James White. Senior linebacker Chris Borland led a defense that ran a complex, pressuring scheme under coordinator Dave Aranda. After a 3-2 start, the Badgers won six consecutive games by double digits and rose to No. 15 in the BCS standings, but poor performances in their final two games put a damper on the season. The kicking game and quarterback play continued to be inconsistent.
Offensive MVP: Running back James White. Gordon had bigger numbers and flashier plays, but White proved to be the more reliable option during the meat of the Big Ten season. He rushed for 808 yards and nine touchdowns and added 18 receptions during Wisconsin's six-game winning streak.
Defensive MVP: Linebacker Chris Borland. An easy choice here, Borland won Big Ten defensive player of the year honors after capping a brilliant career with a superb senior season. He had 112 tackles, nearly double the total of any other Badgers player, and recorded 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and six 6 hurries. He set a Big Ten record with 15 career forced fumbles.
Best moment: It nearly became an ugly moment at TCF Bank Stadium, but Wisconsin beat rival Minnesota for a record 10th consecutive time Nov. 23 in a matchup of ranked teams on a frigid day in Minneapolis. Borland triggered a stifling defensive performance with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, and White had another 100-yard rushing performance as Wisconsin retained Paul Bunyan's Axe.
Worst moment: Few will forget the desert debacle on Sept. 14 in Tempe, Ariz. Trailing Arizona State 32-30, Wisconsin drove downfield for the possible game-winning score, but after an awkward (but legal) kneel-down by quarterback Joel Stave, Pac-12 officials failed to remove an Arizona State defender from the ball and spot it in time so Stave could spike it and set up a field-goal attempt. The clock ran out, Wisconsin coaches and players went ballistic and the Badgers suffered their first loss.