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Badgers Hangover: Good secondary play overshadowed by bitter loss

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As we all wake up on Sunday following the Badgers 38-13 loss to the Michigan Wolverines, there are plenty of questions left unanswered. 

How did this happen? Is it time to move on from Alex Hornibrook at quarterback? What was up with Paul Chryst’s play calling? Can the Badgers stop missing tackles on the edge anytime soon? 

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point – we are all left searching for answers to a game that felt like it could’ve easily been the other way around.

We aren’t alone, as the coaching staff is likely to have many of the same questions and self-reflection going on today before moving forward to a matchup with Illinois next Saturday. 

But, despite the loss and the hard feelings about how it went down, there was a sliver of good to be had. 

That good came in the form of the play of a young, inexperienced secondary for the Badgers. 

UW’s secondary was tested not just by the Wolverines passing game, but also by its own issues. First was the fact that starting safety D’Cota Dixon was a surprise scratch from the game due to his leg not holding up in pre-game warmups. That meant UW would not only start one, but two first-time starters at safety with true freshman Reggie Pearson Jr. teaming up with redshirt sophomore Eric Burrell. 

Caesar Williams and Faion Hicks were at least somewhat experienced starters at cornerback. It was a good thing considering all the players out with injury behind them. 

However, Hicks and Williams each had just one tackle on the night and Hicks would go down early in the game with a leg injury (likely a hamstring issue) and that meant throwing in young Rachad Wildgoose in to the mix. 

Wildgoose had five total tackles and a pass break up. However, he also had a key holding penalty on a third down pass that went way over the head of both himself and the Wolverines wide receiver. Instead of getting off the field, Wisconsin had three more downs to defend against. 

UW’s defense held up once again, only to have a controversial roughing the snapper penalty wipe out a punt and change of possession. With the game sitting at 13-7 it would’ve been a huge opportunity for the Badgers. Instead, Michigan took advantage of the penalty and after a Karan Higdon 25-yard run it was Shea Patterson punching it in with a 7-yard run off the right side of the line for a 21-7 lead that would prove too much to overcome. 

But, for Wildgoose himself, the holding penalty didn’t lead to disastrous play or a let down in attitude. It was just move on to the next play and do what he could to help his team win a game. 

Let’s also not forget that Wildgoose is the one that was able to chase down Patterson as he broke loose on what seemed like a touchdown scamper early in the second quarter. Instead, Wildgoose gave chase and caught him at the 5-yard line to prevent the touchdown. 

Yes, Michigan scored a few plays later, but Wildgoose did his job well considering where he was in coverage at the time that Patterson got going on the outside. 

As for the safeties, well, Reggie Pearson also went down with injury and that forced little-used senior safety Evan Bondoc in to the game before Scott Nelson could come back in after serving the first half suspension for his targeting call last weekend. 

But, amongst all the chaos emerged a secondary that allowed Patterson to throw for just 124 yards on 14 completions and never gave up a passing play over 20 yards on the night. 

Given this group’s propensity towards giving up those big plays throughout the season, not giving them up was a huge win. So was the fact that the young safeties showed up in a big way around the line of scrimmage. 

Pearson and Burrell were seen time and again blowing up plays on the edge early on. In fact, when they were playing near the line of scrimmage, Michigan often struggled to get anything going. It was only after UW backed off the pressure from the safeties that Michigan was able to get things going on the edge. 

Yes, the secondary had some bad moments — especially dropping a few opportunities to pick off Patterson, but on the whole this was a positive game for UW’s youthful secondary. 

It was a high pressure situation and a severe test of its depth, and Wisconsin’s secondary largely stood up to the pressure Michigan put on it. 

As the defense goes forward, the good news is that it can begin to unleash more and more pressure up front as the secondary continues to gain confidence and the coaching staff begins to trust it can count on them on an island. 

It happened early on in this game, with the Badgers putting up three sacks and four tackles for loss in the first half alone. Wisconsin would finish with just those three first half sacks, but eight tackles for loss on the night. 

Yes, it’s a small sliver of good in a night that still stings as we all wake up from that nightmare finish, but it is important that lessons — both good and bad — are highlighted. 

For UW’s defense, the good lesson is that it can seemingly trust its secondary, even when the four players out there have never played together before. 

Now about the rest of the night…

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Cephus says he wants to return to Badgers football

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Earlier on Monday we got word from the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the status of Quintez Cephus, the student. He was to have his expulsion reversed after the evidence from his acquittal was brought forth to the university.

The only question left was if he would want to return to the university and the Wisconsin Badgers football team.

During a press conference on Monday afternoon, the speculation was put to an end. Quintez Cephus wants to return to the university and the football team.

During his press conference, Cephus mentioned how he wanted to stay at Wisconsin largely because of the support he got from his teammates and the entire staff of the UW football program.

He also mentioned that he had yet to speak with head coach Paul Chryst face-to-face after this decision was announced, but he would be doing so later in the day on Monday.

Many will also wonder if he’s ready physically and mentally to get back on the football field this season. Well, Cephus has been working out in Arizona for three months straight in anticipation of coming back on the field.

Judging by the video he’s put out, he’s certainly in some good physical condition.

Of course, only time will tell how quickly any and all of this will happen for Cephus and the Badgers. But, Cephus is very clearly focused on not wasting this opportunity and doing things at a very high level.

There are likely a few NCAA hurdles to officially jump through, but I’m also guessing the paperwork was just waiting to be put in motion once the university reinstated him and he gave the go-ahead.

Either way, he will be a welcome sight for an already strong group of wide receivers.

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UW reinstates Quintez Cephus

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A week after Quintez Cephus, his teammates and his attorneys went in front of the cameras to implore the University of Wisconsin-Madison to allow Cephus back in to school, we now have word on his status.

On Monday morning, it was revealed that Cephus was reinstated to the university. UW sent out the following tweet regarding the matter:

In the statement announcing their decision, the university noted that they had received information that wasn’t available during their initial Title IX investigation.

“UW–Madison obtained information following the criminal proceeding that was not provided to the university during the student conduct process, ” said the statement. “Chancellor Rebecca Blank conducted a review of this information and the petition for Quintez Cephus’ reinstatement as quickly as possible and in a complete and impartial manner.

“As a result of this review, sanctions for Quintez Cephus have been reduced and his expulsion lifted. There were findings of responsibility of the student non-academic misconduct code that were upheld.”

Chancellor Rebecca Blank had the following to say about the situation.

“All three of the primary participants in this case are our students, and I know the past year has been painful for everyone involved,” said Blank. “My decision is based on the availability of substantial new information that wasn’t made available to us during the earlier process. I recognize that some will disagree with this decision.”

“To those in our community who have experienced sexual assault, I sincerely hope that there is nothing in this case that will deter you from coming forward for support,” she added. “Our university continues to be prepared to listen and respond.”

Cephus had his expulsion lifted, but did not have all sanctions removed from his record. According to the statement, the findings of responsibility of the student non-academic misconduct code that were upheld.

With this reinstatement, Cephus has a decision in front of him. He is free to return to the university and the football team has made it clear they will welcome him back with open arms.

But, does he want to return to UW at all? All indications are that he does want to come back to school, but getting his expulsion lifted would allow him to move on from the university if he so chose.

We will have to wait for more information from the program once everyone has had a chance to make their decisions known.

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Joe Thomas makes CBS Sports All-time All-American list

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College football celebrates is 150th season in 2019 and that necessitates a look back at the history of the sport. That’s exactly what CBS Sports decided to do and they came up with a long list of the best players in college football history.

Given the fact that the Wisconsin Badgers went through long stretches of horrific play and few years of good work prior to 1990, seeing a Badgers name on the list was a long shot.

But, one Badger did make the list and that was famed left tackle Joe Thomas.

He was named to the honorable mention All-Time All-American offensive line category. Center was broken out in to a different group all together as well.

While at Wisconsin, Thomas became the first Badger to win the Outland Trophy, which is given to the nation’s best interior lineman. He also was named to the 2006 first team All-American list and started 39 games in his four years in Madison.

He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame after an 11-year career in which he made the Pro Bowl in 10 straight seasons.

Joining him on CBS Sports honorable mention offensive lineman list were Maurkice Pouncey (Florida), Lincoln Kennedy (Washington), John Hicks (Ohio State), Aaron Taylor (Nebraska) and Jake Long (Michigan).

Making the first team list were Orlando Pace (Ohio State), Jonathan Ogden (UCLA), John Hannah (Alabama) and Ron Yary (USC).

On the second team were Anthony Munoz (USC), Bryant McKinnie (Miami), Will Shields (Nebraska) and Tony Boselli (USC).

Those are all some amazing names and gives us all a great reminder of just how great college football has been over the years to be sure.

Thomas is the only Badgers player to make the list, yes including all-time greats like Ron Dayne and Alan Ameche, let alone perhaps the most famous player of the formative years of college football — Pat O’Dea.

Yes, he doesn’t fit neatly in to the mold of a modern college football player, but this was supposed to be a list of the best players to ever grace the field in the history of the game.

It’s very hard to argue that O’Dea wasn’t exactly that in his era. He was a two time All-American in 1898 and 1899 as a punter and a fullback.

If CBS Sports was serious about honoring the entirety of college football, having O’Dea on the list would be a good place to start.

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Badgers unveil throwback unis for Northwestern game

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College football is celebrating its 150th year in 2019 and the Wisconsin Badgers have been playing the game since the 1889 season.

In order to honor some of the history of the game and the program, the Badgers will put on throwback (and I use that term loosely) uniforms according to a video released by the football program on Tuesday afternoon.

It appears that UW is looking back to the days where a simple UW adorned the front of the sweaters, as they were called at the time, in that 1889 season.

Today, regulations say that all teams must include numbers on the front and back of the jersey and thus the conundrum the Badgers find themselves in here.

Interestingly, the helmets will feature a first-time logo with the ‘UW’ having never appeared together in any helmet in Badgers history. Given the fact that back in 1889 there was no such thing as a helmet in the game of football it was an interesting call.

The helmets will also feature just a thin Cardinal stripe down the center and gray face masks.

Personally, I have to say I’m not a fan of cramming the ‘UW’ on to the front of the jersey and it would’ve been interesting to see them go back to the Bucky Badger helmet or something else.

It just looks too congested on the front of the jersey, but I do like the idea of the black shoes, khaki colored pants and the red jersey overall. It does harken back to that era in as much as is possible in today’s modern game.

However, the players were certainly excited for a different-than-normal look to the Badgers uniforms.

The logo on the side of the khaki colored pants is also the one that the athletic department used from 1962 to 1965 according to research.

Wisconsin will take on Northwestern in the Sept. 28 game that will feature these jerseys inside Camp Randall. Northwestern will also have a similar look as part of what Under Armour is calling its Second Heritage line.

What do you think of this ‘throwback’ look? Hit up the comments below or follow on Twitter @talkingBadgers.

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