Wisconsin football did what it had to and restored confidence for the final two games of the year.
Heading into last weekend’s game against Purdue, Wisconsin football was an underdog and it felt like the Badgers had no chance. The way they had been playing lately left me with little hope for a strong performance. Even if the game ended up being a loss, I wanted to see Wisconsin fight. And if it ended up being a win, I wanted it to be deserved. The Badgers answered the call.
With no shot at the Big Ten Championship, the only things that mattered for the rest of the year were finishing strong to keep hopes for the future high and keeping the Axe in Madison. With a poor showing against Purdue, these two things would be in question. Halfway through the fourth quarter, it appeared that would be the case. But then things turned around.
Jack Coan led two touchdown drives and the defense shut down Jeff Brohm’s offense when it mattered. It got hairy in overtime, but Jonathan Taylor wasn’t going to let his team lose. Not after making it as far as they did.
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I believe Wisconsin showed what it had to in the final ten minutes of the game and the three overtime periods to restore faith in the fan base. The team has talent. That was never the question. They just weren’t playing to the levels they’re capable of. It’s a small sample size to reference the last part of the Purdue game, but it’s the performance this team needed.
A win like that galvanizes a locker room and a fan base. Watching the team celebrate the game-winning touchdown made me forget about the last month of lousy football. It probably made everybody on the sideline (and the end zone) forget too. With the game of the year coming up this week that’s just what the doctor ordered.
And that’s where the focus now turns. Wisconsin has beaten Minnesota 14 straight years. It was looking like it would be 15 straight until the season unfolded a bit more. Minnesota still hasn’t put together anything that would convince anybody they have a great shot to win, but Wisconsin looked like an easy upset victim. Until last week. The Badgers, if they can put everything together as it did late against Purdue, should be able to take care of business in front of a home crowd against those pesky Gophers.
What’s more, Minnesota will be playing for its sixth win and bowl eligibility. Wisconsin will get Minnesota’s best shot. It just won’t be enough.