The University of Wisconsin football team’s underperforming 2018 season has come with plenty of unfamiliar territory as the season has turned into a nightmare over the past month.
No player on the roster has ever won fewer than 10 games in a season with the Badgers, and, of course, none had experienced watching Minnesota celebrate with Paul Bunyan’s Axe like they did when the Gophers came to Camp Randall and dominated most of the game en route to a 37-15 victory yesterday.
The feeling in the locker room after the game among the UW seniors was the disappointment of letting the previous seniors down.
“Playing at Wisconsin, you’re used to playing for Big Ten Championships and finishing the season with double digit wins,” UW senior guar Beau Benzschawel said. “This is the first time we haven’t been able to do that.”
That brings in the question of how the Badgers could possibly motivate themselves for their upcoming bowl game after a 7-5 regular season ended with the first loss to their arch-rivals since 2003.
While UW initially expected nothing short of a third straight trip to a New Year’s Six bowl game, if not a berth to the College Football Playoff, the Badgers will how likely find themselves preparing for either the Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl, Redbox Bowl, or Pinstripe Bowl.
“It’s definitely tough, but it is what it is,” T.J. Edwards said. “We’re going to be in that situation, but there’s nothing we can do besides push forward. It’s one of those things where I don’t want the last taste in the senior class’s mouth be this loss, so we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to win.”
That senior class has a history of ending the season on a high note. Even those that are in their fifth year, like Edwards, haven’t lost a bowl game during their careers in Madison, as UW’s won four straight bowl games beginning with the 2014 Outback Bowl.
Many of those seniors said Saturday’s loss to Minnesota will stick with them forever. One of those who did, left guard Michael Deiter, also mentioned it won’t be difficult to find motivation heading into one final game, regardless of where the Badgers play or who they face.
“I think it’ll be pretty easy to regroup,” Deiter said. “This will fade away. As a team, you’ve got to be ready to win a bowl game. As a senior class, we’ve never lost one. It’d be cool to go 5-0 in Bowl Games and that’s the plan. We’ll regroup. We’ll find out where we’re going, we’ll be excited to go play, and we’re going to prepare to whatever bowl game we get.”
Doing so, will require the Badgers to play much better than they did yesterday, regardless of the eventual opponent.
Along with four turnovers and the surrendering of a 69-yard punt return touchdown, UW couldn’t stop the run, suffered from drops and broke down in coverage on occasion. The post-game message indicated that everyone had a hand in the debacle against Minnesota, and the Badgers players hope to reverse that come Bowl season.
Wisconsin will try to end on a high note in what has been the most disappointing and frustrating season since the pre-Alvarez days.