Thursday, May 10, 2007

What A Year It's Been

The 2006 Wisconsin Badger football team was not flashy. They did not have any dramatic come-from-behind victories. The national media gave them little attention as they rose in the rankings. The Badgers did not care. They just won game after game after game. Following first-year head coach Bret Bielema’s 1-0 philosophy, Wisconsin racked up 12 victories, the most in school history. UW’s seven home wins tied a school record set back in 1898. Offensively, the Badgers (7-1 Big Ten, 12-1 overall) were led by Outland Trophy-winner Joe Thomas. The 6'8", 313-pound left tackle opened holes for freshman sensation P.J. Hill and protected his steady senior signal-caller John Stocco. In his rookie campaign, Hill took the Big Ten by storm, rushing for a conference-best 1,569 yards on 311 carries. His efforts earned him Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. Had he not injured his shoulder in a 13-3 victory over Penn State, Stocco could have passed Badger legend Darrell Bevell for most career victories and passing yards as a starting quarterback. Despite the injury, Stocco was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. On defense, the Badgers simply dominated their opponents. UW surrendered only 15 touchdowns in 52 quarters of play. They ranked No. 1 nationally in pass efficiency defense and No. 2 nationally in scoring defense, giving up only 12.1 points per game. Wisconsin also had the nation’s fifth-best total defense. Thirteen Badgers earned All-Conference honors and Bielema was named the 2006 Big Ten Coach of the Year. In the history of college football, only two other Division I-A head coaches have won 12 games in their rookie seasons. The 2006 Badger team set a three-game scoring record when they totaled 141 points in consecutive games against Indiana, Minnesota and Northwestern. In their 13 games, UW trailed only once at halftime. A second-half collapse against Michigan represented the sole blemish on Wisconsin’s schedule. While this loss in Ann Arbor, Mich. kept UW out of the Rose Bowl and the national championship race, the Badgers still had a year for the ages. They capped their record-breaking year with a hard-fought 17-14 victory over Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day. Critics might call the 2006 squad the greatest UW team to never win a Big Ten Championship. The players probably do not mind—they leave as the winningest team in Wisconsin football history. Honorable mention: Men’s basketball The 2006-’07 Badger basketball season was filled with euphoric highs and depressing lows. The Badgers (13-3 Big Ten, 30-6 overall) set a school record with 30 victories and snatched a No.1 ranking for the first time in team history. Senior forward Alando Tucker tallied 19.9 points per game on his way to earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Head coach Bo Ryan’s squad won 26 out of its first 28 games and posted a perfect 19-0 home record. Despite all of these accomplishments, the season still ended in disappointment. Wisconsin lost their chance at a Big Ten Championship in a heartbreaking 49-48 loss to Ohio State. Less than a month later, No. 7-seed UNLV upset the No. 2-seed Badgers 74-68 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin’s late-season struggles might still pain the Badger faithful, but the fact remains that Ryan’s 2006-’07 squad may have been the best basketball team in UW history. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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