In the wake of one of the most agonizing defeats in school history, the dreadful memories of Saturday's loss to Michigan State still linger for the Badgers. Yet, as difficult as it is to continue moving forward, it is imperative that Wisconsin maintains its focus as they invade Columbus to take on Ohio State this Saturday.
UW head coach Bret Bielema addressed the team's disappointment and urged the players to continue fighting.
"I told [the players] you should never get used to this feeling,"Bielema said. "This feeling should hurt. It's something we need to get rid of and shake out tonight. If you ever accept it, then it's going to happen more than you ever want it to."
Even after a shaky performance and an unsuccessful comeback, senior quarterback Russell Wilson remains optimistic about his team's ability to overcome this adversity.
"The main thing is staying positive, keep working hard like we do everyday and keep leading," Wilson said. "There's a lot of great opportunities for us and we have a great opportunity to play Ohio State."
Last season, the Badgers upset the then-No.1 Buckeyes 31-18 before a raucous Camp Randall Stadium, a pivotal victory en route to a share of the Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. On Saturday, the Badgers won't have the comforts of home.
While the Badgers have won three of their last five meetings in Columbus, the most recent trip resulted in a 31-13 loss. The Badgers dominated in first downs 22-8 and total offense 368-184, but Scott Tolzein threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
The Badgers are all too familiar with the consequences of missed opportunities, so it is essential they convert when they have their chances, especially against a tough defense, ranked 16th in the nation.
"Ohio State has got a lot of athletic ability up front all the way to the back end of the defense," Wilson said. "The main thing is capitalizing on opportunities just like any other game."
The controversy encompassing Ohio State this summer has been well publicized, as it was revealed several former Buckeyes received improper benefits while former head coach Jim Tressel lied to the NCAA about having any knowledge of the transactions. Tressel has resigned, but the image of the program has been besmirched.
But even with all the negativity, Ohio State has remained competitive, coming off its biggest victory against upstart Illinois, 17-7, last weekend.
"They look more and more like the traditional Ohio State as they get further in the season," Bielema said. "Their defense is playing extremely well with that swagger."
While a shot at the BCS title is gone, the Badgers still dictate their own destiny in the quest for the Big Ten title.Bielema has witnessed teams stuck in a hole claw their way back to become conference champions. In 2003 as Kansas State's co-defensive coordinator, Bielema's team lost three straight games against Marshall and conference rivals Texas and Oklahoma State, leaving them 4-3 overall but 0-2 in the division.
"One of things I really benefitted from my experience at Kansas State was I had a great two years of learning divisional play within a conference," Bielema said.
"[Kansas State head coach] Bill Snyder said if we take care of our business, we can get in the conference championship game and get to a BCS bowl. Everyone was looking at him like he had three heads."
The team rallied together and not only won the rest of their games, but shocked No. 1 Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship, desecrating the Sooners 35-7 for the conference title and earning a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
"I think the biggest thing is what kind of kids you have in your program," Bielema said. "I expect this group to bounce back as they did late in the fourth quarter and put everything into this preparation."
Let's hope Bucky can turn it around in Columbus. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!