Before I dive into the 21-17 loss to Tennessee, let me say this. If you've never attended a college bowl game, make sure you get it on your "to do" list over the course of your life. I went to the 2nd UCLA Rose Bowl and since then, I've been lucky enough to hit every Badger bowl. They are a great time. Whether it was Pasadena, Nashville, El Paso, San Antonio, Orlando, or Tampa, they have all brought a unique and memorable experience. With that said, going to a bowl game against an opponent from the SEC takes it too another level. I remember going out in Los Angeles on the campus on UCLA and there were people who had no idea the Rose Bowl was going on and their team was in it...In SEC country the world shuts down leading up to a a bowl game or any game involving the team of choice. They live and die with their school, which makes the bowl experience so much better. Mingling with the opposing teams fans is one of the reasons bowl games are so much fun. To get other perspectives on college fooball and your team. Anyways...here are some quick thoughts on the game and other stuff.
1. Thank's to Tennessee's coaching staff, UW was still in the game at the half. Tennessee could have had 28 or 25 points at the break had they not melted down on a couple of series inside the 15. They turned it over on some gimmick play and then Phil Fulmer decided to yank his QB who was torching the UW secondary for some freshman WR to run the old single wing...oh lordy, Vols fans were going nuts around us in the stadium.
2. As for the Badgers, they had their chances as well. First off, I've never been a very big Tyler Donovan fan at QB. He's not a horrible quarterback, but I always felt always missed throws that should have been made that really cost UW over the course of the year. That said, The Outback Bowl showed he is one tough SOB. He kept getting back up after taking shot after shot from the Tennessee defense.
3. The 4th and 2 play midway through the 4th quarter still has me shaking my head. First off I have no problem with going for it at the 9 yard line. You're down 21-17. If you can convert, you have a good chance to score a TD and take the lead. My problem is with the play call. You have a running game that has been ripping up the Tennessee defense. Hand the stinking ball to PJ Hill who has pounded his way through big holes all day. But a roll-out pass...come on...Donovan actually had a guy open on that play after it broke down, but he was hit as he was throwing it and missed the guy. As one of the guys I was with said, kicking the field goal would have been a smart move as well. You kick it and make it 21-20. Either way you have to stop Tennessee again. If you're up 24-21 or down 21-20,you can't let the Vols score, so the FG would also have been a good move. Barry would have kicked it, Brett is more of a riverboat gambler type. That said, UW did get the ball back and did make a mini-run at a game winning score, which ended when Donovan got picked in the end zone looking for Hubbard. I was fine with the throw, but he just under threw the ball. The win was blowing strong, right in the face of Donovan and I assume he was trying to put the ball in the corner of the end zone and the wind got it and left it short...game over.
4. I read the paper after the game and heard coach Bielema rip the refs. The refs didn't lose the game for UW. Yeah, the Badgers didn't get a timeout when they wanted it. If the team handn't been in the wrong formation or be rushing to get a play off coming out of a TV timeout they probably wouldn't have worried about it.
5. The running back situation will be interesting next year. You have four guys that can start PJ Hill, Lance Smith, Zach Brown, and John Clay. If I was a betting man, at least one of those guys will not be in Madison next season.
6. Coming to the game, one of the headlines was that Tennessee fans sing "Rocky Top" like other human beings eat. Well on gameday that was true. I heard Rocky Top more times than I think I possibly could. That said on New Year's Eve, me and a buddy decided to put Vols fans to the test. We started going up to randoms in orange and requesting Rocky Top. I got a lot of strange looks...and were doubting the pre-warnings, then finally about midnight, We got a few to bite and then the flood gates opened. It was all Rocky Top, all the time! I thought we were safe from the song for a few hours when we called it a night, but about 4am...the room next door was full of Vols fans....and here we go...an hour of Rocky Top...
7. As I stated above, Tennessee fans were great and like their other SEC faithful, they love talking about football and love talking about the SEC and the Vols. Most were very nice. Ive been to bowl games with Tennesee, Auburn, Arkansas and Georgia and the only ones, granted a small miniority, that were downright disrespectful were Georgia fans...but that's for another place. You didnt get a few of the "I hope its just close" comments or the typical, "you can't handle our speed" or "The SEC rules college football." They are the best league, but I get the feeling that the schools think they could go right into the NFL and compete. Again, most fans were great and its fun talking to their fans they were good, down home people. One guy in Ybor City (which is an area of Tampa with bars and clubs and such) did tell me when I asked that he actually made his own moonshine out in the woods behind his house....I take that for what its worth. He did tell me that if you add moonshine to a Watermelon or Apple Pie mix, it tasted better. Maybe, I'll try it some down.
Ok...that it from my Outback Bowl rewind....there so much more, but you can ask me those in person...trying to hang with UW students at a bar and introducing them to the importance and quality of 80s music on the jukebox(It makes you feel old)... crazy Uncle Bob, the Tennessee fan who was about 50 years old and yet took his shirt off at the bar and started singing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Adeline" Sorry Uncle Bob, that's not quite it....Walking down the main drag at 2am in Ybor City with not another person in site and for a moment fearing for my lif... seeing a police chase with five squads end five feet from us....Sonny Bar-B-Q.....Somehow ending up at the official South Florida Alumni Association Sun Bowl viewing party at LeRoy Selmon's Bar and watching the Bulls get rolled by Oregon. I didn't end up with a nice South Florida bumper sticker and a sign for the office...Clearwater Beach and Marshmellow guns....a wickedly low and fast flyover by one of our fine members of the Air Force before the game...all things that mean nothing to you, but make a bowl game a memorable event.