Varsity - The Official Digital Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics

Varsity - May 3, 2012

Varsity is the free Official Digital Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics, covering Badgers football, basketball, hockey and more each week.

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Page 13 of 48

Again, Badgers offer plenty to cheer about THE VOICE MATT LEPAY • VOICE OF THE BADGERS T he University of Wisconsin sports season continues, but with this being my final blog for the 2011-12 academic year, it seems a good time to reflect on what has happened in the world of Badger athletics. Once again, fans can look back with pride at what they have witnessed. It was about this time last year when fans in these parts started to hear about Russell Wilson. It is probably fair to say that few in Badger Nation knew much about him yet, but the name was starting to pop up with the news that he was leaving NC State. One year later, following a sin- gle-season performance at quarter- back unlike any other in Wisconsin football history, Wilson leaves fans with a lifetime worth of memories. From his 46-yard touchdown run in the season opener against UNLV, to his game-saving fourth down completion to Jeff Duckworth in the Big Ten Championship Game, Wilson turned casual fans into staunch supporters. Of course, that running back named Ball isn't half bad, either. Think about how far Montee has come in a grand total of one-and-a- half seasons. Both Wilson and Ball will tell you the football team's success goes beyond the quarterback and the tailback. After back-to-back heartbreaking losses, the way Bret Bielema's team got back on its feet and earned another trip the Rose Bowl is something that defies the 14 » VARSITY MAY 3, 2012 odds. For basketball, it was the case of another year, and another trip to the NCAA tournament. That is 14 straight years, the third-best streak in Big Ten history. Not many things came easily to this season's bunch, but for the Badgers, perhaps that is how it is supposed to be. Bo Ryan is not one to compare one team to another, but at last week's Sweet 16 Reception, he told the crowd, "This is a team that grew on me prob- ably more than any team I've ever coached." For Bo Ryan, those are strong words. As easy as it is to remember Rob Wilson's 30-point game vs. Indi- ana, or Jordan Taylor's mammoth 3-pointer against Vanderbilt, a key game for this squad may have been on Jan. 12. On that night in snowy West Lafayette, Ind., the Badgers did something they rarely do — win at Purdue. They bussed into town having lost three in a row. A 67-62 victory started a six-game winning streak. "I do know this," said Ryan, "When we left there, I knew we had something." The coach was right. While my primary focus is foot- ball and men's basketball, that only scratches the surface of what has happened on campus. A fifth national title for men's cross country, and another NCAA championship game appearance for the women's hockey team are among the many highlights for UW Athletics. It is also worth mentioning that in a time when skeptics scoff at the term "student-athlete," the Univer- sity of Wisconsin had 281 student- athletes earn at least a 3.5 grade- point average either last spring or fall, and/or have maintained a 3.5 cumulative GPA. That alone is worth a round of applause. There is winning in sports. There is winning in the classroom. Then there is winning in life. This is where former UW hockey player Kirk Daubenspeck comes to mind. On Feb. 17, 2011, Daubenspeck was involved in a ter- rible auto accident that resulted in serious head injuries. He was in an extended coma. On Feb. 17, 2012, Daubenspeck walked onto the Kohl Center ice with his young son, Axel. One year to the day after a crash nearly killed him, the former goaltender dropped the ceremonial first puck prior to the Badgers' game with Denver. This season was full of high- lights, with any number of Play of the Year candidates. For me, that search starts and ends with Daubenspeck's "play" in mid-February. That is the beauty of being around UW Athletics. You get to see winning defined in many ways. The 2011-12 season has given fans plenty to cheer about, both in and out of the arena. It only makes everyone eager for more. Have a great spring and summer.

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