'The train doesn't stop here': How Wisconsin keeps its second straight Big Ten Championship loss in perspective

Paul Chryst and the Badgers fell 27-21 to Ohio State. Wisconsin has one more chance to send its seniors out on a high note. 

Image By: Brandon Moe

INDIANAPOLIS — As the confetti floated down from the rafters of Lucas Oil Stadium, the Wisconsin Badgers were left reliving the nightmare they faced 12 months earlier.

Their second-straight Big Ten Championship Game was a chance for redemption in an undefeated season, but when Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett took a knee in a victory formation, Wisconsin’s playoff hopes vanished along with the joy and energy once felt on the sideline.

The Badgers’ first loss of the season saw 11 months of preparation and tribulation all come crashing down, laying to rest on a field covered in thin strands of colored paper.

“This vision of ours started way back in spring ball. We broke it down every day after our workouts: ‘National Championship!’ ‘Championship!’ Those weren’t just words for us. That was our vision,” redshirt junior running back Chris James said. “We always preach, in order for our vision to come true, you have to be obsessed with the vision. You sleep about it. You dream about it. You work about it.”

Every 7 a.m. workout, every hour of film study and every rep of every drill all slipped away in a losing effort. Hard work and dedication simply wasn’t enough.

“When you go all in, it hurts, and that’s why there’s pain with this group,” head coach Paul Chryst said. “You can’t do anything but appreciate a group that does that.”

The undefeated streak is over. The National Championship is out of reach. The 2017 Wisconsin Badgers lost their chance at glory.

But the same passion and drive that pushed them collectively to the best season in school history also brought them together individually and meant more than any win or loss, on any stage.

“Our heart and love for each other, that’s one thing that you can’t take away,” James said. “It’s not just a football team, it’s definitely a family.”

The loss to Ohio State is an affront on that family that every player in the locker room takes personally.

And like a family, they stick together through good times and bad, and they truly cherish the work they’ve done and the time they’ve spent as a team.

“I didn’t need tonight, to win or lose, to know that I love this group and appreciate what they do and how they go about it,” Chryst said. “Football brings us together, but there’s a lot more going on than just football.”

For Wisconsin, it’s all about perspective.

Since last season ended, that perspective has been focused solely on winning it all. A second Big Ten Championship loss to Ohio State adds a different perspective.

“I’ve always been one of those guys where, it’s national championship or nothing, but when you look at what we really accomplished this year, we’re 12-0 for the first time in awhile,” James said. “And we had the chance to come back in Indianapolis in the Big Ten Championship, back to back.

“There’s a lot of guys and teams at home right now sitting around, wishing that they had the opportunity that we had tonight.”

Somehow, someway, the Badgers have a way of keeping things in front of them. As they won 12 games in a row, it was always only about the next game and nothing else. After loss number one, it’s the same mentality.

“It’s tough to lose a game like this, but we’ll be back next week, looking forward to a new opponent and getting right to it,” redshirt junior linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “The train doesn’t stop here.”

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