A little over a year ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan overcame a 19-point halftime deficit to beat then-undefeated Wisconsin, and kick-started a four-game losing streak that sent the Badgers' season into a tailspin. On Saturday, Wisconsin looks to return the favor.
The 5-5 Wolverines come into Camp Randall one win away from bowl eligibility with a home game against Ohio State next week looming as the only remaining game on their schedule. Thus, it appears Saturday is a must-win for a Michigan team that hasn't beaten an FBS team since squeaking by Indiana in late September. But defensive end O'Brien Schofield and the 17 other seniors playing their final game in Camp Randall are poised to keep Michigan searching for that sixth win.
""Personally, this game has been marked on my schedule since last year after we lost,"" Schofield said. ""This is my game right here, I'm putting in extra film work, I'm giving it all I have this game.""
Schofield said the seniors met last week to discuss the importance of harnessing the emotions that will accompany the pre-game Senior Day ceremony and using them to bring home a crucial win.
""We know what's on the line right now, we know how important this game is to our season and the next step to what type of bowl we can go to,"" Schofield said. ""And it being Senior Day, emotions are going to be that much more high, and you make sure everyone is giving everything they have.""
The Wisconsin defense will have to improve upon a subpar performance last week at Indiana in which it allowed 323 yards through the air and looked helpless in the second half against Hoosier quarterback Ben Chappell. Saturday's matchup against Rich Rodriguez's run-oriented version of the spread offense is considerably more favorable for the Badgers, who are limiting teams to 72 rushing yards per game in Big Ten play.
However, shutting down the Big Ten's best rushing offense will be no easy task. Senior running backs Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor combined to rush for nearly 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, while back-up freshman quarterback Denard Robinson possesses lethal speed out of the backfield for the Wolverine offense. Most importantly, the defense will have to contain elusive freshman quarterback Tate Forcier, who may already be one of the best scrambling passers in the conference.
""He likes to run around and make plays and kind of freestyle out there,"" junior safety Jay Valai said. ""So the main thing is, you stay on top of your man, always stay in coverage until you hear the whistle blow and just attack them every play.""
Freshman linebacker Chris Borland, expects Michigan to bring elite athleticism to Camp Randall.
""Michigan is a dangerous team,"" Borland said. ""Regardless of their record, they're going to have some of the best athletes in the country.""
Ultimately, Wisconsin should have no shortage of motivating factors for Saturday's game. While Schofield conceded that revenge for last year's upset has been on his mind this week, adding a win to his bowl resume and ending his career at Camp Randall with a victory has been more than enough to get him motivated for Saturday.
""More than any game, I know I'll remember this game forever because it's Senior Day,"" Schofield said. ""I'm just really tuned in and locked into what I have to do, because I know that they're probably going to game plan against me, but this is not a game where I plan not to be a factor.""