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Friday, June 25, 2021
Fans should be pleased with results from rebuilding season

OB: O?Brien Schofield has been a major playmaker for the Wisconsin defense, which handled the high-powered Warrior offense with ease.

Fans should be pleased with results from rebuilding season

The Badgers' 51-10 mauling of Hawaii can be seen in several different lights.

It could be seen as the second truly complete game the Badgers put together this season, their 37-0 win over Purdue being the other one, or perhaps an example of the Badgers finally playing the way they can and dealing with an inferior team in the way they should have all season.

But the best way to see this game has to be as the perfect end to a bounce-back year.

Put aside the fact that Wisconsin dominated on the ground, rushing for over 300 yards and seven touchdowns, through the air, as junior quarterback Scott Tolzien averaged nearly 18 yards per attempt in the first half, and on defense with six sacks and holding the nation's third-best passing attack for 150 yards below their season average. The number that speaks loudest of all is nine: the number of wins the Badgers have through the end of the regular season, and that should be a cause for celebration.

Look at how far this team has come over the course of the last four months. The Badgers were coming off a nightmarish, disappointing 7-5 season, were incredibly young and had to replace a slew of veteran players.

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Wisconsin graduated three of five starting offensive linemen, star tight end Travis Beckum, who was injured for most of 2008, and P.J. Hill, the third-most prolific running back in program history. On the other side of the ball, six starters graduated, including five from the front seven and Allen Langford, an all-Big Ten corner.

Most expected the Badgers to go 8-4, or maybe 9-3 because of a somewhat easy schedule.

Now throw in a reshuffling of the offensive line, the preseason suspensions of key reserves Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter and a quarterback battle that placed the inexperienced and unknown Scott Tolzien behind center, and a nine-win season seems like quite an accomplishment.

Players across the board stepped up to push the Badgers back toward respectability. O'Brien Schofield was a revelation, dominating from the defensive end spot with 10 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. True freshman linebacker Chris Borland showed the potential to be a great defender, a special teams monster and even kicked three extra points against Hawaii.

Even better, the UW depth chart is especially light on seniors. Only tight end Garrett Graham graduates on offense and 17 of the top 23 defensive players return. This four month journey saw Wisconsin reverse what naysayers called a downward trend, and did so with an obscenely young team.

Now there are always the few who will harp on how the Badgers failed to beat a ranked team or could not overcome Northwestern in Evanston, though Barry Alvarez almost never did either. The fact is this team beat who it was supposed to beat and that was enough for the fifth nine-win campaign in six years.

Not too shabby.

And it all ended with a bludgeoning of Hawaii that was the reverse of last year's ugly one-point win over Cal-Poly. That game reinforced the doom and gloom mood that this year washed away.

Only one more step remains for the Badgers: They will head to their second straight Champs Sports Bowl in late December to face No. 14 Miami. A win there turns this season into something more special than simply a bounce back year.

But for now, Badger fans can be content with their memories of a near-perfect performance against the Warriors, closing a season where things appeared to be on the upswing once again.

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