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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Curt Phillips

Redshirt senior quarterback Curt Phillips had 68 of Wisconsin’s 564 rushing yards Saturday.

Football: Rushing attack dominant in Phillips’ first career start

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—Wisconsin’s (4-2 Big Ten, 7-3 overall) rushing attack made redshirt senior quarterback Curt Phillips’ first start of his career and first time seeing live action since 2009 about as easy as it gets Saturday against Indiana (2-4, 4-6).

The Badgers ran the ball 64 times for a school-record 564 rushing yards (8.8 yards per carry) and ran the ball into the end zone seven times en route to a 62-14 win that clinched a spot in Indianapolis Dec. 1.

“When you’ve got guys running the ball like that, it doesn’t really matter who’s playing quarterback,” Phillips said after the game.

Redshirt junior center Travis Frederick said the offensive line wanted the running backs to rack up 400 yards on the ground against a Hoosiers defense that came into the game ranked No. 107 in the nation in rushing yards per game. He also said the running backs set a goal of surpassing 200 yards after contact.

“We knew that the inside three guys, their ‘D’-tackles, were the strength of their team and if we could go out and neutralize those guys and get the running backs to the third level we were going to have a good day,” Frederick said.

Phillips attempted only seven passes, four of which were caught for 41 yards and one for a touchdown, which is probably not the ideal involvement for a quarterback anxious to start his first game.

Not for Phillips.

“I really could care less,” Phillips said, laughing. “As long as we’re moving the ball and scoring I could care less.”

The Kingsport, Tenn., native said he had more than 20 family members in attendance and was more than pleased with their support, as well as the support from a man that Phillips has spent more hours with than he would like to count over the past couple of years: Brian Bott, the assistant coach in Wisconsin’s strength and conditioning program.

“He’s spent so much time with me it’s ridiculous,” Phillips said.

“Just seeing guys like him get excited and my family, just to see how excited they get, it makes it extra special.”

Phillips also broke loose for 52 yards toward the end of the third quarter on a designed draw play, proving that his knees have been holding up just fine. Now, he said, there is nothing left to do but play the game he loves.

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“At this point, I’m not scared with my knee,” he said. “I kind of got to let it go and see what happens. That doesn’t concern me at all.”

He finished with 68 yards on seven carries, which would impress anybody after considering what Phillips has endured.

Not his teammates. They saw it coming.

“Curt can throw the ball, he can put the ball in the air,” senior running back Montee Ball said, who also moved into second place (one touchdown shy) on the all-time FBS touchdown record. “But we most definitely are going to use his feet.”

Phillips connected with sophomore tight end Sam Arneson on a play-action pass from the two-yard-line toward the end of the first quarter, which was each player’s first career score.

“We knew it would be there,” Phillips said. “When you’re running the ball like that, [the defensive front] have to come down and respect that.”

Phillips’ other highlight was a completion to redshirt freshman tight end Derek Watt in the flat on fourth-and-two from Indiana’s 30-yard-line, a defender in the quarterback’s face.

But these plays didn’t get a rise out of Phillips, and they never really have, according to head coach Bret Bielema.

“That’s how Curt is,” Bielema said. “He doesn’t get involved in the moment. He’s a real dry guy. Very matter-of-fact, handle his business and move forward.”

But very early on and before getting settled in, Phillips was anything but.

“I kind of felt like a little kid on Christmas,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous, but just anxious and excited.”

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