Posted on: December 5, 2011 4:23 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
I am back safely from Indianapolis, where I covered the Big Ten Championship Saturday night. Wisconsin beat Michigan State; I don't know if any of you heard. It was in the papers and everything. Anyway, here's my quick recap, and my game column is here. That was seriously one of the best games I've ever seen live, and to try to decide if it's THE BEST would basically force me to try to think negatively about it and the other great games I've witnessed, and I've got no desire to do that. So it's just one of the best and that's that.
Past that, one aspect of the game I didn't touch on nearly enough was Russell Wilson's second half. All year long, the knock on Wilson was that he was undoubtedly talented, but also the beneficiary of a light workload and a running game that preoccupied defenders. And sure enough, look at his usage over the course of the year and it's far lower than the other top-flight quarterbacks. There's a reason Wilson's not the primary Heisman candidate on that team, after all.
So with MSU holding a 29-21 halftime lead and the Montee Ball Express derailing, Wilson had to step up in a big way in order to keep Wisconsin's Rose Bowl dreams alive. And that's exactly what he did. Wilson went 12-15 for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, frequently keeping plays alive by moving his feet and buying time. That 4th down play on Wisconsin's winning drive shown in the picture above -- where Wilson was flushed from the pocket, stood tall with Max Bulloughs bearing down on him, and delivered a 36-yard strike across the field to the one spot only Jeff Duckworth could make the catch -- was a play that very, very few quarterbacks in college football can make.
Wilson won't be a Heisman finalist, and thanks to an unreal crop of quarterbacks he won't be winning any major national awards at the end of the year, but he was an absolutely phenomenal one-year acquisition* for Wisconsin and without him the Badgers would almost certainly not be Rose Bowl bound this season. So that's better than getting a trophy or three at the end of the year, in my mind.
Past that, man, what a game. I know I keep saying that, but what else is there to say? It's taken only two years and three games between them, but all of a sudden Michigan State-Wisconsin is the most must-watch matchup in the Big Ten.
*Let's just call that what it is: Wisconsin acquired Wilson for a year. I realize that there are academic underpinnings to the graduate-year transfer and they're not irrelevant to the collegiate aspect of a student-athlete's time in the NCAA, but from the football perspective it's just a one-year acquisition. I don't find anything wrong with that, personally; from an academic standpoint, you don't want athletes transferring every year because it's usually detrimental to their chances of graduating on a normal schedule. But the one-year period of ineligibility after transfers isn't to protect academic progress, because if it were it would apply to transfers between different athletic divisions. It's so coaches have an easier job hanging onto their players, which is to say it reduces a athlete's agency in where he plays from year to year -- all while coaches have been free to switch jobs year to year without consequence and while athletes' scholarships are only just now about to move to multi-year agreements. So compared to all that, it's hard to muster one ounce of distaste for anybody doing what Wilson (or Jeremiah Masoli last year) did. End tangent.