Twitter reacts to Wisconsin’s impact on the Super Bowl

The Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII by beating the New England Patriots 41-33 on Sunday night. But the Wisconsin football program was also a big winner thanks to the performances of several former players.

A year after scoring three touchdowns in a Super Bowl win over the Atlanta Falcons, running back James White was back in the end zone for the Patriots. He led New England with 46 yards on the ground, including an impressive 26-yard touchdown in the second quarter. It was his eighth playoff touchdown in eight playoff games.

But he was overshadowed by a guy he shared a backfield with at Wisconsin — Eagles running back Corey Clement. The undrafted rookie free agent had four catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. It meant him and White make up two of the three running backs in Super Bowl history to have at least 100 yards receiving.

As you can imagine, the success of the two Wisconsin backs didn’t go unnoticed on social media. Here’s a sampling of what was being said.

Wisconsin falls to Maryland 68-63

Just when things looked like they may start to get better for Wisconsin, they got worse. The Badgers tied the game at 60 on an Aleem Ford 3-pointer with 2:38 remaining, but were then outscored 8-3 over the rest of regulation.

Wisconsin (10-15, 3-9) had an opportunity to tie the game on its last possession, but guard Brad Davison made an ill-advised drive to the rim as opposed to attempting a 3-pointer to try and tie the game. On the possession prior, Davison hit a 3-pointer that brought Wisconsin within one-point at 64-63. Maryland’s Anthony Cowan knocked down a pair of free throws to push the lead to 66-63 before Wisconsin’s last chance.

After Davison’s inexplicable final possession, Cowan knocked down another pair of free throws to ice the game and give him a game-high 23 points on the afternoon.

Four of the five starters for Wisconsin reached double-figures in scoring, with Khalil Iverson, who scored eight points, being the exception. The Badgers did not get a single point off the bench in the loss. Forward Ethan Happ was the leading scorer for Wisconsin. He had 18 points, nine rebounds, and three assists in the loss.

Wisconsin has now dropped five games in a row, dating back to January 19. They’re 1-10 away from the Kohl Center this season. They have two road games remaining on the schedule, including their next game at Illinois on Thursday night.

Rehab continues for former Wisconsin LB Jack Cichy as he sets his sights on a new goal

When Jack Cichy was in high school, he had just one major goal when it came to the game of football, and it wasn’t playing in the NFL.

“I wanted to walk-on and play big-time college football,” Cichy said Friday when he joined “The Joe and Ebo Show” on the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network. “When you’re in a position like I was, the NFL really isn’t in your mindset. I wasn’t even thinking that far ahead.”

The thought of playing in the NFL is no longer considered too far ahead. It’s actually the former Wisconsin linebacker’s only focus. Well, that and rehabbing from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that cost him his senior season. But the two are very much intertwined and have been almost since the day Cichy let out a scream that reverberated throughout a mostly empty Camp Randall Stadium last August as he crumpled to the ground holding his knee. It was in that moment, and in the following days, that he started to realize he’d played his last game for the Badgers.

Former Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy joins “The Joe & Ebo Show”

The feeling wasn’t unfamiliar as a torn pectoral muscle had brought his junior season to end after just seven games the previous October. That was excruciating for Cichy, who might have been playing the best of anyone on the Badgers’ defense at the time. So good, in fact, that he said if he had played the entire year, he might have considered leaving early for the NFL.

But the devastating injury last fall had a feeling of finality to it. A fifth-year senior, Cichy could have applied for another year of eligibility, though the chances of the NCAA actually granting it were slim. Instead, he turned his attention to something that seemed unfathomable when he arrived in Madison four and a half years earlier as a nondescript walk-on from Somerset, Wis., — playing in the NFL.

“My thought process [was], I need all my eggs in one basket, and I can’t have that if I’m stuck waiting for that decision,” Cichy said of a potential appeal to the NCAA. “At that point in my life, with the rollercoaster of emotions I’d gone through and was going through, I needed something concrete. I chose what I thought was the most concrete route.”

After a season of essentially rehabbing and serving as an extra defensive coach for the Badgers as they repeated as Big Ten West champions and won the Orange Bowl, that route has brought Cichy to Arizona and the EXOS training facility. It’s where NFL hopefuls like Cichy go to get themselves in the best shape for the annual NFL combine held in late February and early March.

Cichy got a coveted invite to the combine based largely on his outstanding production late in the 2015 season and what he put on tape early in 2016. He started just 11 games during that stretch but was off the charts productive, averaging 8.5 tackles per game, while racking up 14 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. It’s even more impressive when you consider he missed large stretches in three of those games thanks to being ejected from one, forced to miss the first half of another and getting injured in a third.

Those glimpses of excellent play has teams intrigued and they want to see more. But unlike his roommate and Wisconsin teammate Troy Fumagalli, who is also at EXOS and working on his 40-yard dash, vertical leap and every other on-field test NFL personnel will put players through at the combine, Cichy is still very much in rehab mode.

“At the combine, I’ll be able to bench and I’ll be able to go through all the medical evals,” said Cichy, who is right around six months clear from surgery. “I’ll keep working towards coming back fully and not rushing it.”

The 6-foot-2, 234-pound Cichy admits he’s not quite sure how the next few months will play out. That’s a change from his time at Wisconsin, where the calendar was structured and he always knew what was coming next. The hope, at least in his mind, is he’ll be able to show how far along he is in his rehab at Wisconsin’s pro day in March and in any private workouts with individual teams in the weeks that follow.

“As we get closer to the draft, hopefully my recovery process [remains] on schedule … and there are no hiccups along the way,” Cichy said. “And [then] come the end of April, [I] hear my name called in some way, shape or form. Be able to have another chance to earn a spot.”

Last shots: Northwestern 60, Wisconsin 52

MADISON – The Wisconsin Badgers lost their fourth consecutive game on Thursday night 60-52 to the Northwestern Wildcats.

Fifteen last shots for the team-high 15 points scored by Wisconsin’s Khalil Iverson.

1. Against Northwestern on Thursday night Wisconsin picked up right where it left off in Monday night’s loss at home against Nebraska. The Badgers closed that game by being outscored 30-8 over the last 9:59 of the game. They opened the loss to Northwestern by falling behind 18-1 in the first 5:31. The lone point scored by Wisconsin that far into the game was a free throw from Ethan Happ.

2. Despite the sloppy start, Wisconsin was able to cut Northwestern’s lead to single-digits late in the first half before the Wildcats eventually entered the break with an 11-point advantage.

3. In the second half Wisconsin was able to get as close as six points, but couldn’t find its way any closer than that despite ample opportunity. The Badgers missed numerous attempts near the rim and open 3-pointers.

4. Guard Brevin Pritzl may have had the worst night of his career, he finished without scoring in 35 minutes. He missed all 11 shots he attempted, nine of them behind the 3-point line. While at first it seemed as if his misses were the result of unlucky bounces, as the game wore on Pritzl seemed to grow hesitant with his shot. As a result, his misses worsened.

5. One of the media timeouts did feature Pritzl in a pre-recorded game of ‘P-I-G’ with assistant coach Dean Oliver. He made all three shots that he attempted in the clip. Oliver drew iron on each shot, giving Pritzl the easy victory. Unfortunately for Pritzl, that clip was the best part of his night.

6. In the second half Wisconsin actually outscored Northwestern 26-23. They closed the game much stronger than they started it. Unfortunately for the Badgers the first five minutes count the same as the last.

7. “We’ve been talking recently so much about how we start games,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “It’s been engrained to me as a kid. Any of you guys that follow basketball you know my dad [Doug] as an analyst of the game, and his thing was always how basketball was not a fourth quarter game, it’s a first quarter game. How you start the game, we always look at the last five minutes or the last four minutes, but how you start sets the tone for the game.”

8. The start did Wisconsin in. Not many teams have the capability to return from a 17-point deficit in a game. The short-handed Badgers, who have now lost seven of their last eight, certainly don’t. Before six minutes had passed, Northwestern had an 88.1% chance to win the game, according to ESPN’s win probability.

9. The loss wasn’t without bright spots for Wisconsin, as bad as things may seem. Forward Khalil Iverson had a solid night on both ends of the floor. He was Wisconsin’s leading scorer with 15 points and was just shy of a double-double, with nine rebounds.

10. Iverson was also the best defender on the floor for the Badgers throughout the night. He finished with a pair of blocks and three steals in 35 minutes played. Iverson was the best player on the floor for Wisconsin in the loss.

11. Aleem Ford also had a good showing for Wisconsin, primarily shooting the ball. He scored 12 points, with all of them coming on 3-pointers. He finished the night 4-6 from deep.

12. Ford and Brad Davison combined to hit all seven of Wisconsin’s 3-pointers. As previously mentioned, Pritzl was 0-for-9 shooting 3-pointers, T.J. Schlundt missed a pair of 3-pointers, and Alex Illikainen missed the only attempt he took from deep.

13. This loss drops Wisconsin into 12th place in the Big Ten. While things are far from set in stone, it’s looking likely that Wisconsin will be playing on the first day of the Big Ten tournament later this month. That hasn’t happened for the Badgers since 2000. Back in 2000 the Big Ten was comprised of only 11 teams, compared to the 14 today. Wisconsin was the six seed in the conference tournament, narrowly missing out on the first-round bye that went to the top five schools. As the Big Ten tournament is currently constructed, the top 10 teams receive a bye into the second round.

14. This Wisconsin team does have an opportunity to make some history, as well. According to basketball-reference.com the Badgers have played at least one game in the month of March in every season since at least 1949-50. If they lose in the first round of the Big Ten tournament they would fail to reach the month of March. That streak may go back further than March of 1950, however that is the earliest schedule available to find.

15. Wisconsin will look to snap their four-game losing streak on Sunday afternoon at Maryland. The Badgers also have lost their last six games away from the Kohl Center.

What the future holds: Outside linebacker

With the 2017 season in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2018 for Wisconsin. Over the next few weeks we’ll be going position-by-position to see what the future holds for the Badgers.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to each player in terms of their class for 2018. If someone was a sophomore in 2017, they will be called a junior here.

Outside linebackers:

Returning: Andrew Van Ginkel (SR), Zack Baun (JR), Tyler Johnson (JR), Christian Bell (RS SO), Noah Burks (RS SO), Izayah Green-May (RS FR)

Leaving: Garret Dooley, Leon Jacobs

Arriving: C.J. Goetz (3-star), Mason Platter (3-star)

Season grades

Biggest question: Who’s next? 

For the second straight year, Wisconsin needs to replace two players likely headed to NFL careers in Garret Dooley and Leon Jacobs. In total, the Badgers should have five former outside linebackers on league rosters this fall, as that duo joins Cleveland’s Joe Schobert, Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt and Green Bay’s Vince Biegel.

“You’re losing some extremely valuable pieces to this defense,” defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said of Dooley and Jacobs prior to the Orange Bowl in December. “You look at the guys we’ve lost at that position the last couple years, and to me, [the losses are] just as crucial this year.”

Finding suitable replacements will be a daunting task for whoever takes over coaching the outside linebackers in place of Tim Tibesar, who is now running Oregon State’s defense. But that person will have options.

What we know for sure is that Andrew Van Ginkel is the real deal. A rare junior college transfer for Wisconsin, the senior was a big-play machine down the stretch in 2017. He helped keep the Badgers in the Big Ten title game against Ohio State with his interception return for a touchdown and sparked Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl with another interception.

“Obviously, we feel very good with Andrew Van Ginkel,” Leonhard said. “He’s been a big time playmaker for us. He really brings something different to the table than those other guys.”

Who starts opposite Van Ginkel will be one of the key storylines to watch during spring practice and in fall camp. Among the candidates is Zack Baun. A member of the rotation in 2016, Baun suffered a season-ending injury last August.

“He would have been a contributor,” Leonhard said of Baun, who played quarterback in high school. “He flashes. He’s very athletic.

“Very similar to (inside linebacker) T.J. Edwards where experience on the defensive side of the ball was rather low, so he was learning a lot early on. You expected him to take a big jump, and all of a sudden he obviously hits a roadblock [with the injury].”

Another option will be walk-on Tyler Johnson. He essentially served as the fourth outside linebacker in 2017, managing a pair of tackles for loss, a sack and two forced fumbles.

“All he does when you put him on the field is make plays,” Leonhard said of Johnson.

Beyond that, redshirt sophomores Christian Bell and Noah Burks, along with redshirt freshman Izayah Green-May, will compete for snaps. Incoming recruits C.J. Goetz and Mason Platter will join them in the fall.

“Some of those young outside linebackers, it’s going to be their time,” Leonhard said. “They’ve got to have a big offseason in the weight room. They’ve got to have a big offseason just learning football and being more confident.”

Predicted depth chart:

1st-team OLB: Andrew Van Ginkel (SR), Zack Baun (JR)
2nd-team OLB: Tyler Johnson (JR), Christian Bell (RS SO)

What the future holds:
Quarterback
Running back
Wide receiver
Tight end
Offensive line
Defensive line
Inside linebackers

Nebraska 74, Wisconsin 63: Last word

MADISON — Wisconsin blew an 11-point second-half lead and fell 73-64 to Nebraska on Monday night at the Kohl Center.

Player of the Game: James Palmer Jr.

Palmer scored a game-high 28 points, including 10 in a 5-minute, 10-second stretch where Nebraska went from down 11 points to up two. Wisconsin contained him from beyond the arc (1 of 8), but he was near perfect at the free throw (11 of 12)

“Palmer, I thought, did what he wanted at certain points,” coach Greg Gard said. “Specifically when they needed it. Either they were drawing a foul from us or he was able to get to the rim. I know at one point in time he went right to the rim without any resistance.”

The good: Ethan Happ’s first half

Wisconsin’s big man scored 18 points in the first half and was extremely aggressive in doing so. Nebraska brought double teams on a regular basis and he largely ate them up in the first 20 minutes, dishing out three assists, including on a pair of 3-pointers. He added four rebounds and three blocks to close out what was a very good all around half.

The not so good: That last 10 minutes

The Badgers led 55-44 with 9:59 left following a ferocious dunk from Khalil Iverson, but the Cornhuskers would outscore them 30-8 the rest of the way in what turned into Wisconsin’s first home loss since Dec. 9.

What changed? Well, Nebraska coach Tim Miles said they spread things out and tried to get his guys to play off of each other as their normal sets weren’t working. It resulted in a lot of drives to the basket and the Badgers didn’t hold up.

On the other end, due to foul trouble, the Huskers went to a 1-3-1 zone that clearly disrupted Wisconsin offensively. Happ’s last field goal came at the 14:22 mark and the only Badgers player to score from the field in the final 9:59 was Iverson.

“Defensively, I thought we kind of left off the gas a little bit,” Happ said. “We played pretty well defensively for 30-ish minutes. As I said, we’ve just got to execute all 40.

“Offensively, once they went zone, it [created] some trouble for us. It’s not like we haven’t seen zone before.

“We just got to be better.”

Stat of the game: 16 of 31 from the free throw line

Few things are more irritating for fans than missed free throws, and Wisconsin had plenty of them on Monday. Ranked 189th in the country coming into the game at 70.8 percent, the Badgers made just 51.6 percent against the Huskers. That included a rough 8 of 19 effort from Happ.

What they said:

“From my standpoint, understanding that the ball will go in at times, and there’s times it’s not going to, but defensively, for us to be so good and then to have that impact us, have our offense — or lack thereof — impact how we were tuned in defensively, was disappointing.”

Coach Greg Gard on the final 10 minutes of the game

In Case You Missed It:

— Happ and senior Aaron Moesch each hit the first 3-pointers of their careers.

— Moesch played 17 minutes, tied for the second-most he’s seen this year. It was mainly in place of redshirt freshman Aleem Ford. Gard said he felt Moesch was a better matchup defensively against the Huskers.

— Wisconsin led for 31 minutes and 36 seconds of Monday’s game. It’s the longest the Badgers have led in a game this year that they didn’t win.

— Guard Brad Davison scored just five points, the fourth time in the last five games that the freshman has been held in the single digits. P

— Several members of Wisconsin’s Orange Bowl winning football team were introduced during a timeout. It included quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who earned the loudest ovation.

What’s Next

Wisconsin (10-13, 3-7) hosts Northwestern (13-10, 4-6) on Thursday night in Madison.

Former Wisconsin DL Beau Allen’s trash talk hits the mark

Beau Allen’s trash talk is on point.

The former Wisconsin defensive lineman is in his fourth year with the Philadelphia Eagles, who will take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII this Sunday in Minneapolis. A Minnesota native, it’s a homecoming for Allen, who spurned his home state Gophers to play for the Badgers. It was obviously a sound choice, as Wisconsin never lost to Minnesota during Allen’s time in Madison. In fact, it’s been 14 years since the Gophers beat the Badgers.

So when it was suggested that Allen bring the rivalry trophy the winning team  gets to keep — Paul Bunyan’s Axe — to Super Bowl media day on Monday, his response probably left Wisconsin fans with big smiles on their faces.

What the future holds: Inside linebacker

With the 2017 season in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2018 for Wisconsin. Over the next few weeks we’ll be going position-by-position to see what the future holds for the Badgers.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to each player in terms of their class for 2018. If someone was a sophomore in 2017, they will be called a junior here.

Inside linebackers:

Returning: T.J. Edwards (SR), Ryan Connelly (SR), Chris Orr (JR), Arrington Farrar (SR), Griffin Grady (RS SO), Mike Maskalunas (RS SO), Nick Thomas (JR), Mason Stokke (RS SO)

Leaving: Jack Cichy

Arriving: Jack Sanborn (4-star)

Season grades

Biggest question: Can the unit be better than it was in 2017?

Wisconsin has an embarrassment of riches at inside linebacker whereT.J. Edwards returns for his fourth year as a starter after putting his NFL aspirations on hold. All he’s done so far is rack up 254 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, five sacks and seven interceptions. In 2017, the former high school quarterback was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and a finalist for the Butkus Award, which goes to the best linebacker in the country.

Next to Edwards for much of the season was Ryan Connelly. For a second straight year, the Badgers called on the senior help them overcome a rash of injuries. He would end up leading the team in tackles (88), finish second in tackles for loss (11), record three sacks and provided the final dagger in the Orange Bowl with a late interception. The former walk-on earned All-Big Ten honorable mention from the coaches and the media.

And then there is Chris Orr, who bounced back after a season-ending injury at the start of 2016. Playing in 12 games, he ended up with 36 tackles, three tackles for loss an a pair of sacks.

Those three helped Wisconsin’s defense be one of the best in the nation. That it came after losing Jack Cichy, who very well could have been the Badgers best defensive player if not for tearing his left ACL prior to the season, was remarkable. But how can they get better in 2018?

Let’s start with Edwards. His task is pretty simple. Improve on what the NFL told him to — his speed. Despite all his success, the NFL’s draft advisory committee still had concerns about his ability to run and it was the biggest factor in advising him to return to school.

As for Connelly and Orr, it’s about taking what they did in 2017 and making it more consistent, according to defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard.

“You need Chris Orr to continue to grow and develop,” Leonhard said in the days before the Orange Bowl last month. “He’s made big plays for us. He’s a communicator. He’s a leader for us. Just have to take the next step with him.

“Ryan Connelly, the same way. You saw from (2016) him having the ability to make plays and then (2017) just the consistency with which he’s made plays (was great). You hope he takes that to the next step and continues to gain confidence.”

Other notes:

It’s not a matter of if injuries hit the position but when. So it’ll be important for inside linebacker coach Bob Bostad and Leonhard to find a fourth and fifth guy they can count on.

The first option there is senior Arrington Farrar. He’s still learning the ropes to an extent after moving from safety to linebacker in the spring of 2017, but Leonhard liked what he saw in limited action.

The Badgers will get Griffin Grady back at full strength. After playing as a true freshman in 2016, Grady redshirted last year after an illness limited him in fall camp. He went on to be named the co-scout team player of the year on defense.

Redshirt sophomore Mike Maskalunas was a constant on special teams and will fight Farrar and Grady for playing time.

Incoming freshman Jack Sanborn is the highest rated recruit in Wisconsin’s 2018 class. There doesn’t appear to be a ton of playing time available, but he could always force his way onto the field like Grady did in his first year.

Predicted spring depth chart:

ILB: T.J. Edwards (SR), Chris Orr (JR)
ILB: Ryan Connelly (SR), Arrington Farrar (SR)

What the future holds:
Quarterback
Running back
Wide receiver
Tight end
Offensive line
Defensive line

Wisconsin picks up pair of commitments in 2019 class

The strong start for Wisconsin in its 2019 recruiting class continued this weekend.

Wide receiver Nolan Groulx announced Sunday morning on Twitter he had committed to the Badgers.

“First off, I would like to thank my family who has supported me through the whole process,” Groulx tweeted. “I would like to thank my coaches at Davidson Day and Hough High School for all the help over the years. I’m very thankful for the opportunities that have been given to me. I’m excited and blessed to say I am officially committed to the University of Wisconsin.”

A 3-star star recruit, the 6-foot, 185-pound, Groulx chose Wisconsin over the likes of North Carolina State, South Carolina and Texas A&M. The Cornelius, N.C., product is rated as the No. 69 wide receiver in the 2019 class and is the 19th-ranked player in the state of North Carolina, according to 247Sports.

His commitment comes less than 24 hours after safety Bryson Shaw also verbally committed to Wisconsin. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Shaw had been committed to play lacrosse at Maryland since his freshman year of high school, but changed his mind and pledged to the Badgers on his visit this weekend.

“I am extremely blessed and very excited to announce that I have committed to the University of Wisconsin,” Shaw tweeted. “This is just the start of something special.”

Considered the 73rd best safety in the country, Shaw also held offers from Duke, Rutgers, Virginia and West Virginia among others. The Potomac, Md., native is from the same high school — The Bullis School — as current Wisconsin safety Patrick Johnson.

The two commitments put Wisconsin at seven for the 2019 class. According to 247Sports, the class currently ranks first in the Big Ten and No. 3 in the country.

Wisconsin loses to Michigan State 76-61

Michigan State defeated Wisconsin 76-61 in East Lansing, Mich., Friday night. This marks the fifth loss in the last six games for the Badgers.

Wisconsin has been unable to generate any momentum away from the Kohl Center this season, as they’re now 1-9 in road and neutral site contests.

Forward Ethan Happ was the leading scorer for Wisconsin, he had 23 points, seven rebounds, and four assists on the night. He was one of only two Badgers to reach double-figures in scoring. Brevin Pritzl was the other, he had 13 points.

Michigan State was led by sophomore Miles Bridges with 24 points. Four of Michigan State’s five starters reached double-figures in scoring, which helped erase the fact that the Spartans only had four bench points on the evening.

Despite only scoring four points off the bench, Michigan State won that statistical battle. The Badgers finished with only three points scored by Alex Illikainen for the reserve unit.

The loss drops Wisconsin to 10-12 on the season and 3-6 inside of Big Ten play. The Badgers return to action Monday night at the Kohl Center against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers took the previous meeting this year 63-59 in Lincoln. Wisconsin has played much better at home, with a record of 9-3 at the Kohl Center.