Nichol is sure he crossed the goal line. "My stomach almost dropped," he says. "Not like this. You can't lose like this. You can't go to overtime in a game you should have put away." Still, Nichol understands. "I think it was probably the safer bet on their part," he says. "Just call it out and look at the replay."
I was just as sure as Nichol that the ball had crossed the plane. I left the room when the referees spotted him short of the goal line because I knew it would only hurt too much to get my hopes up waiting for the replay booth to eventually dash the too-high hopes I had for this season.
But it was a nice dream wasn't it? For the first seven weeks of the season I had as much fun following Wisconsin football as I ever have. That beautiful weekend when Nebraska came to town, when an entire stadium caught the student section's spirit. It was the best Jump Around I've ever seen. I got goosebumps watching that "Build Me Buttercup" video on Youtube for every single one of the probably dozen times it was emailed to me.
Now I'm just creeped out by how perfectly the song describes my relationship with every Badger football squad ever.
This year's team doesn't deserve that kind of melodrama, however. This wasn't supposed to be a team that lived for the few moments every year when they could take down someone above their weight classification before slipping back into obscurity. This was supposed to be a disciplined heavyweight, with fancy footwork and a full arsenal of punches impervious to the plucky-type teams that only know how to throw haymakers, like, say, Wisconsin '05 or Michigan State '11.
The Spartans were more than content to live on the razor's edge with an all-octane defensive gameplan that made Russell Wilson look mortal. There are a lot of "if onlys" to point to. All three overthrows to Jacob Pedersen will stick out in my mind because all of them were plays that Wilson made easy through the season's first six games, but didn't on Saturday. Others will say Bret Bielema's odd timeout on the Spartans final drive, setting up "the horror." I'm more confused as to why we were content to consistently rush four guys at a senior quarterback who wanted nothing more than to sit back and survey the field for one of his several talented wideouts.
The good news is that this is only one loss, to what was almost certainly the best team on the Badgers' schedule this year. Wisconsin still controls its own destiny to the B1G Championship game, and luckily our players were much more mature and forward-looking in the aftermath of the game than I was.
Here's Nick Toon:
And Montee Ball:
Thank goodness these players have perspective, because there is still a lot to play for, above all a potential rematch with the Spartans. Still, it will be hard to let go of what was lost: the potential to be the best in the land, potentially the best ever when stacked against Wisconsin's past. I have faith that this team can win out the rest of way, get to the Rose Bowl, and compete against whatever opponent they are paired with. I'll watch and root for the team with all of the fervor I had before, but I'd be wrong to say I that I won't be imagining the worst, lest I find myself unprepared for "the horror" again. I've been messed around a few times too often.
And now the wreckage:
Simile-filled column analysis from Michael Hunt.
Tom Oates says Christmas is cancelled.
Stats galore. Montee Ball has scored 34 touchdowns in his last 13 games. Give him major props. The running game died when he left with a head injury.
Russell Wilson on Saturday's rollercoaster night: Badgers have a great team, "if anybody says we don't, they're crazy."
Badgers drop to No. 15 in this week's BCS Standings. Not that the rankings matter a ton for UW at this point. I do want to point out that Oklahoma looked awful Saturday night.
Neutral autopsies. Dr. Saturday calls the battle a draw. Off Tackle Empire agrees, still puts UW in the Rose Bowl, asks "where were you?". CBS Sports makes me wish I could have been neutral for the game. I was too sick to my stomach to read Mark Schlabach's column, but I'm sure it's fine.
The Only Colors is happy, and also says nice things about Wilson and Ball, which is a gracious thing to do but ugh. That was rough.