Badger Bits: Forging ahead after a rough few days

How Bret Bielema handles the exodus of four assistant coaches will be critical to Wisconsin's sustained success.

In four short days the Badgers dropped two straight games against conference opponents in basketball, and let the Rose Bowl slip through their grasp by some combination of bad luck, flat feet, and the unfortunate lack of a timeout or two (assign whatever weight you please to any of those factors). It never sucks to be a Wisconsin fan, but losing another anti-climax to Michigan State (we have the next one if pattern holds) and failing to secure what would have been a defining win for the Bret Bielema era has made things slightly less awesome, for the time being.

There is always a bright side though, and like many silver linings this one comes to us from a possibly drunk, though certainly friendly stranger. Cue Virginia Tech blog, The Key Play, still reeling from a stunning loss to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.

I guess I'm getting into the habit of writing eulogies at the end of the season. We lost our teeth in the Orange Bowl last year. Our hearts got broken tonight. I'd rather be pissed than crestfallen.

This team won 11 games. The seniors have never lost to Virginia. They've won 3 ACC Championships. We'll be pleasantly reminded of that in Lane until we'll too old, too fat, too dead to go to games. This year however, we didn't beat Clemson, we didn't beat Clemson and we didn't beat Michigan.

I love this team. I love that they finished strong. I love that they contended. I loved that they did more than was expected. I love that the core will be back next year. I love that they broke my heart.

This is my I love you man moment. I love that Montee Ball transformed himself into the country's best running back through sheer will power. I love that Nick Toon will go out having played one of the best games of his career. I love that Russell Wilson and Wisconsin found each other to produce the most exciting offense we may see in Madison for a very long time. I love the moments that this team gave me, perhaps none better than in the aftermath of the win over Nebraska when Wisconsin seemed most destined for greatness.

I hate that Jared Abbrederis' fumble didn't bounce out of bounds, didn't bounce at all, when it hit the turf. But goodness if he didn't play a spectacular game himself on Monday.

The ball hasn't bounced Wisconsin's way lately. Such is sports, you have all heard that sermon before. I feel good about where both of the Badgers' cash cows are headed, however. There may be some rough times in the immediate future: the basketball team has to regroup mid-stride and the football team will struggle next year even if Ball returns. But the guys in charge seem to know what they are doing.

Bo Ryan has certainly earned his reservoirs of faith. Bielema maybe slightly less so, but two straight Rose Bowls sure are something. How he navigates the sudden mass exodus of coaches will be critical to the future of the program, not to mention a rebuilding season while the brand name is at its peak. At the very least his teams will play with absolute toughness, heart, and courage. Ditto Ryan. The past few seasons are more than evidence enough, and for that I am really, really proud.

Thursday's Links:

B5Q will have up-to-the-minute updates on Montee Ball's decision, as well as the team's progress hiring replacements for Paul Chryst, Bob Bostad, DelVaughn Alexander and Dave Huxtable on the coaching staff. Ball is reportedly leaning towards staying. Finding proper coaches may take a little longer. Get comfy.

The Journal Sentinel reports that Bielema's phone has been ringing off the hook with potential new staffers, and adds a couple names to chew on. Jay Norvell is currently the wide receivers coach at Oklahoma, and was the co-offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts from 1998-2001. Chuck Long, was a decorated quarterback at Iowa way back when, as well as the offensive coordinator at Kansas the past two seasons.

The final Badgers Roundtable of the season is good stuff as always. This week, a look back at the Rose Bowl and a look ahead to the future.

The script flipped from "where's Jordan Taylor?" to "where's everybody else?" against the Spartans, as Big Ten Powerhouse points out. Something resembling consistency would be nice at some point.

Interviews of all varieties from the State Journal. Travis Frederick talks about the offense's execution. Marcus Cromartie on the defensive letdown. Russell Wilson on losing one more heartbreaker.

The UW Athletic Department released a statement regarding the clock situation at the end of the MSU game, and defended the decision to nullify Ryan Evans' game-tying 3-pointer.

Keaton Nankivil -- who appears to be wearing a terrible wig -- hits the game-winning 3-pointer from about 28 feet deep for his German team, Ulm.

Wrapping up from SI: Is John Clay this year's James Starks?

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