Victory over Penn State would be special for Wisconsin's senior class

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A win Saturday would give the Badgers a chance at their fourth straight BCS bowl game, but there are other reasons why UW's senior class wants to end the regular season on a high note.

MADISON -- Gary Andersen's expectations for his team remain the same as they were before the season began.

The Wisconsin head coach wants his seniors to leave the program with their heads held high, to always wear their Badgers gear with pride. That, he says, still stands as the No. 1 priority heading into this week's regular-season finale against Penn State.

Along with a curtain call at Camp Randall Stadium for Chris Borland, James White, Jared Abbrederis, Dezmen Southward and too many more to list, though, a win Saturday could also have greater implications on the current season and the legacy this senior class leaves behind.

"It's all about this last game. Not only for our team but for where we're at. We need to get this win." -Jared Abbrederis

"It's huge. It's all about this last game," Abbrederis said. "Not only for our team but for where we're at. We need to get this win."

After the seniors are honored Saturday, a fourth straight BCS bowl berth could be at stake for the Badgers, an accomplishment that could parlay into making this graduating class the winningest in program history.

A victory over Penn State would be the Badgers' 40th since the start of the 2010 season, matching the current record of wins in a four-year span set by the 2007 and 2012 teams.

It would also mark their 24th Big Ten victory over that time, which would break the record of 23 set by the 2000 senior class.

"It's an important game," senior guard Ryan Groy said. "It's the last game for our seniors at home at Camp Randall, and it's our chance to get to 10 wins. I think that's important for us and important for our senior class. I think we've been taking it one game at a time all season, and I think it's important to finish it off."

Coming off 2012's six-loss season, 10 regular-season victories would be quite the accomplishment in the first year under a new coaching staff.

"At first, everybody's a little skeptical getting a new coach," senior tight end Brian Wozniak said, "but he did exactly what coach (Barry) Alvarez said he would. He wowed us. I think a lot of us would tell you we'd walk through fire for coach Andersen. He's a heck of a coach, and you learn so much from him."

Although players say the entire roster had bought in to Andersen's philosophy by the start of the season, Wozniak believes that special connection to their head coach really began after Wisconsin's controversial loss to Arizona State in Week 3.

Wozniak said that first loss with a new coach can really reveal a lot, especially under the circumstances the Badgers faced at the end of that particular game.

"I was taken back by how coach Andersen reacted and how he felt terrible for us," Wozniak said. "He never blamed it on one individual. He blamed it on himself. The way he handled that first loss and the way the seniors handled that first loss and the way the seniors on down handled that first loss, you knew we had a pretty special team.

"You knew that was going to be a pretty special season."

Wisconsin has won seven of eight games since, the only blemish coming on the road against an Ohio State team still riding national championship aspirations.

If the season were over, Andersen would tell the Badgers they were a great team. He doesn't, however, want them to know that yet. He wants them to stay in the moment, through the distractions of Senior Day and BCS ranking debates.

Win or lose, though, the head coach admitted that he'll still believe his first team at Wisconsin was a great one, and much of it had to do with the 26 seniors who will be honored Saturday.

"I'll forever be indebted to those kids for believing in us," Andersen said. "I truly do not remember a young man rolling his eyes or saying, ‘What are we doing?'

"These kids, they seemed to buy in to us and believe in us. That's why they've had the success that they've had. There's no magic offense, defense. There is no magic coach. It's the kids that put us in positions to win football games, and they've hung together through a lot of adversity and a lot of good times in their careers."

A victory, though, still stands as an important benchmark for this senior class, even if not for the historical significance or bowl-game implications. They want their final game in Camp Randall Stadium to be a memorable one.

"We've come up strong so far, but we're not done yet," Southward said. "This senior group, as far as we've brought us, we're going to have to finish this thing off."

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