Thirteen seniors will be honored on the field inside Camp Randall Stadium before the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers face the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday afternoon.
Heading into UW’s regular-season finale, these seniors have recorded 39 wins and a .765 winning percentange (39-12) over the last four seasons. That includes a 9-1 record in rivalry trophy games, with Wisconsin (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) looking to retain Paul Bunyan’s Axe for a 13th straight season. They have now clinched at least a share of the Big Ten West division title and will play next Saturday for the conference championship — and Wisconsin’s still in conversations for the College Football Playoff.
Some have become significant contributors to the UW offense in their time in Madison, while others may not have seen the field as much. All have put in the long hours in the weight and film rooms, balanced the demands of a student athlete both on and off the field, and have gone through the highs and lows a team experiences each year.
Here are the seniors from the offense:
Quarterback Bart Houston
Career Stats: 89-of-145, 1084 yards passing, nine touchdowns, five interceptions
25 carries, 16 yards rushing; 34.7 yard punting average
2016 Stats: 60-of-94 for 789 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions; 19 carries, 25 yards
Accomplishments: Academic All-Big Ten (2014, 2015), 2015 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar
While Bart Houston didn’t reach the heights that were initially expected from when he signed with Wisconsin as one of the Elite 11 High School Quarterbacks in 2012, Houston never wavered on being a Badger. In fact, before Paul Chryst came back to Wisconsin, Houston was better known as the pooch punter in the Gary Andersen era.
Houston was able to claw his way into being Joel Stave’s backup for his junior season. Most of the year he was relegated to a mop-up role, but when Stave was injured early in the Illinois game, Houston was more than ready to step up. He went 22-of-33 for 232 yards and two touchdowns against two interceptions. It was pretty close to the perfect day for a back-up, and it put him in the driver’s seat to start opening day as a senior.
While Houston was ultimately supplanted by redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook, Houston started opening day at Lambeau Field against No. 5 LSU. While he threw two interceptions that put the Badgers in danger, he was mostly steady enough against the Dave Aranda-led LSU defense that Wisconsin ended up getting one of the most memorable non-conference wins in its history. It turned out to be his biggest highlight as a starter as he was replaced when the conference schedule rolled around.
That was not the end for Houston, however. No one knows how much comfort being the change-of-pace quarterback for a team knocking on the playoff door brings, but outside of the struggles of the Nebraska game, Houston’s been tremendous in the role. He’s completed 16-of-23 (69.6 percent) for 262 yards and three touchdowns against just one interception.
He may never have reached the heights that his high school career promised, but Houston stayed for the education and helped Wisconsin knock on the door of the playoffs. He was undeniably needed, and will be continue to be needed in a 2016 season whose book has not yet been completely written.
[written by Andrew Rosin]
Running back Corey Clement
Career stats: 507 rushes for 2,757 yards and 32 touchdowns; 24 receptions for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
2016 stats: 245 carries for 1,040 yards for 11 touchdowns; seven receptions for 61 yards
2016 Preseason: Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award watch lists
2015 Preseason: Maxwell Award watch list, Doak Walker Award watch list
2014: Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week (Nov. 3)
2013: Big Ten Freshman of the Week (Sept. 9 and Nov. 18), honorable mention All-Freshman (College Football News)
Clement came into his senior year after a junior campaign where he only recorded 221 rushing yards in four games, as he was held out most of the season with a sports hernia injury and later against Minnesota for a November off-the-field incident.
He rebounded this senior season and is currently in the midst of his best collegiate season. Clement became the 17th player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season this past Saturday, when he reached the mark against Purdue.
Clement has seen his fair share of honors in his career at Wisconsin, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors twice (after two 100-yard rushing performances with two touchdowns a piece against Tennessee Tech and Indiana in 2013).
He also earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week as a sophomore on Nov. 3, 2014, when he rushed for 131 yards and two scores at Rutgers. That season he rushed for 949 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards per carry as the perfect complement to Melvin Gordon.
Clement’s perseverance and reemergence will be remembered. After missing seven straight games as a junior, he returned to gain 115 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns against Rutgers on Halloween last season. He also proved to be instrumental in Wisconsin winning the Holiday Bowl, rushing for 66 yards and a touchdown.
He’s become the workhorse of the backfield in 2016 and has rushed for over 100 yards in five of the past six contests. Clement’s success will need to continue for Wisconsin to earn the Big Ten West division title, a possible Big Ten championship and potential College Football Playoff berth.
[written by Ryan Mellenthin]
Running back Dare Ogunbowale
Career stats: 304 rushes for 1,463 yards and 10 touchdowns; 53 receptions for 445 yards and two touchdowns
2016 stats: 76 carries for 451 yards, two touchdowns; 17 receptions, 146 yards, one touchdown
Accomplishments: 2016 team captain; president of UW’s “Beyond the Game” program, which focuses on Wisconsin student-athletes’ personal and career development
Ogunbowale’s journey to being named team captain and significant contributor on offense is a little different than most.
Ogunbowale walked on to Wisconsin as a defensive back and played that position sparingly as a redshirt freshman. However, during his redshirt sophomore season, Ogunbowale moved to running back and rushed for 94 yards on 14 carries in his first game running the ball against Bowling Green.
As a junior, Ogunbowale took the reins as the team’s lead back with Clement injured. The Milwaukee native was a versatile member of the offense, rushing for 819 yards, compiling 299 receiving yards and scoring eight total touchdowns (seven rushing, one receiving).
Ogunbowale's best career game rushed came against Minnesota in 2015, as Wisconsin secured their hold on Paul Bunyan's axe, with a 31-21 win. Ogunbowale rushed for a career-high 155 yards and one touchdown.
In 2016, his role may have changed with the return of Clement, but he also played a vital role in Wisconsin's offense. In their overtime win against No. 8 Nebraska, Ogunbowale rushed for 120 yards on only 11 carries and a touchdown — at times picking up several key third-down conversions. He also ran for 103 yards on seven carries against Illinois.
Wisconsin players nominated Ogunbowale as one of UW’s two team captains, a sign of his leadership and the respect he has in the locker room. He also gave the keynote speech at the 2016 Big Ten Football Kickoff Luncheon.
Ogunbowale stepped up as a junior in Clement's absence, and though he was a player with not a lot of experience carrying the ball, he filled in admirably for a player that was supposed to be the next great Wisconsin back. Even with a lighter workload this season, he’s shown he can produce significantly when called upon.
[written by Ryan Mellenthin]
Wide receiver Robert Wheelwright
Career stats: 66 receptions for 859 yards and six touchdowns
2016 stats: 31 receptions, 417 yards, one receiving touchdown
Key Moment: Touchdown catch vs Minnesota in 2014 to seal the game for the Badgers. Joel Stave threw a beautiful ball up the right seam to Wheelwright for his only catch of the season.
Wheelwright as the most physically impressive wide receiver the Badgers have had in a long time. At 6’3 and 211 pounds, Wheelwright has a pro-ready physique. Although he’s never been a dominant player for the Badgers, his catch against USC shows the potential he has for a pro career if he can capitalize on the opportunity.
Wheelwright has been a dependable target to both quarterbacks Houston and Alex Hornibrook this season. The Columbus, Ohio, native will look to end his career as a Badger without a loss to the Gophers.
Wide receiver Reggie Love
Career stats: Seven receptions for 89 yards, zero receiving touchdowns; eight carries for 83 yards, one rushing touchdown; 32 career games played.
2016 stats: N/A
Accomplishments: Graduated in May 2016 with bachelor’s degree in life sciences communication and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis
Key moment: In 2014 against LSU, Love went in motion to the left and carried out a jet sweep that went 45 yards for the game-opening touchdown. It was the start Wisconsin needed against the SEC powerhouse, but unfortunately dropped a 28-24 game after the offense floundered in the final two quarters.
Reggie Love saw the field early in his true freshman campaign and has seen flashes in 32 career games for Wisconsin, though he hasn’t played in the 2016 season according to UW’s records. He’s actually made more of an impact in the running game than as a receiver (eight career rushes compared to seven receptions).
He played in five games in 2012 before redshirting during Andersen’s first year as Wisconsin’s head coach. In 2014, his 45-yard touchdown run excited the crowd down in Houston before the Badgers ultimately lost in that season-opening let down. In 2015, he saw career highs in receptions and rushes (four catches, 55 yards; seven rushes, 38 yards), though he was also used in a bit of an H-back look in Chryst’s first season.
Love appeared to have a solid spring 2016 campaign and initially was in the two-deep at wide receiver to start the season, but true freshmen Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor have propelled in front of him.
He never found a significant role in the offense in his time in Madison, but he left at least one memorable spark early in that 2014 season.
[Written by Jake Kocorowski]
Tight end Eric Steffes
Career stats: nine receptions, 70 yards, one touchdown (36 career games played)
2016 stats: N/A
2015: Academic All-Big Ten
2014: Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, Academic All-Big Ten
2013: Academic All-Big Ten
Steffes has emerged as the blocking tight end in the past two seasons since Chryst returned to Wisconsin, often a staple of UW’s two-tight end sets with redshirt junior Troy Fumagalli. Heading into the Minnesota game, he’s played 22 of his 36 games in 2015 and 2016 — including six starts (three each season).
His only career touchdown so far came on a one-yard touchdown catch from Hornibrook in Wisconsin’s 30-6 win at Michigan State in the conference opener. Though the personal stats may not show his contributions, his blocking has helped Wisconsin open up the stereotypical rushing attack late in 2016 — with UW running for over 200 yards in four of the past six games.
[written by Jake Kocorowski]