Happy Labor Day weekend, everybody. Be safe, have fun, and if you’re in Wisconsin, hopefully it stops raining. Seriously, this is absurd.
On Friday, I found myself downtown before the game after making my way from the day job to the campus area. I walked around (it was humid, but whatever) and took in the sights and sounds of Regent Street and surrounding areas. As always, once you think you’ve seen everything, you really haven’t.
Check out our Instagram page for photos and video from my pregame walk. One stands out: the Badger mounted on top of a vehicle. I had to stop to talk to Joe and Dee Balistreri, and they told me the story of this undead creature they’ve had for over 40 years.
Apparently, the badger was roadkill, which was then tagged and stuffed.
I heard about something Dr. Pepper was doing in a church parking lot a couple blocks off of Regent, so I made my way down there. Essentially, the company set up a surprise tailgating event for the “First Fans” of the upcoming college football season. According to their press release, Ian and Amy Trampe entered their tailgate at this particular parking lot early Friday morning and were greeted with a huge party.
As you’ll see below, Dr. Pepper set up a huge throne made up of cases of Dr. Pepper and the lucky Badger fans were filmed. No, I was not able to sit on the throne.
I will be doing this more. Let us know where you will be tailgating and when you’ll be there. We would love to stop by, say hi, meet our readers and talk Badgers prior to the game.
Of course Jonathan Taylor (18 carries, 145 yards, two touchdowns) and Alex Hornibrook (17-of-29, 257 yards, two touchdowns) deserve accolades, but I wanted to highlight a few others who played well.
Jake Ferguson: It was his first collegiate game after redshirting in 2017 and he caught four passes for 43 yards. All four moved the chains for first downs and two came on third down. What was also impressive was his blocking ability on two of Taylor’s touchdowns. The biggest question for him coming in was how he’d show up in that phase of the game, and if he stays consistent, he will be a prominent player this season.
Scott Nelson: Also in his first collegiate game (and to note, both Ferguson and Nelson were scout-team players of the year for the offense and defense, respectively, in 2017), Nelson tied for the team lead in tackles, one for a loss, and recorded two pass break-ups. Yes, one of them probably should have been his first interception, but he was all around the field. Exciting debut.
Taiwan Deal: He only ran the ball eight times, but the redshirt senior averaged 6.6 yards per carry and also caught a reception for a first down in the first quarter. The key phrase for Deal is “if he stays healthy,” but man, he looked solid in complementing Taylor.
Caesar Williams: As I write this, I’m rewatching the game. The redshirt sophomore recorded a pass break-up and really stood out. Though we don’t know the exact calls that were made, he appeared to defend extremely well against the Hilltoppers. He told me after the game that starting the game “felt like a dream come true, especially having my mom in the stands.” It was quite a debut in front of her.
Williams also added that he wants to improve “every inch” of his game, including working to be first-team All-Big Ten and All-American.
Honorable mention: Zack Baun (five tackles, all solo)
Game notes are always fun, so here are a few to enlighten your co-workers with this week:
- With this 145-yard performance, Taylor has now gone over the 100-yard mark in 11 of 15 career games. His 6.69 yards per carry average currently ranks him No. 2 all-time. Who has the top spot? Melvin Gordon.
- Ferguson, Jack Dunn, and Adam Krumholz all recorded their first career receptions.
- Over the last three seasons, redshirt senior Rafael Gaglianone is 9-for-9 on field-goal attempts over 40 yards.
- According to UW, nine Badgers made the first starts of their collegiate careers: Outside linebackers Baun and Andrew Van Ginkel; tight end Luke Benzschawel; defensive ends Matt Henningsen and Kayden Lyles; cornerbacks Faion Hicks and Williams; fullback Alec Ingold; and free safety Nelson.
- Ferguson, Henningsen, Lyles, Hicks, and Nelson all started in the first collegiate game they played. Others to find their first playing time on the field at this level included offensive lineman Logan Bruss (wearing No. 85), wide receivers Aron Cruickshank and Taj Mustapha, nose tackle Bryson Williams, defensive end Aaron Vopal, and cornerbacks Deron Harrell and Donte Burton.
- That would make four true freshmen—Cruickshank, Mustapha, Bryson Williams, and Burton—that played in the season opener.
For your enjoyment
I did not see this until Sunday morning, but here’s Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez hyping fans up for #AreaRED. I think the kid in the bibs early on would run through a wall for him.
Speaking of #AreaRED, it looks like the Wisconsin men’s basketball team enjoyed the start of the rebranding of the student section.
Tuesday, 7 p.m. CT: Bucky’s 5th Podcast at Bierock
You will hear about this a lot in the next couple of days, but we would love to see everyone in the Madison area make it out there on Tuesday night for the start of our weekly shows at Bierock (2911 N. Sherman Ave.). The food’s great, beer’s flowing, and we will have a fun time. I also plan on giving away a couple copies of Walk-On This Way for some fan trivia and answering some questions live. Come by, say hi, talk Badgers.