The Wisconsin Badgers pulled through in a 24-17 comeback overtime victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday, securing bowl eligibility ahead of their final game of the season against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
However, it wasn’t the cleanest game for the Badgers, who dealt with a bevy of injuries, including an upper-body injury to star safety Hunter Wohler, who missed the entire second half against Nebraska.
Wohler, the rock of the defense, returned to the sidelines after halftime out of uniform and in a hoodie, encouraging teammates throughout the second half while watching off the field.
After the game, head coach Luke Fickell dubbed Wohler’s injury as worrisome, while praising the backups who stepped up in his place.
“That was a bit worrisome,” Fickell said about Wohler’s injury. “He’s a rock and he’s the guy that makes a lot of things go. And he’s done a lot of different things for us and when they came back at half time and said he wasn’t going to be able to go, we had to throw it on guys’ shoulders.”
One of the players who saw a few snaps was sixth-year safety Travian Blaylock, who has endured a number of injuries throughout his Badgers career and had fallen out of the rotation after being a starter to begin the season.
“There’s another one of those reasons why I think this is so special, to see a guy like Travian Blaylock that started in game one and then, really, hadn’t see the field a lot,” Fickell said. “And his ability to have the ups and the downs but keep working, keep working, keep working and knowing at some point in time he’s going to be put in a situation where we needed to win a football game.”
Additionally, Fickell praised Kamo’i Latu, who returned from injury against Nebraska and even played a role he may not have been used to in the second half due to Wohler’s injury.
“Mo’i (Kamo’i Latu) had to go back in there, who’s been out, had to go back in there and play a role that maybe he wasn’t, you know, deemed ready to play. But that’s when you see those guys have to step up because of a situation like that,” Fickell said.
Wohler wasn’t the only major injury on Saturday, as wideout Will Pauling left in the fourth quarter and did not return, while wideout Bryson Green did not play as well.
On Monday, Fickell provided an official “update” on the injuries, sharing that everyone did some things on Sunday, but that their status would not be known until later in the week.
“They all did stuff yesterday,” Fickell said. “I don’t know that they did stuff on the field or practiced much. There’s a lot of unknowns for us. We’re gonna have to move forward. Obviously, anybody that has the opportunity to play will play.”
“It’s the rivalry game, it’s the game. They all understand that and they all know that. They’re working and working and working to put themselves in a position not just to be able to play, but to perform. There’s a lot of those [injury concerns] that we don’t know right now, and we’ll have to figure it out as we move forward this week.”
The Badgers will hope to get a majority, if not all, of those players back for the season finale against Minnesota this weekend, looking to reclaim the Axe Trophy and stop the Gophers from reaching bowl eligibility.