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“Finishing”: The key behind Luke Fickell’s approach in Year 1 with the Badgers

Luke Fickell is attacking one specific element in a variety of ways to prepare for 2023.

It’s safe to say that new Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell has made a mark on the school in his first months on campus.

Not only did he bring in several highly-touted transfers to compete with the current roster, but Fickell transformed the coaching staff, which includes new strength and conditioning coach Brady Collins, to change the mindset of how Wisconsin approaches the season.

However, what truly matters are results on the field, which haven't been seen yet in the Fickell era, although the aura around the new-look Badgers is certainly looking positive at the moment.

How is Fickell planning to change what happens on Saturdays to instill the winning culture he established at Cincinnati in Madison?

Speaking to local reporters for the first time in the new year ahead of spring ball, Fickell emphasized the importance of finishing, not only in games, but on a regular basis as a key for the team to get better as a whole.

Embracing Wisconsin’s culture of hard-fought, physical football, Fickell acknowledged that, at the end of the day, the game comes down to the fourth quarter.

“When it comes down to it, if you’re going to fight and scratch and call and you’re going to grind things out and you’re going to be a tougher team, then you got to win the game in the fourth quarter,” Fickell said.

How can the Badgers improve and prepare for those situations?

Fickell took reporters through his process at Cincinnati, where he and his staff specifically focused on certain late-game situations to find the team’s niche, which spearheaded some of the success that the distinguished head coach encountered at his previous destination.

“How you perform in that fourth quarter is going to be critical to what we do. And I know, as we kind of got rolling, what we did, even at Cincinnati, we kind of tried to study the fourth quarter and how successful were we in those situations. And I think that’s where we kind of got our edge.”

The Badgers struggled last year late in games, losing close games, including their final matchup against Minnesota, which Fickell is determined to improve heading into his first year in Madison.

“Looking at the past is where I think maybe Wisconsin had always had an edge. You get to the fourth quarter physical, grind it out, win those games that you got to win, and that’s probably the biggest difference in the last few years. Last year, we’re one in four in the fourth quarter,” Fickell said. “And that’s something that’s glaring at me, and I think it puts an emphasis on everything that we do, whether it’s the offseason program, how you finish is really key. These guys haven’t heard me say it yet, but it’s not about how you start. Yes, we got to start, but it’s all about how you finish.”

In his “finishing” approach, Fickell will look to address the topic on all sorts of scales, being it over an entire season, within games, and on a daily basis.

“If you’re playing your best ball at the end of the year, you got a chance to be really successful. And there’s many different ways of playing your best ball at the end of the year, playing your best ball at the end of a game. So a lot of those things are about how you finish.”

To prepare for the season, Fickell anticipates involving drills simulating late-game situations to get his team through the motions of finishing, which should help identify strengths and weaknesses in those situations.

“That’s what the winter has been about. And as we even we get into spring, we’ll define ways to kind of put ourselves in these situations and say, okay, ‘this is the fourth quarter, this is the last drive and how do we fare’”, Fickell said.

With the physical style that Wisconsin has played with throughout its history, Fickell’s message of “finishing” fits seamlessly, but, once again, results are what will truly define his tenure in the Big Ten.