It’s been a rough two weeks for the Wisconsin Badgers, who have lost two embarrassing matchups in a row to the Indiana Hoosiers and the Northwestern Wildcats, respectively, leaving the program without bowl eligibility with two games remaining in the season.
After a disappointing 20-14 loss to the Hoosiers on the road, the Badgers turned it around with an even uglier performance at home against the Wildcats, struggling significantly on both sides of the ball in a game that was ultimately decided within the first half.
The loss led to warranted frustrations from players postgame, as quarterback Tanner Mordecai and safety Hunter Wohler alluded to issues with player effort, with the latter calling out his teammates for not being fully bought into the program during an animated 10-minute interview postgame.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, head coach Luke Fickell acknowledged the player frustrations, but shared the importance of keeping business in-house as the Badgers look to close their season out on a high note.
“There’s things that you talk about within your family that you don’t talk about outside your family,” Fickell said. And I remind those guys that, ‘look, I will never call you out in the media, I’ll never call you out in the public, but I sure as hell will call you out in front of our family.’
However, Fickell ultimately took responsibility for the team’s current culture issues, pointing out how the team is finding out how to deal with the adverse situation at hand.
“So there are things that we have to be accountable for, but in the big picture of it, I’m responsible. So I put it on my shoulders to make sure that we all are on the same page,” Fickell said.
“It’s the nature of the things that you learn when you go through real adverse situations and you can think, you know what you’re looking know in an offseason, in the spring and in the summer. But nobody can prepare themselves for the real adverse situations and so all of us are figuring out how we handle things together, whether we’re the coaching staff or the players.”
Last Sunday, Fickell proclaimed that the Badgers arguably had their best Sunday practice of the season in response to their porous performance against the Hoosiers, but that didn’t translate to the field on Saturday against Northwestern.
This Sunday, with the season nearing an end, the Badgers had a lighter practice to keep bodies fresh, with Fickell’s main worry being about the players’ minds, not bodies.
“We went out a little bit lighter on Sunday and moved around and got them in and got them out of here as you would normally do in the last couple of weeks of the season,” Fickell said. But, the bodies aren’t exactly what I worry about. It’s the minds.”
That prerogative led the Badgers to host a team meeting on Sunday where players were allowed to freely communicate their issues in an effort to handle the current culture issues as a team.
“Everything that we do is trying to make sure we can open it up, get guys to communicate, but find ways to control not just your mind, the things that you take into your mind, that self talk that you have, because there’s an opportunity in front of us that we sometimes cannot see but we need to take advantage of. And so there’s a challenge in front of us as a team, as a coaching staff, as an entire program, and now we got to meet the challenge,” Fickell said.
The Badgers are at a crossroads, as they must get everyone back on the same page, but also must prepare for the game at hand, looking to achieve bowl eligibility in their final home game of the season.
Entering as 4.5-point favorites, can the Badgers get the job done and end their season on a high note?