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Luke Fickell: Tanner Mordecai’s leadership was the reason why the Badgers didn’t fold down 14-0

The Badgers quarterback willed his team back from a large deficit for the victory.

The Wisconsin Badgers completed an improbable comeback to win 24-17 in overtime over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, improving to 6-5 on the season and gaining bowl eligibility, while also winning the Freedom Trophy.

It was another ugly start for the Badgers, who went down 14-0 in the first quarter with porous play on both ends, which had fans demoralized, given the way the last two games went.

However, it all turned around with a fourth down stop defensively, and the Badgers were ultimately able to complete the comeback for the victory.

What aided the turnaround for Wisconsin?

There were a ton of factors, but head coach Luke Fickell credited Tanner Mordecai’s leadership as a game-changing factor in the victory, dubbing the quarterback as one of the best leaders and competitors that he’s ever been around.

“There’s no doubt to the best — one of the best leaders as I’ve been around and one of the more competitive guys I’ve ever been around. And he showed that tonight,” Fickell said about Mordecai.

“I mean, there were plays made. And it’s not just him. Vin (Vinny) Anthony made some catches, Will Pauling made some catches. But because of who Tanner is and because of his leadership, it’s why we probably didn’t fold when it was 14-0 or didn’t, you know, panic, I should say not fold, but panic when it was 14 to nothing. Because of his leadership and the other guys that stepped up and followed around him.”

It was truly a gutsy performance from Mordecai, who didn’t light up the stat sheets (18/28 passing, 160 passing yards, seven rushes, 60 rushing yards), but consistently found ways to extend drives and make the necessary play to place the Badgers in a winning position over the final three quarters.

This is what the Badgers wanted when they acquired Mordecai via the transfer portal: a veteran leader who the team could depend that had the opportunity to make big-time plays in crucial moments.

That’s exactly what Mordecai did on Saturday, and it was a major reason why the Badgers won.