It wasn’t a pretty game for the Badgers, who endured yet another slow start, trailing 14-0 by the end of the first quarter.
However, behind the leaders of the team, the Badgers were able to turn it around and fight back to ultimately win in overtime, snapping a three-game losing streak.
In the win, quarterback Tanner Mordecai and running back Braelon Allen showed true guts, with the former finding ways to extend plays consistently, while the latter ran the ball 22 times, his second-most of the season, earning 62 hard-fought yards against the No. 4 run defense in the NCAA.
What was even more impressive was that Allen wasn’t expected to play, according to head coach Luke Fickell, but the running back pushed through his high-ankle sprain and showed out for his team.
“To be honest, I’m proud of him,” Fickell said about Allen after the game. “I didn’t expect him to play. Not that he didn’t do some stuff this week or things like that. But I just kind of said, ‘hey, let’s just assume he’s not’. And if by chance he can, then, you know, he’s going to have to kind of tap us on the shoulder and really push us to say, ‘hey, I want to be in there.’ And that’s what he did.”
Allen has faced a tough sledding with injuries over his career, and this year has been no different, with the running back battling through pain to play on Saturdays for his team.
Following the game, Fickell acknowledged how tough Allen’s injuries have been for the team, not only on the field, but also from a mental standpoint.
“He prepares mentally and he does the things that he needs to do. He just hasn’t been healthy. And I think it’s been a hard — it’s been hard on us,” Fickell said. “Because I think some of our guys, you know, get emotionally tied to all of sudden he’s in there and then he’s not. So I just thought we can’t have that tonight. And so, to assume he’s not going to be there, and let’s just move forward.”
After Jackson Acker started the game for the Badgers, Allen pushed the coaching staff to play, and ultimately ended with 22 carries, including an important fourth-down conversion in overtime to keep the team’s hopes alive.
“And you know what, I think he didn’t play in the first maybe series or two. And I think he was really chomping at the bit there to push us and get him in the ball game,” Fickell said. “And that makes me proud of what he did. And we know he didn’t feel perfect, but he’s one of those other guys that showed me a lot tonight that I think he was much better when we got down. And that’s something we needed.”
The Badgers really needed Allen’s efforts, as they lost Will Pauling to injury late in the fourth quarter, while also playing with a banged-up Chimere Dike and no Bryson Green offensively.
They ultimately paid off, as Allen’s second touchdown was the game-winner for the Badgers, helping them secure bowl eligibility and the Freedom Trophy.
Now, the banged-up Badgers will set their eyes on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a mission to reclaim the Axe Trophy against a team that is still vying for bowl eligibility.
If they’re to get it done, the Badgers will likely need to rely on Allen once more, especially if the injuries to their receivers linger on.