Game tape isn’t necessary — and never will be — for the University of Wisconsin football team to remember what took place on Dec. 6 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Many players did, though, re-watch every Ohio State touchdown during a 59-0 romp in the Big Ten Conference championship game that quickly flushed away the Badgers’ seven-game winning streak and hopes for a major bowl game.
Only weeks removed from standing as one the conference’s hottest teams, UW continues to pick up the pieces from one of the worst losses in program history.
“I think it’s something we’ll never forget,” running back Melvin Gordon said. “In a big-time game like that, people will be talking about that for years to come, and I just don’t think we’ll ever forget that game. It’ll always be on my mind.
“It’d be a lot different (if we played Ohio State again). A lot different, I promise you that.”
But the Badgers won’t have that opportunity, and moving on to prep for the Outback Bowl against Auburn on Jan. 1 — in the midst of a head coaching change, no less — hasn’t exactly come naturally.
Senior right tackle Rob Havenstein watched the Ohio State tape twice, trying to pick up on any mishaps in his technique.
“If you don’t take a look at it individually, you’re kind of doing yourself a disservice,” Havenstein said. “Just to see what you could have done to help the team out.
“Any time you have a blowout loss like that, it’s going to hurt and stick around a little bit. The only thing you can do is keep moving on.”
The Badgers were burned on deep passing plays throughout the game, and UW has spent time separating the offense and defense during practices so that defensive backs have the length of an entire field to improve in that area.
“What’s unfortunate about that game is that I felt the deep balls undressed us a little bit, shook us, and it took us a little while to get back,” defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. “I think not until about the third quarter … we were able to feel confident again. So that’s something that was addressed, and we’ll continue to address it because those things are going to come up again. That’s football. That’s part of it.”
Coaches and players didn’t make excuses for the performance.
No one blamed former coach Gary Andersen, who left for Oregon State four days later, and they also didn’t point to three straight physical games the Badgers played before that conference title game.
They simply chalked it up to an anomaly on a day when nothing went right remains all they can do.
“That wasn’t us,” quarterback Joel Stave said. “(Ohio State is) a really good team and everyone knows that, but there’s no team that’s 59-0 better than us. Everyone’s (excited) to get out there and play one more game and get that taste out of your mouth.”
As much as the mood has changed since Dec. 6, when UW was favored to win its fourth Big Ten title in five seasons, the Badgers still have an opportunity in front of them.
Beating an SEC team for the team’s first bowl victory in five years would cap an up-and-down season on a high note.
“I think more than anything it’ll just be special to top off 11 wins for the season,” sophomore cornerback Sojourn Shelton said. “I don’t think people understand how hard it is to get to that after going through the bumps and bruises throughout the year and playing in some really tough conference games.
“So, sitting there at 10-3, another win would top that off and make it a special season for us.”