INDIANAPOLIS — With Zander Neuville lost for the season, the University of Wisconsin football team used redshirt freshman tackles Cole Van Lanen and Patrick Kasl as blocking tight ends in Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State.
Neuville injured his right leg last week against Minnesota, and the Badgers announced Friday that he won’t return this season.
Van Lanen even switched from No. 71 to 85 for the game, the number Neuville wore this season.
It marked the first meaningful playing time in Kasl’s UW career, while Van Lanen entered the game for a few snaps earlier this season when left tackle Michael Deiter was battling an injury.
Snaps were few and far between for the pair Saturday, but it gave a Badgers team thin at the tight end position another option for more blocking help in the run game.
Ferguson starts again
UW safety Joe Ferguson started over D’Cota Dixon for the fourth straight game Saturday.
Dixon, a two-year starter, continues to manage a right leg injury that forced him to miss the Badgers’ win over Iowa on Nov. 11 and limited his snaps in the three weeks since.
Dixon said after last week’s game at Minnesota that he expected to practice more in the week leading up to Saturday’s title game.
Dixon entered the game for the first time on the Badgers’ third defensive series — after Ohio State’s Terry McLourin beat Ferguson for an 84-yard touchdown — but the two continued rotating throughout the game.
Barrett starts, plays throughout
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett started for the Buckeyes and did not split time with backup Dwayne Haskins.
Barrett injured his right knee last week at Michigan and underwent a scope on the knee Sunday. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Friday the senior quarterback was cleared to play, but the decision to start Barrett didn’t come until shortly before kickoff.
‘Blood's thicker than a college degree'
In one of UW’s biggest games ever, at least one former player found himself rooting for Ohio State to end the Badgers’ undefeated run.
Kyle Borland, who played linebacker for UW from 1979-82, attended Saturday’s title game to watch his son, redshirt freshman Tuf Borland, play for the Buckeyes.
"Blood’s thicker than a college degree, I guess,” Kyle Borland said earlier this week. "I’ll be cheering for the Buckeyes. ... I love Wisconsin football. Always have.
"I cheer for them every week except for this one."
Tuf Borland, a former four-star prospect out of Bolingbrook (Ill.) High, naturally grew up a Badgers fan and received an offer from UW during the recruiting process.
Ultimately, however, he chose Ohio State, where he entered this weekend with 45 tackles, the fifth-highest on the team.
“It was probably the assumption that a lot of people made, that he would automatically go to Wisconsin,” Kyle Borland said. “It just didn’t work out that way. He chose to kind of forge his own path.
"I didn’t really try to push him (towards UW). What my wife and I used to tease each other about is, he had 16, 17 years of brainwashing on Wisconsin football because that was our team. That’s what we did. And if that wasn’t enough, we weren’t going to try to convince him after that."
Tight end Troy Fumagalli wore a brace on his left leg Saturday. ... Wide receiver Danny Davis took a direct snap with just more than 5 minutes remaining in the second quarter, something the true freshman hasn’t done all season. He gained 5 yards to the Ohio State 6-yard line, but UW eventually kicked a 28-yard field goal to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 21-10.