Sophomore running back Montee Ball carries the ball for the Cardinal squad in Saturday\’s annual Spring Game. Ball started in place of John Clay, rushing for 74 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.[/media-credit]Kickoffs were nonexistent, some scores counted for double and the quarterbacks looked more prepared for a Christmas party than a football game, wearing green practice jerseys over their cardinal or white jerseys.Yes, Saturday’s spring game was just that — a spring game. However, despite the final score reading 33-11 in favor of the Cardinal (first team plus key reserves), very few Badgers were happy with the day’s offensive production.“We need to be better than that in the fall,” starting quarterback Scott Tolzien said. “It’s good for us to have a setback like that, as long as we use it to our advantage to realize that there’s a sense of urgency here and we gotta have a great offseason to move forward.”While the negative attitude may seem exaggerated given the date of the game, both the Cardinal and White squads had lackluster days on the offensive end, particularly in the red zone.Starting at the 30-yard-line to prevent injuries on kickoffs, the Cardinal managed only two field goals on its first two drives and ended the first quarter up 6-0.In the second, Tolzien led the first teamers down the field for a touchdown on a two-yard Montee Ball touchdown run. The sophomore was starting in place of John Clay, who has been held out of all spring practices after offseason ankle surgery.“I feel that we got beat on the line of scrimmage. I feel like I could have made better reads too,” Ball said. “I got a lot of work to do and I’m taking pride in it over the summer.”The Cardinal would score again shortly before halftime, this time on a seven-yard run by Ball. The first team managed only five more points in the second half, though, three on another Philip Welch field goal and two on a safety.Welch was a bright spot for the Badgers, hitting all three of his field goal attempts from 20, 26 and 32 yards.“I think in the first half, particularly at the end when we got down there in the red zone, you’d like to see them finish things off,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “But I also really feel that Scotty’s probably got a better handle on what needs to happen.”Special teams also got a workout in “rapid fire” field goal drills at the end of the first and third quarters. Each kicker, starting with Welch, took turns kicking field goals without a defensive rush, backing up after each attempt.In the first series, backup kicker Alec Lerner, a redshirt freshman, matched Welch, though one of Welch’s scores seemed to sail wide of the upright. Later, however, Lerner struggled, going 1-for-4 while Welch was perfect.On the day, the Cardinal finished with 246 yards of total offense, compared to the White’s 77. Tolzien completed 12 of 22 attempts for 138 yards and zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. Ball was the leading rusher on the day, despite gaining only 74 yards on 24 carries — a meek 3.1 yards per carry average.Starting tight end Lance Kendricks was Tolzien’s favorite target on the day, leading all receivers with six catches for 63 yards.Injuries surely played a factor in Saturday’s outcome, as the Badgers have been missing key players all spring.In addition to Clay, starting wideout Nick Toon sat out the game with a concussion sustained in a scrimmage one week earlier, while left tackle Gabe Carimi and left guard/center John Moffitt each missed the beginning of spring practices after offseason surgeries. However, both Carimi and Moffitt participated Saturday.“We just got Moff back this week, (and) he’s only got three practices in,” Bielema said. “One of the benefits that we’ll have going in to next fall is that we’ve got three guys now with Pete [Konz], Travis [Frederick] and John who will have played center for us.”For the second-teamers dressed in white, Saturday was even more of a struggle. Every score for White counted double in an attempt to compensate for their competitive disadvantage, but the only actual points scored came on a 37-yard field goal by Lerner in the second quarter.After impressing throughout spring practices, backup quarterback Jon Budmayr struggled. Likely to enter the fall second on the depth chart behind Tolzien, the redshirt freshman was given plenty of reps, even subbing for Tolzien on the Cardinal side late in the third quarter. By the end of the day, however, Budmayr had thrown two interceptions and completed only 12 of 25 passes for 84 yards.“Jon is a student of the game,” Bielema said. “You can definitely tell there’s a big difference between last spring and this spring, going through it for the second time. Sometimes that second unit gets a little frustrated because if they’re going against the one’s, they can’t get things going all that much. But Jon does a really good job, I think, of feeling his way around the pocket. ”Compared to last year’s spring game, where the Cardinal racked up 563 yards, Saturday understandably left the Badgers a bit puzzled and disappointed. Luckily, as Carimi pointed out after the game, it’s only mid-April.“We’re going to just attack these next three weeks and then go into summer conditioning with a whole mindset just knowing that we have to work, be kinda angry, wanting to be better.”
It’s been an up-and-down stretch of games for the Wisconsin men’s hockey team this winter, seeing one of its worst losses in program history yet one of its biggest wins of the season. The Badgers started their past five games with hosting the U.S. National Under-18 team in an exhibition match Dec. 12. Considering Wisconsin’s youth and high number of underclassmen on their roster, it was a rare opportunity for the Badgers to play a team younger than them.However, the Badgers were unable to take advantage of their youthful opponent and lost the game 4-1. UW took a 1-0 lead into the third period, but conceded four goals to the U-18 team over the final 20 minutes of play.After the loss, Wisconsin was able to get away for a holiday break before picking things back up a couple weeks later. While Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said he was disappointed in their 4-1 loss, he felt his team could use the break to take a step back and hit the reset button.“I’m glad we have a break because it’s a time to re-boot the program,” Eaves said at the time. “Re-boot the computer here a little bit. They need to finish strong in school, go home and enjoy their family, and we’ll re-boot the program when we get back. We’re not where we want to be, we still have place and growth to have, and we’ll come back and do that.”Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the Badgers did not get the response they hoped for when they returned from their holiday break Jan. 2 for a two-game home series against Michigan Tech, who entered the game ranked fifth in the nation.In their first game of 2015, Wisconsin suffered their worst loss of the season, losing 8-1 to Michigan Tech. Michigan Tech’s eight goals were the most the Badgers had ever given up in a single game at the Kohl Center.Despite the blowout loss, Wisconsin redshirt senior defenseman Chase Drake said they were not going to let the game continue to faze them and vowed they would bounce back.“I think it’s just a minor set back,” Drake said. “We have to stay positive regardless of the outcome tonight. We’re just really looking forward tomorrow.”Eaves echoed the positive attitude following the loss, saying he was confident they would play better in the second game against Michigan Tech.“They are certainly not that much better than us,” Eaves said. “By playing tonight, we’ll get up to speed and be better tomorrow night.”Eaves was exactly right, as the Badgers responded to one of their worst performances by coming back and playing their best game of the season the next night. In the second game of the series, Wisconsin upset fifth-ranked Michigan Tech in a low-scoring 2-0 battle.Badger goaltender Joel Rumpel was pivotal in Wisconsin’s upset victory, recording one of the greatest goal-tending performances in recent memory. Michigan Tech dominated the shots on goal 47-19 and put pressure on the Badgers all night, but Rumpel came up big time after time, on his way to a career-high 47-save performance.Rumpel said he and his team were determined to come back strong after losing big the night before. Rumpel’s performance in goal earned high praise from teammate Morgan Zulinick.“Incredible. That’s the only way I can describe it,” Zulinick said. “[Rumpel] was amazing all night.”After Wisconsin’s series with Michigan Tech, the road ahead did not get any easier for the Badgers. For the second straight weekend, Wisconsin played a two-game home series against a top-five nationally ranked team, this time against the second-ranked Boston Terriers.Wisconsin kicked off the series with BU by continuing their improved play. The Badgers outplayed the Terriers throughout the first two periods and were leading second-ranked Boston 3-1 late in the third period, but surrendered two goals in the last three minutes of the game.The second BU goal came in heartbreaking fashion, with just three seconds left in regulation. After a scoreless overtime period, the game ended in a 3-3 tie. While Eaves was disappointed the Badgers did not come out with a win, he was still impressed with the Badgers’ performance against another top team.“I’m focusing on the first 57 [minutes],” Eaves said. “We learned our lessons, but gosh [we] did so many tremendous things for so long.”After the heartbreaking loss, Wisconsin’s momentum came to a halt the following night, as they lost the rematch with Boston 6-1 on Jan. 10. UW outshot the Terriers 33-32 in the loss.The Badgers (2-12-2, 0-2-0 Big Ten) will continue a tough month of January with two series against their biggest rival, Minnesota, with another two-game series against Michigan in between series with the Gophers.