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January 9, 2011

BadgerBlitz.com post-season awards

MADISON - The 2010 Wisconsin football season was one filled with excitement, passion, controversy, drama, joy and disappointment. Now that it's over, BadgerBlitz.com staff members Jon McNamara and Tom Lea hand out their end-of-season awards.

The following are a look back at the players, plays, games and moments that mattered during UW's 11-2 run for the roses and Big Ten title season.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

McNamara: He didn't put up gaudy numbers or play his best in Wisconsin's final game, but senior Scott Tolzien's ability to solidify the quarterback position and lead UW's offense is the main reason why the Badgers won 11 games in 2010. A high-character guy on and off the field, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award recipient was the center of a powerful Badger offense that averaged 445.15 yards per game with 70 total touchdowns.

Lea: You can talk about the three-headed monster at running back, but I guarantee those three don't have quite the success they did without solid - and very efficient - play from senior quarterback Scott Tolzien. Entering the season, many tabbed Tolzien as a game manager. By the end of it, I'd be willing to bet many of those same people would tab Tolzien as one of the better playmakers on the squad. He was always poised in the pocket, shied away from mental mistakes, led one of the more efficient offenses in UW history and led the team by example. Simply put, UW doesn't win a share of the Big Ten title without Tolzien under center.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

McNamara: This one really isn't even that close. J.J. Watt (stats) dominated from his defensive end position and was the heart and soul of this unit. The post-season accolades were both lengthy and well deserved for Watt, who just days ago announced he would enter the NFL Draft and forego his final season in Madison.

Lea: Like Jon mentioned, there really wasn't much of a contest in this department. Watt completely took over games at times and willed his team to victory. He had a relentless drive to be great and a motor that allowed him to reach that level. Whenever UW needed a big play defensively, it usually started (and ended) with Watt's involvement. He'll be a first round pick in April's NFL Draft and a player the Badgers will sorely miss a year from now.

COACH OF THE YEAR:

McNamara: Offensive line coach Bob Bostad gets the honor after producing two All-Americans this season in seniors Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt. A dominant unit that nearly produced three 1,000-yard backs, Bostad deserves much of the credit for keeping them focused and hungry all season.

Lea:Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is going to take a bevy of flak for the game he called during the Rose Bowl. Whether that's deserved or overblown will always depend on who you talk to. Still, even with that game sticking out like a sore thumb, Chryst spearheaded an offense that blew any other historical UW offensive output out of the water. Seriously, how many of you would have imagined this Badger offense would average 41 points per game this season? Take a second to sit back and think about that, because it's nothing short of incredible.

I also think Bret Bielema should get his just due. He was the man in charge of this run and it was all his recruits that got them to where they went.

PLAY OF THE YEAR:

McNamara: Wisconsin's failed two-point conversion against TCU late in the Rose Bowl will be discussed, ridiculed and dissected by Badger fans for the next 20 years. Should they have given the ball to John Clay? Would Tolzien have hit the wide-open Jacob Pedersen in the end zone had the ball not been knocked down at the line of scrimmage? Fans will have those lingering thoughts until Wisconsin makes its way back to Pasadena and redeems itself.

Lea:I said it at the time and I'll say it again now. The play that preceded the fake punt at Iowa is my play of the year. Bill Nagy came in to play center for a nicked up Peter Konz and delivered a terrible snap to Tolzien on third down. Instead of just falling on the loose ball, Tolzien calmly scooped it up and delivered a strike to Isaac Anderson for a three-yard gain. Had the senior quarterback simply fallen on the ball, there is no way Bret Bielema dials up a fake punt facing fourth and 15+ deep in his own territory. The three-yard gain set up a more manageable fourth down and one that kept the drive alive in a game UW would go on to win.

GAME OF THE YEAR:

McNamara: Simply put, Wisconsin's road win over Iowa was the most entertaining game of the season, in my eyes. Battling numerous injuries, the Badgers, through a well-executed game plan by the coaching staff, picked up an electrifying win in a hostile environment just a week after defeating the No. 1 team in the country.

Lea:Even though it came in a losing effort, I'd say the Rose Bowl was the game of the year. On the games biggest stage, both UW and TCU poured their hearts onto that pristine grass inside the hallowed stadium. That game had everything you could want. There were big hits, solid offense, better defense and drama that had everybody on the edge of their seat. Unfortunately for UW fans, the game didn't go down the way many envisioned. That doesn't negate the fact that it was one of the best games of the 2010 regular and bowl seasons.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR:

McNamara: The scene at Camp Randall after Wisconsin defeated Ohio State is difficult to put into words. A special moment for all involved, this will go down in Badger lore as one of the top events in this university's athletic history.

Lea:Though I've only been working the Badger beat for a little more than four years, I have seen my fair share of games and post-game press conference. Never, in more than 100 different opportunities, did I experience anything like I did following UW's loss in the Rose Bowl.

When asked how long it would take to get over the loss, especially understanding that the game could quite possibly have been his last in a Badger uniform, Watt was reduced to tears in front of a throng of reporters. In that instance, you could tell how much that game meant to him because it simply overwhelmed him in that moment.

You had to feel for a kid that simply put his heart on the line for this team throughout the season both on and off the field. You can ask me five, 10 or 25 years from now what I remember most vividly about the 2010 UW season and I will say that post game presser with Watt because it was that emotional and poignant.

UNDER THE RADAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

McNamara: Carimi and Moffitt received all the attention this year - and deservedly so - but center Peter Konz played his position about as well as you can at the collegiate level. His unique ability to pull in the run game and eliminate defenders five or six yards down the field gave Wisconsin a sizeable advantage on the ground. The in-state sophomore should begin to garner national respect in 2011 as the key cog on the Badgers' line.

Lea: I know he was a senior and had made impacts throughout the course of his career at various times, but when Chris Borland went down with a season ending injury early on, I thought Blake Sorensen performed at a very high level. He might not be as explosive as Borland, but Sorensen was more than adequate throughout the course of the year and made several plays that allowed UW gets a few huge wins along the way.

THE PLAYER I WAS MOST IMPRESSED WITH...

McNamara: The impact running back James White made as a true freshman will certainly have Badger fans eagerly awaiting the 2011 season. White, who rushed for 1,052 yards and 14 scores, moved ahead of senior Zach Brown during fall camp and kept climbing the depth chart as the season progressed. The Florida native eventually eclipsed the 1000-yard mark and took home conference honors for the top freshman of the year. His speed and big-play ability gives Wisconsin something they have not had in the backfield since Brian Calhoun's days on campus.

Lea: Was Montee Ball. Really, through the first six or seven games of the season Ball was a complete afterthought behind John Clay and White. Then, when injuries surfaced in that Iowa game the sophomore tailback jumped in without missing a beat and willed the Badgers to victory. Apparently that game was just the beginning as Ball went on to rush for nearly 1,000 yards and double-digit scores. I was just so impressed with his demeanor in the adverse times and then again when he had success. He's a guy UW can expect big things from in the future.

THE BEST PART OF THE 2010 SEASON WAS...

McNamara: Getting the BCS monkey off Bret Bielama's back and sending Wisconsin to Pasadena was the best part of this season. After an 11-year absence, a sea of red flooded the Rose Bowl and the Badgers were the talk of the Big Ten in the days leading up to the New Year. Despite a close loss to TCU, Wisconsin fans will remember this as the year they returned to Camp Randall West.

Lea: Was just watching the look of determination in the players eyes throughout the year and then seeing them able to rejoice when hurdles were overcome at various junctures. I remember talking to the players during the Ohio State game and feeling how much they wanted that win. Then I remember being on the field following that win and seeing Jay Valai and Aaron Henry celebrating together with tears running down their face amongst thousands and thousands of ecstatic fans.

It was truly a special season and one that will go down in Badger history for many years to come. From my point of view, it was a joy watching the coaches and players faces light up on so many occasions throughout that season.

WHEN THE 2011 SEASON GETS UNDERWAY, THE PLAYER UW WILL MISS THE MOST...

McNamara: Watt's an easy call here and I wouldn't argue with anyone who picked him. But from a behind-the-scenes perspective, those who cover this football team will miss Moffitt's personality and cooperation with the media. A down-to-earth and likeable person through and through, the senior lineman has provided a good deal of laughs - along with his strong play on the field - for the past five years.

Lea: Is Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt. I understand the offensive line will be very good again next year because that's what Wisconsin does. They churn out incredible fronts each and every year. But it won't be the same without both Moffitt and Carimi. The two seniors played a ton of football for a Wisconsin squad that won a lot of games throughout their tenure.

They had a bond together and chemistry that was unmatched among many duos across both the Big Ten and nation. They shared a will to be great and want to succeed. I don't know if those are traits that are embedded within offensive linemen that often. But those two definitely had it and they will definitely be missed moving forward.




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