It turned out to be a special season for the 2010 Wisconsin Badger Football team as they ended an 11-year drought of both Big Ten Titles and Rose Bowl appearances. Here are my Top 10 plays that helped shape this magical season.
#10 - James White leaves Minnesota tackler in his waste on 25-yard run to the 1. White juked the Gopher defender out of his shorts and actually scored a TD on the play but was ruled out at the 1. He would score on the next play and of course, Wisconsin would go for the controversial 2-point conversion. This play typified the impact of White as a second option in the backfield all season long.
#9 - Monte Ball weaves through Northwestern for a 44-yard TD. This play put an
exclamation point on the season and the emergence of Ball over the last 5 games. A seemingly harmless toss sweep turned into a beautiful long touchdown run, something no one would have expected from Ball after the first 7 games. It is also a play that John Clay does not have in his arsenal.
#8 - Any play made by J.J. Watt the entire season, but I will specifically go with his sack on the final drive at Iowa. Even though Iowa eventually picked up the first down, this play took yards and a time-out off the board. Watt was also a one-man wrecking crew against Northwestern, was all over Terrelle Pryor and made an athletic interception against Michigan.
#7 - Jay Valai blocks the game-tying extra point against Arizona State. The Sun Devils had just scored the apparent game-tying touchdown making it 20-19. Valai proceeded to make that the final score, blocking the extra point and allowing the Badger offense the opportunity to run out the clock. At a time of the season where the offense was struggling, overtime would not have been a welcome sight that day.
#6 - Montee Ball catches a low pass from Scott Tolzein on 4th and 4 to keep the game-winning drive alive against Iowa. Some forget the second 4th down the Badgers faced (I will get to the first one later). The 7-yard gain to the Hawkeye 27 kept the Badgers alive once again and set-up Ball's game-winning run.
#5 - James White takes it in from 23 yards out against Ohio State. The Buckeyes had cut a 21-3 halftime lead to 21-18 and appeared to seize the momentum. Then White broke a pair of tackles and burst into the end zone to make it 28-18 and take back that momentum. Ohio State never threatened again.
#4 - Scott Tolzien somehow gets the ball to Isaac Anderson on 3rd and 7 against Iowa to set-up a 4th and 4. When it happened, it was a nice play, but seemed like an effort for naught. Keep in mind, it would have been 4th and 18 if he had been sacked. Play #2 below would have never happened.
#3 - Two unsung special teamers stop Arizona State inches from the goal line before halftime. Less than a yard avoided a huge momentum swing and kept Wisconsin from tripping up at home to what turned out to be a desperately mediocre Sun Devils team. This play happened directly in front of me at Camp Randall and could have had disastrous consequences.
#2 - Brad Nortman executes a perfect fake punt on the game-winning TD drive at Iowa. No one really saw this play coming - just punt it away and hope the defense can hold. This may be Bret Bielema's defining moment as a coach though - the Badgers hadn't really stopped Iowa the whole game. He rolled the dice and in the end, it came up roses.
#1 - David Gilreath takes the opening kickoff back for a TD against Ohio State. Until that moment, the Badgers were a disappointment, sputtering past lesser teams and stumbling at Michigan State. Gilreath's return announced to the rest of the College Football world that Wisconsin had finally arrived in 2010. If you haven't heard the Matt Lepay call of this return, you should. It gives me shivers every time.