2.1.06

IF YOU WANT TO BE A BADGER. Wisconsin football coach Barry Alvarez finished his coaching stint at Wisconsin (he stays on as director of athletics) with a 24-10 win over Auburn in the Capital One Bowl. (Not Capital One "Wallet" Bowl?) Although the touchdown drive that Wisconsin answered Auburn's touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter might have been the defining moment of the game, the drive that best exemplifies the Alvarez era is the one that finished the game. Auburn's special teams downed a punt inside the Wisconsin 1. (Yes, some replays showed that ball in the end zone, but I'm persuaded that instant replay is leading to sloppy refereeing, as the on-field guys are counting on the upstairs guys to bail them out. That's for another season.)

No doubt the Auburn fans were still hanging onto some hope at this time. Despite Wisconsin's two-touchdown lead, there were still six minutes or so to play, with the SEC's best defense and a potent offense waiting for some more snaps. And that defense came within a second of sacking quarterback John Stocco for a safety, but Stocco completed the pass for a first down. A few more runs, a few more pass plays, a few more first downs, and now it's first and goal with under two minutes to play. Auburn's coaching staff didn't prolong the obvious with spite times-out (one wishes there was some equivalent to tipping over the King in football and basketball games with the result decided), and two more running plays and a game-ending take-a-knee ends it.

Those long drives that kept the ball out of the hands of the other team's offense and ran out the clock were a key feature of the Rose Bowl seasons. It is difficult to conceive of a more fitting end to the Alvarez era at Wisconsin.

On ice, the natural order of things is being restored. Wisconsin won the Badger Hockey Showdown, defeating Western Michigan and then Northern Michigan. The other participant was Wayne State. (Did Wayne State make skimpy counter-offers to faculty to pay for this hockey team? And what's up with the Wayne "Warriors?" When I was there it was the Wayne State "Tartars.") And what's this I see, Wisconsin 4 at Minnesota 3, then Wisconsin 4 at Minnesota 0! SIEVE!

How things change ... the last time a Wisconsin team won the NCAA tournament, they were playing New Year's Eve games against teams with CCCP on their jerseys. Will the hockey gods grant Wisconsin an NCAA title and let Michigan be the evil empire?

RUNNING EXTRA. Four Block World summarizes.

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