Thursday, October 2, 2008

Badger classic: Wisconsin 17, Ohio State 10

Over the summer I recorded the Big Ten Network's re-airing of Wisconsin's 2003 win over Ohio State at Camp Randall, which ended the defending national champions' 19-game winning streak. This being the five-year anniversary of that game, and with a Camp Randall night game against OSU scheduled for October 4, what better time to review that game than now?

-That was a nasty night, weather-wise. It wasn't such a bad day, but as gametime approached things got worse. Up here in Scandinavia, we got the same rain and wind that Madison got, which knocked my satellite reception out moments before the opening kickoff. I was miffed, but the feed came back soon enough.

-I would really like to remember this as the Lee Evans/Matt Schabert Game. The game-winning touchdown pass was a thing of beauty, a perfect route run by our All-American coming off knee surgery, the kid from Ohio who had been shut out to that point. Schabert was coming in off the bench cold, hadn't done much of anything to that point, and threw a perfect pass. Later he picked up a big first down on a naked bootleg. Never to be heard from again ...

-But whenever that game comes to mind, it's as the Robert Reynolds Chokes Sorgi Game. Five years hasn't really made me any less mad about the incident.

First Reynolds chokes Jim Sorgi, and no penalty is called. Then, Reynolds' coaches leave him in the game -- hey, he was their leading tackler that night, can't pull him, right? Then, after committing what was a borderline criminal act, Jim Tressel suspends him ... for one game!

Sure, he apologized afterward, but they were hollow words. With about five minutes to play in that game it looked like Ohio State was going to win, with Reynolds' choke of Sorgi a big reason why.

Not surprisingly, several years later Reynolds was involved in a domestic dispute with his then-wife. According to the AP story, "She said she was afraid because her husband is 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds and has a 'violent past.' She told police this wasn't the first time Reynolds had been violent, although only one report was previously filed with authorities." The Sorgi choking was mentioned at the bottom of the story.

All this self-righteousness from me aside, here's hoping Reynolds has gotten control of his violent side and is leading an honorable life nowadays.

At the time, with Maurice Clarett still a vivid memory, it seemed like Tressel was building a renegade program for the new millennium. The Buckeyes have seemingly cleaned up their act since.

-It's still baffling to me that if Sorgi was hurt so badly he couldn't speak, that if his throat or esophagus or vocal chords were that badly injured, why wasn't he taken to a hospital, or at least to the locker room? Instead he just looked like a sad little boy on the sideline, while Reynolds marched on.

-Ohio State these last 2-3 years is much, much better than they were in 2002-03, national title notwithstanding. It speaks to the overall strength of the rest of the college football world — specifically the SEC — that the Buckeyes have not won a national title with these players.

-OSU's offense in 2003 was very average, as was our defense. The Buckeyes' defense was fierce, though — Will Smith, A.J. Hawk, Will Allen, Chris Gamble. And what about B.J. Sander, the best third round draft pick in Packers history?

-Our guys looked slow wearing white shoes.

-Matt LePay commented in one of the many interviews airing around the broadcast that Barry Alvarez preferred playing teams like Ohio State because they are no frills. I feel exactly the same way — forget the Spread, line up and play football like men. Used to feel the same way about playing Michigan, until they decided to import the same offense Northwestern uses.

-Brandon Williams played really well early, did a nice job finding openings in the defense.

-Booker Stanley and Matt Bernstein were terrific pounding out tough yardage on the ground. That game showed the need for our program to have three capable tailbacks.

-Anttaj Hawthorne played a great game up front, flashing the promise that made him seem like a future NFL player. Alas, it was not to be.

-Spotted a true freshman Joe Thomas wearing #82 in the Jumbo package, funny.

-Still get goosebumps watching the end of a big Badger win like this one, even when the outcome is known ahead of time and I'm watching it on my living room floor by myself. Let's get 'em again this weekend!

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