5 Wisconsin The two-time defending Rose Bowl champs will prove there's life after Dayne

August 13, 2000

For four years, Wisconsin has come at opponents with all the
subtlety of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, with Ron Dayne in the
role of the relentless Terminator. This season, however, with the
running man having graduated, coach Barry Alvarez feels the
Badgers are ready to show there's more to Wisconsin football than
5.7 yards and a cloud of dust. "I think we'll be a well-balanced
team," says Alvarez. "We're going to spread the ball around this

The man who will be divvying things up for Alvarez is sophomore
quarterback Brooks Bollinger, who went 7-0 as a starter last
season after the Badgers got off to a 2-2 start. The mobile Grand
Forks, N.Dak., native is a double threat; he rushed for 445 yards
and completed 59.5% of his passes. Still, Bollinger knows Alvarez
isn't going to morph into Steve Spurrier overnight. "We're not
going to revamp our whole offense," he says. "Coach is never
going to throw the ball 50 times a game, but we're going to be a
lot more diverse. We have to threaten teams and make them respect
the deep ball."

Bollinger's targets will include senior split end Chris Chambers,
who caught 36 passes last fall; junior flanker Nick Davis; and
5'10", 205-pound junior running back Michael Bennett, Dayne's
likely replacement. The Big Ten outdoor champion in the 100 and
200 meters, Bennett is a quicksilver back who saw only spot duty
in '99, gaining 292 yards on 56 carries. "All you can do is give
it your best," he says of replacing a Heisman Trophy winner. "I
think I can help open things up with my speed and get downfield
to catch some passes."

He will benefit from running behind a massive offensive line that
is building a reputation for excellence once reserved only for a
handful of teams. All-America tackle Chris McIntosh may be gone,
but senior center Casey Rabach leads a trio of returning
three-year starters.

While the new offensive philosophy is untested, the Wisconsin
defense is a proven performer. It may in fact be college
football's finest, ranking first nationally in scoring defense in
1998 and fifth last year. At its heart is an experienced,
dominating secondary, led by junior cornerback Jamar Fletcher,
possibly the best defensive player in the country. Joining him
will be junior corner Mike Echols and senior free safety Jason
Doering, one of the Big Ten's fiercest hitters. The defensive
line is also strong, anchored by 298-pound junior tackle Wendell
Bryant and senior rush end John Favret. "We have a lot of
confidence and a lot of experience," says Fletcher. "We dictate
the game."

As if being loaded on offense and defense isn't enough, the
Badgers also return a superlative special teams unit. Senior
kicker Vitaly Pisetsky was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award,
and senior punter Kevin Stemke has averaged 43.1 yards a kick
over the last three seasons. Davis scored five touchdowns on
kickoff and punt returns last year.

After two straight Top 10 finishes, Wisconsin is eager to play
somewhere besides Pasadena in January. To contend for the
national title, however, the Badgers must defeat Michigan in Ann
Arbor, something they have done just once since 1962. "We have
all the tools," insists Fletcher. "We can beat anybody."

--Mark Beech

COLOR PHOTO: VINCENT MUZIK Can the Badgers' offense intimidate opponents with the horror of Chambers?

Fast Facts

1999 record: 10-2 (7-1, 1st in Big Ten)
Final ranking: No. 4 AP, No. 4 coaches' poll

Telling Number

Big Ten schools to win back-to-back Rose Bowls before the Badgers
entered the record book with victories in '99 and '00.

5 Key Returnees

CB Jamar Fletcher Jr. Led Big Ten in interceptions in '99
DT Wendell Bryant Jr. 44 tackles included seven sacks
C Casey Rabach Sr. Has made 32 starts in three years
FS Jason Doering Sr. 187 tackles in past two years
QB Brooks Bollinger So. Big Ten freshman of the year in '99

The Book

An opposing team's coach sizes up The Badgers

"Everybody says they're going to be better than they were last
year. I don't see it. People are very high on Bennett, but he
hasn't proved he can be an every-down back. He's fast and can
break the big play, but I'm not sure that he's a guy you can
count on to get you five yards at any given time the way Dayne
did. People are underestimating how important Dayne was to this
offense. He set things up and bailed out his teammates whenever
they needed it....Their offensive linemen are as physical and
tough as any in college football. They're looking to beat you up
and dominate you. They have a real whip-your-ass
mentality....Bollinger is a good play-action quarterback and
runs well. He'll have to prove he can be a pocket passer,
though....The defense is the strongest part of this team. The
Badgers don't have much of a pass rush but they're tough and
really punish you. Bryant is an ox, and Fletcher is one of the
best cornerbacks in the country....They're well coached and have
excellent special teams. Davis can fly and is a dangerous return

Strength: 33rd of 115


Sept. 9 OREGON
30 at Michigan

14 at Michigan St.
28 at Iowa

11 at Indiana
25 at Hawaii


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