Iowa Football

Wisconsin football hoping for reset entering Iowa game after back-to-back losses

Badgers needed bye week after falling to Illinois and Ohio State

Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters (18) is sacked by Wisconsin's Chris Orr (54) in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct.19, 2019, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Holly Hart)
Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters (18) is sacked by Wisconsin's Chris Orr (54) in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct.19, 2019, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Holly Hart)

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin inside linebackers coach Bob Bostad spent his bye week hunting, but he had an issue.

He was in his tree stand without his bow.

“As he was making his way down, he fell out of his tree stand (and) hurt his hand, but he didn’t really have any broken bones,” outside linebacker Zack Baun said. “He said, ‘Guess what I did. I got right back up and kept hunting.’”

Now the No. 16 Badger football team finds itself in a similar position. Wisconsin fell from No. 6 in the Associated Press poll to No. 16 following its first stretch of back-to-back losses in more than three years.

As the Badgers hunt for a win against No. 18 Iowa on Saturday, they’re implementing a similar mentality to Bostad’s.

“We fell out of our stand, so to speak,” Baun said. “Now we’re going to get back up there and finish the season.”

There’s far more on the line for the Badgers and Hawkeyes than a good day of hunting, though. With each team already having suffered two conference losses, whoever loses Saturday is essentially eliminated from Big Ten West title contention.

No three-loss team has won a division title since the conference adopted divisions in 2011.

Postseason implications aside, the fight for the Heartland Trophy is an especially big game for the Badgers, Baun and head coach Paul Chryst said.

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“Any time that you’re playing for something (a trophy), it means a lot more, and especially Iowa,” Baun said. “I always feel like there’s some sort of extra fire that ignites this team when Iowa comes around.”

“It’s a great historic rivalry game,” Chryst said. “We have a ton of respect for their program. It’s a big deal, so why not make the most of that opportunity.”

There’s no shortage of work to do at Camp Randall before Saturday’s big game.

The Badgers have looked dramatically different in the last two games compared to the start of the season. After allowing 29 points in their first six games combined, they have allowed 62 points in the last two games.

The offense hasn’t been much better. After recording 23 rushing touchdowns in the first six games, the Badgers’ coveted backfield has one rushing touchdown in its last two games.

“Are we doing with (Jonathan) Taylor too much? Are we not doing enough?” Chryst said. “You try to assess that. ... There have been a couple games where we haven’t been able to consistently run the football.”

Those issues likely won’t get any easier against Iowa’s defense, which has allowed 10.1 points and 265.9 yards per game. Both are good for third in the Big Ten.

“They play well off of each other,” Chryst said. “The strength of their defense is all 11 playing together. ... They don’t give you stuff.”

The Badgers are hoping the bye week — and Bostad’s hunting anecdote — serves as a reset before Saturday.

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“Any time that you get a change in the schedule, it’s a chance to pause as coaches,” Chryst said.

For what it’s worth, the last time Wisconsin lost back-to-back games in 2016, it followed the losses with a 17-9 win at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. That season ended with a trip to the Big Ten championship game and the Cotton Bowl.

But the Badgers aren’t looking too far ahead at end-of-year bowl situations. Inside linebacker Chris Orr said the only thing Wisconsin is focused on this week is beating Iowa.

“It’s a big month, November football. It’s championship football right there,” Orr said. “The main thing that we want to get done or hope to get done is just beating Iowa right now. ... Looking too far ahead is just going to hurt you.”

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