Bollinger blows Minnesota away

by Sarah Mitchell

MADISON, Wis. — Badgers running back Michael Bennett sat on the Camp Randall sideline in uniform on Saturday. That’s all he did.
Bennett was cleared to play against Minnesota on a sprained ankle, but chose not to. With one of the nation’s premiere rushers out, questions abounded where Wisconsin’s offense — ranked ninth in the Big Ten — would find its spark.
Enter quarterback Brooks Bollinger.
In the Badgers 41-20 defeat of the Gophers, Bollinger played like he had a year ago.
“You want to go to war with Brooks as your quarterback,” Badgers coach Barry Alvarez said. “Brooks is a competitor. That’s what he is. He’s a fierce competitor.”
Against Minnesota, the sophomore amassed 331 yards of total offense, the ninth-most in school history. Besides completing 12 of 21 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns, Bollinger rushed for 127 yards (the second-most yardage for a quarterback in the Badgers history) and one touchdown on 13 carries.
In the absence of Bennett, Bollinger’s ability to run on designed plays and his sense to ad-lib on his feet were most important.
“A couple of them were just plays were things broke down a little bit and I was able to get free,” Bollinger said. “And a couple of times it was on bootlegs and there was just a little seam in there and I got it. It’s just the way I play. I m not afraid to tuck and run with it if the situation presents itself.”
The first half was not truly indicative of the day Bollinger would have.
Right before the half, a frustrated Wisconsin crowd shouted at Bollinger to throw downfield to an open Nick Davis. Bollinger eventually picked-up the Badgers wide receiver and hit him for a 45-yard touchdown.
With the score, the Badgers were down 12-10 at the half and Bollinger was down on himself.
“The first half was a little frustrating. I was missing a couple of guys and I didn t think I was making good reads and just not putting the ball where I needed to put it,” Bollinger said.
“I don t know what happened, but at a certain point you’ve just got to say, Enough is enough, and just calm down and make the play when it presents itself.”
In the second half, Bollinger returned to the Brooks-of-old and provided a spark for a Wisconsin team that had yet to win a conference game at home this season.
Bollinger continually eluded the Gophers defense, rushing for 98 yards and one touchdown while passing for 93 yards and one touchdown.
“There were a number of times it looked like we were in great shape and had him tackled for a loss, but he ended gaining 15 yards,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said. “That breaks your back.”
Normally, a coach’s words of praise are for Bennett. But the Badgers did not need Bennett on Saturday.
His teammates know it.
“We win games because of Brooks Bollinger,” Davis said. “That showed through today.”