Following this past weekend’s tilt against Minnesota, Wisconsin football players were reportedly in no rush to leave Huntington Bank Stadium.
The Badgers had clinched a 28-14 victory against the Gophers and reclaimed Paul Bunyan’s Axe — which was the perfect ending to an otherwise uneven regular season.
Wisconsin football faithful endured a rollercoaster first year under Luke Fickell
After the dust settled, disappointment among Wisconsin Badgers fans reappeared. Despite a strong finish, Luke Fickell and his team ended the season with a disappointing 7-5 record, denoted by their shortcomings.
Upon reflection, none of the Badgers’ seven wins came against opponents with winning records, leaving some understandably disappointed in the final product. Yet, in the context of recent struggles, the victory against Minnesota represented a significant turnaround.
Just weeks earlier, a dismal home loss to Northwestern had cast a shadow over the Wisconsin football team’s heart, prompting questions about their collective dedication — and potentially needing to ‘weed out’ anyone who hadn’t embraced the program’s new vision.
The Badgers response, however, was decisive — a nerve-wracking overtime victory against Nebraska, preserving their bowl streak, followed by a convincing road win against PJ Fleck and Minnesota.
These wins not only halted a two-game losing streak to their rivals but also (should have) prevented the Golden Gophers from reaching a bowl game — although they wound up sneaking in with a lousy 5-7 record.
There were moments when players like Hunter Wohler and Tanner Mordecai questioned the Wisconsin football team’s collective commitment, expressing concerns about their teammates’ buy-in level.
Despite the setbacks, head coach Luke Fickell refuted notions of insufficient dedication. He acknowledged the adversity faced by the Badgers but praised their ability to come together in challenging times, especially after a string of consecutive losses to inferior opponents.
What does this mean for Wisconsin football moving forward?
As for the team’s trajectory, whether this late-season turnaround signifies a pivotal moment for a Wisconsin football program that has produced mediocre results (by their standards) in the last four seasons remains to be seen.
Luke Fickell understands the challenges in revitalizing a program that needs an influx of talent to compete for championships, especially considering the looming Big Ten conference expansion.
However, the last two weeks showcased the passion and resolve a blue-collar program like Wisconsin needs to embody to get back on the right track — and it’s great to see that Fickell was able to rally the troops.
Despite falling short, at least in terms of outside expectations, this team displayed resilience and illustrated the locker room wanting to win at all costs during its rivalry games — which is a step in the right direction.
If coach Fickell can hit the transfer portal hard this offseason and retain its core contributors — a better product may be on the horizon — even though the 2024 schedule is brutal.
For ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinions, and analysis, you can follow Dillon Graff on X @DillonGraff.