In the first quarter of the University of Wisconsin football team’s 31-20 win over Purdue Saturday, starting middle linebacker Mark Zalewski went out with a left knee injury. After the game, coach Barry Alvarez said that the training staff held Zalewski out for the final three quarters with the hope that he would make a speedy recovery.
Two days later, it appears that Zalewski, the Badgers’ starting mike linebacker all season, will miss at least this week’s game versus Illinois. Zalewski, a team captain, is second on the team with 48 tackles and leads the Badgers with 8.5 tackles for loss.
“I think he was stiffer yesterday than they (the training staff) anticipated, so maybe that was a very optimistic evaluation (Saturday),” Alvarez said Monday.
After Saturday’s game, Zalewski’s left leg was immobilized in a full-leg brace. Sophomore Andy Crooks replaced Zalewski in the lineup, with redshirt freshman Josh Neal filling in at times.
“I thought (Crooks) played better as the game went on,” Alvarez said. “He was rusty to start with. I thought he was a little slow reacting. But I think, as the game went on, I thought he got into the flow a little better and played better.”
Crooks started five games as a true freshman last season, but had played a very limited role this year prior to Zalewski’s injury.
“It’s always frustrating when you are not getting in there as much as you would like to,” Crooks said Saturday. “But you’ve got to keep your head up, you got to practice hard and just wait for your chance.”
Crooks had seven tackles against Purdue, including six solo. He will likely have another opportunity this week.
“I was excited to get in there, get a chance to play,” Crooks said. “You got to try to contain that excitement, though. Because I remember last year the first chance I got to play my mind was going in a bunch of different directions and I was forgetting what calls to make and stuff.
“I made sure not to let that happen this time and focus more on what I needed to do. Just tried to step up.”
“I feel I played all right,” Crooks said. “I made some plays. I didn’t make some… I feel like I could have played better that’s for sure.”
Badgers No. 12 in BCS
With their win Saturday, the Badgers moved up two spots to No. 12 in the BCS Championship rankings. Wisconsin (7-1overall, 4-1 Big Ten) also moved up four spots to No. 15 in the Associated Press poll and two spots to No. 15 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.
The Badgers are also No. 15 in the Harris Interactive poll and are tied for eighth in the composite computer rankings. The BCS rankings are created using a combination of the Harris and coaches’ polls and the computer rankings.
Wisconsin is the second-highest ranked Big Ten team in the BCS standings. Other ranked league teams include No. 9 Penn State, No. 13 Ohio State, No. 20 Minnesota, No. 21 Northwestern and No. 25 Michigan.
Big Ten clutter
With four weeks left in the conference season, there are four Big Ten teams with just one conference loss and three with two league defeats. Penn State and Wisconsin lead the Big Ten at 4-1 in the conference and 7-1 overall, just a half-game ahead of Ohio State and Northwestern (both 3-1, 5-2).
Here are the remaining schedules for the current top seven in the Big Ten:
Wisconsin (4-1, 7-1): at Illinois Oct. 29; at Penn State Nov. 5; Iowa Nov. 12.
Penn State (4-1, 7-1): Purdue Oct. 29; Wisconsin Nov. 5; at Michigan State Nov. 19.
Northwestern (3-1, 5-2): Michigan Oct. 29; Iowa Nov. 5; at Ohio State Nov. 12; at Illinois Nov. 19.
Ohio State (3-1, 5-2): at Minnesota Oct. 29; Illinois Nov. 5; Northwestern Nov. 12; at Michigan Nov. 19.
Michigan (3-2, 5-3): at Northwestern Oct. 29; Indiana Nov. 12; Ohio State Nov. 19.
Iowa (3-2, 5-3): at Northwestern Nov. 5; at Wisconsin Nov. 12; Minnesota Nov. 19.
Minnesota (2-2, 5-2): Ohio State Oct. 29; at Indiana Nov. 5; Michigan State Nov. 12; at Iowa Nov. 19.
Rogers, Ikegwuonu share UW team award
Junior free safety Roderick Rogers and freshman cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu shared UW’s team defensive player of the week award Monday after each player returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the Badgers’ 31-20 win over Purdue Saturday.
Rogers’ 84-yard touchdown return was the fifth-longest interception return in school history. That one gave UW a 17-13 lead. Ikegwuonu’s 62-yard touchdown return made it 31-13 in Wisconsin’s favor.
Ikegwuonu had two interceptions on the day and also had six tackles, including one for loss. Rogers had three pass breakups in addition to his interception and had four tackles.
Tailback Brian Calhoun was the team offensive player of the week. Calhoun caught five passes for a game-high 78 receiving yards and two touchdowns, the Badgers’ only offensive touchdowns of the game. He also ran for 62 yards on 20 carries, including 46 yards on 13 carries in the second half.
Senior receiver/return man Brandon Williams was UW’s special teams player of the week for the fourth time this season. Williams returned three kickoffs for a total of 56 yards and two punts for 23.
Richard Kirtley, a true freshman walk-on wide receiver, was named scout offensive player of the week. Safety James Kamoku was the scout defensive player of the week.
Quick hits: Iowa’s loss to Michigan Saturday ended the Big Ten’s longest home winning streak at 22 games. Wisconsin now has the longest home winning streak in the conference at 11 games, the fifth-longest streak in the nation. Boise State’s 28-game streak is the nation’s best.
Now that he has set a UW school record with 177 career receptions, senior Brandon Williams is just four shy of cracking the top ten in Big Ten history. With five games remaining on the schedule (including a bowl game), Williams has a very good chance of becoming just the seventh player in conference history with 200 career receptions. Williams, though, would need a couple more seasons to catch the all-time conference record-holder Taylor Stubblefield, who completed his Purdue career last season with 325 career receptions.
Brian Calhoun is tied for second in the nation with 16 touchdowns this season (14 rushing, 2 receiving). If he continues that two-touchdown-per-game pace he will tie the conference record of 26, held by Pete Johnson (Ohio State, 1975), Anthony Thompson (Indiana, 1988) and Ki-Jana Carter (Penn State, 1994).