ORLANDO, Fla. – Much of the talk around here this week has been about Wisconsin’s ground attack and Brian Calhoun, but wide receivers Brandon Williams and Jonathan Orr will each look to finish up solid senior seasons against Auburn.
Orr has more than 600 receiving yards and matched his freshman total of eight touchdowns this year. Williams needs 78 yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark and has five receiving touchdown this season.
While the Badgers will rely on Calhoun, it is Williams and Orr who open up the Wisconsin offense and ensure that teams cannot focus solely on the run.
“Wisconsin has improved greatly in passing the ball off the run,” Auburn defensive coordinator David Gibbs said. “Calhoun’s so good, they can fake it to him and open up the passing game. It can be very stressful to opposing defenses.”
Williams, along with being a receiving threat, also gives the Badgers an opportunity to score on every kick and punt return. The Badgers’ Special Teams Player of the Year has nearly 1,000 total return yards and has taken two punts to pay-dirt this season.
“Brandon’s a gamer, he has been ever since his true freshman year,” head coach Barry Alvarez said. “We like to get the ball in his hands. When he’s healthy, he’s really a good football player.”
Orr, who had a record-setting freshman campaign but had just 20 receptions in the last two seasons combined, has returned to form and made some clutch catches for the Badgers in his final year.
He has also become a pivotal leader for the team.
“J.O. is very steady individual,” Alvarez said. “He’s a guy that the rest of the team looks up to and respects very much.
“I’d like to see them both have big games.”
Looking to improve solid bowl record
While the Capital One Bowl gives Wisconsin a chance to end the season with 10 wins and send Alvarez out victorious, it also gives the head coach a chance to improve an already solid bowl record.
This is Alvarez’s 11th bowl in his 16-year career and he goes into Monday’s game with a 7-3 record in his tenure.
“Bowls are difficult to win,” Alvarez said. “Early on, when we won several in a row just coming out of the chutes, other than myself and some of the guys on my staff, no one in the athletic department had any experience with bowls.
“To be able to find a routine that worked and draw on our experiences was good. I’m very proud of it.”
The game against Auburn will also give Wisconsin an opportunity to snap a two-game skid in bowl games. The Badgers have not won a bowl game since a victory over Colorado in the 2002 Alamo Bowl.
“We’ve had some good games. We’ve played a couple where we haven’t played very well,” Alvarez said. “All in all 7-3 is not bad.”
Alvarez celebrates birthday in Orlando
This time of year is double the fun for Alvarez when his Badgers are in a bowl game because he gets to celebrate his birthday with his team, usually somewhere warm.
“I think it’s a good combination,” said Alvarez, who turned 59 Friday. “When we spend Christmas and vacations at home, those aren’t good years for me.”
The Badgers resumed practice Friday and were going to help Alvarez celebrate his big day at Disney World in the afternoon.
Alvarez also relished the fact that his family was with him to celebrate on the road once again.
“You get a chance to experience a bowl game and do some things with your family and it’s really neat,” he said.