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  • Roger Holzgrafe


Updated: Nov 5, 2022


Notre Dame Fighting Irish


Wisconsin Badgers

“Graduating Champions”

The Irish Mission – “Graduating Champions” – will be on display in Soldier Field as they meet the Wisconsin Badgers. If you doubt, just take a look (close look though it must be) at the uniform collar of this special Shamrock Series uniform shirt.

No player name – just the mission!!

This Irish/Badger matchup was to be part of a two game series, the first at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field in 2020 (COVID 19 casualty) and the second at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Not to worry Irish fans, the next opportunity for the Irish at Lambeau Field will be in 2026. Each player in the 2022 recruiting class that the schools are now seeking will be available for that 2026 game, provided the player gets a redshirt year. But, who will be the Head Coaches?

While time, will, of course, tell, the current Head Coaches have some pretty impressive resumes. Following last weeks win over Purdue, Brian Kelly now has 105 wins as the Irish Head Coach and one more will have him passing Knute Rockne. But, in just a tad more games.

105–39 at ND .729

105–12-5 .881 (WOW!!!)

57-20 .740

Chrsyt led the Badgers to an undefeated 12-0 regular season in 2017-18 topped by a 34-24 win over Miami in the Orange Bowl. He also holds a Cotton Bowl win in 2017.

So how about the 2021 Irish/Badger tilt? Wisconsin will be the first of five consecutive Irish opponents coming off a bye week before the game. Talk about a meaningless factoid. That topic has significance for one, and only one, purpose. Seven additional days for an injury to heal. For any other purpose – balderdash!

The game will be #15 between Notre Dame and Wisconsin with the Irish holding an 8-6-2 advantage including a win in Soldier Field during the 1929 season against these same Badgers.

While the 2021 Badgers sport an unimpressive 1-1 record, the loss was at home in Camp Randall Stadium to the Penn State Nittany Lions. If you saw the Penn State/Auburn matchup you saw two “heavyweight” teams battle to the last minute in a Happy Valley “Whiteout”. And Penn State beat Wisconsin despite Wisconsin running nearly three times the number of plays run by Penn States. Might that be because the Badgers had three turnovers or might that be because they were 1 for 4 in the red zone?

Remember the good ol’ days of 2020 when the Irish O-line imposed their will on defenses in the running game. What is missing in 2021? Most folks point to the 4 offensive linemen now playing for pay on Sundays. But how about the loss of Tight End Tommy Tremble, the brutal, blasting, battering ram of a blocker, as NBC’s Tony Dungy would repeatedly point out, who routinely eliminated one of the 11 defenders. And do not overlook Book, Notre Dame winningest Quarterback of all time whose legs logged long runs “to move the chains”. And, while Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree are formidable, also missing is C’Bo Flemister, the #3 Running Back who excelled at YAC.

That totals 7 “2021 missing in action” from 2020. It says here, Buchner can, periodically, bring the Book Look, and it also says here, the 2021 O-line will soon hum like a well-oiled wheel, Lugg-nut and all.

As for Tommy Tremble and C’Bo, we no know.

(Here is the secret. Coan to receivers from kevin Austin to braden lenZy, each of course now sporting just a wee bit more “stickem”. Don’t tell anyone!)

Remember when Irish Football was sort of “wandering in the wilderness”? You know, when Lou Holtz left and until Brian Kelly arrived. Okay some may say ND is still “wandering in the wilderness”, but not here! The 2021 Irish Head Coach is a better Irish Head Coach than the 2010 Irish Head Coach. Ya Think!!

Do you remember the Defensive Co-Ordinator for Lou Holtz in 1988 and 1989 when the Irish won 24 and lost 1? If you remember correctly, you will also remember he left for the University of Wisconsin where he turned the football program around and won three Rose Bowl games. Would you have liked to see Barry Alvarez succeed Lou Holtz rather than Bob Davie? In retrospect the answer must be “Yes”. But that is just a “what-if “, is it not?

Defense has continued to reign supreme at Wisconsin as Alvarez moved from the Head Coaching position to the Athletic Directorship. The Badgers defense is just like their animal counterparts, gnawing on trees to dam up the flow of the opponent’s offense. Those busy Badgers sure dam up the works . . . . . . . . What, the daming is not by Badgers? It is by Beavers? Oops. Well this sure makes it necessary to show you the difference.

The Badger The Beaver The Bonehead

There have been some mighty fine Wisconsin football players. How about Joe Thomas, who began matriculation as a tight end and completed matriculation as a left tackle, then was drafted by the Cleveland Browns where he was a perennial All-Pro for 11 seasons and played an incredible 10,363 consecutive snaps. Or All-Pro J.J. Watt. What, you haven’t heard of Watt? Well, maybe Russell Wilson the Seattle Seahawks Quarterback? Is he also the Quarterback of the “Autonomous Zone” Seahawks? Then the player with the iconic nickname “Crazy Legs”, Elroy Hirsch. With the name “Elroy” he needed a nickname!! He, of course was one of the pre-Barry Alvarez Wisconsin Athletic Directors. And current Defensive Co-Ordinator Jim Leonhard, who played safety for the Badgers and then 10 years in the NFL. Interestingly, he is a “chip off the old block” as his Father was a coach. Actually, he is”two chips off the old blocks” as his Mother was also a coach. And, did we mention, he is good at what he does? His 2021 Badger defense leads the nation in “3 and out” efficiency.

If you remember the winner of the final Heisman Trophy awarded last century, you will likely know it was a Wisconsin Running Back. As one opposing Defensive co-cordinator warbled, trying to stop “the Dayne in lane makes me mainly insane.” And here he is . . .

. . . with the Paul Bunyan Axe, three other football players and a Badger Hockey Champion holding the Trophy.

Many other Wisconsin Alums have played a significant part in Wisconsin Football. Frank Lloyd Wright was a principal architect of the team’s success. John Muir’s laconic, almost wooden demeanor, was overcome when he asked if “red” would be the appropriate school color. And, though Coach Rockne introduced the forward pass as an important aerial way to play, early on Charles Lindbergh evidenced the importance of having the ball “fly”. It was James Lovell who recognized an issue when he saw one as he did when he examined the performance of the Wisconsin football team pre-Barry Alvarez, believed new leadership was needed and so informed the Wisconsin Board of Trustees, saying “Madison, we have a problem!”

Herb Kohl, the Kohl magnate, and intrepid, would be O-Coordinator, suggested to the coaching staff that Week 1 should feature 10% passing, Week 2 should feature 20% passing and Week 3 should feature 30% passing. His suggestions were discounted.

The home field for the Badgers is Camp Randall Stadium. Seating 80,321, it is the fourth oldest football stadium still in use and was built on the site of Camp Randall, a union Army training facility during the Civil War. With comparably sized stadia in Lambeau Filed (80,978) and Notre Dame Stadium (80,795), playing this game at Soldier Field in Chicago with a capacity of 61,500 may have been designed to “p__ o___” an additional 19 to 20 thousand alums.

Camp Randall Stadium is by no means the oldest Wisconsin University building or facility. As we reported, the derivation of the name “Camp Randall Stadium” clearly showed it was not built with a large donation from an alum by the name of “Camp”, “Randall”, “Camp Randall” or “Randall Camp”. The first big donation for a Wisconsin University building was $43,000 donated in 1877 to construct Wahburn Observatory on the campus. Washburn was a former Regent of the University and former governor. What does that have to do with Wisconsin football. Absolutely, positively nothing! NaDa”. “Zero”. Mr. Washburn just had the most interesting given name. Do you know anyone whose given name was Cadwallader? Didn’t think so. But now you know it was Cadwallader C. Washburn.

1948 saw the start and finish of a “Name the Badger” contest. The resulting name was “Buckingham U. Badger”. It has since been shortened to “Bucky”! We wonder if “Bucky” accompanies the team to the horseshoe at The Ohio State University. That would be a scintillating “Bucky” v. “Buckeye” confrontation. “Y” you ask? “Eye” don’t really know!!

And just to be precisely correct, Bucky is an Anthropomorphized Badger.

Coan at the ignition of the Irish offense.

Buchner, “Have Ball Will Travel”

Lenzy is Holding the Ball (Precariously!)

But he is holding it.

How Lenzy felt when he did not hold it!

How Lenzy will feel after his 2nd Touchdown against the Badgers.

And the score will be

Notre Dame 24

Wisconsin 13


Here are your Irish Trivia Questions for this week. The Irish-Badgers match-up in Soldier Field will be the first between these two teams since- you tell us the answer!!

And, Notre Dame has played in Chicago’s Soldier Field 12 times coming into this match-up. What is the Irish record in Soldier Field?

Finally, what other Notre Dame sports team has played a game in Soldier Field? Also, can you name the opponent in that game?

Here are your Irish Trivia Answers to the questions from last week. All relate to the 1966 Purdue/Notre Dame Game in Notre Dame Stadium on September 24, 1966. The Purdue Quarterback was Bob Griese, the Irish Quarterback was Terry Hanratty.

On the opening series the Irish were inside the Purdue 10-yard line when an Irish running back fumbled and a Purdue defender, playing in his very first college football game, scooped up the fumble and ran 94 yards untouched for a touchdown. Can you name the Irish running back who fumbled the football and the Purdue defender who scored the touchdown? Rocky Blier & LeRoy Keyes

The ensuing kickoff was run back for a 95-yard touchdown by the Irish. Can you name the Irish player who returned that kickoff for a touchdown? Nick Eddy

And, our hearts forever, . . .

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