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ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Zach Heilprin

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Badgers football: Big Ten announces award winners on defense

Nov 30, 2015 -- 6:51pm
Photo/USA TODAY Sports
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin football team owns the best scoring defense in the country and a trio of players were honored with All-Big Ten recognition when announced on Monday.
Senior outside linebacker Joe Schobert was a consensus first-team selection, and also earned the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year award. For a second straight year, senior safety Michael Caputo was selected to the second-team by the coaches and media, while junior outside linebacker Vince Biegel picked up third-team honors from both voting entities.
Five other players received honorable mention recognition. Safety Tanner McEvoy, cornerback Darius Hillary and inside linebacker T.J. Edwards were named by the coaches, while the media chose McEvoy, defensive end Chikwe Obasih and cornerback Sojourn Shelton.
Schobert, a former walk-on, had 18.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks on the season, while also forcing five fumbles. The Waukesha West product is the second Wisconsin player to win the Butkus-Fitzgerald award, joining Chris Borland who won it in 2013.
Caputo, the lone named captain this year, is ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 58 and also has a pair of interceptions to his credit.
Biegel managed to pile up eight sacks this season and 14 tackles for loss. He was a second-team selection by the media as a sophomore.
The Big Ten will release the offensive awards on Tuesday.

Badgers football: Clement should sit

Nov 27, 2015 -- 12:39pm
Photo/Getty Images
MADISON, Wis. -- Paul Chryst doesn’t have to sit Corey Clement against Minnesota, but he should. The University of Wisconsin football coach is under no obligation to keep his running back home, but in the wake of the junior getting a pair of citations for disorderly conduct this week, it seems logical to suspend him for the Badgers’ regular-season finale.
Yes, the tickets Clement got for the Nov. 8 incident at his off-campus residence are ordinance violations and not considered criminal. But anyone that’s read the 47-page police report certainly realizes that Clement was an instigator throughout. Police said the 21-year-old repeatedly used “derogatory and sexually explicit” language towards one of the women in the opposing group. He then lied to the police, saying he was just defending himself, yet video of the incident outlined in the police report shows it was Clement that threw the first punch, connecting with a closed fist to a man’s face, leaving what witnesses said was a “huge hole” in his lip. It set off a melee where Clement was kicked and punched to the point that he was taken to the hospital for medical attention.
But let’s be clear. Clement was not a victim in this incident, nor were the other three people cited. He put himself in the situation by “trash talking” a large group of people and then escalating the incident with his right hand. It’s one thing for the police to determine that his actions didn’t rise to the criminal level, but if Chryst allows Clement to play on Saturday, he’s condoning the behavior.
The first-year coach would essentially be saying he’s all good with one of his players verbally assaulting a woman and then starting a fight by punching a guy in the face – both of which Clement has admitted to doing. Or, he can sit Clement, showing everyone that no matter who you are, this type of behavior won’t be tolerated. It’s Chryst’s first opportunity as the head coach in Madison to set the tone and a precedent that may help ward off future incidents down the line.
In a letter to students and fans earlier this week, Athletic Director Barry Alvarez called out those responsible for the snowball barrage that saw players, coaches and cheerleaders get hit during last week’s game against Northwestern. In it, he mentions doing things the “Wisconsin Way,” which in that case meant not taking aim at those on the field. He went on to write, “…there are … standards of conduct that must be adhered to.” If Wisconsin wants their fans to adhere to certain standards, shouldn’t they also expect their players to meet and exceed similar conduct standards both on the field and off?
Again, the citations Clement received are not criminal offenses, and he was never arrested, meaning UW’s student-athlete discipline policy isn’t automatically applied to the situation. However, the policy does note that athletes are subject to team rules as set forth by each individual head coach. If being the aggressor in a verbal dispute, throwing the first punch and then misrepresenting the truth to authorities and the university isn’t considered wrong as part of Chryst’s overall discipline philosophy, it needs to be.
All of this doesn’t mean Clement is a bad kid, and he’s certainly had a rough go of it this season, missing eight games as a result of a sports hernia. But his judgment that morning was flawed and shouldn’t be acceptable for Chryst or Wisconsin.
note: UW released a statement Wednesday afternoon that said any potential discipline for Clement would be handled internally.

Badgers football: Clement cited for disorderly conduct

Nov 25, 2015 -- 2:07pm
Photo/Getty Images
MADISON, Wis - University of Wisconsin running back Corey Clement was cited on two counts of disorderly conduct for his role in a fight that occurred in the early morning hours of Nov. 8.
According to Madison police, a verbal altercation that started on an elevator at Clement’s residence in the 400 block of North Frances Street, spilled out to a common area on the sixth floor of the building.
Investigators said Clement continually used “derogatory and sexually explicit” language towards the girlfriend of one of men in the group, which escalated the situation. A female security guard attempted to keep the two sides apart, but video showed Clement walking around her and punching 23-year-old Tenzin Palden in his face. That set off a melee with Palden and three other members of the group. Clement would later tell detectives that he got hit or punched 25 times in the back and head.
By the time police arrived on scene around 2:30 a.m., most of the group had already left the area. They did make contact with Clement, who said the verbal altercation started when he and the security guard made comments about one of the men in the group wearing saggy pants and what it means in relation to gang culture.
Clement suffered injuries to his right hand, left forearm and ended up being taken to UW Hospital.
Kevin Ha, 23, Btmonyroth Men, 28, and Panyia Xiong, 25, were also cited in the altercation.
Clement has played in just three games this year due to a sports hernia injury. He’s run for 155 yards and four touchdowns.
Wisconsin (8-3, 5-2) plays at Minnesota (5-6, 2-5) this Saturday.
UPDATE (4:24 p.m.)
Wisconsin has released a statement regarding Clement:
"We were informed yesterday by Madison Police that Corey Clement was cited for two counts of disorderly conduct for his role in an incident on Nov. 8. When we first became aware of this incident, we knew this was a possibility.
We released a statement regarding Corey’s involvement in the incident on Nov. 12 in response to false information that was circulating. That statement was based off of information that we had at that time.
With the release of the full police report today, further details on the incident have come to light. Any disciplinary measures taken by UW head coach Paul Chryst relating to this incident are undetermined at this time and will be handled internally."

Badgers football: Clement speaks about his future

Nov 24, 2015 -- 9:13pm
Photo/Getty Images
MADISON, Wis. – Three years and gone. That was always Corey Clement’s plan. Spend three seasons in Madison and then declare for the NFL Draft. But even the best laid plans are bound to hit bumps along the way, and the University of Wisconsin running back has had more than his share this season. The breakout year everyone was expecting never got started, as injuries and an off the field incident put a damper on the New Jersey native’s quest to prove he could be a No. 1 back. Despite the disappointing year, questions about his future at Wisconsin continue to come.
“Just have to see how the year pans out,” Clement said Tuesday when asked if he’d be returning next season. “But right now, I think a hundred percent [I’m] still coming back.”
It’s unlikely Clement could have imagined having to say those words prior to the season, but it’s the reality of the situation for a guy that wanted to run for 2,000 yards but has managed just 155 so far, coming in large part due to a sports hernia that kept him from playing in eight games. Had he been healthy throughout, it’s almost guaranteed that Clement would be playing his final regular season game for Wisconsin (8-3, 5-2 Big Ten) when they take on Minnesota (5-6, 2-5 Big Ten) this Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
“It wouldn’t be a discussion,” Clement said. “My mind, there’s nothing wrong with having a three-and-out mentality. I told that to my first coach, Coach Hammock, and he asked me if I was to have 1,500 yards [or more] was I going to leave and I said, ‘Less than two seconds, yeah, I was out.’”
Clement left some wiggle room in his initial answer, and you can expect him to go through the NFL’s College Advisory Committee to see where they think he’d project in the draft. And while Clement is focused on helping the Badgers finish the season strong, the idea of submitting his name to the committee and declaring for the NFL has been hard to keep out of his thoughts.
“It was sitting in the back of my mind just to see where I would stand if I were to try to enter the draft,” he said. “I think it would be a smart decision, before I even try to consider stepping out there and saying, ‘I’m going to enter into the draft,’ before I know my grade. There’s nothing wrong with knowing your grade at all.”
In an effort to curb the number of underclassmen entering the draft, the NFL implemented new guidelines last fall for the committee to follow when advising potential draft picks. The prospects are told whether they are a first- or second-round pick, and if they aren’t, they are advised to go back to school.
"Third round [or later], I'll stay for sure," Clement told the Associated Press. "I just think third round is selling yourself short. First and second? Hey, that really doesn't come too often."
Under that criteria, it seems likely that Clement will be back in 2016, attempting to show scouts and NFL personnel what kind of running back he can be when healthy.
“Just showing I can play,” Clement said as a potential reason for returning. “I really didn’t get to play a full season how I wanted to, and I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re looking for. If it’s anything, it’s that.”

Badgers football: Controversy clouds UW/NW ending

Nov 21, 2015 -- 10:58pm
MADISON, Wis. -- Joel Stave thought he had just thrown the game-winning touchdown pass as he laid sprawled out on the Camp Randall Stadium turf, slapping it with the palms of his hands in celebration. Jazz Peavy was flexing to the crowd following what everyone thought was the first touchdown catch of his career, allowing No. 25 Wisconsin (8-3, 5-2 Big Ten) to tie No. 20 Northwestern (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten) at 13 with the extra point still to come and 26 seconds on the clock. Over on the sideline, Vince Biegel and the rest of the defense were already preparing for what the Wildcats might throw at them in desperation, with UW knowing one more stop would send the senior class out with a win in their final home game.
In the end, it was all for naught. The 1-yard touchdown from Stave to Peavy was overturned on replay, with the ruling being the wide receiver “didn’t complete the process of the catch.” On the bench, Peavy’s hands went from giving the touchdown signal to plastered on top of his helmet in essence asking, “How is that possible?”
“The whole time I knew that was a catch,” Peavy would say after what turned into a 13-7 loss for the Badgers, their third in the last four years on Senior Day. “I don’t know what else to say about that. Absolute catch.”
On the play, Peavy caught the ball, took three steps, was pushed by Northwestern cornerback Nick VanHoose, took one more step and then his right knee hit the ground. All of those acts would seemingly give a player possession of the ball, and though it did move slightly after Peavy hit the ground and rolled over, NCAA guidelines say, “If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball, even if it touches the ground, will not be considered a loss of possession; He must lose control of the ball in order for there to be a loss of possession.”
“I thought that he had gotten a couple feet down, a couple steps,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. “Doesn't matter what I think.”
It doesn’t, but that didn’t stop Chryst’s players from reacting to the reversal.
“Just the way it ended is agonizing,” outside linebacker Joe Schobert said. “If your guy catches the ball and takes three steps, then gets pushed down -- it’s not like he dove and bobbled it – [he]caught it and took steps and got pushed out of bounds and down and that’s when he hit the ground. It’s just the way the rule was interpreted right now. For me, it’s controversial at best.”
Stave would end up getting sacked and knocked out of the game on the next play, followed by a spike from running back Dare Ogunbowale and then an incomplete pass from Bart Houston to Tanner McEvoy to seal UW’s fate.
“It’s frustration but then it’s just one of those things where you’ve got to get back in the game, try to make the next play,” Peavy said of the three subsequent plays after his touchdown was overturned. “We still had some time, so I just had to brush that off for a second, but after the game it all just fell back on my shoulders and it hurt.”
The Peavy score was the third Wisconsin touchdown of the game that got called back or overturned on replay. Just before that play, Stave hooked up with tight end Troy Fumagalli for a 22-yard score, but officials correctly determined he was down at the 1-yard line.
In the third quarter, Alex Erickson was trying to tell his guys to get out of the way on a punt, waving his arms below his waist. When the ball rolled in his direction, he picked it up and took off for what would have been a 78-yard touchdown and a 14-7 Wisconsin lead. But it got called back, with officials saying what Erickson did was considered an invalid fair catch.
According to the NCAA rulebook, an invalid fair catch is any waving signal that isn't clearly above the head of the returner.
“Everyone's used to the over-the-head fair catch signal,” Chryst said. “And now I understood what they were calling. When the ball bounces short and you try to warn everyone to get away from the ball. Any signal at all, the returner can't advance it.”
The loss, and the fashion in which it played out, was just the latest heartbreak for UW’s senior class. The fifth-year guys have witnessed losing on a “Hail Mary” to Michigan State in 2011, three overtime losses in 2012, having a game stolen from them at Arizona State in 2013 and a four-point loss to Iowa earlier this season.
“I thought we won it a couple times,” Chryst said, “but we didn't.” 

Badgers football: Clement sidelined for final drive

Nov 21, 2015 -- 10:04pm
Photo/Getty Images
MADISON - Watching Corey Clement on the sideline during Wisconsin’s final drive on Saturday was to see a guy that looked as if he was undergoing the most intense torture man has to offer. The junior, playing in just his third game of the season, was glued to the hip of running backs coach John Settle, hoping he’d get the nod with the Badgers driving into Northwestern territory and needing a touchdown to win.
“It sucked,” said Clement, who has battled a sports hernia and subsequent rehab all season. “As we kind of got in the red zone I was was itching to get back in, because I’m red zone friendly. I feel like once I get into the red zone, I have tunnel vision. I try to find a way into the end zone as fast as possible. But it wasn’t my call.”
Even when Wisconsin had a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line with 38 seconds left, UW coach Paul Chryst, who calls the plays, decided to keep the ball in quarterback Joel Stave’s hands as opposed to giving Clement or Dare Ogunbowale a shot to pound it in.
“Whether it was me or Dare, someone could have got it,” Clement said. “I mean, it’s a one-yard run. I feel as if you’re here as a running back, you need to be able to execute a one-yard run, give us the go-ahead [score]. But it wasn’t our call, it was coach’s call. Coach felt very confident with the [ball] in Joel [Stave’s] hands but it just didn’t work out.”
No it wouldn’t, as a touchdown catch by wide receiver Jazz Peavy was overturned and quarterback Bart Houston’s fourth-down toss to wide receiver Tanner McEvoy fell incomplete, giving Northwestern a 13-7 win.
Though Chryst second-guessed himself after the game on whether he should have called a run at least one time on the goal line, the fact remained that UW had little-to-zero production on the ground all day, being credited with negative 26 rushing yards.
“Hindsight, I wish I would have gone to it, right?” Chryst said of the run. “But I got to live with that one.”
A healthy Clement likely would have given Chryst more confidence in getting the ball in from the 1-yard line, but that wasn’t the case. He’s still battling soreness from sports hernia surgery that had forced him to miss eight games this year. And while carried the ball 10 times for 24 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown in the third quarter, he clearly didn’t have his normal burst.
“I just tried to do what I could,” he said. “I know I’m still not 100 percent. Why not come out here, not be selfish and just do it for the seniors. Just try to have a victory for their last Camp Randall game.”
Speculation in recent weeks had Saturday being Clement’s final home game, with some close to him pushing him to leave school after this year and enter the NFL draft. That despite his tumultuous season, that has included him being a victim of an alleged assault on Nov. 8. But when talking about how difficult it was to watch the senior class go out the way they did, Clement hinted that he’ll still be at Wisconsin next fall.
“After the game, every senior [was] down,” he said. “I tried to do my best to have them leave with the best memory possible. When you look back at it, next year, when my time comes, you don’t want to have your last game be a loss at Camp Randall.”
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