MADISON - Wisconsin starting right tackle Josh Oglesby has had a long list of knee injuries throughout his football playing career. Already a recipient of six serious surgeries, one can only imagine what went through the fifth-year senior's head when he was down and clutching his knee yet again Saturday afternoon.
But, by perhaps some sort of divine intervention, it seems as though Oglesby has dodged a bullet. At least providing his scheduled MRI comes back clean Monday afternoon.
"All the preliminary indications have been very, very positive," UW head coach Bret Bielema said at his weekly press conference. "Josh was really upbeat after the game. From what the doctors could tell by their manual tests everything seemed to be in tact.
"There's a very good chance he'll play this week. If not, then next week."
Though it's not the biggest relief from a depth standpoint, the news, at least as it concerns a fifth-year senior that is trying to get through his final season as a Badger, is refreshing.
Should the MRI show something more serious than anticipated, or should Oglesby need more time to recover, freshman Rob Havenstein will fill in as the backup. That's something that the youngster seems to be capable of doing without any considerable drop off in production.
"Robbie got a lot of valuable work there last spring," Bielema said. "This spring he was neck and neck with Josh. I know he's been chomping at the bit. He weighed 380 pounds when he came here and now weighs 350. He's done a nice job trimming his body down and that really has benefited his play big time."
Update from the infirmary:
Though most of the starters continue to remain healthy, there are a host of young reserves seemingly rounding themselves back into the picture. Marcus Trotter, the backup at middle linebacker to Chris Borland, will return to practice this week following a nagging bout with his hamstring.
Freshman Devin Gaulden, who the coaching staff has been ultra high on even though he wasn't able to practice throughout fall camp due to a stress fracture, has been back in practice since the middle of last week. He dressed and traveled to Chicago for Saturday's game against NIU.
"He's a guy, either him or Darius Hillary are going to play for us at corner," Bielema said.
Redshirt freshman Sherard Cadogan has also returned to practice after recovering from a lingering ankle injury.
Finally, both defensive ends Pat Muldoon and Konrad Zagzebski seem to be making quicker recoveries than most people imagined with their respective injuries.
"Zagzebski probably will return to us this week," Bielema said. "He was back with us at the end of last week and will continue as long as everything came out well this weekend. And I just saw Muldoon down in the training room. He's coming back faster than expected. I don't know if he'll play this week, but it will be sooner rather than later."
If Wisconsin hasn't felt the impact a healthy Nick Toon can have on the team by now, it could easily be wondered if it ever would. The fifth-year senior has been phenomenal so far this season. He leads the team with 14 receptions and 198 yards receiving. He has been an above average blocker and he has a better chemistry with Russell Wilson than any other receiver on the roster.
Following his five-catch, 75-yard, two-touchdown performance against Northern Illinois, the UW coaching staff tabbed Toon as one of two offensive MVP's.
"He has probably played the three most complete games that I could remember in a long time," Bielema said. "He's really doing a nice job for us. He's obviously had a long time coming to get to fall camp because of his injury during the spring and he's took it upon himself.
"Nick's been really good at catching the ball with his hands. When the NFL people come in they make the comment that all of his catches are away from his body. He catches them with his hands and that's really a lost art."
Toon's teammate and No. 2 wide receiver Jared Abbrederis also earned the distinction of offensive MVP following his six-catch, 83-yard day.
"He's continued to impress us," Bielema said. "Not only catching the ball, but all the things he does in the special teams units and blocking down field."
Defensively, Mike Taylor was recognized after his five-tackle performance against the Huskies.
"He had his best game to date," Bielema said. "He really ran to the ball, reacted, read and adjusted to the course of the game very, very well."
"He really only had one bad play," Bielema said. "During their touchdown he was a little bit misaligned, but he's playing extremely well."
As far as undervalued or underappreciated players are concerned on this season's Badger roster, senior fullback Bradie Ewing has to be at or near the top of the list. He plays on all four special teams units, he catches the ball and he blocks relentlessly. He's the ultimate utility man for the Badgers.
And now, following his all-around display Saturday afternoon, Ewing can be called special team's MVP.
"I can't say enough great things about what he's doing," Bielema said. "From a leadership standpoint but also his production in all four phases of the kicking game. He's a guy that is doing a lot of nice things from the line of scrimmage, but I think the NFL really likes what he does in all four phases of the kicking game."
When Northern Illinois scored midway through the first quarter to tie the game at seven apiece, it was apparent Bret Bielema was upset that his intended timeout was not granted. Noticing something wasn't right about his defensive alignment, Bielema sprinted down the sideline to try and get the attention of the official.
By the time he relayed what he was trying to get across, NIU had already scored the touchdown.
"I about pulled a hamstring," Bielema joked. "They keep telling me that the back judge is going to watch so I keep watching the back judge and then I look at the side judge. The back judge is looking at the clock and the side judge is counting personnel. I was trying to plea to the guy that they knew I was out there. I'm not going to be standing there yelling at my guys and telling them what defense we're going to run.
"I'm out there because I called a time out."
As a member of the rules committee, Bielema made it clear that he intends to bring it up when they convene next February.
"You really think that would be something that they could hopefully go to the box and eventually review," Bielema said. "It was an apparent issue that really needs to be cleared up."
History repeats itself?
Wisconsin rolled into Michigan State a season ago fresh off a dominating 70-3 win over Austin Peay. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, that offensive momentum did not carry itself over and the Badgers eventually went on to lose to the Spartans.
Look at this year's schedule, particularly the way South Dakota, a FCS school much like Austin Peay, preludes UW's much anticipated and much hyped game against Nebraska. Do you see the connection?
"I think last year, to my fault as a head coach, I didn't stress the importance of playing Michigan State on the road," Bielema said. "We just weren't clean with some of the things that we were doing. For us to have the benefit of playing Northern Illinois (away from home) last week is really going to help us during our first road test in the Big Ten."
Bielema on the recent play of Mike Taylor:
"We're a big believer in the idea that the only way you get better at football is by playing it. Mike has done a good job. He is healthier than he's ever been so I think that is good. I'll tell you what, he likes playing next to No. 44 (Chris Borland). You can see those two guys feed off each other. It's something I don't really pick up on during the course of the game but when you watch film on Sunday they're usually slapping each other and clapping. There's just some energy there that's really fun to watch."