September 7, 2005

Calhoun takes the spotlight

In his debut week on the field at Wisconsin, Brian Calhoun lived up to all the hype. And considering what was expected of him, that says a lot.

The junior running back flashed glimpses of greatness at Colorado before transferring to Wisconsin after the 2003 season. Badgers teammates, fans and coaches were excited to see what the 5-10, 205-pound Calhoun could do after he hung more than 100 rushing yards on Nebraska - in just a quarter of play, no less - in 2002.

And Calhoun certainly didn't disappoint. After getting a couple of carries in the first quarter, Calhoun took over the game on Saturday against Bowling Green in the second quarter. In a span of a little more than 10 minutes, the emerging star racked up 145 yards of total offense and scored three touchdowns. And coach Barry Alvarez, who hadn't had much luck stopping Omar Jacobs and the potent Bowling Green offense, decided he had found a way to slow the prolific passer - by keeping him on the sidelines.

"I didn't want Jacobs on the field," Alvarez said. "Why do anything else, if you're running a handoff and isolation and counter and going up and down the field? I mean, you don't have to get cute. People like to see Brian (Calhoun) run. So I chose to run the clock because we could."

The strategy worked well - Jacobs' offense scored only once in the final half. And not only did Calhoun help run out the clock and keep Jacobs off the field, he helped run up the score. After laying an offensive goose egg in the first quarter, the Badgers exploded for 35 points in the second quarter. Wisconsin went on to win, 56-42.

Calhoun finished with 258 yards on 43 carries and found the end zone five times. Nobody in the program's history has had such an explosive debut. But Calhoun was careful not to make too much of his opening-game performance.

"I haven't played in a year and a half now, so I'm as fresh as any other back in the country," Calhoun said, and continued by giving credit to the holes his offensive line created for him: "They were huge. Me, Coach Alvarez, anybody in this room could have run through them."

Though most of the nation may have expected to see an Adrian Peterson or Reggie Bush in the spotlight this week, Calhoun took many by surprise by taking center stage on Saturday. But Alvarez, for one, wasn't caught off guard by his back's explosion.

"I have said all along that he is very gifted, and he did not surprise me," Alvarez said. "I have seen him for two years, and I know he can get better. He is critiquing his runs and critiquing his play coming up, and that will make him better."

The prospect of Calhoun getting even better has to be frightful one for the Temple defense, which faces the tall task of stopping the Wisconsin offense this Saturday. The Owls didn't fare well against Arizona State last weekend, giving up 559 yards of total offense, including 300 on the ground.

Though Alvarez admitted that he didn't unveil much of his passing game in Week 1, he could keep it under wraps for another week if he wants to give Calhoun another 40 carries. Look for big things from the junior again this Saturday when the Badgers play host to the Owls in Madison.

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