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    Wildcats Contend With Badgers'Dual Threats

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Damien Anderson gears up<br>to face Wisconsin this weekend.<br>
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Damien Anderson gears up
    to face Wisconsin this weekend.

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Oct. 29, 1999

    By GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer

    MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Everywhere Northwestern coach Randy Walker looks, his Wildcats come up short against Barry Alvarez's Wisconsin Badgers.

    Well, almost everywhere.

    "About the only thing we're certain of is that I could probably outrun Alvarez in a foot race," joked Walker, whose Wildcats must try to slow down the country's 11th-ranked team at Ryan Field on Saturday.

    Alvarez, his right knee a shambles after surgery earlier this month, still can't walk or stand on the sideline for the Badgers (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten), but they are on a four-game winning streak and alone in second place in conference play. They outscored their last two opponents 99-10 while gaining 1,065 yards.

    None of these numbers are encouraging to Walker, whose Wildcats struggled before beating cellar-dwelling Iowa 23-21 for their first conference win two weeks ago.

    That victory snapped an 11-game conference losing streak for Northwestern. Quarterback Zak Kustok scrambled 2 yards for the winning touchdown with 4 seconds left as the Wildcats (3-4, 1-3) won a Big Ten game for the first time since Nov. 15, 1997.

    Walker's problems are doubly discouraging this week. Even if the Wildcats are somehow able to stop Ron Dayne, who has rushed for 400 yards in three career games against Northwestern, they must also contain Wisconsin quarterback Brooks Bollinger, who gains more respect throughout the league and the nation with each game.

    "Everyone talks about Ron Dayne and of course, he's a great, great player," Walker said. "But the thing that has made them better as an offense is the development of Bollinger."

    Bollinger, the Badgers' freshman quarterback, has been the most pleasant surprise of Alvarez's season. Though Alvarez expected the highly touted high school star from North Dakota to compete with Scott Kavanagh for the starting job, nobody expected Bollinger to mature so quickly.

    "He's gone from a guy who wasn't very confident to a guy who I can trust every down," Alvarez said. "He's made my job a whole lot easier, and he's made losing (three-year starter) Mike Samuel a whole lot easier to take."

    Bollinger became the Badgers' full-time quarterback in the second half of their Sept. 25 loss to Michigan. After Kavanagh was ineffective against the Wolverines, Bollinger nearly rallied the Badgers to victory in that game, and hasn't lost since.

    His accurate throwing arm and ability to scramble have forced defenses to stop keying on Dayne, and the senior tailback has jumped back into the races for the national rushing record and the Heisman Trophy with a string of stellar performances.

    At least Northwestern (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) had a bye week to begin preparations for the Badgers. The Wildcats' strengths are mostly in their defense, where linebackers Kevin Bentley and Napoleon Harris are the top two tacklers in the Big Ten.

    Northwestern's secondary is also strong, but Walker's biggest challenge is finding a way to combat Dayne and his mammoth offensive line, which is several inches and a couple hundred pounds bigger than the Wildcats' defensive front.

    "(Dayne) is big, he's got a hard head and his line is huge," Northwestern defensive end Dwayne Missouri said. "You have to get off of them before you can even worry about him, because if you try to make any kind of tackle on Ron Dayne while you're still engaged with a lineman, it's not going to happen."

    Dayne needs 483 yards in Wisconsin's final three games to beat Ricky Williams' major-college rushing record.