Oct. 29, 1999
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Everywhere Northwestern coach Randy Walker looks,
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,
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
That victory snapped an 11-game conference losing streak for
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
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
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
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.