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Second-string proves not to be 2nd rate

first_imgIOWA CITY, Iowa — It may have been Senior Day at Kinnick Stadium, but the afternoon belonged to a junior. Making his first career start, in place of the injured John Stocco, junior quarterback Tyler Donovan was thrust into about as unsavory a situation as could be imagined. The shifty scrambler was charged with leading Wisconsin into one of the Big Ten’s most hostile environments to take on a team no current Badger had ever beaten: the Iowa Hawkeyes, who were looking to right a season that has gone awry with another timely win over UW. “It doesn’t get much more high pressure than that,” sophomore cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu said. Surrounded by noise and bloodthirsty defenders, Donovan, playing with a chip on his shoulder that could be seen from the nosebleed section, calmly quarterbacked Wisconsin to a hard-fought 24-21 victory.”I wanted to prove something to myself, but more so, I wanted to prove something to the team,” a reserved and still very collected Donovan said after the game. “I don’t think you can say enough about a guy starting his first game in the Big Ten finale in a hostile environment,” Bielema said. “The plays he was able to come up with today were amazing and gratifying to watch as a coach.”Often standing in the middle of a maelstrom of chaos, with blitzing Hawkeyes coming at him from every direction, Donovan calmly led the Badgers down the field on several key scoring drives. After getting out to a fast start, where Donovan completed his first seven passes en route to a 10-0 Wisconsin lead, the Badgers watched Iowa’s Drew Tate briefly catch fire, as the Hawkeyes scored twice and took the lead. With the pendulum of momentum — a favorite expression of Barry Alvarez — swinging in the direction of Iowa, the junior signal-caller almost immediately led UW on a six-play 73-yard scoring drive punctuated by a spectacular 42-yard touchdown by receiver Luke Swan. On the drive, Donovan accounted for every yard, either via passing or scrambling. “He took some shots, too,” senior safety Joe Stellmacher said. “I don’t know how he got up from all of them, but he did.”Donovan came up big again late. As the Badgers clung to a perilous 17-14 lead, Iowa downed a punt at the UW 3-yard line that left Donovan standing in the Hawkeyes’ end zone — with the howling student section at his back, no more than 20 feet away. After a short P.J. Hill run, Donovan took the snap and dropped back 2 yards deep into the Iowa scoring box and with two Iowa defenders closing in, he completed a strike to tight end Travis Beckum for 13 yards and some much needed breathing room. The play set up a simply sparkling 15-play, 97-yard scoring drive that proved to be the decisive point in the contest. The march down the field might’ve been led by a quarterback making his first start, but during it Donovan was nothing less than a field general, poised beyond his experience. “For the first start of his career he was so poised,” Stellmacher said. “He was really playing to win, I mean you could see that. He was holding nothing back, he was playing to win and played his heart out.”My hat’s off to him.”Donovan has had to sit behind Stocco for three years and hear questions about his decision-making and arm strength. He then had to watch the new coaching staff bring in an experienced transfer in former Kansas State starter Allen Evridge, who will be eligible to play next season. The game may prove to be something of an audition for Donovan as the Badgers’ 2007 starting quarterback position. “I’m sure after this season is completed, everybody is going to want to know who the starting quarterback is at the University of Wisconsin, and I think [Donovan] took a huge step forward in that area right now,” Bielema said. “Today he went out there, was able to execute and get a win.”last_img read more

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