EPISODE 19: THE CURSE
Nothing illustrates B1G division imbalance better than the Wisconsin Badgers.
The Bully of the West has reached Indy a league-high six times in the championship game's first decade, while posting a dismal 1-12 record against Ohio State and Penn State. You're wondering hey why even bring Penn State into this and it's a good question. Wisconsin's lone win came in Nov 2011 at the Nittany Lions' expense, right after Joe Paterno was fired.
You may recall that year was also...unkind to Ohio State football. Here's what Wisconsin's then-head coach had to say about what was happening in Columbus and State College.
Via @trenni , a tacky reaction from Bret Bielema on recent Ohio State and Penn State scandals: "Guess it's a good time to be a Badger fan."— Mike Popovich (@mpopovichREP) November 10, 2011
It was an incredibly shitty and tone deaf thing to say, and you might not subscribe to the idea of tempting fate, unlocking curses or creating bad karma - but perhaps you should:
|SEASON||DIVISION||B1G TITLE GAME||VS. OHIO STATE||DECADE VS. OSU|
|2011||LEADERS (1st)||W 42-39 vs. MSU||L 29-33 (A)||0-1|
|2012||LEADERS (3rd)||W 70-31 vs. NEB||L 14-21 OT (H)||0-2|
|2013||LEADERS (2nd)||N/A||L 24-31 (A)||0-3|
|2014||WEST (1st)||L 0-59 vs. OSU||L 0-59 (N)||0-4|
|2016||WEST (1st)||L 31-38 vs. PSU||L 23-30 OT (H)||0-5|
|2017||WEST (1st)||L 21-27 vs. OSU||L 21-27 (N)||0-6|
|2019||WEST (1st)||L 21-34 vs. OSU||L 21-34 (N) 7-38 (A)||0-8|
This has all gone down during what is arguably Wisconsin's greatest decade of football - the Badgers have been a top 10 program since 2010 and reliably beat the Buckeyes two or three times each decade going back to the Woody Hayes era. But not anymore.
Something happened, and I think it’s clear Bert cursed the Badgers. Let's tell the tale.
THE BERT ERA (2006 - 2012)
Imagine having a team with Russell Wilson, Montee Ball, James White, Kevin Zeitler, Chris Borland, Aaron Henry, Peter Konz, Antonio Fenelus, Brad Nortman and Mike Taylor on it, and losing to Ohio State's impotent 2011 team with those guys.
Wisconsin gave us the only Saturday from 2011 worth canonizing, and it happened within days of Bert unlocking The Curse. Makes you think, for sure.
By the way, Bert was accidentally nicknamed by 11W alumnus Vico in what was originally a typo he failed to notice. He decided Bert looked too much like a Bert to be called anything but Bert, the whole country agreed and the rest was history.
Bert played and coached at Iowa under Hayden Fry. He then left to work under former Fry assistant Bill Snyder at Kansas State before landing in Madison with Fry assistant Barry Alvarez, who handed him the reigns to a loaded program. He had a nepotism-scented coaching dad everywhere he went, up until he left for Arkansas. It's a fun bit of foreshadowing.
BERT'S RECORD VS. OHIO STATE: 1-5
The Buckeyes slept through the first half of the 2010 game. You're welcome, Bert.
They also slept through the 1st half of the 2007 game, but then Beanie Wells hit the endzone three times in the 2nd half to make it a laugher.
Three touchdowns in a single half. Even Zeke didn't do that in the 2014 scoring orgy - whoops we're getting ahead of ourselves. Go Beanie Go!
Beanie gained about 100 yards on those three touchdown runs alone, all while breaking approximately zero tackles along the way.
In 2008 the Buckeyes visited Madison and Tresselballed their way to a 20-17 victory. It was a gruesome slog with a glorious ending.
Let's remember that evening with Malcolm Jenkins owning Jump Around and get out of town. Please note Cameron Heyward also enjoying Camp Randall's 4th quarter tradition.
In 2009 Scott Tolzein kicked off the action with a dazzling 89-yard touchdown pass to Kurt Coleman, whom you may recall played for Ohio State. Ray Small returned a kickoff for a touchdown, Terrelle Pryor completed exactly five passes and Jermale Hines did this.
We're still in the pre-Curse era in these games. The Buckeyes took down the Badgers in 2011 and then again in 2012 with Urban Meyer's team having nothing to play for, saddled with a postseason ban.
It was in this game where Ball had the chance to break the NCAA record for career touchdowns. Hollywood could not have drawn up a better scenario - a goal line situation in a tight home game against an undefeated team in November!
Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino agreed that this was an appropriate moment for a little bit of cinematic sports history, and compromised with Ball by forcing the only fumble of his career - and creating a moment nobody would ever forget.
That's a Curse. That's delicious. Ball did break the NCAA touchdown record the following week when the Badgers lost to Bill O'Brien's emaciated Penn State roster. A triumphant moment, for sure.
With both the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions finishing ahead of the Badgers in the Leaders (RIP) Division, but ineligible for postseason play, Wisconsin got the nod and the ticket to Indianapolis for the conference championship. Bert then decided he had enough and skipped town for Fayetteville, thus ending the Bert Era in Madison.
However, alea iacta est. The Curse was not lifted. That's not how curses work, friends.
THE GUY URBAN HUMILIATED SO BADLY HE QUIT ERA (2013-2014)
*Fight Club voice* His name was Gary Andersen. His name was Gary Andersen. His name was Gary Andersen.
Gary spent two seasons in Madison. He coached under Urban at Utah. They are friends, actually. Were friends? Probably still are friends.
THE GUY URBAN HUMILIATED SO BADLY HE QUIT'S RECORD VS. OHIO STATE: 0-2
The Badgers faced the Buckeyes twice during this era, but we need to set the table for the first one because the appetizers were delightful. The first meeting took place two weeks after Bert's wife and blogger-content god Jen doubled down on her husband's curse, after Wisconsin took a controversial loss in Tempe.
The 2:18am Saturday night timestamp on this since-deleted-but-infamous-tweet suggests Jen was having too much fun watching her husband's former employer getting screwed so badly the officials involved were later sanctioned.
Hashtag karma. One week later Bert's Razorbacks lost to Hashtag Rutgers. Mike Vrabel was Ohio State's DL coach at the time, and his wife Jen - the superior Jen of the two - was watching.
Congrats to future Big Ten rival Rutgers. Big win today over SEC opponent. #Karma— jen (@JenVrabel1) September 21, 2013
The 2013 season wasn't much of a honeymoon for Bert, as the program Jim Tressel had taken down in his grand finale was a shell of its former self two seasons removed from Bobby Petrino, and one from MFT alumnus John L. Smith. Inferior Jen tempting fate certainly didn't help, and deleting that cursed tweet did not aid the Razorbacks' fortunes.
Since making her "Karma" tweet, Jen Bielema's husband's football team is 0-5, having been outscored 207-74. How about that...— Eleven Warriors (@11W) October 20, 2013
Karma is a spooky concept. It's basically well well well, if it isn't the consequences of my own actions coming home to roost indirectly, with nuance and wearing a cloak of invisibility. That's what makes it a curse. Touch a hot stove and you get burned. Make fun of someone for touching a hot stove and after a little time passes and your guard goes down, a chunk of magma flies out of the earth's crust and singes your ass.
Spooky! The only way to avoid bad karma is to not be a shitty person, which, well. Alas.
THE GUY URBAN HUMILIATED SO BADLY HE QUIT’S HIGHLIGHTS
But back in Madison, Andersen had a solid roster. It just got a little sleepy with one play left in the 1st half, and that made all the difference.
Ohio State breezed through both B1G regular seasons in 2012 and 2013, with Wisconsin taking a close but substantial L in each contest. The following year the two teams met again in Indianapolis with Andersen's Badgers a 3.5-point favorite.
Wisconsin missed covering that spread by a mere 62.5 points, and shortly thereafter Meyer's former assistant decided he didn't want to coach in the same conference as his old boss anymore. So he left.
THE PAUL BLART ERA (2015 - PRESENT)
Blart was Bert's old OC and TE coach, and when mama called he returned home from Pittsburgh. Blart was responsible for the most exciting game of the series post-Curse; a 2016 overtime thriller between two top-10 teams that ended with Larry Johnson's entire position room getting a walk-off sack.
The Curse was now on its third Badger coach. And Bert was still disrespectin' it from a distance.
Wisconsin's former coach had strong, truthful words for the defending national champions' 2015 schedule. But you don't have to say something out loud just because it's true. We teach children this to avoid embarrassing situations. We tell them to keep true and awkward things to themselves, so that they don't blow up in everyone's faces.
You know, like this.
Stunner in Little Rock: No. 18 Arkansas loses to unranked MAC foe Toledo, 16-12.— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) September 12, 2015
To be fair, Toledo was the third-best Ohio team that season, behind the Buckeyes and Bowling Green. America was robbed when Arkansas didn't play a full MAC schedule that season.
BLART'S RECORD VS. OHIO STATE: 0-4
The Badgers have scored 23, 21, 7 and 21 points against the Buckeyes under Blart, which is generally not enough points to beat Ohio State. It's still a Good Time to be a Badger Fan, as Blart has three B1G West titles in his four seasons. But that Curse is gonna Curse.
Here's that walk-off sack from 2016, the first for Ohio State since Joey Bosa ended a White Out by taking one guy and throwing into his own guy.
A year later the two teams met again in Indy and this time it was a game-ending interception. Alex O'Kornibrook (tips cap to Ann Arbor) provided the Buckeye defense with a second-consecutive charitable quarterback, and Ohio State cashed in to extend its winning streak over the bully of the B1G West to six.
That brings us to our two most recent Ohio State-Wisconsin clashes, the seventh and eighth-straight losses under Curse conditions - and the Buckeyes' most recent conference game. The only thing better than playing Wisconsin once in a season during this era is getting the Badgers twice.
Here's Chase Young's fourth sack of the game during their first meeting, a 38-7 romp.
That set up an in-season revenge game for the Badgers, who - true to form - came out in the 1st half burning a little hotter than the Buckeyes. Ohio State figured it out and ended the title game on a 27-0 run.
Here's Justin Fields hitting the Buckeyes' all-time leading receiver for the go-ahead touchdown in a building where the aggregate score between these two teams stands at 120-42.
Bert is currently a defensive assistant with the NY Giants. Arkansas still hasn't cracked double-digit wins in a season since prior to his tenure there, and Wisconsin continues to find success in being the least mysterious and most mediocre tyrant the conference has ever seen.
But the Curse hasn't been all bad. Wisconsin either reaches or just misses the B1G championship game every season! Bert was right. It truly is a good time to be a Badger fan.