October 28, 2010

Tolzien makes most of 2nd chances

MADISON - Last season, in his first year as the Badgers' starting quarterback, Scott Tolzien turned in his worst performances in consecutive weeks against Ohio State and Iowa, the Big Ten's two toughest defenses.

A year later, Tolzien has recorded back-to-back strong performances while guiding his team to Wisconsin's two biggest wins since head coach Bret Bielema took over the program. In particular, Tolzien's response to interceptions has been a key difference.

"I think I just played within myself more this year and didn't force things," Tolzien said. "I just took what the defense was giving me and just tried to be patient and not trying to make too many plays when the situation didn't call for it.

"A year of experience is big if you take it the right way and learn from your past experiences. Having an extra year under my belt helped a lot."

In 2010, Tolzien threw two crucial pick sixes in Columbus, while being intercepted three more times in a winnable game against Iowa at home a week later. This year, Tolzien was picked off by each team once, but responded admirably both times.

That difference has not gone unnoticed by his head coach, either.

"I've seen his response to his two interceptions be about as positive as you can," Bielema said. "I noticed at one point, I believe it was second down on the series that actually got to four downs on the last drive, and after second down he was clapping his hands. He smacked somebody on the back. He knew he was going to have success.

"That's the part that's probably separated him, in my mind. I always knew he was great. He's always going to have great academics. He's always going to say the right things. He's always going to do the right things. But when things are hard or when you have a bad play, how are you going to respond?"

After being intercepted in the second quarter last week against Ohio State while leading 21-3, Tolzien responded by not turning the ball over again, while also leading his team on a pair of fourth-quarter scoring drives.

Trailing 27-24 in Iowa City, Tolzien was intercepted on a misguided first-down pass, which led to a Hawkeyes field goal and put UW down 30-24 with 8:35 remaining in the game. On the next drive, Tolzien completed 3 of 5 passes while also rushing for six yards.

More importantly, he guided the Badgers down the field, 80 yards for the game winning touchdown run by running back Montee Ball. After Tolzien's mistake played a major factor in consecutive losses last season, his poise and ability to continue to make plays after throwing an interception was integral in two major Wisconsin victories.

"We got a win, and I thought I played good enough to give us a chance to win," Tolzien said. "That's kind of a simple statement, but I think really that's how quarterbacks are measured is getting wins. Sometimes it's not going to be pretty and sometimes you've got to put more on your shoulders, but whatever the case may be, you've got to win."

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