The Badgers blasted Illinois on Saturday to get right back on track for a potential BCS bowl bid.
Melvin Gordon continued his torrid pace by rushing for at least 140 yards for the sixth game. The only time he hasn’t hit the 140 mark this season was at Ohio State. Oh, and by the way, Gordon tied P.J. Hill for the quickest to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a season.
But underneath the Badgers’ second-straight win is a swirl that started last week.
Starting kicker Kyle French lost his job after missing a 38-yarder against Northwestern. He is now 5-for-8 on the season, which ties his .625 percentage from last season.
But that’s not where this story ends. French and Wisconsin have decided to end their relationship and the walk-on from Menomonee Falls, Wis. will not be a member of next year’s team.
French has said on Twitter that the decision for him to forego his senior season was a mutual one. However, nobody knows what exactly was said in Gary Andersen’s office. Did French plead to have his job back this season or next? That we will never know.
However, despite being on-track to graduate this spring with a finance degree, things haven’t exactly been easy for him. He has reportedly received death threats after missing kicks from 40, 32 and 38 yards. He will end his career at Wisconsin as a .621 kicker.
Even if newly tabbed kicker Jack Russell comes in and struggles, French is done. That’s why the hints of linebacker Chris Borland coming in to kick if needed began to make its way out of Camp Randall last week.
This doesn’t necessarily make Andersen a bad guy. Because let’s remember, French isn’t Andersen’s guy. French was recruited by Bret Bielema. Andersen is just trying to make his team better in a Big Ten that has gotten inherently stronger with the arrival of Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
But what’s going to prevent Russell, who is 0-for-3 in his Badgers career, from constantly looking over his shoulder if he happens to push or pull the ball a whisper that could cost Wisconsin the game?
Kickers are a fickle group. They don’t make tackles, throw passes or make blocks. They don’t have to know how to recognize a Cover 2 or know where the blitzing linebacker is coming from. All they have to do is line up behind a center, usually after the opposing coach has done the silly stunt of trying to ice him with a wasted timeout, wait for the holder to catch it and place it before booting the ball between the uprights.
This group cannot be messed with. You cannot expect continued success if you constantly play musical chairs with the kicker. You cannot bark at a kicker for missing a deep game-winning field goal and not expect it to affect his psyche.
So where does French go from here? Well, he instantly becomes a forgotten man on the team and tries to inject any morsel of positivity out of this whole ordeal. If he opts to also get his economics degree, he would need to continue his classes through the summer.
While there may be a chance he could transfer to another Division 1 program, most coaches aren’t going to want what they consider damaged goods. Once a kicker has not only lost confidence but has also lost a job, it’s a toxic cocktail.
It was a bold move by Andersen, because it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Russell could struggle. He missed a 41-yarder at Nebraska last year in a game that Wisconsin lost by three.
Either way, Rusell needs to produce or else he may be having his own meeting in Andersen’s office.
To contact Cory Jennerjohn e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @CoryJennerjohn.