Groshek wants to do his part for Badgers
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON--With two of his former players on the Wisconsin roster, Amherst High School football coach Mark Lusic has seen every UW game this season, either live or courtesy of his DVR.
Lusic has seen Tyler Biadasz start all six games at center and tailback Garrett Groshek get a handful of carries after the outcome has been decided.
Lusic wasn’t prepared for what he saw late against Purdue.
With UW trying to run out the clock and protect an eight-point lead, Groshek got the ball on two critical plays.
“I was like: ‘Holy (expletive). There he is,’ ” Lusic said. “It was cool to watch.”
Lusic likely wasn’t the only UW fan who was surprised to see Groshek carry the ball twice on UW’s 16-play, 77-yard drive that took the final 8 minutes 14 seconds off the clock in the Badgers' 17-9 victory.
Groshek entered the game with 89 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, with all the work coming on the back end of lopsided victories over Utah State, Florida Atlantic, BYU and Nebraska.
Saturday the outcome was in doubt.
One play after freshman tailback Jonathan Taylor lost a yard on first down, Groshek entered the huddle and lined up in the Wildcat formation. He took the direct snap from Biadasz, something he had done countless times in high school as a dual-threat quarterback, and followed the block of fullback Austin Ramesh over the right side for 18 yards to the Purdue 41.
Groshek, 5-foot-11 and 216 pounds, met safety Navon Mosley (6-0, 190) at the Purdue 49 and gained another 8 yards before he was brought down by two defenders.
“He is a great running back,” Biadasz said. “He did a great job. I expect that out of him.”
Four plays later, after Alex Hornibrook converted a third-and-6 play with a 7-yard pass play to Quintez Cephus, Groshek came back into the lineup.
Groshek lined up in a single-back set, took the handoff from Hornibrook and followed his blocking on the right side for another 14 yards. Groshek displayed patience to wait for the blocks to develop and then got through the hole quickly.
Groshek’s teammates weren’t surprised to see the redshirt freshman contribute with the game on the line.
“He is a technician,” redshirt junior left tackle Michael Deiter said. “He learns really fast, does everything the right way.
“He has all the ability in the world. Athletically he is gifted. He is a good enough player. He has proven that already."
Linebacker Garret Dooley first saw Groshek’s ability during practice last season. Groshek was the scout team quarterback and sometimes made life miserable for the No. 1 defense.
“I know he made a few guys look silly,” Dooley said. “Just getting out in the open space. You wouldn’t think of him as that shifty of a guy but he is a lot faster than you give him credit for.”
Lusic saw Groshek make plays every week at Amherst.
He rushed for 1,432 yards and 16 touchdowns and passed for 41 touchdowns and 2,398 yards as a senior when he led Amherst to the 2015 WIAA Division 5 state title. Groshek was named the offensive player of the year by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association. In three seasons at Amherst, Groshek rushed for 4,447 rushing yards and 57 touchdowns and passed for 5,236 yards and 72 touchdowns.
“He loves to have the ball in his hands,” Lusic said. “He is a natural with the ball in his hands.
“He is a film rat. Football is his thing. He would practice every day if he could, 365 days a year. Not too many guys are like that."
Groshek had several Division II offers and appeared to be headed on that route until UW extended a preferred walk-on offer.
After working as the scout-team quarterback last season, Groshek moved to tailback in the spring.
“From the moment he has come in, he has worked,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. "So, when an opportunity comes up, he has been preparing for it and he will continue to work. That’s who he is.”
Groshek opened the season as the fifth tailback—behind Taylor, Bradrick Shaw, Chris James, Taiwan Deal and Rachid Ibrahim.
James (left leg) was held out against Purdue. Shaw carried 12 times for 41 yards against the Boilermakers but appeared tentative and was not on the field for the final drive. Deal (right ankle) hasn’t played this season and Ibrahim did not play against Purdue after bobbling a pass that was intercepted.
Taylor and Groshek got the ball on the final drive against Purdue.
UW offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph explained why the staff trusted Groshek late in the game.
"Just what he does every day,” Rudolph said. “He is very much into it. The confidence that the guys around him have is there because of the confidence he has in himself.”
Groshek’s No. 1 goal this season was to at least contribute on special teams. He has done that and has played on both coverage and both return units.
When he learned Groshek had been moved to tailback in the spring, Lusic sent a text to his former player.
His question: Do you like it?
Groshek’s response: Yeah.
Lusic wrote back: Then I like it, too.
“He just wants to compete,” Lusic said. “He wants to play and he’ll do anything he can to get on the field."
Last updated: 11:00 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2017