Borland not a fan of the 'Shoe
Wisconsin’s roster lists 14 players from Ohio.
That group includes three players from Columbus, the state’s capital, its largest city and the home of The Ohio State University.
Each has a story to share.
Some of those 14 players grew up idolizing the Buckeyes but didn’t receive a scholarship offer. Some players weren’t passionate Ohio State fans and were looking to move away from home.
Chris Borland’s story might be the most compelling because of the games he has missed in his four-plus years at UW.
The fifth-year senior linebacker, who grew up about an hour southwest of Columbus in Kettering, missed the 2010 and 2012 games because of injuries.
When UW (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) faces the Buckeyes (4-0, 0-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday in Columbus, it will mark Borland’s final chance to contribute in a victory against a team of which he isn’t especially fond.
“The games I’ve missed were frustrating for me personally,” he said. “But we had team success—won one and played well in the second.
“So it has been kind of highs and lows.”
Mostly lows, however. UW went 1-5 against Ohio State during Bret Bielema’s seven-year run as head coach, and the Badgers are 1-3 against the Buckeyes since Borland arrived in Madison in 2009.
In 2009 the rivals met in Columbus. UW won the yardage battle, 368-184, and held the ball for 42 minutes 47 seconds.
The Buckeyes returned two interceptions for touchdowns and returned a kickoff for a touchdown en route to a 31-13 victory.
Borland, the No. 2 weak-side linebacker behind Mike Taylor, had one tackle.
“We really outplayed them, but the score didn’t show that,” Borland said.
In 2010 Ohio State was No. 1 in the country when it visited Madison. Borland was a spectator that night because a shoulder injury suffered in Week 3 ended his season.
Borland watched from the sideline as David Gilreath returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and John Clay (21 carries, 104 yards and two TDs) and James White (17-75-1) tore through the Ohio State defense en route to a 31-18 victory.
In 2011, UW appeared to have the game in hand until then-freshman quarterback Braxton Miller escaped the pocket and heaved a 40-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Devin Smith with 20 seconds left.
Ohio State prevailed, 33-29.
“That was probably the hardest to take,” said Borland, who recorded 13 tackles in the loss.
Last season, Ohio State escaped Madison with a 21-14 overtime victory. Borland was once more a spectator because of a hamstring injury he suffered the previous week in a 62-14 victory at Indiana.
Borland, who suffered the injury with less than two minutes left in the third quarter with UW holding a 41-7 lead over the Hoosiers, reaffirmed this week he wasn’t cleared to play against the Buckeyes.
“I couldn’t have been effective,” he said.
So which game was more painful to miss, the victory in 2010 or the overtime loss in 2012?
“The one that we lost,” Borland said without hesitation. “Your only role is to contribute to a win. They didn’t need me in 2010.
“To see us lose in a close one in 2012, that was challenging.”
Ohio State drops off UW’s schedule after this season because the Big Ten is realigning the divisions and the Buckeyes will be in the East, with the Badgers in the West.
Saturday will offer UW’s seniors one last shot at the Buckeyes.
“It is the rivalry nobody really talks about,” said Brian Wozniak, a fifth-year senior tight end from Loveland, just outside Cincinnati. “And that is fine. I think if you ask the OSU players they like that, too.
“They don’t really like hyping the game up. We just like going out there and throwing punches back and forth.
“It is a physical game inside the front seven. That is where is starts for both teams.”
Borland is the most indispensable player on UW’s front seven and arguably on the entire defense.
“Some guys will try to downplay it, but I’m from nearby,” he said. “I have friends and family that go there or are fans of that team.
“I’m excited for it. It is a chance to play in front of them …
“It is a great environment. The Horseshoe is a really fun place to play. A win there would mean a lot.”
Particularly for a player who has missed two of the more entertaining games in the rivalry.