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Tolzien, Toon quite a combo

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Associated Press
November 17, 2009
— Sure, Wisconsin’s still a run-first team.

The Badgers just might be on to something with this Scott Tolzien-to-Nick Toon combination, though.


Tolzien and Toon hooked up for a pair of touchdowns in Saturday’s 45-24 victory over Michigan, a win that boosted the Badgers to No. 17 in this week’s AP poll. And after watching Wisconsin muddle through a few seasons of instability and inconsistency in its passing game, the best news for Badgers fans is this: Tolzien and Toon will be back next year.


Tolzien tied a career high with four touchdown passes Saturday, adding another score on a quarterback sneak. Michigan shut down Wisconsin’s formidable running game early on, so the Badgers went to the air.


Tolzien was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against Michigan. It’s the second time this season Tolzien has been honored by the Big Ten, making him the first UW quarterback in school history to earn multiple Big Ten Player of the Week honors in the same season.


Tolzien is just the third quarterback in school history to have two four-touchdown games in the same season (Darrell Bevell in 1993, and Jim Sorgi in 2003, are the other two). Tolzien’s 14 TD passes this season are tied for the 10th-most in school history and already three more than UW had all of last season.


“It’s good just to have another element of our offense to be able to throw the ball and not put it all on the run game,” Tolzien said. “It’s fun to be able to throw it, too.”


Beating Michigan was a big deal for Wisconsin, which blew a 19-point lead in a loss to Michigan last year and watched its season fall apart in the aftermath.


“Obviously we had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder from last year’s game,” Toon said. “We just didn’t finish last year, but we got it done this year.”


Wisconsin still can run the ball, of course. The Badgers have gone over 200 yards in three straight games.


“Welcome to Wisconsin football—that’s what we do,” coach Bret Bielema said.


But Bielema acknowledged that the Badgers might not have been in position to run out the clock with the running game in the second half if not for big passing plays early.


Toon, son of former Wisconsin and NFL standout receiver Al Toon, is emerging as Tolzien’s top target.


Toon leads the Badgers with 42 catches for 633 yards. He has four touchdown catches this season, trailing only tight end Garrett Graham’s five.


“Yeah, he’s a playmaker,” Tolzien said of Toon. “The best thing he has going for him is his confidence.”


Saturday’s game was Toon’s second big game in a row, coming off his five catches for 123 yards in Wisconsin’s victory over Indiana.


“I think Nick was excited to get out there and prove that last week just wasn’t a fluke,” Bielema said. “I think he’s ready to take a step forward as a man, as a football player.”


Tolzien was able to rebound from a pair of early turnovers Saturday. Tolzien wasn’t able to shake off his mistakes in the Badgers’ losses to Ohio State and Iowa.


“Just like anything else, you’ve got to learn from it,” Tolzien said. “But at the same time, the heat of the game, you can’t be dreading on the past. You’ve just got to move on and try to play smart from that point on.”



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