Butrym’s speech’ put fire in Badgers in title game win
Wisconsin’s fifth-year senior defensive tackle is more comfortable in the pits, slugging it out with offensive linemen, than he is at the pulpit, breathing fire for a captive audience.
Yet at halftime of the Big Ten championship game, with UW’s defense getting treated like a rag doll by Michigan State, the normally reserved Butrym went ballistic.
“The nice thing about Pat is that he knows when to talk and he knows when to lead by example,” defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said as UW continued preparation to meet Oregon in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2. “If someone is always yelling and screaming then it becomes white noise.
“Pat grasps and understands that. That’s why he is a captain. That’s why he is a great leader.”
At that moment in the UW locker room, Butrym understood he needed to step out of character and lead by word, even if the words were harsh.
“Pat was going nuts,” sophomore linebacker Chris Borland said. “I thought he was going to pass out and start turning blue. Sometimes we needed a kick in the butt.”
What exactly did he say?
“I can’t repeat most of it,” Borland said, grinning. “The basis of it was that we weren’t playing up to our ability. We needed to pull our heads out of our butts and start playing the way we know how.
“He was fired up and we needed that.”
Butrym didn’t have a stat sheet in his hand that night but he knew UW’s defense had allowed four touchdowns and that the Badgers trailed, 29-21.
The Spartans had rolled up 317 yards, 181 passing and 136 rushing, in the first two quarters.
“We were soft, to be completely hon est with you,” said Butrym, a graduate of Catholic Memorial High School. “We just were not playing as well as we could have, especially with how hard we worked throughout the week. It came down to tackling and executing.”
UW held Michigan State to 10 points and 154 yards, 100 passing and 54 rushing, in the second half.
“It wasn’t very many adjustments,” Borland said. “They hurt us on a few things we defended better later on.
“Really, we just had to toughen up. We weren’t playing our best game. During halftime we got after one another and fixed it.”
UW’s defense set the tone for second half on the first series.
Borland and linebacker Kevin Claxton stuffed wide receiver Keshawn Martin for a 1-yard loss on first down. Then after tailback Le’Veon Bell got free for a 10-yard gain to set up third and 1 from the Spartans’ 31, defensive end Brendan Kelly brought Bell down for a loss of 7 yards.
Bell started to his right on the play but Kelly penetrated into the backfield and turned Bell back to the left, where end Louis Nzegwu was waiting on the backside of the play. Bell was eventually surrounded by defenders and the Spartans were forced to punt.
UW drove 62 yards in eight plays or a touchdown to pull within 29-28 and the rally that would carry UW to a 42-39 victory was on.
Michigan State scored on two of its five second-half possessions but the Badgers forced three punts after forcing zero in the first half.
“(Pat) was very animated at half,” UW coach Bret Bielema said. “He is a classic Wisconsin kid that came in here . . a kid we liked and he just worked his tail off. It means a lot for him to play here.
“As that window gets closer and closer to the end, as that light is going to be shut off playing at your home state institution, he really drew upon that to play well in that game.”
Butrym was credited for one tackle for loss in the title game. His biggest contribution might have come in the locker room when he stepped out of character and lit into his teammates.
“When it has to be I guess it is,” Butrym said of his rare emotional outburst. “There’s never really been a moment through the year.
“I didn’t want to regret being in there and not saying anything—looking back and saying: ‘What could I have said? What leadership could I have provided?’
“I’m just glad I did it.”