Korger: Optimism remains after devastating weekend of injuries

first_imgIf there’s something I’ve learned in my life as both a fan of sports and as a journalist, it’s that athletic prowess and success can be taken away at the drop of the hat.Or a single hit. Or an ACL tear.But that’s just the nature of sports. The game is physical, the demands on the body extremely rigorous and sometimes, pure chance plays unfavorably to the athlete in motion.But the measure of the player comes in his response to the injury, to an event that threatens to derail the dreams of a season. The measure of the athlete’s team comes in its response to that absence, from the players who step up to meet the challenge and take on new roles.So, does the team crumble under the adversity? Do they rise up to meet the challenge? Or is it a shadow of itself simply going through the motions?Time always yields the answers, but sometimes as onlookers we lose the real message in the entire situation where pessimism reigns supreme.It’s just one player.If these sports truly are team sports, then one player does not win or lose a game. Granted, the special ones find a way to make their presence and impact known on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean their absence dooms an entire season.At least, not this year.Stave was a growing star in this Wisconsin football season – that’s a given. The redshirt freshman had his struggles, but when the team needed him most, he rose to restore faith in the campaign for a third-consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. After amounting the best first half in his career as a starter under center, against one of the best defenses in the country, Stave’s collarbone was broken by the sheer force of a physical hit to start the second half.Josh Gasser was supposed to emerge stronger and more talented then ever in his junior campaign for Bo Ryan and Wisconsin basketball, providing veteran leadership and taking over the void left at point guard by campus legend Jordan Taylor. With an extremely young and unproven backcourt coming into the season, Gasser was supposed to help mitigate the learning curve that George Marshall and Traevon Jackson would experience during their increased roles.Two leaders gone. Now what?Sure, Danny O’Brien’s performance after he replaced Stave inspired less confidence than a ship with holes in it plugged with Swiss cheese. And yes, the Wisconsin offense had less flow than a clogged toilet. But at least O’Brien has some starting experience this year. Keep in mind, Danny O’Brien probably received about a third of the snaps that Stave did during the week. It’s no excuse for his poor play, but his preparation for Michigan State was probably lacking compared to the man he was replacing. Remember, the last time O’Brien found the field in an actual game situation was at Nebraska during a questionable two-minute drill. With a bye week approaching at the perfect time, O’Brien will have adequate time to prepare for what essentially amounts to a one-game play-in for a spot in the Big Ten Championship game against the Hoosiers. If O’Brien can manage the offense well enough to give Wisconsin a win in Bloomington, the team will get its shot at a return trip to Pasadena. And in just one game, who knows what can happen?As for Gasser’s injury, it’s definitely shortened the length of the learning curve for the young Marshall and Jackson. With the most seasoned guard missing from Wisconsin’s roster, Marshall will most likely take the reigns at the point faster than expected. But heck, he was expected to play eventually, so why not right away?Yes, the team will miss Gasser immensely. His terrific defense was always a brutal necessity in a long Big Ten season full of terrific guards, as was his steady three-point shooting. But fans can take solace in knowing that young players like Sam Dekker, Marshall, Jackson and Ben Brust have the talent necessary to keep this Badger backcourt competitive enough to once again reach the NCAA tournament under Bo Ryan.Because, let’s be honest, it’s Bo Ryan. He finds a way to get it done. And don’t forget about Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren.So don’t let one of the most awful weekends in recent memory for Wisconsin sports get you down. There’s still plenty of football to be played and an entire season of basketball remaining. Nothing is, by any means, over.Nick is a fifth-year senior majoring in English and history. He is also a featured member of WSUM’s “The Badger Herald Sports Hour” on Sundays from 4-5 p.m. and “The Student Section” on Mondays from 4-6 p.m. Have a thought about the column? Email him at [email protected] or reach out via Twitter @NickKorger.last_img

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