LINCOLN, Neb. — Being down two scores in the third quarter Saturday didn’t faze the University of Wisconsin football team. Not this week.
Life already had dealt the Badgers a blow too big to be worried about a game with enough time to right the ship, which UW did in a 15-14 win over Nebraska. Former UW receiver Devin Chandler was one of three football players killed in a shooting at the University of Virginia on Sunday. Chandler transferred to Virginia last year after spending two seasons at UW.
Many Badgers players considered Chandler a close friend and the impact of his loss isn’t something they’ll be over soon. The team wore a helmet decal with Chandler’s initials against Nebraska, and receiver Skyler Bell wore a UW T-shirt under his pads with the No. 86 printed on it. Chandler wore 86 at UW.
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“Personally, it was hard for me,” Bell said through long pauses. “I was really close to Devin. … It’s tough to see.”
Tanor Bortolini, UW’s left guard and a classmate of Chandler’s, said the team tried to play in Chandler’s honor.
“The message was, what would Devin do to strap it up one more time, to get out here one more time?” Bortolini said. “For us to be able to go out there, play the way we did, I hope we made him proud.”
Leonhard described Thursday balancing the need to prepare for the Cornhuskers with supporting his players’ emotionally. When he choked up as he spoke to the team after the game.
“We need this one for a lot, man,” Leonhard said in a video posted by UW football’s social media. “For the program, for you guys, everything you’ve been through, for Devin. (Expletive) proud of you, men.”
Junior receiver Chimere Dike, who shared a position group with Chandler for two seasons, said the week was difficult. The game and the win offered a brief reprieve.
“Being able to rally the troop, so to speak, with coach Leonhard,” Dike said, “understanding we were grieving but at the same time we needed to come out on Saturday and get this win and play for Devin, I think we did a good job.”
Badgers fans proud of ‘gritty’ Wisconsin football win at Nebraska
Nitty gritty victory
Eleven down in the 4th quarter and the Badgers overcame the wind, the officiating, and are now Bowl eligible for the 21st consecutive season! Congratulations to both the players and coaches. They never gave up. A gritty performance!
— Jeff Ostach☮️ (@jeff_ostach) November 19, 2022
Just like basketball
The biggest difference between the team that lost to Illinois and the team that won today was that they never stopped fighting.
But that was one of the ugliest wins in a long time. Like Badgers MBB over UWGB-level ugly.
— Craig Smith (@smithcp1) November 19, 2022
Can’t take that away
Was looking like the points lost on two Chim drops would cost them. Love the QB sneak and having both backs be the “pushers”. Say this for Mertz: the guy has toughness.
— Rob Finley (@finleyr27) November 19, 2022
This team has been through a ton…yes they played unevenly…but made plays in the end.
— Todd (@pilprin) November 19, 2022
Progression in the ugly?
Ugly on a technical level, but gotta give the team credit for fighting, not sure they win this type of game early in the season
— Dan D. (@One_Punch_Dan) November 19, 2022
Very gutty win… I love CFB because you see kids, most of who won’t ay in the NFL, giving 100% effort on every play. And they got rewarded for it.
Herbig ejection galvanized them a bit I think. And Kaden Johnson played well in his place!!
— firstname.lastname@example.org (@seanu82766) November 19, 2022
Looks good in hindsight
Been saying all year, Get the ball in Guerrendo’s hands!!! Look what happened!
— Richard Earlier (@EarlierRichard) November 19, 2022
Room for running backs
Isaac and Chez carried the load for a very obviously hurting Allen. Great grit shown by all of them.
— DesertEagle (@D3s3rtEagl3) November 19, 2022
Shadow of greatness
Coach Leonard stole one. Just like Barry did at times.
— Ilija Radjenovic (@IlijaQZ) November 19, 2022
Count Chocula Bowl here we come!!! (that’s a thing right?) 🧛🏼♂️
— Russ Evansen (@waunaruss) November 19, 2022
Where it always sleets
can’t wait for the “welcome to shreveport pirelli tire bowl”, but glad to get the win
— Slim Hickman (@SlimHickman) November 19, 2022
The future is now
Fought hard. All you can ask. Give Leonhard the job already. The short term future (and, by extension, long term future) of the program depends on it
— Jon Corbett (@Jon_Corbett) November 19, 2022
McIntosh at work
Gutty win but start the national search. AD needs to weigh alternatives: if Jim’s olan is better and he thinks he can execute it, fine. Otherwise, move on
— Fred Ehle (@FredEhle) November 19, 2022
Not bad for rock bottom?
Great win during a bad year. I hope this proves to be “rock bottom” and Leonhard has the offensive line and defense on the upswing by next year, but I know that’s a tall task.
— JZilla (@zillmerjsh) November 19, 2022
The record is the record
Leonhard 4-2 and a few plays from 5-1. Mertz hung tough!
— Douglas Greenberg (@DougGreenB) November 19, 2022
A vote for Jimmy
Painful to watch but love the fight which wasn’t there early in the season. Chez looked good. A much-needed win – give Jimmy the job!
— Susan Balsai (@sesbadger) November 19, 2022
Despite the win, team languishing; barely defeated a bad team. UW better in most metrics yet never appeared dominant.Hope is that once OLine is consistent and healthy, they can blow out teams like this. 6-7 wins=mediocrity. We’ve become accustomed to better.
— Mark Schutta (@MarkSchutta) November 19, 2022
Onto the Axe
Happy for the team after a brutal week. Needed something to go their way. D was special again. Offense arose when needed.
Now let’s go get the Axe!
— Chris Davis (@cdavis20000) November 19, 2022
A huge win. Bowl practices are really important, particularly with a transition to a new head coach.
— David Roelke (@droelke) November 19, 2022
Ugly win, BUT very important For the future of the program. Hope it can help stop the recruit bleeding and give them some confidence going into The Axe game.
— Eric M. Tostrud (@EricTostrud) November 19, 2022
Pride on the line?
Get the Axe back. Win the Quik Lane Car Care Bowl….
And pretend this season never happened!!
— Brian Suttie (@BigDaddySutt) November 19, 2022
The real ‘football’
With the World Cup coming up, it’s appropriate to note that they call soccer the beautiful game. That does not apply here.
— Peter Healy (@PeterRHealy) November 19, 2022