Hill, McFadden set to square off at Capital One Bowl

first_imgRAY PFEIFFER/Herald photoAs the No. 6 Wisconsin football team makes final preparations for its return trip to Orlando to take on No. 12 Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl, the biggest key to the game appears to lie in the backfield of each team’s offense.Both the Badgers (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) and the Razorbacks (10-3, 7-1 SEC) will lean heavily on their star running backs, while still fielding uncertainty at the quarterback position.For UW, the question is whether or not senior signal-caller John Stocco will be 100 percent healthy for the New Year’s Day bowl game. Recovering from a shoulder injury suffered against Penn State Nov. 4 that forced him to miss the team’s final two regular-season games, Stocco appears confident in his availability for the Big Ten-SEC match-up.”By the time we leave to go down to Orlando, I’d like to be slinging it around pretty good,” the fifth-year senior said. “That would give me a full week to be at 100 percent. That’s what I’m hoping for, and I should be there.”If Stocco were unable to go, backup Tyler Donovan has proven himself more than capable, excelling in his first two career starts in Stocco’s spot.”I’m just going to be ready and be prepared,” Donovan said after the team’s regular season finale. “If John can’t go, or if he can, I’m going to be ready to do what I have to when they call my number.”Arkansas, on the other hand, has a much more complex problem at quarterback. The old adage goes that if you have two No. 1 quarterbacks, you really have none, and that’s exactly where the Razorbacks find themselves right now as both Casey Dick and Mitch Mustain have been inconsistent this season.Mustain, the nation’s top quarterback recruit last season, started Arkansas’ second game of the season after a blowout loss to Southern California and led the Razorbacks to a 7-1 record, but did so with modest passing numbers. Mustain was then abruptly pulled against South Carolina after his first pass was intercepted, and the job has since belonged to Casey Dick.Dick, a sophomore, has started Arkansas’ last four games, including their back-to-back losses to close out the regular season. As a starter, he has thrown five touchdowns against four interceptions and has struggled much the way Mustain did to provide a second option to the vaunted Razorback rushing attack.”Both of them will get quality reps and work,” Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said. “This is the time you can really get better and really improve that part of our game. This is what we have been missing the last couple of years, this valuable practice time. Timing, assignments, routes, precision. Mitch and Casey will both get a lot of quality work.”Nutt has said that for now, Dick is the starter, but that Mustain could win the job back in practice.”(Casey Dick) has played in some tough games against some tough defenses,” Nutt said. “I think there are some things he needs to get better at and keep working. He has made some good throws.”While each team’s quarterback situation is riddled with question marks, there is little to wonder about when looking at the two teams’ tailbacks, as both Wisconsin’s P.J. Hill and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden have attracted much national attention for their stellar ’06 seasons.Hill, the Rivals.com Freshman of the Year and an all-conference performer, bulldozed his way to 1,533 yards, 15 touchdowns and the conference rushing title. The redshirt frosh has had to fight off aches and pains all season and should be well-rested and healthy for the marquee tailback match-up.On the other side, McFadden was even more highly lauded, earning an invitation to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist and winning the Doak Walker Award (given to the nation’s top running back) with 1,558 yards and 14 touchdowns.”He’s able to … have a great burst as well as be able to knock some people down in the process,” Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said. “We need to be able to tackle effectively.”With questions in the passing game, it could be like looking in the mirror for both teams, as each will likely try to establish the running game early and continually pound the opposing defensive with handoffs.”I think (the running game) is going to be a big part of the game when you see their tailback, their offensive line and our offensive line and our tailbacks because that’s what we both do,” Nutt said.last_img