I'm guessing most Badgers fans are feeling like I am after watching the loss on Saturday night to Ohio State. After an incredible undefeated season run-up to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis, and seeing the air go out of the National Championship balloon for another season, it's hard not to overreact to a disappointing end to what really was a great season for Wisconsin.
12-1 is a great record, no denying that. But given fan's expectations that this would finally be the year the team broke through and get into the College Football Playoffs. its not surprising that some fans would lash out at a player that most Badgers fans have had a love/hate relationship with over his career.
After the loss, I spent some time scrolling through social media (Facebook and Twitter) in an attempt to get over the loss, and one post in particular caught my eye. It raised the reality - at least for some sports fans - that we tend to use the word hate when it comes to college athletes, and whether, based on the age and amateur status of college athletes, that is appropriate.
It's a great question, and for some Badgers fans, it's a word that has been tossed in the direction of their young quarterback, Alex Hornibrook. I think most Badgers fans who watch the games, understand he's not a top-rated college quarterback.
That said, there is no excuse to criticize anything other than his play on the field. From all accounts he's an upstanding young man.
And up until Saturday night, he led an undefeated team through a Big Ten regular season schedule. No small feat.
My colleague Jay Sorgi writes eloquently on the conversation about the future of the Badgers and the role recruiting plays in any chance they have to finally get into the College Football Playoff, and the discussion about a national championship.
I agree with Jay. While we should certainly enjoy a season like the one we're experiencing in 2017, it's also OK to expect more. Frankly, I've never been a fan of the "enjoy the ride" mentality.
To Jay's point, I think you can make the argument that in some ways, the Badgers have thrown away some national title chances by not getting out of their comfort zone, by not emphasizing top-notch quarterback play as much as they do in respect to their running backs and offensive lineman.
Outside of the Russell Wilson season, quarterback play has been really average over many season for the Badgers.
While you can argue a quarterback who calls the plays for a team and leads them to a winning season deserves praise, you can also logically make the case that average quarterback play has cost them some opportunities.
If the goal is to win a national championship, not just a Big Ten title, then there really isn't much argument to be made on the other side. And enjoying the ride is really, went you get down to it, nothing more than a losers lament.
Ask Packers coach Mike McCarthy if he's satisfied with any of the post season results he's had since the 2010 season.
Don't hate the players, but certainly expect-and demand (especially if you're a season ticket holder) greatness. Yes, you'll be disappointed most seasons (unless you're a fan of the New England Patriots or the Alabama Crimson Tide), but if it's truly about chasing excellence, and not filling the coffers, the Badgers and their young quarterback need to step it up. I would start by throwing fewer interceptions.
And enough with the argument that Wisconsin can't get a top level quarterback prospect. One more naive attempt at rationalizing what has been a consistent story in Madison for 25 years.
Happy for the team's success, love the effort by these amateur athletes, but please, don't keep settling for close enough.