Tolzien takes ribbing for work habits
LOS ANGELES Leave it to Wisconsin's resident funny man to make the serious Scott Tolzien crack a smile.
Asked what Tolzien has meant to the program in his past two seasons, senior left guard John Moffitt chose to focus on what could have been, had the steady signal caller pulled his nose out of the playbook.
"He's wasted so much time in his early years," said a sarcastic Moffitt. "I mean seriously, like you just started two years ago. You wasted three years of your life studying plays that we probably threw away."
Tolzien was asked for a rebuttal and, just like he's been throughout his career, was accurate with his delivery.
"I've probably wasted my fair share of time studying, but I wouldn't change it for anything, especially seeing where we are at," Tolzien said.
In his early years on campus, Tolzien knew that in order to be a leader, he needed to be a follower. So he stood and watched quarterbacks John Stocco and Tyler Donovan lead teams to 21 wins, learning what things to do and what not to do.
"You appreciate things more when you go through that adversity," Tolzien said.
That adversity has cultivated a winner. Not only has Tolzien equaled Stocco and Donovan by going 21-4 in his two seasons as a starter, Tolzien will look to join Darrell Bevel (1993), Mike Samuel (1999) and Brooks Bollinger (2000) in the small group of quarterback to lead the Badgers to a Rose Bowl victory when No. 4 Wisconsin plays No. 3 TCU on Saturday in Pasadena.
The big storyline in the weeks leading up to the 97th Rose Bowl has been about Wisconsin's power running game, a group that averages 247.3 yards per game, facing TCU's top-ranked defense, giving up 215.4 yards per game.
Just like he has throughout his career, the Wisconsin passing game and Tolzien's efficiency have become an afterthought. Tolzien, winner of the Unitas Golden Arm Award that's given to the nation's top senior quarterback, leads the country with a 74.3 completion percentage.
He's on pace to break Bevell's record of 67.8 percent, and has given a lot of credit to his success to having the same offensive coordinator—Paul Chryst—throughout his tenure.
His players aren't so willing to thrust the credit elsewhere.
"He's a very smart quarterback and one of the best quarterbacks in the nation because he knows how to control the game," said freshman James White, who rushed for 1,029 yards this season. "He doesn't throw the ball as much as other great quarterbacks, but when he throws, he completes a pass, which opens up the run game and makes us a better team."
He also has a lot in common with his quarterback counterpart, TCU's Andy Dalton, who was named the Mountain West player of the year after throwing for 2,638 passing yards and 26 touchdowns for the Horned Frogs (12-0).
Members of Wisconsin's defense say Dalton remind them a lot of Tolzien when they study film, and the similarities are justified between the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Dalton and the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Tolzien.
During the Badgers' current seven-game winning streak, Tolzien has completed 107-of-136 (.787) passes for 1,322 yards, 10 TDs and four interceptions. In TCU's last 10 wins, Dalton has put together three of the top seven single- game completion percentages (min. 15 attempts) in TCU history
Since Oct. 6, Dalton, who finished ninth in the 2010 Heisman Trophy voting after receiving four first-place votes, is completing 67.4 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions, and is the nation's leader in active wins by a quarterback with 41.
More importantly, they are both fifth-year seniors that exude experience and lead offenses that averages 43.3 points per game.
"You can tell that he is a smart kid and he stands for the right things," Tolzien said of Dalton. "We have a couple common denominators, and he's a heck of a quarterback. When Coach Patterson introduced him as the ‘quarterback that's won 41 games,' that's all you need to know about him. He wins games, and we all know that's the most important statistic."
One of Tolzien's many trademarks is his steady demeanor, never getting too high or too low after any play or before any game. That changed Saturday afternoon when he got to step foot on the Rose Turf for the first time, look around and soak it in. It lasted for only a couple hours, as Tolzien was already locked in on the special opportunity he and his team have tomorrow.
"There's always times in the last month after the Northwestern game when you realize that this is pretty special," he said. "At the same time, it's still about the preparation and each day. After the season, you can say that was something special, but that's something for after the game. Right now, it's all about focusing on the game."