The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team returned to Madison after an overtime thriller Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York, where the Badgers overcame improbable Rutgers University in a defensive showdown.Head coach Greg Gard acknowledged the offensive woes, but was also proud of the way his team kept playing loose and confident throughout the entire game.Wisconsin scored fewer points than minutes expired through the first 36 minutes of play, and with 3:22 on the clock the Badgers faced a seemingly insurmountable nine-point deficit (41-32).Women’s hockey: Badgers set NCAA attendance record at Kohl Center amid three-game homesteadWisconsin routed Minnesota State University, Mankato to cap off a three-week homestead that featured an NCAA record-setting attendance for a women’s Read…The Badgers trailed for most of the second half until a bucket by sophomore forward Ethan Happ tied the game 45-45 with less than three seconds on the clock to force overtime.“We struggled to score and put the ball in the basket,” Gard said. “[The players] did a good job of staying loose.”The Badgers had one of their worst three-point shooting games of the season against the Scarlet Knights, but Gard offered up some of his best jokes as evidence of how he kept the players loose and upbeat during the rough offensive performance.“Why did the cookie go to the hospital?” Gard joked. “He was feeling crummy.”Jokes like this one and relentless effort from senior leader Zak Showalter helped the Badgers stay and do just enough to force an overtime period. Gard complimented Zak Showalter for his efforts throughout the game.“It was the energy and toughness plays,” Gard said. “[Showalter] contributes in a lot of ways.”With the rebound momentum from Saturday’s win at Madison Square Garden, the Badgers travel to Champaign to take on the University of Illinois. The Fighting Illini have proven to be much better at home than away this year, presenting a tough challenge for a Badger team trying to stay tied atop the Big Ten standings.“They are a much more potent team, for whatever reason, at home,” Gard said.Hayes: Biegel, Clement could use 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl to climb NFL draft boardsWhile their careers on the field for Wisconsin may be over, Badger seniors Corey Clement and Vince Biegel have one Read…Gard was also asked about the release of the first four seeds from every region on Feb. 11 and seemed to reflect the attitude many have had since the early projections were announced.“We play two to three times a week, it could change tomorrow,” Gard said. “In terms of our approach, it does not change.”The newly crowned No. 10 Badgers will attempt to continue their ascent up the polls Tuesday night with an 8 p.m. tip at Illinois.
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was named the MVP of Super Bowl 53.The 32-year-old veteran finished with a game-high 10 catches for 141 yards, and threw in an eight-yard run on a sweep in New England’s 13-3 win over the Rams. The Rams tried everything to stop Edelman, but he kept finding seams in the defense. And he racked up some big yards after the catch, as on this key play late in the game.According to Opta, Edelman is the seventh different player with 10-plus catches and 100-plus receiving yards in a Super Bowl, and the fourth different Patriot. During the game, Edelman passed former Cowboys star Michael Irvin for second in career postseason receiving yards.Edelman becomes the seventh wide receiver to be named the Super Bowl MVP, and the first since Santonio Holmes in 2009. Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch won MVP honors in Super Bowl 34.
Bly stops, almost as if he was fact-checking himself.”We were so deep,” Bly said before the mic drop. “That Peppers had to redshirt.”MORE: Brown explains return to UNC and exit from TexasIt’s true. Peppers, who retired last season after a 17-year NFL career that produced 159.5 sacks, redshirted at North Carolina in 1998. By then, Brown had already left for his first season at Texas, where he led the Longhorns to a national championship in 2005 and national title game appearance in 2009.Brown, however, built talented rosters with the Tar Heels through recruiting, to the point that landing stars such as Peppers and Ronald Curry was possible. Bly uses the 1996 and ’97 teams, which had 22 players drafted in the NFL, to continue his argument.”We only lost two defensive starters from the ’96 defense to ’97 team,” Bly said. “Listen to this, and it’s crazy: Every last starter on that defense except one person played at least two years in the NFL. The one dude who didn’t is Greg Williams, and he’s the DB coach for the Arizona Cardinals.”Again, Bly’s facts check out. A total of 18 regulars on those defenses played two years or more in the NFL and Bly, Greg Ellis and Vonnie Holliday were among the star players at the next level. Bly and Russell Davis were among the eight players under Brown who went on to be Super Bowl champions.Bly is back in Chapel Hill as a defensive backs coach under Brown, who at 67 years old returns to North Carolina after his first stint from 1988-97. Brown faces the same task as everybody else in the ACC, and that’s accumulating enough talent to give Clemson an honest run for the ACC title. If history is anything to go off of, then Brown should be able to make headway in that endeavor. The ’96 and ’97 teams both finished with 10 wins and a top-10 ranking.Bly believes that can happen, and Brown will be the biggest reason why after a five-year stint as a color commentator at ESPN.”I don’t think much has changed,” Bly said. “I think he can relate with the younger generation because of his role on television the last five years.”It’s more than that. Brown wants to relate to the younger generation again. CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When asked whether Mack Brown can recruit at North Carolina like he did in his first stint in Chapel Hill, former Tar Heels defensive back Dre Bly points to defensive end Julius Peppers as the prime example of Brown’s recruiting touch — albeit in an unexpected way.”Julius Peppers is going to go down as one of the top five most athletic defensive linemen to ever play the game,” Bly told Sporting News. “When he came to North Carolina, Peppers redshirted.” UNC Athletics https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/5a/1/mack-brown1-080619-getty-ftrjpg_6y3nnncg624s17u0gsyskga87.jpg?t=1739713412&w=500&quality=80 MORE: Remembering coaches who returned to their schoolsBrown is set in a recruiting footprint from which he assembled his teams the first time around in Chapel Hill. It’s an area that extends from Washington, D.C., to Jacksonville, Fla., with a tight focus between Virginia Beach through Atlanta.”It’s a special place, and kids that grow up in (North Carolina), whether it’s the basketball or it’s the academics, they’re drawn to it,” Brown said. “Good kids want to stay where their parents can see them play. We need to be the cool place to be, being the state school, for them to have that opportunity. They don’t have to go everywhere in the country. They can stay right here.”Brown proved that philosophy right away by flipping in-state quarterback Sam Howell from Florida State in the last cycle. The Tar Heels’ 2019 class ranked 32nd nationally and sixth in the ACC, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. That was second among instate rivals N.C. State (No. 5), Duke (No. 8) and Wake Forest (No. 11).Those teams, in part, will be among the biggest recruiting challenges for Mack in his second stint.”The state of North Carolina has really good high school football, but it’s also a state that is oversaturated with universities,” ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill told SN. “There are four Power 5 schools within an hour of each other. That’s hard. The other thing that makes it even more challenging is it’s not what I would call an allegiance state.”For example, in Alabama when you come out of the womb you are either Auburn or Alabama,” Luginbill said. “Those guys know where they are going to go since they’ve been in diapers. Here, you really have to fight to keep players at home. That will be the primary focus.”That must be the focus before Brown can approach the five-star conversations with superpowers such as Alabama and Clemson. The Tigers and Tide have the top two recruiting class in 247Sports for 2020 for now, and the Tar Heels sit at No. 17 — tops in their state and one spot behind Texas.”All it takes is to get one or two high-profile guys to not go somewhere else,” Luginbill said. “To not go to Clemson, to not go to Alabama, to not go to Georgia, and then that starts to trickle down.”That’s how Brown intends to get a few pieces to fit in with his team. It worked when he recruited Peppers at North Carolina and Young at Texas.”When you start doing that and start turning it, then they start getting their buddies to come,” Brown said. “That’s what happened last time.”But how does Brown relay that message to prospects after five years out of the recruiting game?”The good thing is that we have five guys on our staff that played for me,” Brown said. “They can do that. I don’t have to. Dre Bly can say, ‘Man I played with the guy and Coach Brown brought in all these guys.’ (Co-defensive coordinator) Tommy Thigpen can say, ‘We were nothing when we got here, and went from 1-10 to 10-2.’ That’s how we’re going to do it.”—Bly isn’t done telling stories. He jumps from Peppers to the 1996-97 team to the connection he now shares with Brown in the meeting room as a first-time college coach. There’s a method to Brown’s recruiting, and it’s a lifetime contract of sorts.”I tell people all the time, ‘I’m a living testament of what Mack can do,” Bly said. “I’m the first one to tell you none of that would be possible without my support system. The guys I played with. The guys on my team were all recruited by Coach Brown. His resume speaks for itself.”Bly also draws a comparison to his first coach in the NFL.”It’s very similar to me what Dick Vermeil was to us when I played for the St. Louis Rams,” Bly said. “(Brown) is a player’s coach. He emphasizes family. He’s about relationships. That’s why he gets results out of his players. It’s time-tested. It works.”Vermeil, of course, returned to the NFL after a 15-year absence and led the Rams to a victory in Super Bowl 34. Bly sees Brown making a similarly significant impact the second time around in Chapel Hill, and he’s not afraid to name drop the other local coaches with national championships in a different sport.”Coach to me and to a lot of people the impact he has on in college football is very similar to a Roy Williams or Coach K in college basketball,” Bly said. “He’s one of those guys in football. Anything he touches, it turns platinum.”The question stands as to whether the modernized version of what Brown did at North Carolina in his first stint will catch on again at a program that made the ACC championship game in 2015 but is 13-23 the last three seasons. Brown is relying on the same pitch. Some might not buy what he can do for their kids. But Brown still does it the best.”We’ve found that especially if they’ve got good grades, then we’re attractive to them,” he said. “If not, there’s got to be a tie, there’s got to be a family reason. There’s got to be some reason. If they’ve got good grades, then Chapel Hill is important in the recruiting process.” Getty Images https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/89/8f/dre-bly-081818-getty-ftrjpg_1jmwrhqupjich1i26blvwk4wul.jpg?t=1739994620&w=500&quality=80 It’s also important to Brown to keep doing this as long as he can. He learned an important lesson from observing coaches of all ages during his five-year TV stint at ESPN.”They’re miserable and they’re all worried about losing and they’re all worried about being paranoid and they’re all worried about being fired,” Brown said. “That’s not right. You’ve got to have some fun. It doesn’t work unless you have fun.”In that regard, he promises to be different. It’s an easy message to convey for any generation on the recruiting trail. Vince Young, the Texas quarterback who led the Longhorns to that 2005 national championship with a thrilling 41-38 victory against USC at the 2006 Rose Bowl, is the player Brown can point to most on the recruiting trail. Young spoke with Brown when the coach was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December, but football wasn’t the topic. It almost never is. “One of the things he said he missed was mentoring kids,” Young told SN. “You have to respect that. That’s who he is. He’s not about money. He was enjoying commentating and what he was doing, but what he didn’t have was missing. That was mentoring young players.”There are a lot of kids who respect him and parents who want their kids to play for him,” he said. “I don’t think he’ll have a problem winning ball games or recruiting down there in North Carolina at all because of that.”MORE: Ranking college sports’ best football/basketball coaching duosBrown is the active FBS wins leader with 244. Yet he remains the same unassuming coach who can still command a room of any size. On July 18, the second day of ACC Kickoff, he sat by himself shortly after 8 a.m. on a bench in the Westin Charlotte lobby. Brown shook hands with a few fans and coaches who stopped by, but he mostly took in the scene. It certainly wasn’t the fanfare fellow 67-year-old Nick Saban received from Alabama fans at SEC Media Days. But with Brown, it doesn’t have to be.Brown is one of only five active coaches to have won a national championship heading into 2019. To that end, Brown did wear his title ring at the ACC Kickoff: a reminder of his resume. When eventually asked about that ring, he glanced down at it before giving a deliberate answer.”I wear it for TV,” he said. “I wear it when I’m speaking, and I didn’t know whether to wear it today or not, but I think it’s a good sign for our players that, ‘We’ve done this, and we know what we’re doing.'”Brown is dialed in after his retirement at Texas in 2013. He spent the last five years keeping tabs on new young coaches, which would explain the shrewd hires of Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo and Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman to his staff. He observed the top recruiters, too. In a sense, Brown used his five-year stint at ESPN to prepare for this job, and to prove he could do it all over again.”If you can imagine digging into something and trying to fit all the pieces together, that’s recruiting for us,” Brown told SN. “I love going into a home and talking to a family that knows nothing about recruiting — about the whole process. I love selling who we are and what we are, and that’s something I really missed when I was on TV. It’s been a lot of fun for me.”How does Brown relate to players and coaches now? Bly points to a team meeting Brown held with Carolina players in which he handed them notepads with two simple requests.”Tell me what you want. Tell me what you need.”Senior offensive tackle Charlie Heck noticed how Brown responded to those requests, which immediately resulted in an improved player’s lounge. He sees Brown sit with his wife Sally at lunch and watches the coach talk to as many people as possible — again, rarely about football. Heck notices just how many of Brown’s former players, from North Carolina and Texas, show up to campus.”It’s just what sticks out when everybody will tell you he will have your back,” Heck said. “No matter what. They still talk to him today, 10 years later, 15 years later. He helps them get their first job out of football. That’s important.”Coach Brown’s name, it has weight to it,” Heck said. “Is it the recruits coming? Is it the former supporters of him who were kind of lost along the way coming back? People are excited about him coming back. There is an energy here that is just hard to explain.”Offensive line coach Stacy Searels can try. He coached under Brown during his final three years at Texas from 2011-13, a stretch in which the Longhorns went 25-14. Searels has noticed a few subtle changes in Brown’s day-to-day demeanor from his final years in Austin.”He does it in such a way that it’s fun to work for him,” Searels said. “I sit there at the end of the table and listen to him talk and think, ‘Yeah, this guy has it together. He knows exactly what he wants us to do.’ It’s a proven track record. He did it here. He did it at Texas. He’ll do it again.”