September 23, 2010
Taylor expanding confidence in knee
MADISON - You may or may not have noticed the potential big play that was skirted immediately following Jay Valai's blocked extra point that helped seal Wisconsin's win over Arizona State last weekend.
Fortunately for the Badgers, what could have happened will forever remain hypothetical conjecture.
As the ball slowly lost momentum inside the end zone after being thrown off its original line, sophomore linebacker Mike Taylor had to reach into the old bag of tricks to dodge what could have been a devastating blow to his team.
It could have swung the momentum from the ultimate high to the deepest doldrums of the lows in just a matter of seconds.
"I saw the ball get blocked," Taylor said. "After that I didn't see who had the ball. I saw our whole team running and I started running. I didn't know if they had the ball and were going to run for the two-point conversion so I took off. I see everybody yelling 'Get away, get away.' Then the ball is coming at my legs.
"I know if I touch this it's going to be their ball in the end zone and they're going to win the game."
That's when the athletic instincts kicked in.
"I jumped up and somehow I did the splits or something," Taylor said. "It went through my legs. I was pretty nervous. I know if I would have touched that I would have been in deep trouble.
On a blocked kick play, should the ball land past the original line of scrimmage, the only way anything bad could happen for the defending team would be if someone would run and touch the ball.
Since the ball landed past the line of scrimmage, a touch from Taylor would have been disastrous, especially since it was in the end zone and would have awarded the Sun Devils with two points and the lead.
But Taylor's athleticism proved otherwise and the Badgers remained undefeated and unbeaten at home against non-conference opponents under Bret Bielema.
It also meant a little more for Taylor, because being on the field in that situation simply meant his knee was fairing in a manner that allowed him to stay in the entire game. It proved he can gain some confidence in the surgically repaired knee and proved he is capable of doing some of the things he was accustomed to prior to the injury.
Earlier in the game against ASU, Taylor whipped a Sun Devil player to the ground in quick fashion. At the same time, his injured knee was driven into the ground. For the first time since the injury, Taylor experienced his knee in a vulnerable spot.
And nothing came from it.
"Right away when I did that the first thing that popped into my head is that I'm getting a lot better," Taylor said. "The past few weeks in practice I wasn't doing anything like that. There was kind of a mental thing and after that I kind have had confidence after that play. I started sprinting probably the fastest I've been since.
"It felt pretty good and the confidence is coming along."
Taylor only logged one tackle against Arizona State, but the fact that he felt good before, during and after the game was much more important and relevant then recording multiple take downs.
With the loss of Chris Borland lingering over the position, Taylor's health becomes even more important because the Badgers are going to need him and his playmaking abilities in the front seven..
"I'm not sure how long it will take (to fully trust the knee)," Taylor said. "It might take the whole season, it could be a few more games or it could be the next game where it's 100 percent. I'm just working on it in practice. Everyday it feels better in practice as far as cutting and running and stopping on it.
"It's starting to feel kind of normal and more loose. There are still some problems as far as flexibility and heavy cutting but it's coming along pretty well."
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