MADISON, Wis. — Former BYU linebacker Rocky Biegel believes the Cougars are in for a grind-it-out defensive battle Saturday at No. 21 Wisconsin.
Biegel should know. He’s got two sons on Wisconsin’s roster — linebacker Vince Biegel, formerly the No. 1 high school player in the state, and his younger brother Hayden, a massive redshirt freshman offensive lineman.
Rocky Biegel is a frequent face at Camp Randall Stadium. And he knows the game.
He currently lives in nearby Wisconsin Rapids. As a former Cougar, he’s watched intently the progress of BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall’s offense and defense from afar. He’s trying to get former Cougar teammates tickets to the game, including BYU single-season and career tackle leader Shad Hansen and Heisman winner Ty Detmer.
“Shad is coming. Ty says he’s hosting a hunt at his ranch and will likely miss it, but I’m still working on him to get him to this game,” said Biegel.
Rocky has operated a family business — a huge cranberry farm — since shortly after leaving BYU 20 years ago. It includes 80 acres of vines in central Wisconsin, 80 more acres in the north and a smaller 25-acre parcel in western Wisconsin. He also has 2,500 acres of support land in the operation.
He and his wife Jamie are natives of Wisconsin. The state’s soil is rooted in his blood. And so there are both Cougar and Badger loyalties.
Wisconsin is the real deal, says Biegel. “If BYU goes three-and-out, they are the kind of team that will take the ball back and just wear down a defense by pounding it and running the clock. If you don’t stop their run, they simply wear down defenses.”
His son Vince sat out last year with a broken foot and received a medical redshirt to get his freshman season back. He is now a backup linebacker and plays on special teams for the Badgers. He will be on the field for some pass defense packages. “He’ll see about 27 plays a game.” His other son, 6-6, 295-pound offensive lineman Hayden, is redshirting his first year.
Vince was an Army Prep All-American, a top hurdler in the state who was recruited by Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and BYU. Pressured by Badger Nation, he chose to stay at home. Hayden, with offers from North Dakota, Illinois, Iowa State, Michigan and Iowa, chose to follow his brother to Madison.
The father has two brothers in Utah, including former BYU running back T.D. Biegel, and his parents own a house in St. George.
Rocky, who was on the field inside LaVell Edwards Stadium when the Cougars beat defending national champion Miami and was poolside at the Honolulu Hotel when Detmer learned of his Heisman winner, said to him the Cougars are “hitting” their stride as a team with five straight wins.
“Taysom is going to be a heck of a football player. He’s going to be a challenge for Wisconsin to handle. Wisconsin is not taking BYU lightly; Gary (Andersen) won’t let them take BYU lightly. He’s planning for a real battle.”
Rocky said Wisconsin will play a bone-on-bone game with the Cougars. “They’ll come right at them. If BYU can stout up against them, it will help.”
He praises Andersen as a player’s coach, saying he knows how to work Wisconsin’s “tough guys” but also knows when to throttle it down. “He doesn’t have many injuries here at Wisconsin because he manages it so well. That’s a fine line for a coach. You want to have them mentally prepared to play but not physically unable to go."
Rocky says the biggest factors Saturday are both defenses. Can BYU stymie Wisconsin? And can Wisconsin limit Hill and force three-and-outs?
“I think it’s going to be a battle. It’s not going to be a blowout either way. It will be tight.”
Although Biegel is a good chunk of miles away from Detmer in Texas, the two are avid hunters. They’ve traded hunting excursions at Detmer’s ranch in Texas and Biegel’s special place in Iowa consistently since they met at BYU. “I think we’ve gotten together just about every year for the past 20 years. I talk to him on the phone about every week.”
Biegel said he also touched base by phone this week with another former teammate, current BYU offensive line coach Garett Tujague.
Welcome to Wisconsin.
Rocky calls Camp Randall one of the best settings for a college game anywhere. “It is an awesome, awesome place to play. It’s just cool. You have to come early and see the tailgating, the cookouts, the “jump around,” listen to the students, hear their chants. It’s something else.”
Rocky will certainly have an interesting afternoon. He is a Badger fan, and his sons are under the employee of the state’s biggest school. But he wore blue and white and had 371 career tackles as a Cougar.
He can handle it.
It’s a Big Ten kind of Saturday. Either way, he can’t lose.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at email@example.com.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company