LOS ANGELES — Last year at this time, University of Wisconsin right tackle Josh Oglesby was limping around, watching Rose Bowl practices from the sidelines, having recently ditched his crutches after a sixth knee surgery.
Oglesby longed to be on the practice field, desperate to be a part of it, even as his teammates did their best to make him feel involved.
"Just knowing I could do nothing to help (was the hardest part)," he said. "Not to say anyone made me feel like I wasn't a part of it, everyone was really supportive. Just in my mind, (I was) thinking I was not a part of the success we had."
Oglesby could barely stand to watch the game, a 21-19 loss to TCU. It could have been a low point in his UW career.
But Oglesby didn't wallow in self-pity. He made a silent vow to himself, to do everything in his power to get back to this game as a fifth-year senior.
"I said it to myself, 'I'm going to get this team back to the Rose Bowl, anyway I can help. I'm going to do it,' " he said.
Sure enough, the Badgers are back and Oglesby, a first-team All-Big Ten Conference selection, is trying to savor every second leading up to Monday's game against Oregon.
"I'm just very grateful for this year and the opportunity to help my team and an opportunity to play in a game like this," he said.
Not only is Oglesby involved this year, he's in the middle of it, a central figure versus a Ducks defense that is tied for first in the nation in sacks with 43.
Oglesby is not coming off his best game in the 42-39 victory over Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. He was called for two false-start penalties and he allowed at least one sack, although he said he had "a little bit of a knee issue in that game."
"He did struggle in that regard," offensive line coach Bob Bostad said. "Those are the obvious things. We've got to have a better performance out of him."
On the false starts, backup center Travis Frederick's snaps to quarterback Russell Wilson were a hair late, according to Oglesby. Frederick was filling in for the injured Peter Konz.
"As the tackle, you go off the sound of the quarterback," Oglesby said. "When I hear 'go' from Russell, I'm moving. If the snap is a little late ..."
Oglesby has struggled at times in pass protection against speedy edge rushers — and Oregon has an abundance of them. Defensive end Dion Jordan leads the team with 7½ sacks, one of 14 Ducks players with a sack.
The keys for the 6-foot-7 Oglesby against speed rushers are using his hands, getting a strong anchor and making sure he gets his long arms extended. "The more extension you have, the more time you have to react to their moves," he said.
The Ducks often look like they're blitzing, then end up bringing four rushers. It's hard to pick out which four are coming.
They used to play a 4-3 defense but switched to more of a 3-4. Brandon Hanna plays a stand-up end, which allows Oregon to shift between the two formations, "without really swapping guys in and out," Hanna said. "Which is beneficial to us and allows us a lot of flexibility."
Being able to disguise who the rushers are allows the Ducks to get the benefits of a blitz, while keeping more players back in pass defense. But they will blitz, too, and linebacker Josh Kaddu is second with 6½ sacks.
The confusion in blocking assignments often opens up clear lanes to the quarterback.
"You can tell where they're calling out their protections and everything," Hanna said. "If somebody's manned on you, their eyes are going to be on you. If they're looking somewhere else and you know where the protection's going already, you know you've got a free shot on them."
Given all he has endured in his career, Oglesby never stops fighting, no matter what happens in a game. That was evident in the last game.
"It's got to be great for him and fun for him, to be able to play in a big game like this," Bostad said. "I'm happy for him. He's one of the guys, I told him when we got out here, 'You guys are in this, let's go out and put it together.' ''