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Wisconsin's Stephan Bracey makes explosive return from injury with a touchdown on the opening kickoff

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University of Wisconsin seniors Jake Ferguson, Tyler Beach, Caesar Williams and Collin Wilder speak to the media after the Badgers defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 35-28 on Senior Day, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

Stephan Bracey opted for patience as he rehabbed from a partially torn quad tendon.

But the University of Wisconsin kick returner had no time for such things when he finally made his return to the field Saturday against Nebraska.

The redshirt sophomore fielded the opening kickoff off the bounce at the 9-yard line, cut inside, shed a couple tackles then found an opening down the right sideline before outracing the Cornhuskers the final 75 yards to give the Badgers an immediate 7-0 lead. UW (8-3, 6-2 Big Ten) went on to win 35-28 to extend its winning streak to seven games.

“I broke the first tackle and I saw just the daylight on the sideline, and it was kind of just get on that gas, accelerated and just flooring it,” said Bracey about the 91-yard return, which was longer than any he had in high school. “And eventually I got to the end zone.

“What happened today, honest, just was the man upstairs, and I’m just grateful to be here, be a part of this team and contribute to our win tonight.”

It’s the first kick return for the Badgers since the 2020 Rose Bowl against Oregon, when Aron Cruickshank took a first-quarter kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown that tied the game 7-7. The Ducks went on to win 28-27.

Bracey provides an immediate jolt to a return game searching for playmaking.

UW has struggled on kick returns all season. Five players have had at least one return, with Devin Chandler and Chimere Dike both recording a team-high four. Chandler led the Badgers with 21.25 yards per return and had the longest return of the season entering Saturday — 33 yards.

Bracey did not break off another long return, finishing with three returns for 138 yards.

“For him, on his first touch back, to take it to the house like that was pretty cool for all of us to see,” freshman running back Braelon Allen said.

Bracey called his rehab from surgery a grind. He rehabbed in the morning, ran and worked on change-of-direction while his teammates practiced and received extra treatment on his leg after that over the past few weeks.

Bracey wanted to be back sooner but was more concerned about coming back fully healthy so he could avoid another injury.

He was cleared to return Sunday, he said, and figured he would be slotted in as the starting return man after returning six kickoffs the previous season. He got the news from the coaching staff Thursday that he’d be out there.

Email Jake Adams at or follow him on Twitter @jakeadams520


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