Jalen Berger didn’t see a single snap last week in Wisconsin’s loss to Penn State. Heck, he wasn’t even standing by the rest of the running backs when the offense was on the field, suggesting he knew there was no chance he was going to see game action.
His absence was a rather large surprise after he led Wisconsin in rushing last season and spent a significant portion of fall camp practices open to the media sharing time with Chez Mellusi as part of the first-team offense. Mellusi carried 31 times against the Nittany Lions, while supposed third string back Isaac Guerendo got 13 touches.
Berger’s lack of action led some to wonder if he was dealing with an injury or an unannounced suspension. Coach Paul Chryst was asked about him not playing after the game Saturday, during his Monday press conference and again during his time with the media Thursday.
“I’ve liked the way Jalen has practiced this week. There is not a sideshow going on,” Chryst said. “He’s a guy that has had success before and was young last year, as a true freshman. As long as he continues to approach it the right way and work, which he’s been doing, his opportunities will come.”
Last year, Berger didn’t see any snaps in Wisconsin’s blowout of Illinois in the opener. The following game, in part due to injury and COVID-19, he carried 15 times for 87 yards and caught two passes in a win over Michigan.
Chryst talks 9/11
When Wisconsin hosts Eastern Michigan on Saturday night it will mark the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. While the players on the field are unlikely to remember anything about that day, Chryst’s memories are still fresh. At the time, he was the tight ends coach with the Chargers in San Diego, which is home to a large navy presence.
“On the drive in we go by a naval base. Was going in early and something was off,” Chryst said. “Usually there was very little traffic but the base you could see cars backed up even onto the interstate. When I got into the office and realized what was happening. I think it certainly impacted so many people differently, yet I think it would be fair to say we all were impacted on that day.”
Chryst, like many Americans, had to digest the whole nightmare before being able to understand what it meant.
“The day, for me, was more that you were trying to process it all. I don’t know if I took it all in and understood it,” Chryst said. “And then as time went on, it was scary. You didn’t know what all was going on or what was the ramifications from it. You did find yourself touching base with those you love and care about, and then as you go on you realize there were some people that I had known and coached that were victims in it.”
When Wisconsin played Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2018, the team visited the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero.
“Really there weren’t many players or my own kids that had vivid memories of it but how that impacted them,” Chryst said of what stood out. “We all probably know exactly where were at (on 9/11). A lot of times I think it’s probably hard to recall emotions that you felt a long time ago, but not for me on that one.”