Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Dustin Sherer doesn't understand why his camouflage hat and Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt drew so much attention after he was named Wisconsin's starting quarterback midway through the season.
Badgers head coach Bret Bielema brought up Sherer's headgear after making the switch, saying it showed the quarterback had a bit of an edge and an attitude, which the offense needed after three consecutive losses to begin Big Ten play.
"I don't know why they make a big deal out of that, but it's just me," said Sherer, a native of Cicero, Ind. "Maybe that's why I get along with guys so well on this team is because I'm myself."
But being himself hasn't always been easy for Sherer at Wisconsin. He had only three pass attempts, one that resulted in an interception, during his first three seasons as a Badger. The only snap he took last year came at the end of a 33-3 rout against Indiana.
The wait nearly prompted Sherer to transfer.
"I was real close," Sherer said. "[Offensive coordinator Paul] Chryst kind of sniffed it out. He's kind of the reason I stayed, and I'm glad I did now. Obviously, I've gotten my opportunity and he kind of let me run with it."
After starter Allan Evridge struggled in losses to Ohio State and Penn State, Bielema made the change and started Sherer against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. It was Sherer's first start since his senior year of high school and the results weren't pretty as he threw two interceptions in a 38-16 loss.
Sherer doesn't sugarcoat his performance -- "I couldn't have gotten any worse," he said -- but he also recognized that beating himself up wasn't helping matters. He did the same thing during the preseason and lost the quarterback competition to Evridge.
"I got beat out, and it was my fault," he said. "I was too hard on myself and pressed myself harder than I needed to instead of going out and being me and playing my football. Lately, I've tried not to do that and I've played well.
"Going into the Iowa game, obviously I hadn't played in a long time. I really wasn't myself. I just can't do that. I have to go out and do my thing and have fun doing what I do and maybe have a little edge about myself."
With Sherer at the helm, Wisconsin won three of its final four games to reach the postseason for the seventh consecutive season. The Badgers face Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl on Saturday (ESPN, 4:30 p.m. ET).
Sherer accounted for six touchdowns (5 pass, 1 rush) and threw only two interceptions in the final four contests, eclipsing 240 passing yards in each of the last two. Though his numbers aren't spectacular and he took too many sacks (17), he improved at doing what Wisconsin always asks of its quarterbacks -- limit mistakes and make timely throws.
"Whoever was in [at quarterback] had to step up and do their job," running back John Clay said. "Dustin came in and did that, and we just fed off of it."
A drop-back passer in high school, Sherer has tried to improve his mobility at Wisconsin. He had 40 rushing yards in a win against Illinois but took five sacks three weeks later against Minnesota.
Sherer's elusiveness will loom large against a speedy Florida State defense led by dominant pass rusher Everette Brown.
Despite a disappointing regular season, the bowl game holds plenty of beyond-the-horizon significance for the Badgers and especially Sherer. Chryst isn't ready to anoint a starter for 2009, and more competition under center lies ahead.
"We need to play better at the quarterback position than we did this year," Chryst told the Wisconsin State Journal. "He's part of that. ... The good news is he can get better and be that [guy], or we've got to have someone that is better."
Sherer hopes his coaches can call off the search after the bowl.
"I just need to keep making a name for myself," he said.