After improving to 3-0 on the season with another impressive, high-scoring performance, member of…
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CHICAGO – With his usual cup of coffee in hand, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema didn't approach his pregame ritual any differently Saturday as he strolled on to the natural grass of Soldier Field. Taking his customary walk 90 minutes before kickoff, Bielema strolled to midfield and still approached the opposing head coach like he would any other week. It was business as usual. It just so happened to be one of his closer friends and instead of the handshake greeting, it was a hug. "Before the game started, (Dave) said, 'Let's not do this again,'" Bielema said. "We always shoot phone calls and text messages. I've known quite a few of his coaches because we've been in the same coaching fraternity the past five years. I probably know as many of his assistants as anybody in the country." The response from Doeren was twofold. One, who would want to play Wisconsin these days? Winning their 31st straight regular season non-conference game, the Badgers piled up 621 yards in a 49-7 rout, as Russell Wilson threw for 347 yards and three scores, Montee Ball ran for a pair of touchdowns, James White finished with 126 yards of total offense and seemingly got production from everyone that touched the ball. Two, with all the hubbub surrounding their prior relationship, it allows Bielema and Doeren to avoid the future awkwardness. The Badgers were 49-15 while Doeren was at Wisconsin, including winning a share of the Big Ten title and playing in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 11 years last season. He built the team into a group that never lets teams run the football and even with the Huskies getting their only score on the ground, the Badgers have allowed just 18 rushing touchdowns since the start of the 2009 season. "I knew (this) was going to be tough," said Doeren. The relationship went beyond defensive coordinator and head coach, however. Doeren played with Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge, Wisconsin's co-defensive coordinators, at Drake, and the three began their coaching careers together at their alma mater. Once Doeren started on Bielema's initial coaching staff in 2006, he was joined by Partridge in 2008 and Ash last season. "If you sat in your office, and two of your best friends were sitting in the same office with you every single day, that's a pretty neat deal," said Doeren. "As a coach, you work 100 hours a week sometimes, and I was working those hours with guys that I consider brothers." Neither Doeren nor Bielema made the game leading into Saturday's game about the reunion between head coach and defensive coordinator. Instead, both coaches and their players framed it as Wisconsin against Northern Illinois. That battle wasn't nearly as entertaining. Still, the post-game hug was genuine and the handshakes that followed. Doeren greeted a lot of his former staff members and defensive players, many of whom he helped recruit to make the Badgers the kind of smash mouth unit his team struggled against, and told them to keep winning. Bielema did the same thing with his opponents, another sign of respect for two coaches that want nothing but the best for each other. "It was kind of like when I went back to Iowa," Bielema said. "The feelings are more after the game. I tried to say as many of the Northern Illinois players (to) win out. They have that kind of football team. As coaches it's not about us. It's about the players and winning the football game. "At least that's how I think. I think Dave's the exact same way." Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us! For more Badger sports news, notes and discussion, especially on game day, follow Badger Nation on Twitter @TheBadgerNation
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