Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema: Thank you. Sorry we were a little late. We got stuck behind filming a commercial on the way over here, so don't run into that every day in Madison. A reminder once again how great it is to be out here, and I think it's a great change of pace for our kids to be in a traditional match up with Oregon, and the Pac-10, Big Ten, Pac-12. A traditional match up that comes into it, and to be with Coach Kelly on a national stage is a great opportunity for our program to grow, especially two years back to back in the granddaddy of them all is absolutely outstanding.
Thought our kids had handled the week very, very well. We have great weather, great preparation. Everything else at the Home Depot Center is awesome. The way the Rose Bowl sets this up from the time we arrive to where we are today has been a first class all the way through.
So very exciting for our kids, our program, our state, our university. My guess is we'll see a lot of Badger fans out at the pier later today.
They started arriving pretty good yesterday, and I know our kids are excited to see that support as well. So it is a great time to be a Badger. We'll open it up for questions.
Coach, if you could take away one player or one facet of their offense, they can't use it, what would it be?
I get the question. I don't think as a coach I'm wired that way, if you can say that. One thing I really appreciate, and one of the difficult challenge that's we have is just the tempo of the game offensively. That's, I think, a key factor.
When you see it on film, one of the things I've done is watched Oregon on TV copy because you get used to the speed of the game. That's real instead of when you're watching it on our video, it's at your own pace, so you have to get a good feel.
I thought our scout team coaches have done a great job trying to simulate that during the preparation, and that is probably the most unique challenge of their offense.
Russell seems to be a guy who really embraces the big moment, and this is his first time out here. What has been his reaction this week, and what do you expect from him on this stage on Monday?
The same thing you guys have seen from him during the course of the year. He really handled the moment and embrace it's. I remember reading eight quotes from him after the Michigan State game that everybody wanted to go down the road of woe is me, and what's going to happen now, and he thought that was the greatest environment we ever played in, and then followed it up a week later with a setback at Ohio State. And he embraces those challenges.
He made an interesting comment to me the first day we got off the plane and went to the Rose Bowl. He said, Coach, a year ago I was in an N.C. State locker room, then a professional baseball locker room and now a Rose Bowl locker room.
As a young kid growing up to think you'd be in that environment before he takes the next step forward in his professional career is pretty special.
Coach Kelly has preached for the last couple years now to his players that no game is any bigger than any other game, Game 1, Rose Bowl, there is no difference. We've heard a lot from your players about the significance to them of winning a Rose Bowl and they've even used the term legacy. What is the difference between those two philosophies?
I get it. Obviously you're making a story line, which is great. That's what you have to do. One of the philosophies in our program if you talk to the Wisconsin media is how we take them one a day approach, a 1 0 mentality. There is no game bigger than the other game.
But to conclude a season, this is what you get in on. This is the feeling that you'll have in your mouth for the next seven to eight months until we get ready for our opener a year from now.
The fact that our kids were here a year ago, and Oregon was not, obviously they were in a BCS game, but they were to come back to that same place, the same destination, and to finish it differently, I think, is a major thought process in our guys' minds, not on the same level.
But a couple years back, probably my most difficult year of my head coaching career was the year we went 7-6 and lost to Florida State in a pretty convincing manner at the Capital One Bowl or I'm sorry, the Champs Bowl in Orlando, and we came back a year later and beat Miami pretty soundly and our program has risen from that point forward.
I've kind of gone back to that with the players and especially the seniors who lived through that experience themselves.
Bret, when your head hits the pillow at night at this point in the week, do you sleep sound? Are you more of a worry wart and do you have nightmares?
You know what, as this thing has gone along, it's such different preparation from a year ago because of the Big Ten Championship game and what that entailed and the awards and the accolade that's were coming towards Montee and piggybacking with him on some of that stuff.
Life has been insane. To top it all off, my fiancee decides to get sick on Monday when we get down here, so I've been sidestepping those things. Don't touch anything she's been handling. She'll be really glad I let that out there (laughing). We may not even get to March.
But it's been one of those things where there's a calmness to our preparation. Obviously from the outside world everybody's going to hit me with you're losing two of your coaches, you've got this.
That's why I'm in this position. That's why I do what I do. I really thrive whether we win, lose, whatever happens, I'm doing everything I can. And you do that in a way that you feel comfortable with. We're a program built on work. We are what we are because of what we do every day.
I got our guys yesterday, and we didn't even go to the Home Depot Center. We just took some time to go through a walk through. Half of them passed out because they couldn't believe I did what I did. I felt it was time to back off and let them get their legs underneath them. We'll let them go out and have a great practice today, that was a decision that rested solely in my hands and we'll roll with it.
From what you know about Coach Kelly, how do you think that you guys are similar and different from where you came from to reach this point?
Well, I can't remember, I think met Chip four years ago. I've talked to him on the phone a couple times with some coaching situations. There was a GA he was interested in. I liked his personality. People that knew both of us said all along you guys would hit it off.
Last year I met up with him in New York, and at the time we were both bachelors as well, so maybe there was a common bond there. I know there was an article written about that.
But I love the fact that in his coaching pedigree he just kept working and kept winning and kept having success. Eventually he got his opportunity to be on the biggest stage possible and has taken it and run with it.
Seems to be the guy that just kind of rolls with the punches like I do, and not a big ego. Well, whether you've got an ego or not, people are going to say I have an ego, whatever. It is what it is. You're here. You're going to play a game. Let's do it and see what happens.
Do you have any idea right now what Montee and Peter might do, or do you have any advice for them in that regard?
Yeah, well, we've laid out a plan that goes back to our bye week. As a head coach, I've got to try to be proactive. I have a number of juniors that have come out, so I've tried to handle it better each time.
The number one thing I want to give them is great information. The best information I can as possible. I think that when the decision comes down to it after this game they probably are going to tell you that they went both ways at different times.
They're young men that have played football at a level that they're going to have an opportunity to play in the NFL. Every kid that comes into our program hopefully dreams of playing in the NFL, and it's going to become reality.
So that neat feeling, I had a great NFL career. It was six days. It was awesome. I think their guys will be a little bit longer than that. I couldn't pass my physical because of an ACL injury, nothing more than that.
But I think both of them are in a position where they've got a good group around them. Pete and his mom, Margaret, I think are very well in tune with what we're saying as well as trying to get information from the NFL.
Then Montee and his parents, I think, are going to make a great decision. We'll get back at the end of the trip on the 3rd or the 4th.
I think Montee's coming back with us, and Pete's coming back on the 4th. We'll probably sit down before that weekend. We have all the way until the 15th, so I expect a decision sooner than later.
You've mentioned previously getting your players to lock in mentally the 48 hours before kickoff. How do you help them do that?
I think yesterday I took a step in that direction. What we basically did is went through some detailed meetings, and then went into an OD walk. Then Herb took them out in the pool and did a hot cold contrast and flexed them and stretched them. Then I grabbed my leadership group, my group of seniors and said, hey, taking this, what would be a normal Wednesday of game week, now I want Thursday and Friday to be a great focus.
A year ago we didn't play well in the first quarter or in the first half. And I'm putting a huge emphasis on coming out of the gates with the intentions of being sharp from the first snap.
So that's a big part of it, and I think the fact that we have such great senior leadership is going to come up huge.
You mentioned that the tempo of the offense is what's unique for Oregon. What words would you use to describe their offensive tempo?
It's very sudden. I think that one of the things you'll see on film is like if the ball's out of bounds, you'll see that center. He's going to try to get spotted where that ball's going to get spotted from the referee and snap that ball as fast as they can, if that's what they choose to do.
They'll have a couple different tempos, they may get to the line and check with their coaches and get to the line and run an automatic play. We have to be aware of formations in their boundary where they can get a large group of receiver that's short cluster short to their sideline and make sure they're lined up because obviously it could potentially be coming from the other sideline. There are a couple things they have to be aware of. But the urgency on which they play offense could be very, very fast.
What would it mean for you as a coach to win on the big stage of a BCS bowl game? Well, it would obviously be better than losing. Last year we played a very good football team to a very close finish. They were one of two teams that ended up being undefeated in Division 1 football last year, and number two in the country. We lost by a couple of points.
So didn't get it done. I know that I'm 2 3 in bowl games, postseason bowl challenges. So getting me back to 3 3 as a head football coach. The biggest thing is it would leave a very good taste in your mouth from this point moving forward.
Coach, your players when asked said that they'll put their head on the pillow the next couple of nights. They're doing a lot of visualization, dreaming of making the big pick or scoring the touchdown. You've been there as a player having that moment. Now as a coach, are you dreaming of making the right call the next couple nights what is going through your head as you envision the game?
One of the things we talk about is visualization when I played for Hayden Fry. He'd cut the lights and tell you to visualize making a big play. I told the stories to my players, my first Big Ten game envision making a sack off the right edge. It was vivid, and honest to goodness I'm down in there and I was unblocked and ran to the quarterback and he saw me, and stepped up and I went running right by him.
I always referenced that I didn't finish the play. I was running at the quarterback, but I vividly remember never making the play.
My group of friends that I played with always talk about Coach Fry was big on that. We talk about it as players. I would hate to think of some of the visualizations that some of my players are actually thinking when they're going to bed. Some of my knuckleheads, I don't know if it's about football.
So it is, I think, a great perspective, and as they're locking in, I really believe Thursday night, Friday night, we talk about how it's the most important night of rest two nights before the game. So I think that will be a thing that they all emphasize.
Coach, what is it like coaching in the Rose Bowl Stadium, and how would you compare it to a newfangled place like Lucas Field in Indianapolis?
Both great venues. I had never been to Lucas Field, so Indianapolis and the experience, and Jim Delany, and the entire Big Ten administration did an off the charts championship game. It was unbelievable, obviously won the game. We probably have a pretty good feeling leaving the stadium. But the environment for the fans and the people that were there was outstanding.
This is a whole different deal now here. Great venue. Great events leading up to it. But the Rose Bowl Stadium in itself is incredible. That's why I always take kids there the first day, because there is such a wow factor to the stadium.
I wanted to get them there and see the feel before all the other stuff gets up around it.
Now when we come back in there tomorrow for our picture, it will be all kinds of media. There will be all kinds of different tents set up, and it's a different feel. I want them to see that presence and realize how big a stage it is.
You mentioned before with Russell's success that other quarterbacks may be interested in transferring to Wisconsin. Do you still see that happening not only with transfers, but with recruits on the offensive side now that you're going to have a new coordinator?
I kind of just play that ball when it comes up. I'm not a big guy in transferring. I think part of the reason that Russell had success was because of the locker room that was there when he walked into it. And that's not made up on a lot of when I've began to experience even going back the last two years is we had a young man, Brock DeCicco who was a kid out of the Pittsburgh area. Was very interested in playing tight end for us but wanted to stay close to home. He left a scholarship to come play for us. I think that opened up my eyes as much as Russell.
There are kids that go through the recruiting process, and some of them may sign with maybe schools that are closer to home or maybe some sexier schools. When you're 18 they look really nice and look really pretty.
But when you're 20 years old and you're getting your head knocked in and not going to games the way you thought you would be, and you look at Wisconsin doing the way we've done it, that gets kids more than anything.
The Russell scenario and all that goes into it, I think, does enlighten some guys at specific positions, but nothing really to come across our desk right now.
But as far as coordinators?
I told my guys when Paul was leaving with the meeting right after, I said if anybody wants to run the spread, you have to transfer somewhere else because we're not going to run that route. We'll be a pro-style offense and run into it.
As I hire coaches here over the next couple of weeks, we have one of the agreement that's I made with Paul and Beau on our team. We made the announcements. We move forward, and it's been absolutely outstanding. I think our kids will get a little juice out of it because Paul and Beau are leaving the play, they're best for them, and that's what the kids have been regurgitating back to me.
Pac 12 teams had difficulty this year in their substitution patterns on defense. What are your concerns about that regarding the pace of Oregon?
Yeah, absolutely. You can see that on film time and time again. I think the teams have played them well. You really saw minimal issues of that. Again, when you're playing a conference school, usually the other conference schools aren't real great about giving you good information because they want their conference to represent.
But you can see things on film that guys aren't in position before the ball is snapped. Again, the TV copy gives you that as much as anything.
So we'll have to minimize the substitutions that we are able to make, and take advantage of plays or situations where you know there is going to be a break in the action.
You talked about tonight being the most important night for sleep for your players. Can you talk about the parameters for your players tonight on New Year's Eve?
Yeah, this is like the Thursday of game week for us. What we're going to do is get back from The Pier. We'll have a team meeting at 6:30 tonight and I'll lay some things out there for them. It's a meeting where we talk about the game and talk about the bigger picture of things. I'll talk about a good night's rest, visualization, talk about tomorrow's schedule. We'll eat dinner in a mandatory team setting, and a lot of guys tonight will probably go watch a movie, watch the bowl games that are on TV. No bars, no clubs, no anything. Our guys knocked off alcohol after the second night here, the guys that are over 21. So they've really been a focused group.
They asked for a tighter curfew window after the third day, so I like where they're at, and hopefully they bought in. They have a lot this year and it's paid off for them.
Next week the SEC is going to have a championship game between two teams. Do you get tired of hearing about the SEC all the time or what will it take for a Big Ten team or somebody else to stop the run they're on?
Yeah, one of the things I really believe is if you ain't done it, you ain't bragging. They've done it. The stage is set for them again this year to get two teams into the world of college football. That's a great thing for them until another conference, I'd love it to be the Big Ten, unseats them from a National Championship stage. It is what it is.
I'm excited to play Oregon. I thought going down the stretch we'd be a great match up for either one of those teams because of the way our offense plays against a very good defense. And I'd be excited to have our defense play against their offense, but would have, could have, should have. If we had won one of those other two games, we'd have been in that position, but I'm excited to be where we're at, and move forward.
When trying to get a sense of the speed of Oregon both in how fast they play, and how fast their guys are, does it help to have the mutual game footage of Oregon State to judge them against those guys that you already saw?
Two different ball clubs. I get it, I understand it, they're in the same state. But really Oregon State does do kind of a no huddle type deal, but really two different teams. So it's good film and all the jazz that goes into it.
I'd say Stanford was probably more of a better film for us, and possibly LSU coming out, and a couple of games from year's past.
At the end of last year's press conference J.J. Watt said with or without me, Wisconsin will be back in the Rose Bowl better than ever and the Badgers will win. My question to you is how much, if any input have you had from your former players and encouragement and that type of thing?
Yeah, J.J.'s been outstanding ever since he left. We've got his little brother back here, and I wish J.J. was here. I'd feel a lot better. He had a great year in the NFL this year.
I think J.J.'s going to be here for the game. I've been told John Clay, as well as Lance Kendricks, and some guys whose NFL seasons end on Sunday will try to fly out here on Monday, and I think it's great. Before I came here, I had never been at institution where so many former players came back for games and bowl games.
Walking through the lobby last night, I see Brooks Bollinger, and I know John had a list of former players that are out here. I think it's just a great way to show how much this program has cared for people when they leave.
If you look at the public relations issues in the Big Ten this year, I don't know if anyone from the conference would admit this publicly, but do you think they're happy to have you representing the conference in this game?
I appreciate what you're saying. I'm very aware of all the things that are going on around the world of college football. I think the thing that I love about being out here is I know what we've done and earned to get here. What other people see or believe or perceive will be in their hands. But I think the conference overall moving forward now is going to hopefully take another step forward.
Ohio State has made a great hire in Urban and the splash that he's had and the things that hopefully he'll bring to the league. I was very excited to see Michigan get another opportunity. I have a great amount of respect for Brady and the way he's gone about things.
Moving forward, some of those things will begin to be erased or moved away. So I'd be flattered if people were happy for us, but my guess is a lot of the Big Ten doesn't like us back out here the second year in a row just because it is a little bit of a sign that things are going very well for Wisconsin.
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