Badgers preparing to avenge last year’s Rose Bowl loss
PASADENA, Calif. — The University of Wisconsin Badgers played at the Rose Bowl last year, and even those who weren’t on last year’s team said they have some unfinished business to take care of next week.
Last year, the Badgers lost to Texas Christian University by a 21-19 margin. On Monday, the team will compete against the University of Oregon Ducks in game many feel will pivot on each sides’ offensive capabilities.
While the 2010 version of the Badgers was led on the field by quarterback Scott Tolzien, their new quarterback, Russell Wilson, wears that same number on his uniform, but hopes his team will see different results on the scoreboard.
Wilson has given the Badgers offense a new dynamic with his ability to run and throw the football. He’ll only be a Badger for one season, given his eligibility, but this season has been impressive for Wisconsin as they’ve averaged 45 points a game this season.
For the Oregon Ducks, how will the team plans to defend a player like Wilson remains a big question. However, Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliott said that they have some experience with that.
“Last year, we played a pretty good quarterback in Cam Newton, who can move and throw the ball very well. And two years ago, we played Terrell Pryor. So we have faced some quarterbacks that not only can throw the ball, but can hurt you with their feet,” Aliott said.
Wilson said that he believe seizing opportunities is the key to success on the field.
“You have to capitalize on game-altering plays,” he said. “When you get your opportunity to score, to change the field position, to put the ball in the end zone, you have to capitalize on that.”
While many sports watchers are predicting this game will likely become an offensive shootout, UW linebacker Chris Borland said that he believes this presents a challenge for himself and his teammates to step up.
“(It’s) motivation for us,” he said. “No (defense) wants to be in a game that is referenced to as a shootout. We are taking that to heart.”
“It’s up to us to slow them down and we need to play together and hopefully, we can slow them down,” said fellow linebacker Mike Taylor.
UW defensive coordinator Chris Ash said that the team has made preparations for Oregon’s offense in the lead-up to the game.
“We have played uptempo teams and we have changed a little drills. We have faced no-huddle (teams) this season. We have a good plan in place and the players believe in it,” Ash said.
Borland and Taylor said that playing through injuries is something the team has overcome.
“I can attest to it,” Borland said. “Being by Mike and seeing what he has had to go through and coming back from injuries. It brought us closer and we feel we have contributed to the team.”
“Being injured and being away from the game is hard. Our defense is fun, so I am glad to be out there,” Taylor said.
Besides healing up a little from the season, Ash said that he believes the extra time the Badgers have in the run-up to the Rose Bowl will be to the team’s advantage.
“It would be hard to prep from this offense if you had a normal game week,” Ash said. “They have talent on the field. Having extra time has its pros and cons. We are itching to play. We are just going to do what we do and do the best we can.”
Both Borland and Taylor said that they’re excited to play. In Borland’s case, he missed a chance to play last year because of injuries.
“It means the world and I am really excited for it,” Borland said.
“As a Wisconsin kid, (my fondest) Rose Bowl memory is Ron Dayne running over everyone, and it means everything to be from Wisconsin and to be able to play in it and we can have more success,” Taylor said.
Likewise, defensive back Aaron Henry said that they’re eager to win.
“My head coach always talks about visualizing having success and a game of this caliber, and the granddaddy of them all, I’m thinking about going out there and making plays and being success,” he said. “Losing last year has give us that much more juice and pump. I’m excited to go out there and make plays.”
Defensive lineman Patrick Butrym said that the Badgers have adapted and improved after last year’s loss.
“We have learned from last year, taken much more out of it. We have more urgency,” he said.
Henry said that the amount of attention focused on the Badgers’ offense will propel the defense.
“(It) gives us that much more motivation. People aren’t talking about us before the game, but hopefully, when the game is over, they are talking about us. This is a great challenge for our defense. This is a great chance to silence all those critics. We need to tackle in the open field and make some turnovers. We can put ourselves in a great position to win,” he said.
The players said that they’re well aware of Wisconsin’s legacy with previous Rose Bowl appearances in 1994, 1999 and 2000. Henry said that they hope they can make some history of their own.
“Wisconsin is a crazy state of football, and they love it,” he said. “If we can bring home a Rose Bowl championship, it will just add to our legacy.”