December 26, 2010

UW focused during bowl prep

MADISON - When the Wisconsin football team runs onto the Rose Bowl field less than a week from now, it will have been exactly 35 days since the Badgers last played a game.

While 35 days seems like an eternity, being over a month of preparation time, it really isn't. When you consider the fact that several players (Scott Tolzien, John Clay, Lance Kendricks, Gabe Carimi and J.J. Watt) were up for national awards and away from practice for a number of days, that notion starts to take shape.

Though they've had more than a calendar month to prepare for TCU, UW has really had much less time than that when considering all the developmental practices and key players coming and going throughout bowl prep. That's not even to mention the factor exams played into practice time, or lack thereof.

Through all of it, however, the focus has been pretty solid.

"Early on, because everybody was running around with exams and stuff I think it was more of the exams and not the awards," junior safety Aaron Henry said. "Now, we're having some really, really good practices getting us ready for TCU. Everybody is focused and everybody is locked in.

"We know the task at hand."

That task being an opportunity to spar with one of only three remaining undefeated squads in all of college football. And when the Badgers take the field in Pasadena Saturday afternoon, they will do so looking to make it a perfect 4-for-4 in the school's past four Rose Bowl appearances.

That's a standard that's been set into motion around UW football headquarters. You don't just go to the Rose Bowl to play in it; you go there to win it.

"That's really our mentality," junior defensive end J.J. Watt said. "Coach Alvarez told it to his teams and coach Bret Bielema has passed it right along to us. We're not going down there to see Disneyland and do all these fun things, we're going down there on a business trip to win a football game.

"That's what we do."

And judging by the way the team was practicing before heading out to Pasadena Christmas day, it seems as though that's the mindset everybody has taken. The amount of focus is at a high level.

A year ago when the Badgers were preparing to square off against Miami, the mindset was to attack each and every day with hopes of fine-tuning any shortcomings each and every day.

If you wanted to beat the Hurricanes, you needed to get better at something every day. That attitude clearly instilled momentum as the Badgers rolled into Orlando and dominated most of that game en route to a 20-14 win.

If the blueprint has been laid, why not follow it?

"Every day we attacked something different and we tried to specialize in every scheme and every angle," senior linebacker Culmer St. Jean said. "Each individual is better than they were at the end of the season so as a unit we'll perform a lot better. I feel like a lot of guys are doing that. We've got a couple more days.

"If we can maintain that focus and then increase that intensity, the sky is the limit."

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