Badgers, Ducks visit Disneyland
No. 6 Oregon (11-2) and the ninth-ranked Badgers (11-2) descended on Disneyland on Tuesday for the traditional start to Rose Bowl week festivities, eagerly riding the teacups and posing for pictures with fans and costumed characters alike.
Yet the Ducks and Badgers have both climbed this Matterhorn before: Wisconsin lost last season’s Rose Bowl to TCU, while Oregon lost two years ago to Ohio State. While the Rose Bowl week is packed with fun, it’s mostly about redemption for these conference champions.
“Last year, guys were thrilled to be here, and maybe a bit overwhelmed, too,” said Henry, the Badgers’ senior leader. “Some guys had never been out of Wisconsin, and then all of a sudden we’re staying in Beverly Hills and going out in Hollywood. Coming back here, the feeling is totally different. We’ll still have fun, but it’s all about business first.”
Both teams basked in the warm sun on a Disney-perfect Orange County day, although Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema assured fans the weather was exactly the same back in Madison. With Bielema wearing flip-flops and Oregon’s Chip Kelly in plaid shorts, both coaches shook Mickey’s big white hand before speaking of a mutual respect between two very different teams.
“It’s always cool for the kids to experience the stuff that goes around a game like this,” Kelly said. “It’s a special time in everybody’s lives, so we make sure to get the full experience. We won’t have trouble focusing on what we have to do.”
The Badgers welcomed a week away from the Wisconsin winter, starting with a trip to the Rose Bowl itself shortly after their plane landed Monday. While most of the players were there a year earlier, quarterback Russell Wilson got his first trip to the fabled field.
“The field doesn’t get any better than the grass they have,” said Wilson, the remarkable transfer from North Carolina State. “It’s like you’re playing on a par-5 on the PGA Tour.”
For the second straight year, the Badgers are preparing for the departure of a key assistant coach after the Rose Bowl. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst landed the top job at Pittsburgh earlier this month, and Bielema confirmed Tuesday that Chryst will take offensive line coach Bob Bostad with him.
Wisconsin came close to beating the unbeaten Horned Frogs last year, but emerged from the 21-19 loss disappointed in their offense’s production and their defense’s ability to create turnovers. Tailback Montee Ball remembers the dual excitement and emptiness of last New Year’s Day.
“We’re more experienced now, more mature,” said Ball, the Heisman Trophy finalist. “Last year, we came in with our eyes kind of wide at the whole L.A. lifestyle. We’re not going to have the same experience this time.”
The Ducks echoed the Badgers’ thoughts about getting a second chance—or even a third. Oregon has reached three consecutive BCS games, but was beaten in the first two, including last year’s BCS title game loss to Auburn.
“It’s exciting, but we’ve all been in big games over the last few years,” said offensive lineman Darrion Weems, a Los Angeles-area native. “We know what we have to do to be successful and get a win this time around. We’re going to have fun, but we’re trying to win this game, not just play in it.”