The No. 18/No. 19 (Coaches/AP poll) Wisconsin Badgers face their toughest opponent since Alabama when the Iowa Hawkeyes come to Madison for their first conference game on Saturday.
Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst, fresh off his third win as Badgers' head coach after a 28-0 win over Hawaii on Saturday, met with the media for his usual Monday afternoon press conference. He answers questions about the Hawkeyes' defense, the history of the Wisconsin-Iowa rivalry that actually affected his father and a chance at a Rose Bowl berth, and the emergence of true freshman Chris Orr.
Here's the full transcript of Chryst's press conference from Monday:
CHRYST: Certainly excited, and I know our players are really excited, to start Big Ten play; and what a great way to start it with Iowa coming here, playing at Camp Randall Stadium. Ton of respect for Coach Ferentz and what he does and how he's done at Iowa. Our players -- it was interesting, and I liked hearing our older players talking to the younger players after the game about knowing what kind of game you can expect from Iowa and understanding that it's going to be a physical game, and our kids are excited to play.
I thought that as we finished up in the non-conference schedule, we had a chance to -- there was a group of guys that had played in a lot of games, but we also knew we were going to have a lot of players that needed to gain experience, and I think we were able to do that.
I think we've -- those players have grown and therefore our team has grown, and I think we've improved in some areas, but also one of the things I like with this team is they're a group that wants to keep improving and we need to do that to be the best team we can be. Looking forward to this week.
QUESTION: Paul, this is your first chance since you've been here in an actual "rivalry" game, trophy game. Do you play -- philosophically do you believe in making that a big deal?
CHRYST: I first was exposed to it as a player, but I thought that was one of the best things we did, learning that from Coach Alvarez. When you look at the rivalry games, the trophy games that we have, if you want to win your side (of the Big Ten), you've got to beat those teams and, therefore, I think they are big. And I think our players, even before that trophy came in, I know our players always enjoyed and it was a big deal to play Iowa.
The trophy now means something, and it means that if you have it in your possession, it means you won. It's a sign of success. I don't think it makes guys necessarily get up for it more, or less. I think it's the respect they have for the opponent. Yeah, we're going to talk about it, and I think it's important. It's one of the neat things I think that here at Wisconsin we have is we do have trophy games, and it's part of the history of this program and tradition, and I want our guys to understand it and embrace it, so we're definitely going to talk about it.
QUESTION: You've been around this Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry in a number of ways now. Historically why do you think these programs are similar in their styles and what would you attribute that to?
CHRYST: I think it's the coaches and types of players that they have had. I think it goes back to, you know, when Coach Fry was there, for me and my recollection, and I know before that I think it was my dad, when he was playing here, that was the one loss they had that kept them from going to the Rose Bowl. It's interesting when you talk about, people compare and this is the same Iowa -- similar-type Iowa team or similar-type Wisconsin team, yet they are all so different to me because of the players that play in it each year.
Certainly there are principles and core beliefs within the programs that give them an identity, but each year there is also a newness to it, and I think that's what we get to focus on this week.
Certainly have a lot of respect for Iowa and their program and yet this is all about this year, these two teams, and we're going to have a great week of preparation so we can play our best Saturday.
QUESTION: Paul, it looks like Dave (Aranda) is trying to get maybe (Jack) Cichy and (Jesse) Hayes some time in the rotation, maybe give (Joe) Schobert and (Vince) Biegel a break. Is Cichy starting to do things that stand out on the defensive end?
CHRYST: Cichy, I thought the series the other night, had a pass breakup and did a nice job of redirecting, I think it was a screen pass. Certainly have confidence. You know, Tim Tibesar, our outside linebackers coach, has confidence in Jesse and in Cichy, and T.J. (Watt) played some, so I think we've got five guys - clearly Vince and Schobs are the guys that are clear starters, and I think are difference makers for us, or can be -- but also I think that's one of the things, talking about it earlier, that the non-conference games was a chance for guys to get some experience and valuable experience.
QUESTION: Coach, Iowa has been really good at stopping the run so far this year. What makes their defensive front so good from what you've seen?
CHRYST: I think they've got very good players and I think that they understand and know their scheme, and I think the scheme is a good scheme, and so I think anytime you've got a good scheme with good players, it makes it a good defense.
QUESTION: Offensively you guys have been good on third-and-short, and third-and-medium to long maybe not where you want it. Can you put a finger on the problem areas once you get four (yards) and beyond?
CHRYST: You've got to make plays. I think if you go back, Joel (Stave) and Alex (Erickson) didn't connect on the streak; you know, Alex was open and Joel thought it was going to be a little different spot than where Alex was. I thought that we had the other one, where the ball was behind Reggie (Love), that was another chance for conversion; we got sacked. I think it comes down to execution more than anything, and that's where we've got to keep working.
QUESTION: Is part of the issue kind of staying ahead of the chains, too? Can you put yourself in better position with better production on first and second down?
CHRYST: You try to, you know, and it doesn't always go that way. I think you've just got to play the game and whatever situation you're in, you've got to have a plan for it, kids have to be confident in the plan and then, I think, you've got to go execute it.
QUESTION: Chris Orr is second on the team in tackles right now. At what point did you know he could be this effective this early?
CHRYST: Chris certainly I thought in camp did -- kind of jumped out and you knew this guy was ready to get more reps. That's what I love about the game is you earn your opportunities.
He kept doing, performing, doing things to earn reps. And then, as we all know, a couple weeks ago, he got a chance to play and not be in kind of a rotation basis, and I think like a lot of players, certainly young ones, they keep improving with plays and being able to play and learning how to prepare. Like I said about this whole group, the exciting thing to me is that they're doing some good things, but we can get better, and guys see that.
He watches the film and Dave points it out, you can do this, and when this happens, and now maybe that will happen again so now he's been in that situation and can react. I love the way that he's approached every day -- I think he loves the game and love to play it. He's a smart player and a guy that wants to be good, so he's going to keep working at it, that's why he's enjoyable to be around.
QUESTION: Paul, nine teams in the Big Ten with fullback as the position, and you had the 31 and 32 packages on Saturday. Is it hard to find fullbacks these days with high schools going to spread offenses? It's a big part of the Big Ten.
CHRYST: I don't think when you're looking for full backs you're necessarily looking at the high school tape of who is playing fullback. You know, Derek Watt was a really good high school running back, and you look back at different fullbacks that you've had, they end up being good football players. And if they're tough -- you know, I think Ram (Austin Ramesh) came here as a linebacker and moved over -- so I think that they're still out there. There is a lot of guys like that.
I think you have to look at different positions. I think that's recruiting, a lot of it, now, a lot of your best players are going to be at quarterback, but they're not necessarily going to be quarterback at the next level. So you just keep looking at them, seeing, you know, quarterbacks who have played corner, quarterbacks that have played linebacker, quarterbacks that played tailback, quarterbacks that played receiver, so I think fullbacks are like that. You keep looking for guys that fit the job description and guys that like football, and I think fullbacks find you as much as you find them.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about Iowa's offense and specifically their quarterback, C.J. Beathard?
CHRYST: I thought he's been playing really well. Actually last year he was in a game where he came in and I think he made the difference in it. He comes from a football family, and I think that like a lot of players, now he knows it's his team, his turn and I think he's playing confident. Looks like he's playing confident. He's certainly very talented, and I think he's -- I don't want to say a big part because I think they have a lot of parts working for them, but certainly a big contributor in their success to this point.
QUESTION: I know we focused on talk about the offensive line and the three new starters, but what have the veterans, (Tyler) Marz and (Dan) Voltz done that maybe we didn't see on game day to bring the other guys along?
CHRYST: Sometimes it's how you practice. It's how you watch tape. Those are the things that you don't often see, but where older guys kind of guiding the younger ones. I think there is also a component -- you asked with the offensive line, but I think all the positions that you see are older guys putting their arm around a younger guy and, ‘This is what you've got to do.' It's been fun for me to see.
I always remembered it when I was here before but now coming back, one of the qualities of this team that I like is that older guys will grab a younger guy and try to help them, even if they're at the same position, even if they're competing for the same spot. That's something that stood out to me when I was here before, and it has been fun to see now that I'm back.
QUESTION: You mentioned with the rivalry the memory of your father being kept from going to the Rose Bowl because of a loss to Iowa. Do you have a memorable thing that stands out when you were an assistant coach or player here with this rivalry playing Iowa?
CHRYST: I think the one thing that jumps out is they're always big games, and a lot of really good football players playing in those games. My most recent one, when we were down there (in 2010), that was a big win. I think our players would have maybe said that was maybe the biggest win of that season, because we had a big win at home, but that one gave us a chance to be in the hunt. Every game has been -- you've got to go win it.
That's what I like when you play against a team like Iowa. You've got to earn everything you get, and you've got to go win it. They're not going to hand it to you. It's good football.