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Wisconsin football: final Rose Bowl press conference

What did Paul Chryst have to say the day before the Rose Bowl?

@B5QPhotos; Matt Fleming

Your B1G West division champion No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers (10-3 overall, 7-2 B1G) have been out in California for a week now getting prepared to do battle with the Pac-12 Champion No. 6 Oregon Ducks (11-2 overall, 8-1 Pac-12) on New Year’s Day.

Head coaches Paul Chryst and Mario Cristobal met with the media on Tuesday afternoon for one final time before kickoff. Here is what Chryst had to say:

COACH CHRYST (opening statement): It’s been going great, actually, and appreciate, like Mario was saying, that so much was done by the bowl and all the people, the hotel, the facilities. You truly do feel welcome.

And it is great to have the opportunity, especially for this team, this group of players, to be able to participate in a game such as the Rose Bowl. And I’ve appreciated how they’ve approached it from the day we found out, through finals and preparation in Madison, and then coming out here.

And the best is yet to come, and that’s the opportunity to play in this game against a really talented, well-coached football team in Oregon. So it’s a great experience and very grateful.

@B5QPhotos; Matt Fleming

You look on almost NFL roster, including the Rams, and there’s a Wisconsin offensive lineman on that roster, and there’s such a tradition of that. How do you – in a short way, how do you develop that type of lineman over the course his four or five years? And, also, how happy are you to see two big, physical teams playing in a game like this in an era when everybody talks about the spread and the passing game?

COACH CHRYST: I think I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of really good offensive linemen, and I think the biggest thing is that and you talk about in the question was development. Guys work and develop. You don’t put on a uniform or a helmet and that makes you a great offensive lineman. And I think we’ve had a combination of really good players and really good coaches, and they work at it.

And I do think it helps when younger kids in the program at any position, when younger kids in the program see someone ahead of them that plays at a high level, and it kind of sends a message this is what needs to be done to be a really good player and also that it’s attainable.

And I think when you look at it, we’re not going to be the only good offensive linemen on that field. And what Oregon’s done, it’s impressive. And yet I think that, the original question, it’s the people. It’s the players and the coaches.

But I do think there’s something to when you’re in an environment and you see it, it’s attainable, and you see the work that needs to go in. And I think if you look around, that’s probably true at all the positions where I sure as heck hope that our young running backs learn from Jonathan, and I know that he’s learned from others.

And that’s – for a coach, that’s the neat thing about being in a college program, is you can see and be around the development of people and players.

Paul, the last time you guys played in Oregon, December 6, December 7, obviously the recovery is good, but is it tough to get the guys to lock in, especially with everything going on, with all the pageantry adds in as well, and how are you guys accomplishing that?

COACH CHRYST: No, I don’t think it’s hard to lock in at all. And I think when you know that you get an opportunity to play in this game, and along with playing in this game you know you’ll be playing against a heck of a football team, and when you watch the film of Oregon for our players, when you watch the film, you have to lock in. And you get to lock in.

And so I think our players have done a good job of kind of balancing everything. Through this bowl preparation, they’ve had final exams. They’ve had some time in Madison where there’s nothing but the bowl preparation. And then, like Oregon, we came out Christmas Day. And you’ve got a mix of everything here.

But I have appreciated the way the guys have prepared, and you need to prepare. But it hasn’t been hard. When you get to prepare for this game, against a team like Oregon, I’m not saying the game’s going to be easy, but the preparation and the motivation, that’s not a challenge.

Coach Chryst, as you know in football offensive balance is real important. You have this All-Star running back, Jonathan Taylor, pretty much 100­yard rusher. What are your thoughts on offensive balance going against Oregon? And if they slow down Taylor, how do you feel about achieving offensive balance to move the ball?

COACH CHRYST: I mean, you said it at the end: The goal is to move the ball. And I think any offense wants to be able to do that a number of different ways. And we’re going up against – it’s a heck of a defense, and nothing will be given to you.

And I think no matter what, you’re going to need all – I think what I like about football, and if you’re talking about offense, it takes 11 guys to be doing their part to give yourself a chance for success. And I think you’re going to have to do it both ways. You’re going to have to be able to run, be able to pass. That’s the game.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

So I think if you’re going to have success, which is not easy, like I said, against a really good defense, it’s going to take everyone doing their part and really everyone doing their part on all the plays.

If you’re going to run the ball, you need all 11. If you’re going to throw the ball, you need all 11. But certainly I love having J.T. and we think he’s really good. And our opponents know that, too, so they’re going to do things to take that away. And so you have to be balanced.

Have you talked to Jack Sanborn about his family connection with Oregon? If so, how do you think he’s handled the emotions of getting ready for this game?

COACH CHRYST: I think it’s unique, right? And we’ve talked about it a number of times, once we found out we’re playing Oregon. It’s special. And for his family, there’s a unique tie to it.

And yet I think it’s all about this moment, and they’ve done a good job. The family’s out here and taking it all in. But it certainly is unique. And I don’t know that it tugs any more or less – you’re talking about his dad and all he went through, and he was younger. But it certainly is unique.

Kent State v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

When the current playoff contract expires and they look at expansion, both of you guys, if it was an eight-team field, probably would have been in this thing. I just wonder when they go to a new format, would you be for an eight-team playoff, or are you okay staying at four?

COACH CHRYST: You go, Mario.


COACH CRISTOBAL: Talking about for today or for the future?


You know, I’d like to see everything that goes with that. I think sometimes – I know that decisions are well thought out and whatnot, but you’d like to see – you’d love to have obviously a six-year cohort and get all the data and see how it worked out and how it really played out.

But I think I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. So I want to make sure that part is clear. I think there’s a lot of teams worthy of playing it out. We take pride in being such a competitive sport and determining who the winners on the field. I think anytime you could include more, right, in that particular – in that party, I think it’s a good thing.

COACH CHRYST: I think there’s a lot that goes into it, and we’re fortunate there’s a ton of people that care about it. And so I’m going to let them figure it out. And like Mario said, this experience that our players get to be a part of, I think if you asked every one of the players, this is very unique, and I know both teams were grateful for it.

But just tell us what the rules are, and we’ll work and try to do all we can to be the best team we can be. And if we earn the right for whatever it is, you’re grateful for that.

You talked about the College Football Playoff and how encompassing it is for the fans and for us, and when you have a bump in the road during the season and all of a sudden it doesn’t look like it’s likely to get in the playoff, how do you guys kind of get your players up off the floor and convince them there is something to play for? Or are they more resilient than we are?

COACH CHRYST: Well, I think that to me you get an opportunity to play out a season, and it’s no different than a game. When you play a game, you’d love for every drive defensively to stop the opponent and to score a touchdown every time offensively.

And it doesn’t go that way. And the season’s the same way. We both to this point have played 13 games. A chance for a 14th. Depending how the games go. That’s life. And I think everyone is so focused on winning and losing. And if you’re a player and if all you were worried about was winning and losing, that only happens at the end of the game.

And yet I think for a player the best part is playing the game. So why would you miss the best part to get to the end? And I think the season’s the same way, and do we want to – every team wants to go undefeated. And you know what? There’s teams that haven’t, and hats off to those who do that.

But enjoy the journey and appreciate the journey. And I think everyone else worries a lot more than we do, because we know the reality of it. And everyone is focused on the end. And I think if you focus on the end, you’re going to miss the best part, and that’s playing the game or playing out the season.

Coach Chryst, I know comparisons are difficult to make between teams, but this week some of your guys, including Jonathan Taylor, talked about Oregon and their size and their speed. And he compared them to Ohio State. Is that a fair comparison? And maybe would you talk about that a little bit and also your thoughts on facing Justin Herbert.

COACH CHRYST: I think when you see Oregon’s defense, you see a really talented defense and a team that – a lot of different players make plays. I think you see a great job, as good as any team we’ve seen, as far as getting off blocks and playing physical. And I think that’s where I do see when J.T.’s talking about that, you’re talking about a high-level defense.

And every team’s going to have differences as far as -­but when you say look at that, absolutely agree and see what he’s seeing on that.

And then obviously offensively, I mean, he’s as good a quarterback as there is in the country. And I know there’s a lot of really good quarterbacks. I’m not trying to make news that way, but he’s talented. And I think he’s got a great sense of what they’re trying to do offensively. I think seems to me he’s a guy that will do all he can to get everyone else involved and certainly talented and presents a ton of challenges. But he’s a heck of a quarterback.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Oregon State at Oregon Photo by Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

And I mean they’ve got a really good football team. It doesn’t just happen. You’ve got to have players. And they’ve got it. And they’re extremely well-coached. And as I say they play with technique, and they play fast and they play physical. They know what they’re doing. And so it’s a really good football team we get a chance to play against.

We talk a lot about the College Football Playoffs, that started in 2014. The Rose Bowl has been around – this is the 106th game. Why is this game so special?

COACH CHRYST: I mean, this game’s – it’s special for a number of reasons. I mean, obviously there is great tradition. And I remember as a kid myself and our players, this is New Year’s Day was watching the Rose Bowl.

And I think everyone that was affiliated with football, there was a dream, a goal to participate in it. And we’ve been fortunate – and I’ve loved hearing our players talk about it.

There have been teams before, Wisconsin, have had an opportunity to play in this game. And certainly there’s a ton of respect and admiration for those teams that have had a chance to play in it and certainly those that have won it.

But I think it truly is, it’s an unbelievable venue. But I think it’s more than that. It’s just a place – it’s the Rose Bowl. When you say that to our players, I hear them talking about it, it’s the Rose Bowl, and that kind of says enough.