The Wisconsin Badgers picked escaped with an important victory over Nebraska this past weekend and are now set up for a huge contest with Minnesota on Saturday afternoon. If Wisconsin wins they head to the Big Ten Title Game and they retain the ever-important Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Safe to say this is a big one, and it appears Paul Chryst and company are appreciative of the opportunity.
To start the presser Chryst was asked about the attitude of this team to bounce back from a tough start to the season and put themselves in a position to win the Big Ten West on Saturday.
“It speaks highly of their character and also their abilities. In my opinion they haven’t wavered from who they are how they go about each day. It’s driven by how they can be the best player and how they can contribute to this team... that’s what’s given us this chance and it’s been awesome to be around. We’ve had great leadership and above all else great action.”
After that, Chryst was asked if he had any sort of messaging to lead to the turnaround, or if he just simply trusted the talent of the players and coaches in the locker room.
“I think you’re always communicating and if you really believe it is has to be something that your message is consistent (?) and not as reactionary to an event... it wasn’t like we had to change the narrative. Did I trust them? Absolutely... There was things that we didn’t win that we wanted to build upon. There wasn’t an all out meeting, we’ve just gotta keep going and trust who we are and trust each other.”
Later on, Chryst got into Minnesota and what stands out to him when watching the Gopher offense this season.
“They’ve got an identity and they’re good at what they do. Feel like we’ve played against their quarterback multiple times and he’s a really good football player. They do a good job, they’ve got good players, they’re physical, they play hard.... I think they’re a really good offense and a really good football team.”
Following that, Chryst talked about what the rivalry between Minnesota and Wisconsin means to him.
“I think the game has always meant a lot in the times I have been fortunate to be a part of it... it’s the longest rivalry in college football and to be a part of that is special. Certainly we know it’s against a good football team... it’s a challenge but it’s a great opportunity to play against a good football team. This game has always meant a lot.”
Chryst then touched on the play of tight end Jake Ferguson and how he’s improved from this year to last.
“I do think he’s improved. I think he’s improved in really all aspects of his game. I also really appreciate the leadership that he has kinda taken. The way he comes out everyday and the energy gives, he loves playing the game and that’s contagious. He loves practicing and to his credit he looked at every part of game and asked how he could get better. I think he’s playing his best football.”
Chryst then touched on linebacker Noah Burks who hasn’t gotten as much attention as the other linebackers, but he’s been just as effective in his role.
“I think Noah has played really good football from the first game on. I give credit to guys, particularly seniors, when you can say that he’s playing his best football... I think he’s playing with confidence and the way he approaches each day he’s consistent in that. He’s been enjoying it too. I think he’s been really good.”
To finish things out, Chryst was asked if he felt that the Big Ten West was more difficult compared to years past.
“They always are difficult, consistently, we value it (belly laugh). The league has really good players, well-coached, every week it seems like it’s a challenge. I’ve never looked at an opponent and felt like it was a good (easy) week. Every week is a challenge.”
Overall, Chryst seemed to be in very good spirits and appears excited for the opportunity that lies ahead of him and his team. A win this week sends the Badgers back to Indianapolis, something I don’t think many people believed could happen just a few months ago. The turnaround has been impressive, but there are still a couple of big ones to get and all the focus seems to be on Minnesota right now.