Badgers, Ducks invade Disneyland for Rose Bowl

Although Aaron Henry meant no offense to Mickey Mouse or the

Magic Kingdom, the Wisconsin safety thinks the Badgers and their

opponents aren’t quite as dazzled by the Rose Bowl’s pomp and

pageantry the second time around.

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.”