No. 4 Wisconsin prepares for first true road tests
Wisconsin has looked unstoppable at home this season. Now it's time to see if it can play the same game on the road.
Wisconsin is 6-0 after trouncing Indiana 59-7 at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, but the fourth-ranked Badgers have yet to play a true road game. Five of their wins have come at home, and another was against Northern Illinois at Solider Field with plenty of Wisconsin fans on hand in Chicago.
Now Wisconsin faces back-to-back Saturday night road games at Michigan State and Ohio State - and the Badgers haven't forgotten about last year's road loss to the Spartans.
''That's the thing, we feel like we owe them for last year,'' running back Montee Ball said. ''So we're going to make sure we practice extremely hard and go in there really confident.''
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema remembers giving a speech after that loss - one he'd just as soon keep in his pocket this season. Bielema took the blame for the Badgers not being properly prepared for that game, and said it won't happen again this year.
''That's my fault,'' he said. ''I probably didn't stress playing on the road in the Big Ten as much as I should have going into that game. And we didn't play very well. I think we left a lot of things on the field. But I do remember telling our team last year, I didn't know, going into Michigan State, if we had a championship team. But I knew leaving the locker room we did. I just don't want to have to repeat that speech. That was good for last year, I don't want to use it this year.''
While Wisconsin still went to the Rose Bowl last year, the Michigan State loss cost it any serious consideration for a shot at the national championship.
Offensive lineman Travis Frederick said the Michigan State loss actually was harder to swallow than the Rose Bowl.
''I think so,'' Frederick said. ''I think that just because of the way that we lost, the things that happened, I think there were some mistakes here and there. Everybody did their best, but I think that hurt just because we knew we could have won that game. We could have won the TCU game, too, but that hurt because it was the first game in our conference schedule. It just kind of put a damper on what we thought we had.''
Wisconsin players still fret over mistakes they made in that game, knowing what it might have cost them.
''It was terrible,'' Ball said. ''It was really terrible, because we felt like we were going to come out with a 'W,' but we went in not prepared, we had penalties and a couple mistakes. And it just hurt us.''
Now Bielema thinks his team has learned how to win on the road.
''To play on the road in the Big Ten and win is a totally different ballgame, one that we have learned,'' Bielema said. ''I think we learned it last year at Iowa and carried it forward into some of the games we won on the road last year. We did talk a little bit about it for Northern Illinois. But to win Big Ten games on the road, that's when you win championships. That's when you have an opportunity to put yourself in a bigger position. So I think our guys will embrace the opportunity, it's very unique and it's one where you have to play disciplined football.''
Quarterback Russell Wilson believes the Badgers are ready.
''I think the experience is vital, to be honest with you,'' Wilson said. ''I think going into a hostile crowd like that, you just have to stay calm and keep your composure.''