Bielema wants Badgers fresh for fast start

December, 31, 2011
12/31/11
2:10
PM ET
LOS ANGELES -- Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema surprised his players on Thursday by telling them they didn't have to go through a full practice.

Instead of working out at the Home Depot Center, Bielema simply had his team go through a light walk-through.

"Half of them passed out because they couldn't believe I did what I did," Bielema said.

[+] EnlargeBret Bielema
Brace Hemmelgarn/US PresswireWisconsin coach Bret Bielema has changed his bowl practice schedule after the Badgers started slow in last year's Rose Bowl against TCU.
The Badgers have been doing a lot of extra conditioning, especially on defense, to get ready for Oregon in Monday's Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO. So Bielema thought it was time to back off a bit before practicing hard again Friday and Saturday. Bielema said he wants to make sure his team is fresh and fast from the opening kickoff.

"A year ago [against TCU], we didn't play well in the first quarter or in the first half," he said. "And I'm putting a huge emphasis on coming out of the gates with the intentions of being sharp from the first snap."

The guy who might need to relax a bit right now is Bielema. Not only does he have the difficult challenge of preparing for Oregon, but he has also been dealing with the loss of offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and offensive line coach Bob Bostad, who will go to Pittsburgh after the game.

"Life has been insane," he said. "To top it all off, my fiancee decides to get sick on Monday when we get down here, so I've been sidestepping those things. Don't touch anything she's been handling. She'll be really glad I let that out there. We may not even get to March [for the wedding]."

Some other notes from the top Badger after the two teams' head coaches met the media for the final time before the game:

Chip Kelly has steadfastly deflected big-picture questions about what a BCS bowl win would mean or his players' legacy. He said his players are not motivated by losing in BCS games the past two years. Though Bielema stresses a philosophy of going 1-0 every week, he and his team had made no secret about being driven by last year's loss to TCU.

"This is the feeling that you'll have in your mouth for the next seven to eight months until we get ready for our opener a year from now," Bielema said. "The fact that our kids were here a year ago ... to come back to that same place, the same destination, and to finish it differently, I think, is a major thought process in our guys' minds.

"Probably my most difficult year of my head coaching career was the year we went 7-6 and lost to Florida State in a pretty convincing manner at the Champs Bowl in Orlando. We came back a year later and beat Miami pretty soundly, and our program has risen from that point forward."

Bielema will sit down with juniors Montee Ball and Peter Konz next weekend to help them with their decisions on whether to go pro.

"The number one thing I want to give them is great information," he said. "The best information possible. I think that when the decision comes down to it, they probably are going to tell you that they went both ways at different times.

"I think both of them are in a position where they've got a good group around them. Pete and his mom, Margaret, I think are very well in tune with what we're saying as well as trying to get information from the NFL. Then Montee and his parents, I think, are going to make a great decision. ... We have all the way until [Jan.] 15, so I expect a decision sooner than later."

Bielema said at the Big Ten championship game that several transfers had expressed an interest in joining the program, including quarterbacks, in the wake of Russell Wilson's success. One potential transfer, former Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist, ended up at Kansas. Bielema said no news of impending transfers has reached his desk of late.

A reporter asked Bielema if it was good for the Big Ten that Wisconsin is representing the league here, given the problems at Ohio State and Penn State this season.

"I think the thing that I love about being out here is I know what we've done and earned to get here," he said. "What other people see or believe or perceive will be in their hands. But I think the conference overall moving forward now is going to hopefully take another step forward.

"Ohio State has made a great hire in Urban [Meyer] and the splash that he's had and the things that hopefully he'll bring to the league. I was very excited to see Michigan get another opportunity [in the BCS]. I have a great amount of respect for Brady [Hoke] and the way he's gone about things.

"Moving forward, some of those things will begin to be erased or moved away. So I'd be flattered if people were happy for us, but my guess is a lot of the Big Ten doesn't like us back out here the second year in a row, just because it is a little bit of a sign that things are going very well for Wisconsin."

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