UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Badgers embrace hype surrounding Huskers' visit

FB_110927_Wilson_Russell.jpgPositioned outside of Bret Bielema's office was a USA Today college football writer -- she was waiting for her scheduled 1:15 p.m. interview with UW quarterback Russell Wilson.

Positioned inside of Bielema's office were Wilson, tailback Montee Ball and middle linebacker Chris Borland -- they were crowded around a phone Monday for a 1-800-number teleconference.

The media obligations are part of any game week; especially this week with the Nebraska Cornhuskers coming to Madison for the Big Ten opener.

"There's not going to be anything involved when we're at practice,'' said Bielema. "But there was some outside interest out of the norm and we're doing all of that Sunday and (Monday).

"When we get into our work week on Tuesday, we'll be able to focus on what we need to do.''

ESPN's College GameDay will also be here to validate the magnitude of the matchup.

"Sometimes it's not the media,'' Bielema said of potential distractions. "It's the family requests, the friend's request; the people that want to come to town on Wednesday instead of Friday.

"That's what you've got to be guarded against.''

On the whole, Bielema wants his players to enjoy the moment, and atmosphere.

"We've worked very hard to get ourselves in the position we are today,'' he said, noting that the last time Camp Randall Stadium played host to two Top 10 ranked teams was 49 years ago.

"Hey, we're here. We don't plan on leaving. So let's take advantage of some of the opportunities that are coming in front of us.''

In front of Bielema's office desk are four "action figures'' -- Pat Richter, Barry Alvarez, Elroy Hirsch and Bear Bryant (Bielema was a finalist for the Bryant national coach of the year award in 2006).

Wilson, Ball and Borland were behind the desk taking questions on the teleconference. Radio stations in Omaha and Lincoln were represented. So were the Associated Press, ESPN.com and the New York Times.

"I think the level of excitement is extremely high,'' Wilson said of the buzz on campus. "We're excited about it. But at the same time you don't want to be too high.

"You want to focus on what you need to focus on and make sure you're doing the right things at the right time in terms of preparation. We've got to have a great week (of practice) obviously.''

No bulletin board material here.

Borland was quizzed on Taylor Martinez, the Nebraska quarterback. He put him in the same "speed" category with Michigan's Denard Robinson and former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

"Probably one of the best running quarterbacks I've seen on film,'' Borland said.

Who will be the scout team quarterback simulating Martinez for the No. 1 defense?

That honor will fall to Lance Baretz, a walk-on from Franklin High School.

"He might be the fastest guy on our football team,'' Bielema said. "But I'm not saying he's Taylor Martinez, otherwise he might be playing (for us).''

Ball fielded an unusual request. He was asked for his thoughts on the Nebraska running game.

Ball is a running back. On game week, he watches film of the Huskers' defense, not offense.

Shrugging, he still came up with a reasonable answer to appease the questioner.

That was followed by an inquiry on the impact of "Jump Around'' -- the Camp Randall anthem.

"It really gets you hyped for the fourth quarter,'' Ball said.

At about that point, Wilson excused himself for the USA Today interview.

Wisconsin's offensive line will be featured in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated.

"At first I wasn't going to do it and then I kind of decided to let it happen,'' Bielema said of his decision-making process in granting access for the magazine piece.

"They did it last week, so it wasn't a distraction to our preparation for this week. How many times has Sports Illustrated asked to come in and do an article on offensive linemen? It's very rare.''

During last Thursday's team meeting, Bielema starting prepping his players for this week.

"I talked about how everybody has a plate,'' he said, "and on that plate you can only put so much. If you put too much on it, things begin to fall off. ''

On a big platter, Bielema placed a football, a cell phone and an apple.

Each symbolized an area in a player's life; the cell phone being the social component and the apple being academics. Bielema removed the football from the platter and put it on a small plate.

The football engulfed it.

"When it comes to game day,'' Borland interpretated, "you can only handle football.''

Message received.

"Our kids really have to be great about where their focus is this week,'' Bielema said.