The Badgers put in their penultimate practice for the Rose Bowl on Sunday, but not before being energized by thousands of fans who have descended on Los Angeles for the game.
Prior to heading back to The Home Depot Center for drills, the team made an appearance at LA Live for a special Rose Bowl Pep Rally. Around 3,000 UW fans showed up for the event, which included a performance from the UW Marching Band and remarks from special guests like UW-Madison Chancellor David Ward and Badgers legend Ron Dayne.
The biggest cheer, however, came when the team emerged from the Staples Center onto a balcony overlooking the plaza at LA Live, tossing T-shirts and autographed footballs into the crowd. Following some words from interim head coach Barry Alvarez, defensive captains Chris Borland, Shelton Johnson and Mike Taylor spoke to the fans, as did Travis Frederick, Curt Phillips, and finally, Montee Ball.
For Alvarez, the event followed one last media availability leading up to game day, a morning press conference for both head coaches at the Rose Bowl media hotel in downtown L.A.
Monday's schedule has the Badgers heading to Pasadena to take a team photo outside the Rose Bowl, followed by one final practice session and a screening of the movie "Jack Reacher."
A rainy morning in Los Angeles made it an easy decision for the Wisconsin coaching staff to call of practice for the day, but the inclement weather brought with it a silver lining.
The Badgers called an audible and held a walk-through at the team hotel instead of busing to The Home Depot Center for what was scheduled to be a quick 12-period practice. Interim head coach Barry Alvarez told the team that the staff's focus for Saturday was aimed at mental preparation anyway, so the hotel walk-through fit in well with the schedule.
After the offensive and defensive units finished their walk-throughs in adjacent ballrooms at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, the Badgers had the opportunity to host guests from AbilityFirst, an L.A.-area charity aimed at "expanding possibilities" for children and adults with special needs.
The group had originally planned to join the team on the practice field, but the change in venue brought an opportunity for the Badgers to bring their guests into the players' game room and lounge at the hotel.
No one from either side was complaining when a pool table, ping pong and video games were thrown into the mix, as evidenced by junior LB Chris Borland's tweet:
The Badgers' walk-through and time with the guests from AbilityFirst came after the entire squad bused to The L.A. Hotel Downtown for the Rose Bowl's annual media day. Players and coaches spent 30 minutes being interviewed, including some who took time to join an onsite crew from BTN captained by Rick Pizzo, Glen Mason and fromer Badger Brandon Williams.
From takeoff in Madison to touchdown in Los Angeles and beyond, the latest episode of UWBadgers.com's video series "Path to Pasadena" takes you behind the scenes of the Badgers' preparations for the Rose Bowl.
If nothing else, it's worth watching Beau Allen go from searching Disneyland for princesses to telling Darth Vader he's making the switch to the Dark Side.
For many of Wisconsin's players, the highlight of the week leading up to the Rose Bowl came Friday as the Badgers descended on Lawry's The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills for the annual Lawry's Beef Bowl.
A part of the Rose Bowl since 1957, the event gives both participating teams in The Granddaddy of Them All to have one grand meal.
Over the years, the Beef Bowl has also developed into an unofficial competition between the Rose Bowl opponents. Last year, the Badgers consumed 723 pounds of prime rib to easily defeat Oregon and its total of 612 pounds.
Travis Frederick led the way by putting away what is believed to be a record eight servings of prime rib. That came on the heels of his seven servings in 2011.
Frederick's mark was in danger of falling on Friday once sophomore OL Dallas Lewallen picked up his fork and knife. However, Lewallen's night came to an end after he finished seven servings to match the effort of Stanford freshman OL Joshua Garnett from the Cardinal's appearance at Lawry's on Thursday.
"They couldn't bring the meat out fast enough," said Lewallen, who simply ran out of time to eat before he was forced to return to the team buses in order to make the trip back to the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza.
Frederick still managed to take center stage, however, getting the honor of being the "salad spinner" and applying Lawry's signature dressing to the first bowl of salad.
Not to be outdone, junior DT Beau Allen -- considered by many of his teammates to be a challenger to Frederick's throne going into the event -- drew the duty of making the ceremonial "first cut" of prime rib. Wearing a chef's coat and hat, Allen served the first cut to Badgers interim head coach Barry Alvarez.
Preparations continue on practice field The Badgers' day began with LB Chris Borland, DT Ethan Hemer, S Shelton Johnson, CB Devin Smith and LB Mike Taylor accompanying defensive coordinator Chris Ash and co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge to a morning media session at The L.A. Hotel Downtown.
After position and special teams meetings, the Badgers returned to the practice field at The Home Depot center and worked for 16 periods. The practice again featured live contact in short scrimmages between the offensive and defensive units.
New head coach Gary Andersen, who takes the helm at UW following the Rose Bowl, was a guest on the sideline for the practice session after arriving from Logan, Utah. His arrival into L.A. came a day later than planned due to winter weather that grounded air travel out of Utah on Thursday.
Andersen met with members of the media following practice and said he hopes to announce the bulk of his coaching staff over the next few days.
Saturday morning is Rose Bowl media day, with the entire Badgers roster set to head to the media hotel downtown for availability with members of the local and national media.
The fun and games of Wednesday's trip to Disneyland behind them, the Badgers got back to work on Thursday by returning to the practice field at The Home Depot Center.
After being relegated to an artificial surface on Wednesday due to wet field conditions, UW drilled for 18 periods on natural grass Thursday to better simulate the turf they'll play on in the Rose Bowl.
Prior to practice, Jared Abbrederis, Montee Ball, Travis Frederick, Curt Phillips and James White accompanied offensive coordinator Matt Canada to the Rose Bowl's media hotel in downtown Los Angeles for a morning press conference.
The biggest news of the day came from Canada, who told reporters that junior QB Joel Stave will be cleared to play for the game. Canada said Stave, who has been recovering from a broken collarbone suffered vs. Michigan State on Oct. 27, will be worked into the game plan in some capacity, while Phillips will be the starting quarterback.
"There's a chance you'll see him out there at times," Canada said of Stave.
That came as news to Stave -- who had yet to be officially cleared for game action -- when reporters questioned him on the development following practice.
"I figured by the way I was practicing without any pain that I'd get cleared sooner or later," he said.
Back to the fun and games, the Badgers' last stop for the day was the Improv in Hollywood to take in a stand-up comedy act. The annual stop has become a favorite of the players over their past two trips to the Rose Bowl,
Wednesday brought the first on-site practice for the Wisconsin football team in Los Angeles, with the Badgers working through 12 periods of drills at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Their Rose Bowl preparations done for the day, the team loaded buses and headed for Anaheim for an afternoon at Disneyland.
Seniors Montee Ball, Shelton Johnson, Curt Phillips, Mike Taylor and Rick Wagner joined interim head coach Barry Alvarez for a special introduction ceremony welcoming both the Badgers and Stanford to the "Happiest Place on Earth." The welcome event included a brief session of media interviews before the players got a VIP tour of the park.
The first stop was The Matterhorn, with Wagner drawing the unfortunate duty of cramming his 6-foot-6 frame into the front car of the Badgers' train. All five made it through the classic ride without incident and then were whisked away to the California Adventure park.
The Badgers had the chance to ride the Radiator Springs Racers ride inside the new Cars Land area of California Adventure and then posed for a group photo before heading out to experience the rides of their choice. At a minimum, Phillips planned to lead the group to the Tower of Terror and Space Mountain before they headed back to the team hotel in Century City.
A number of other players were planning to take advantage of a team meal at the ESPN Zone at Downtown Disney, adjacent to the park.
Wednesday's schedule begins with a news conference for offensive coordinator Matt Canada and selected offensive players at the Rose Bowl's media hotel in downtown L.A. The team then returns to the practice field for an 18-period session, followed by a team trip to the Improv comedy club.
All families have their holiday traditions. For the Wisconsin football family, it's become a Christmas tradition to pack up and head west for Los Angeles.
The Badgers did just that for the third-consecutive year on Tuesday, as they returned to L.A. to continue their preparations for the 99th Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1.
The team met for a conditioning session in the morning before loading buses bound for the Dane County Regional Airport. After a four-hour flight, the Badgers' Delta charter touched down at LAX just after 3 p.m. local time and the team hopped on some specially-decorated buses to head to the Rose Bowl for a first look at the stadium.
Interim head coach Barry Alvarez said he likes taking the team to the field immediately to give the players a chance soak in the setting and enjoy taking some photos so they arrive for the game on Jan. 1 focused on the task at hand.
After the brief sightseeing excursion, the Badgers settled in at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza and met briefly as a team before enjoying a less-than-traditional take on Christmas dinner -- with pizza, pasta and chicken fingers.
The work truly begins for the Badgers on Wednesday, when they take the practice field at The Home Depot Center for the first of six scheduled practices leading up to game day. Of course, it won't be all work and no play for the team, which heads to Disneyland in the afternoon.
Montee Ball, Rick Wagner, Mike Taylor, Shelton Johnson, Curt Phillips will join Alvarez for a short press conference in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle before getting a chance to ride the new attractions at Cars Land in Disney's California Adventure park. The rest of the team can roam the grounds until they meet for dinner at the ESPNZone to cap their first full day in L.A.
It's no secret that Camp Randall Stadium provides some very friendly confines for the Wisconsin football team. The Badgers are 42-3 at home since Bret Bielema took the helm in 2006.
With that in mind, it will feel good for the Badgers to return home Saturday after suffering a tough loss on the road at Nebraska last week.
Beyond the fact that UW loses so rarely at home -- the Badgers are 21-3 in Big Ten games at Camp Randall under Bielema -- history says that last week's setback won't derail Wisconsin's league title aspirations.
In the previous five seasons in which the Badgers lost their first Big Ten road game, UW went on to post a combined record of 24-7 after suffering that initial road loss.
That includes a 5-1 mark last season and a 7-0 record in 2010 after losing conference road openers at Michigan State.
Wisconsin has won 18 Big Ten games since the start of the 2010 season, tying with the Spartans for the most league wins of any conference team over that span.
In other words, don't write these Badgers off just yet.
Though they have a pair of meets under their belts already, the Badgers' season effectively starts this weekend.
The competition steps up for the women's cross country team Saturday in Earlysville, Va.
Cal, Kentucky and Oklahoma will all be in attendance as No. 15-ranked Virginia hosts the Panorama Farms Invitational.
Through two weeks of the season, it's been smooth sailing for the Badgers, who claimed the Badger Opener on Sept. 9 with their top runners competing and then won the Warhawk Invitational last Saturday behind a number of their developmental runners.
"We've had a good start to the season," UW head coach Jim Stintzi said. "Our lineups looked different the first two weeks, but we've learned a little bit about our athletes each time we've raced."
However, this weekend's meet opens a run of three major meets in four weeks for the Badgers. The team's top athletes return to the road next week for the Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic on Sept. 29, a meet that will serve as a preview of the course that plays host to the NCAA championship in November.
After an off week, the Badgers will be set for the fourth-annual Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Oct. 12, which is the highlight of the "regular season" nationally and includes 45 of the top programs from around the country.
"There's no doubt we've got the adidas meet circled," Stintzi said. "It's always big for us to run well on our home course, and it's our last major test before we go to the Big Ten championship. These next few weeks aver very important for us."
After spending two weeks and 16 practices with his team, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has decided who will line up for the Badgers in their Sept. 1 season-opener against Northern Iowa.
Bielema released his preseason depth chart Monday, naming 52 players to his initial two-deep.
Despite some of the suspense being removed Sunday when Bielema took to Twitter to announce that junior Danny O'Brien would be the Badgers' starting quarterback, there were some mysteries solved with the release of the depth chart.
Redshirt freshman Jordan Fredrick and sophomore Kenzel Doe join the veteran of the group, junior Jared Abbrederis, as starters at wide receiver.
Junior Brian Wozniak gets the nod as a No. 1 tight end alongside junior and returning starter Jacob Pedersen.
While LT Rick Wagner, LG Ryan Groy, C Travis Frederick and RT Rob Havenstein were all but set as starters on the offensive line, sophomore Kyle Costigan won the No. 1 job at right guard.
Sophomore Sherard Cadogan and redshirt freshman Derek Watt, a recently-converted linebacker, share the No. 1 line at fullback.
The choices at tailback should come as no surprise, with senior Montee Ball the Badgers' starter and junior James White the backup.
On defense, the Badgers will line up with junior David Gilbert and senior Brendan Kelly at defense end, with both sharing the No. 1 lines with junior Pat Muldoon. In between, juniors Beau Allen and Ethan Hemer occupy the No. 1 spots at defensive tackle.
The Big Ten's top tacklers from last year return, with junior Chris Borland the starter at middle linebacker and senior Mike Taylor on the top line at the will linebacker spot. Junior Ethan Armstrong fills out the group as the No. 1 sam linebacker.
The secondary is an experienced one, with seniors Marcus Cromartie and Devin Smith holding down the No. 1 spots at cornerback and senior Shelton Johnson and junior Dez Southward back as the No. 1 safeties.
On special teams, Bielema will tab sophomore Drew Meyer to handle punts, with freshman Jack Russell the No. 1 kicker on field goals and sophomore Kyle French handling kickoffs.
Sophomore James McGuire will snap with freshman Stephen Salata as the holder.
Abbrederis, a preseason All-America returner on many media lists after an impressive season running back kicks last year, is UW's No. 1 returner for both punts and kickoffs.