On being back at the Rose Bowl with Wisconsin:
Fortunately, it has been good that way. It's been really fun to get back. That window before Christmas goes a little bit; you feel like you're going different directions. It's a pretty neat group of guys that we have here. I've been very fortunate. I've enjoyed being here with them.
I think that it's knowing it's an unbelievable opportunity. We as a group; players and coaches had something to do with it. Altogether, to get to this point, and what a great opportunity and what a great challenge we have, but finishing it out right. To me, it wasn't a talk that was needed. This is what we do, and we have great professionals on our staff, and I think we have unbelievable players. Nothing needed to be said. We know what an opportunity we have, and what guys have done to get to this point. There was only one way to approach it, and that is finish it the right way.
On the Wisconsin offense:
I think our guys truly buy in. They respect the game, and know those things matter. I think there's tremendous ownership, more than any drill or anything that's done that way. I think it goes right back to the players. It's important to them.
I don't think it's that; making sure the fundamentals, which again coaches coach. Players really buy into it, and that's just one example. Guys understand to play good football, these are things that need to be done. Certainly, that's one of the big facets of the game. You gotta protect the football, and I think our guys buy into it.
On plays he can go back and change:
Oh yeah, I wish we wouldn't have thrown that pass with the two-point play if it hadn't got knocked down. You always do have those ‘no regrets.' Is there something you'd do different? Absolutely, because you knew the result. As far as going in, what you want to do as a coach is that you give the game to the players. Are they prepared for the situations that come up? Are you asking them to do things that are within their strengths? That part I feel, whether it's last year's game or this year's two losses—Michigan State and Ohio State—are you giving the kids the best chance to have success? That, as a staff, we can hold our head up pretty high and by no means we are not perfect. The great thing about it is that it's a player's game. Our job is to prepare them, and then they go out and play. That's my only goal every game is are you giving your players a chance, and then they go out and play. Then you have to go make some (game) plans.
It does a little bit because you know you don't have the next one. By the time we talk on Sunday, we're on to the next one. I also appreciate the game enough that the other team can make some plays too, and that's all right. The last one always sticks with you because you don't have the next game to turn the page to.
On the communication between coaching staff and players
We did. I think the one thing more than anything, when I look our group of eyes in the eye, the truest of the true are in that room. We were all good with what happened. You go play it, and that's something that happened from day one of the prep. We knew that if we got in that situation; power run game we have good linemen, we have a good back. We also had a quarterback that we trusted completely. That one never bothered me as far as what the call was. I know if it would've got knocked down, I wouldn't have called it, but I'm all right with that.
On Russell Wilson, and the difference in him:
I don't know if it's different, but it's what you said. I think the willingness to compete and the desire in what guys are doing in front of him, I think it's a good combination. He has been fun to watch in those situations. You truly appreciate that.
On Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti:
I think Nick is a heck of a football coach. The biggest testament is the players, you can see they play fast so that means they're well-coached. They have a certain skill set, but they play fast which means they know what they're doing and they know how to react to certain things. I've thought a lot of Nick for some time. I think his players buy into what he's teaching. I think it complements their team really well. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Nick.
On getting advice on Oregon from good friend Oregon State head coach Mike Riley:
I've talked to Mike, and we talk regularly. I think that you have to be careful. Mike looks at Oregon through the eyes of his team, and who they are. I think we're different. My conversations with Mike have been about other things than how do you attack Oregon. We got all their games on film. We know who we are. I think you have to do your own work.
You're going a couple layers deeper than I do. They're got a heck of a plan. I think it complements who they are. I think they have a plan as a whole team, and I think it fits them perfectly. I think they're darn good.
On Montee Ball waiting his turn:
It all made sense at the time, and you appreciate how Montee went through it. You look back now, and you think, ‘what were we thinking?' It was fun to see that, and it was fun to see John get his first touchdown. I think the world of James. Things play out for a different reason. I think Montee's story is an awesome story. I think we all have to go through times that we have to hit a little bit of crossroads. I think that Montee decided to handle his situation, boy he grew. All of our experiences make us who we are. I'm not so sure any of us would trade any of what happened. As hard as it was, I think there was a point where Montee says, whether recommitting yourself is a word. It was a lot harder on Montee than what he led us to believe. He was nothing more than a great team guy. He was ready, and the Iowa game he jumps in and his first play, he makes a big play. He was always prepared, always ready. I think when you look back now, it probably all makes him who he is and allowed him to do and have the year he's had. It's guys like that, that have a special place in your heart.
On Nick Toon:
Nick's obviously a very talented player, a big part of our offense. I pretty much enjoyed being around Nick, and seeing him develop and grow. For us to be as good as we can be, we need Nick to be as good as he can be.
On Ball and James White sharing carries:
You're almost so close you hadn't thought about that, but absolutely. I think all the guys are like that. They're a perceptive group of guys and willing. They're got confidence, but they're not arrogant where they can't learn the lessons. When you say that, it makes complete sense. I'm sure James has been thinking that. Before we're even talking about it, or you thought of it. James is really talented. He has gotten better in a lot of ways. Montee has had a year you don't see in much of James. That's not to say that James hasn't gotten better this year. I think that's kind of exciting; there's another story yet to be—that one's far from being done which is pretty cool.
Rightfully so, because James is confident with who he is as a player. Every player wants to contribute, and contribute in a big way in big games. That'll be fun. They're so close. Those close conversations—even if they don't happen, they've happened, just the way they interact. That'll be an exciting time. Wherever they're at, they'll kind of both continue to grow.
Any comparisons to hockey (since Wisconsin has a strong hockey program):
We need to get some power plays going (laughs). If we can get a couple of majors going too, then we'll be all right. That's why it's a well-conceived plan. It's a good scheme and they've got good players that can run it. I think he goes about it and uses it the right way. Offensively, what they do is impressive. The defense has a lot to do with where they're at, in my opinion. Nick is a good coach. It's a great fit to their team. It fits who they are. I think all that is well-designed with how they use the players and how they use a lot of guys. Some people play a lot of guys, but there's a significant drop-off. I don't see that.
Any memories of ‘The Civil War' (Oregon-Oregon State) as an assistant at Oregon State?
Only the ones we won. For me, it was the first one that we won where it was a triple-overtime game. For a guy like me coming out there, it was a pretty neat thing to be a part of. Playing at Wisconsin, and growing up where there were a lot of regional rivals, but not an in-state one like that. That was obviously special because you're on the right end of it. I was in four of them, and the two wins stick out. The second one, I remember thinking the guys who made the most plays were Oregon guys. That's pretty cool, whether it was Derek Anderson or Jonas Newton or Mike Haas; Bill Schwonka had a good game. I think Mitch Mucin had a pick. Pretty neat for an Oregon kid to have an impact on ‘The Civil War.' I think the two wins stick out, and you try to erase the losses.
On facing his last game, and what's been special about being at Wisconsin:
You hope not, but in some ways I think the strength of Wisconsin—even Russell will talk about it—it's the people. That's what drives you. It's the players. You kind of have that every year. I just happen to be part of this senior class.
It's given you a lot. It's funny because it's different stages. As a kid, it was my dad, and those are fond memoires. As a player, not so great memories, but really a neat place because of the friendships. That's real. And then you come back and coach here. I've been able to be a part of it in a lot of different ways. That's the unique thing for me—that you're able to truly be a part of it and hopefully have an impact on guys.
On Russell Wilson:
I think he's a uniquely gifted athlete. I think he has an unbelievable passion to compete. I think he loves competition, and he loves the game of football. If you've got a guy that's talented, that loves the game and loves to study it—and is smart—and loves to compete, that makes for a pretty good quarterback. You can overcome a lot. You can overcome coaching (laughs).
On how Wilson stepped in as a first-year starter:
You're learning a foreign language, and he learned it. I think he understood everything when we started camp. Then I think camp gave him a chance to become more second-nature. That only happens by working on it and being exceptionally bright to grasp all that. The other thing is that he's an unselfish person. He didn't fight the learning. He's truly been a joy to be around. I consider myself fortunate to have had this year with him.
When did his name first come up as a possibility of coming to Madison?
I think it was in May. I was on the road recruiting.
On Wilson's initial interest in Wisconsin:
At the time, he's asked for his release. Does he have an interest in Wisconsin. It kind of goes in steps. Then, if he does have an interest in Wisconsin, is he going to come and visit. Then when he visits, he had a good visit, so it starts narrowing down. The process built, but we're obviously very fortunate. Certainly, he's had a large impact on us. I think we as a team have had a positive impact on him too. That, you feel good about.
I think we're more effective because he's good. His presence, that's part of quarterbacking; good quarterbacks. I don't know quite how to answer. We're better because of him.
On different quarterbacks at Wisconsin:
Scotty (Tolzien) complemented our running game in a very different way. That's the position, a little bit. Certainly Russell has a unique skill set for what we've had in the last few years. I think we've done a good job of knowing who he is, his strengths and playing to that. I think it's been a good fit; a good match that way.