GREEN BAY – Afforded the opportunity to spend slightly less than a 24-hour period away from campus Friday and Saturday, head coach Paul Chryst wanted to take advantage with the team’s simulated road game.
Wisconsin stayed in a hotel (the same one they’ll stay at five months from now), had more in-depth meetings and had players get up and address the team.
And considering his standing with the team, both as a senior veteran and in-state player, outside linebacker Vince Biegel was the easy pick.
Parts of Biegel’s message stayed in that hotel meeting room, but the Wisconsin Rapids native said the number he wanted to hammer home was 155. That represented the number of days Wisconsin had left to improve before kicking off the season against LSU at Lambeau Field September 3.
“Today it’s 154,” said Biegel, who also shared the speaking floor with senior tailback Dare Ogunbowale. “What we’re going to try to do is get better, laying the foundation to get ready for LSU and set the tone for the rest of the 2016 Wisconsin Badger season.”
There was no question Saturday was a heavy workday for Wisconsin. Practicing for more than two hours in the Don Hutson Center, the Badgers went heavy on individual drills, 7-on-7, special teams and an approximate 75-play scrimmage that was aimed at building depth at key positions like tailback, receiver, linebacker and secondary.
But there was also a field trip quality to Saturday, a reward and history lesson all rolled into one. After going through their first lengthy scrimmage of spring camp, Wisconsin got a chance to walk into the seating bowl of Lambeau Field for pictures and Lambeau Leaps.
“It was fun to get on the field,” said Ogunbowale, who wore a white No.12 Aaron Rodgers jersey and brought a No.84 jersey of former UW receiver Jared Abbrederis for receiver Rob Wheelwright. “They were seeding the grass, but it didn’t take anything away from it. It was real fun to be out on the field.”
The experience on the field was followed by a tour of the team’s hall of fame, a time capsule of former football great, how football uniforms looked and how the sport has evolved.
“Guys coming together a little bit, I think that’s real valuable,” Chryst said. “We that grow up in Wisconsin maybe get spoiled a little bit with the Packers and Lambeau Field. That’s what was fun about this.”
The day was a homecoming of sorts for sophomore tailback Alec Ingold. Living just over 10 minutes from Lambeau Field, Ingold was a standout at nearby Bay Port High School, earning Associated Press state player of the year and first-team all-state honors, and was one of UW’s key tailbacks last season as a true freshman.
“The community of Green Bay is just so special to me,” Ingold said. “Being able to play here with all my new teammates and being able to wear the ‘W’ is the best of both worlds. You grow up wanting to be a Badger, wanting to a Packer and you get a little bit of both worlds.”
Chryst and Ogunbowale agreed that the weekend didn’t increase the anticipation for the season opener; Chryst went as far to say that the weekend showed that the team, “has to get a lot better.”
But as the buses pulled away out of the Lambeau Field parking lot Saturday afternoon to return to campus, there’s little debate that the opportunity to open the season in Northeast Wisconsin – now 153 days away – will generate a buzz.
“It’ll be awesome,” Ogunbowale said. “It’s a stage that you grow up dreaming to play in. College football, first game of the season, against a good opponent at a place like this, everything is set up to be a great game and a great environment. It’s going to be fun and we’re all going to be excited for it.”