Wisconsin has had plenty of mottos over the years—phrases and mantras meant to unite the football team to a common purpose.
Fourth-year junior linebacker Dontez Sanders, though, cannot recall the first three he was party to.
"They never really stuck," he said.
This year is different.
"I think this is the best one," Sanders said. "‘Respect. 1-0.' The other ones, I mean, they were fine but I think this one really defines our team."
Sanders was not alone in struggling to recall the team's old mantras. Coaches and other players did remember sayings such as "count on me," "focus" and "what's important now." But no motto in recent memory has been nearly as pronounced, or as obviously taken to heart, as the "1-0" that the Badgers announce regardless of situation or circumstance.
"We just have to be 1-0," quarterback John Stocco said. "We have to have a great week of practice. It's going to be a challenge but it's going to be exciting."
Stocco's words were spoken Monday afternoon, in reference to the Badgers' approaching challenge at Ohio State. But they very well could have applied to any facet of a Wisconsin game or practice this season. Stocco and his teammates and coaches have given similar responses to questions regarding just about everything since fall camp began in August.
"Everybody who has played the game or been around the game, any sport actually, everybody probably always says 1-0," defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said, "and I think one thing that we really have tried to do since last spring is put a mentality in that 1-0 is going to be a very broad-based application to how you need to go about your day-to-day business."
Players credit Bielema for first speaking the words "1-0" in a team meeting leading up to spring practices, but he insists the attitude was in place well before he got to Madison, during winter workouts and beyond.
"Bret Bielema was the one that…brought the term up," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "We had another term that we used before but we thought this really made sense."
The Badger coaching staff, then, began broadcasting the phrase to their players in spring practices. The defense even had T-shirts put together, Bielema said, that said, ‘Play physical. Play smart. Play together.' And on one sleeve: ‘We want to be 1-0.'
The Badgers put a strong emphasis on "1-0" during fall training camp and the attitude has helped Wisconsin jump out to a 5-0 start this year. The team has been similarly successful the past two seasons—starting 5-0 in 2002 and 5-1 last year—only to finish with six losses in each of those seasons.
"We knew that last season that maybe we got caught looking ahead a couple of times last year, especially after the good start and you start thinking it is just going to happen for you down the stretch and it didn't," receivers coach Henry Mason said.
"I think maybe because we were 5-0 we started looking toward the end of the season," linebacker Reggie Cribbs said, "but I think the difference this year is because of our 1-0 mentality that we take each and every game as it is. We have to play this week the best we can play and forget about next week. Worry about next week when this week is over."
"1-0" applies to more than Saturdays, though.
"This play right now is important," Cribbs said. "Today's practice is important. If we are 1-0 in everything. If we are 1-0 in practice, if we are 1-0 in every play on Saturday than we will be perfect at the end of the game. And by the same token, if you do mess up because you have to be 1-0 on the next play, the last play doesn't even matter."
"What we've been able to do is try to tie it into everything that we do and it's just a theory or an idea and I think Coach Alvarez really has stressed that to our kids and at every opportunity that he's had to say it," Bielema said. "Whatever he says pretty much goes. Our kids buy into it without question."
The motto is so ingrained that coaches no longer need to remind the Badgers of it. Stocco, for one, laughed and estimated that he has repeated it more than a thousand times.
"A lot of them if it wasn't for [reporters] they wouldn't even know….who is next on the schedule," Mason said.
"Coaches don't need to say it anymore," Cribbs said. "We say it every day of the week. We go into the locker room and one of the players writes on the board: ‘1-0 after each game.'
"We even talk about it as players after practice. ‘You all think we were 1-0 today? If not, then forget about it, we have to be 1-0 tomorrow.' Every day we hear it and we talk about it."
Cribbs admitted the team has not always been 1-0 in practice.
"Not very many but we have had some where we just kind of went through practice lackadaisical," Cribbs said. "It shows up in the game. Arizona was our worst practice week. We didn't have a bad practice every day but there was a couple days in that Arizona week where we weren't 1-0 and it showed on Saturday."
"That's a huge emphasis for us," Stocco said. "We are always talking about 1-0. Whatever it may be. And I think it's good for us just to be at our best right now."
"I think it's evolved since spring drills to a big, big emphasis this fall," Bielema said. "But it's the type of kids that Coach Alvarez brings down here….It is thing that excites you to come to work here. It is the thing that excites you once you come on an official visit, when you are a recruit you get to join this family and be a part of something special. It is probably what makes these fans go crazy on Saturdays, makes donors support the money that they get to do it because of the way people go about their business within these circles."
Asked whether this team has bought into the mantra more than any other he has been around, Bielema paused briefly.
"I'll be able to tell you in the end," he said.
Badgers sing praises of <br> "1-and-0"
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