Badgers defense confident, looking to erase past Rose Bowl memories

For the seniors on this years team they're part of history they'd rather forget, losers of two straight Rose Bowls and all. Those memories aren't lost on the likes of Devin Smith or Mike Taylor who will be part of a group of Wisconsin seniors on the defensive side of the football and along with a renewed focus on the game itself it has the Badgers defense confident about this Rose Bowl. 

"People aren't doing much," said senior cornerback Devin Smith. "They're pretty much hanging out at the hotel. I think everyone is going to bed a lot earlier this year than they have in the past couple years. I think the team is a lot more focused than the past couple years."

But that doesn't mean Wisconsin is afraid to do things or have a coaching staff that have players their worried about taking responsibility for their own actions, their bodies and for remembering why they are out in Pasadena – to play a football game. In fact it's the opposite of that for most of this team.

"You definitely do stuff, go hang out, enjoy it, do whatever you want to do," Smith said. "You also have to think about the game, just be smart with whatever you do. I think a lot of guys are being a lot smarter this year.

It's also something that isn't lost on their coaches, who saw something from the way the Nebraska game played out to how things have gone in preparations for this bowl game. 

"I will say this, coming out from the locker room from the Nebraska game, the buildup, you probably heard this from people involved, I knew we had a great chance," said co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge. "The kids have handled all the potential distractions as good as you could possibly hope right now. They've been unbelievable."

There's also no doubting that this defensive group is confident in itself and what it can do. It shows with a defense that ranks in the Top 25 in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, and passing defense. 

"I think we've done a great job," said Smith. "We've limited Braxton Miller from all he could do in the Ohio State game. He had been dominating defenses throughout the whole season. I think we pretty much shut him down. Taylor Martinez in the last game, we did really well against him except for one run. Everything after that, he was eliminated pretty much."

Now, the question is can Wisconsin's defense translate their focus and confidence to on the field performance against a Stanford offense that has been humming along pretty well? Only Tuesday night will be able to tell us, but don't expect a team that isn't prepared or focused to show up on the Wisconsin side of the football. 

It's also safe to assume that for the likes of Smith, Taylor, Marcus Cromartie and Shelton Johnson this is a game they want bad. Just how bad do they want it? Well, Taylor said it would be the cherry on top of his career at Wisconsin. 

"It would mean everything," Taylor said about winning this Rose Bowl. "The last two games I remember walking off the field. The first game, we got here, we lost a close game. Obviously you're disappointed. You wanted to win. When you take a look around, we made it to the Rose Bowl. Surprised some people that we got there."

"The next year was the year we were supposed to do big things. But we lost. Walking off the field again, it was a bigger disappointment when we had that many good players. We were able to do some things well. Last year, it all falls right back on top of you."

"To be able to walk off the field with a win, like I said, it would be the cherry on top," said Taylor. "I'd walk off the field with a smile. I think everybody would be happy, obviously. That would be awesome."

For Taylor it would mean capping off a career that sees him rank 7th in tackles, in the top 5 of tackles for losses, and 5th in forced fumbles, so it's hard to beat what he's accomplished. There's no doubt that between Taylor, Smith and Johnson this defense will not lack for effort against Stanford with all they've gone through in their careers to just be on the field on January 1, 2013 in the Rose Bowl. 

Sleep on Wisconsin's defense if you want, that's just fine by these guys because they're just focused on what they need to do to win football games and by the time you figure out how good this defense really is it's probably too late already.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, as well as Publisher of Big Ten site