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December 3, 2011

Montee Ball

Bret Bielema

Chris Borland

Aaron Henry

Russell Wilson


Wisconsin テや 42
Michigan State テや 39

THE MODERATOR:テつ We'll ask Coach Bielema to make an opening statement, and then go to the student‑athletes.
COACH BIELEMA:テつ First of all, a very talented football team.テつ They always play an exciting game.テつ Can't argue with that.テつ Can't say enough about our room.テつ Led by our captains, led by our seniors.
So many guys had tremendous faith during the most difficult time in their playing careers even as a coach after those two defeats to have a group of guys come back and focus on a four week stretch to come into this week and play the way we did.テつ I was very excited.
We kind of all week just talked about playing Michigan State.テつ We knew if we won the game, the Rose Bowl was going to be there and all that goes with it.テつ I know I read a lot in their papers about preparing for the Rose Bowl.テつ We just focused on Michigan State, and I think our task and our direction really paid off well for us today down the stretch.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.テつ Russell, can you talk about you had a lot of plays tonight where things broke down, you had to scramble and improvise, talk about what you were able to accomplish in those situations tonight?
RUSSELL WILSON:テつ Well, I think the offensive line did a great job the whole entire game.テつ Obviously we were playing a great defense, great defensive line.テつ They made some plays.テつ Each and every play I just go through my progression, see what's going on and if nothing's there, I just try to get something positive out of the play.
I remember Duckworth coming down with that fourth down catch was pretty unbelievable.テつ He does it all the time in practice, and works his butt off every day, and it pays off.

Q.テつ Russell, do you guys understand the magnitude of winning the first championship game, the historical part of it?
RUSSELL WILSON:テつ It's pretty unbelievable.テつ To win the first ever Big Ten Championship game is pretty awesome.テつ A hundred years from now people will look back and say who won that game?テつ Who won the first ever game, and it's Wisconsin.テつ You know, that's going to last for a really long time, obviously forever.テつ I couldn't do it with a better group of guys or better coaching staff than Coach Bielema and the rest of the coaches.テつ It's pretty special.

Q.テつ For Aaron and Chris.テつ I know you guys down played the notion of revenge.テつ You said it wasn't on your minds.テつ But to be able to beat Michigan State and the way that you did after the way they beat you, what does this mean to you guys?
THE MODERATOR:テつ Chris, start with you.
CHRIS BORLAND:テつ It means a lot, obviously.テつ We underperformed in the first half of this game defensively.テつ The offense kind of kept us in it, but we were able to make some stops in the second half.テつ To win in the fashion we did is extra special for how heartbreaking the first loss was.
AARON HENRY:テつ Most definitely.テつ I totally agree with Chris.テつ The offense and what they were able to do to generate points for us was utterly amazing.テつ We made those stops when we needed to make them.テつ It was a total, total team effort.
Our offense and those guys played a tremendous game today.テつ The way we suffered that first loss it was definitely devastating, but it feels that much better now that we did win this game.

Q.テつ Russell, the pass to Duckworth, could you take us through that a little bit?テつ Because it looked like a duck a little bit when you let it go?
RUSSELL WILSON:テつ Really?テつ You thought it was a duck?テつ I thought it was pretty good.テつ I went through my progression, trying to remember who the receivers were exactly and who were in the game.テつ We run so many plays, it's kind of hard to remember.
But just went through my progression.テつ They covered it up, kind of skips out of the pocket to the left.テつ Thought I could run for it possibly, and they pursued me.
I knew Duckworth was running deep back to the back corner, and that was my only shot, really and I just gave him a shot.テつ I knew he would come down with it once I put it up in the air, and it was a pretty spectacular play.

Q.テつ Aaron and Montee, could you talk about how much mental toughness you had to develop after those two losses this year?テつ Were you able to draw on some of that when they had a big second quarter on you like they did in the first game?
MONTEE BALL:テつ Really our leaders in the campus did a great job of rallying us together and talking to us after one of our team meetings and telling us that the only thing we can do now is continue to keep playing, play our hardest, and let the season unfold itself at the end.
AARON HENRY:テつ It was very devastating after suffering the two losses.テつ I think the team we had, we were thinking national, you know what I'm saying?テつ We were thinking National Championship, National Title game.テつ For us to lose the way we did in those two games, it was definitely devastating.
But we knew we could still have a special, special season if guys could continue to stay on the right track, and we did call‑‑ the captains did call a meeting.テつ There were a couple of things said in there, you know what I'm saying?テつ It was not really trying to motivate the guys, but trying to let them know this is all we've got.テつ Guys rallied, and as you guys can see, it pretty much unfolded in front of your eyes.

Q.テつ Montee, if you could go through your performance tonight, it seemed you started off so well, it looked like you were poised to make a statement about a lot of things tonight.テつ Then second period things slowed down.テつ Why did things slow down for you?テつ What was the difficulty there?テつ How did you work your way through it?
MONTEE BALL:テつ Well, Michigan State.テつ They're a really physical team.テつ They have one of the best run defenses in the nation, so they did a great job of capitalizing on a couple of our runs.テつ But I take everything to heart.
So after a couple of runs were stopped I really took it to heart and told myself I have to make some plays and I really wanted to put the offense on my back.

Q.テつ Aaron, you said last year you went over that Rose Bowl loss so many times.テつ What does it mean to you and the rest of this team to get back there?
AARON HENRY:テつ Oh, my gosh.テつ It's a feeling unexplainable.テつ You prepare so hard.テつ Last season we prepared so hard just to make it there, and then to come up short, man, it was definitely heartbreaking and tough.
But to have an opportunity, you know what I'm saying for the second straight year to go back there again and do something amazing.テつ We played in the first Big Ten Championship game tonight, and we'll forever be a part of history, you know?
But to go back to the Rose Bowl and try to cap this thing off right, man, it's a feeling that's going down in history.テつ We're never going to be all of us in the same room at once.テつ It's definitely something special.

Q.テつ Chris and Montee, you guys have preached all season about staying the course even when adversity strikes.テつ That second quarter, obviously is just another test for you guys.テつ How did you guys weather that storm and come out in the third quarter and start to put the momentum back on your side?
CHRIS BORLAND:テつ I think this team has a sense of maturity about it and poise.テつ Even through those two losses we were down, and then tonight we never got flustered.テつ Our leaders did a good job of rallying us, and no matter how much we were down by or what the stakes were, we understood.テつ One thing you could do is move forward.テつ We did well tonight.テつ We performed well when we needed to.
MONTEE BALL:テつ Yeah, just what he said.テつ That's what Russell brought to the table in the huddle.テつ Bringing poise, keeping us grounded.テつ Telling us it's a fourth quarter game, and we have to make sure we know it's a fourth quarter game and that's going to be a fist fight until the end.

Q.テつ Montee, your performance today do you see yourself solidifying yourself as one of the finals for the Heisman Trophy?
MONTEE BALL:テつ I'm happy to go to California with my teammates, honestly, and if it happens, it happens.テつ The only thing I'm in control of is playing my hardest in the Rose Bowl.
STUDENT‑ATHLETE:テつ Can I answer that question for him?テつ Montee is a modest young man.テつ You can see.テつ We face one of the best run defenses in the country.テつ For him to have the performance he had tonight, I thought it was stellar.
He is a Heisman candidate no matter how you look at it.テつ For him to be‑‑ I mean, he should be going there pretty much.テつ I don't know if he should win it or not.テつ We've got some great finalists, but this guy's one of the best backs in the country, hands down.

Q.テつ Russell, you're the only one up there right now that didn't get to the Rose Bowl last year.テつ What does it feel for you?テつ Is this what you came for to have that Rose in your ear at this moment?
RUSSELL WILSON:テつ Definitely.テつ Talking to Coach Bielema during the recruiting process I knew that these guys in terms of leadership from seniors to juniors to sophomores, to even some of the freshmen, I knew that was a great team.テつ I knew we'd have a great team coming back.
Once I came here and decided I was coming here, I knew something great was going to happen.テつ When I came here we had the team meeting and I told the guys the reason I came here is I wanted to be part of something special.テつ I don't want to be common.テつ I want to be uncommon.
We are definitely uncommon in the fact that the way we lost those two games, the way the fact that we kept battling, and kept believing, and having faith in one another and in our systems, things worked out.テつ It's obviously a great opportunity.テつ We're going to play one of the better teams in the nation in Oregon.テつ It's going to be a great venue.テつ It doesn't get any better than that.テつ Definitely excited about the opportunity.

Q.テつ On Monday you said that you felt like this team was one of the big boys, even though you, I guess, didn't classify among the Top 5 traditional powers.テつ After a game like this, what do you feel a game like this does to cement this program as an elite type program?
COACH BIELEMA:テつ The game itself goes to show that you're true champions.テつ You get to play in a game that decides who goes to the Rose Bowl and who is granted the Championship trophy.テつ Kind of a unique situation the way it happened.
I think overall for us to get to 11 wins, three straight years of 10‑win seasons, this is a program that when I took over was in great standing in the conference.テつ But for us to win and have a chance to go to back‑to‑back Rose Bowls and make history is very special, very satisfying as a coach.
I know I've got great kids.テつ It doesn't just happen overnight.テつ A lot of my assistant coaches in the world of college football go through a lot to get these kids where they are today.テつ I'm just glad to see it be rewarded.

Q.テつ Mark Dantonio mentioned how it's a game of inches.テつ Talk about how tonight especially was a game of inches from your perspective?
COACH BIELEMA:テつ Yeah, we hit on it all week during our preparation about every play, every snap, offense, defense, special teams was going to make a difference in this game.テつ It's a 60‑minute game.テつ Obviously the way it ended proves that even more so.テつ For our kids to have tremendous faith, I don't think anybody was looking around.テつ Nobody has the big eye.テつ Everybody kind of trenched forward.
I talked about it at halftime.テつ For whatever reason we don't play well in the second quarter against Michigan State.テつ So we survived it.テつ Let's go out, convert a score, get a stop on defense and make things happen, and that's exactly what happened.

Q.テつ Jeff Duckworth never says very much.テつ I'm curious from your vantage point where you've seen him grow this year?テつ Because a lot with your receiving corps has been about Toon and Abby.テつ Just his growth this year and to have that big play for him?
COACH BIELEMA:テつ Well, Duckworth began to show signs last spring.テつ Really showed up with his consistency, his work ethic, he's got great hands.テつ Kind of one of those guys that always finds a way and has been big down the stretch here in the last four games.
I'm excited becausea, he's only a sophomore and getting better every day, and shows the big play mentality.

Q.テつ Talk about that fourth down catch by Duckworth.テつ Is it safe to call that your Hail Mary?
COACH BIELEMA:テつ It's a great way of improvising.テつ One of the great things about Russell Wilson is his ability to make a play last longer.テつ When the options are cut off, you heard it right from his mouth.テつ The progression that he went through wasn't there.テつ We thought maybe he could scramble.テつ They flashed.テつ He threw it down the field.テつ Knew where Duck was going to be.
A common saying that we've been using quite a bit over the last three, four weeks, those who are humbled have been exalted.テつ Those who are exalted will be humbled.テつ And I thought that play right there gave justice to everything.

Q.テつ This game officially ended the Big Ten season this year.テつ If you look at the past year you've had the team splintered divisions, the coaching scandals, the coaching overhauls, the great games, especially yours with Michigan State.テつ Talk about the conference as a whole and what this game means and the whole past 12 months has meant?
COACH BIELEMA:テつ Well, for us to have this season come full circle to getting to to Pasadena on January 2nd is very, very special.テつ I think as for our league, I think we're a very balanced league from top to bottom anybody can get anybody on any given Saturday.テつ That speaks volumes about the type of people that we have in our locker room.
I know that was a big thing with our guys, just the way they have unyielding faith in each other.テつ They're really, a really special group of young men that I know everybody says that.テつ I have it.テつ I get to live it 365 days a year, and it's very special.

Q.テつ Coach last year you went to the Rose Bowl but shared the Big Ten title with three other teams.テつ Is there a different feeling?テつ What is that different feeling being considered the outright champion?
COACH BIELEMA:テつ It's a great feeling.テつ You get all kinds of things.テつ For us to be able to play Michigan State the way things ended last year, and I've got a million people sending me billboards with our score on it, and the roses across it up there.テつ I read constantly whoever we're playing against, like this week we're playing Michigan State.テつ You see stuff all the time.テつ To get the satisfaction to beat Michigan State, to earn our way there can kind of put all that discussion to bed.

Q.テつ I think it's fair to say your punting has had some issues this year.テつ But can you talk about the job of protection today and primarily Nortman?テつ He not only kicked the ball well, but he sold the penalty a little to get the win.
COACH BIELEMA:テつ I don't think so.テつ I think the guy ran into him.テつ I understand what you're saying and I'm sure that's going to be some question out there.テつ He hit him.テつ He got the 5‑yard penalty, gave us the first down.テつ It is what it is.
Preached special teams all week.テつ We came up with the big play.テつ Conor O'Neill knocked the ball loose again and then Pedersen fell on it.テつ We really stressed the four phases of the kicking game all week as we do every week and thankfully it paid off.

Q.テつ Could you go through Montee's night again?テつ He started off so well and seemed to hit a wall, figuratively, with Michigan State.テつ How did he get through that?テつ I don't think he's had a game quite like that this year where he's had to struggle through a down period.テつ Maybe it was against Michigan State previously.
COACH BIELEMA:テつ It was almost like we hit the re‑run button at halftime.テつ Came out strong, we scored very quickly.テつ We were able to run the ball pretty effectively the first couple of trips down the field.テつ Michigan State gave credit to them.テつ They started to play well up front and made a difference in the second quarter.
Our guys talked about it at halftime getting back to doing what we have to do.テつ Getting a hat on a hat and imposing our will, and that's how it all panned out.

Q.テつ Aaron did a good job of promoting Heisman candidacy for Montee.テつ Do you care to take a shot?
COACH BIELEMA:テつ Yeah, I tell you, for him to score four touchdowns tonight again against one of the best defenses that we've faced all year, his numbers are outstanding, especially against the type of defenses that we've been facing.テつ For him to have that productivity and to be one touchdown away from now tying the guy that won the Heisman Trophy the year that he did it and all that goes into it, he is a very deserving candidate for New York, and in my opinion, should win it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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