"We're not going to mess around. We're going out there to win the game."
With those words the tone of the 2013 Rose Bowl preparations were set by Barry Alvarez, who will step out from behind his AD desk and coach in his fourth and final granddaddy of them all on January 1st, 2013. Setting the tone is one thing, but getting players to buy in so quickly, that's a different story.
However, it's becoming clear that for the likes of Montee Ball, Travis Frederick and Curt Phillips they are all in and willing to fight for their head coach. At least they are putting on the bravest of faces as they begin the crazy period surrounding the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA and are truly focused on winning a football game.
"With everything that happened and when Coach (Alvarez) took over, and he said those things and said that we're not going to mess around," junior captain Travis Frederick said. "It really sent a message to the team that this is the year that we need to come out here and play our best, and hopefully go out and win a game."
To that effect, it's not lost on the Badgers players that they haven't won the game the past two years. So, what's going to be different this time around? One word kept coming to the forefront and that's focus.
"Definitely a lot more focused," Badgers running back James White said. "Definitely coming here for the third time, you know what L.A. presents, you get focused as soon as you get here. Probably not go out as much, see the scenery, that type of stuff. You really lock in on the game. You want to come out of here with a victory definitely."
The Badgers also see this game as a little bit of us against the world and to be fair, why wouldn't you?
It's not like you've been challenged by losing your head coach, six of the coaches coaching you now have other jobs coming following the Rose Bowl and your head coach hasn't been on the sidelines as a head coach in seven years or anything, huh?
"I think that everybody embraced the fact that it was going to be a challenge, and we weren't going to let it affect us negatively," said QB Curt Phillips. "So I think that in combination with the fact that this is our third time here, and in the past two we haven't been able to come away with a win, so I think there is more of a sense of urgency."
One thing we all know is that Coach Alvarez can be a master at getting his teams to focus on the things that are really important and do so in somewhat unconventional ways. For this Rose Bowl he's doing it again, this time by handing out bracelets that say "I'm In" and "I'm On." Players weren't allowed to just receive them, they had to earn them through their position and assistant coaches and it apparently worked to get the team to focus on this game and not all the other stuff floating around the program.
"It kind of reminds me that I'm a little piece to the entire puzzle on this team," said Montee Ball. "Everyone is. I'm in with everything this team is doing and we're going to be on. I'm going to display my best game and show the team I want to win for them."
Unlike the past two seasons this team seems focused to just go out and handle their business on the football field, yet enjoy the experience as well. Everything they've been through this season has taught them that what happens on the field is the only thing that you can control and come Tuesday this team will be focused and "All In" to finally get the monkey off their back and win one. A lot of the credit has to go to Coach Alvarez and his ability to get the full attention of all the players in Wisconsin.