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Return to L.A.

Badgers back to work defending Rose Bowl crown

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Monday December 27, 1999 08:14 PM

  Ron Dayne RB Ron Dayne led the Badgers through team stretching drills in the team's first practice session in California on Monday. AP

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- If the Wisconsin Badgers had their way, they would keep the same holiday plans every season.

One year after beating UCLA 38-31 in Pasadena, the Badgers return on Saturday with the chance to become the first Big Ten team to win back-to-back Rose Bowls.

"We love getting the chance to defend our title," offensive lineman Chris McIntosh said. "Just getting to play in one Rose Bowl was a dream come true. It's amazing to think we'll be there back-to-back.

"The only thing better would have been four straight Rose Bowls."

No. 4 Wisconsin faces Pac-10 champion Stanford this year in a game with no impact on the national championship race. Wisconsin blew its chance to contend for the title with an early-season loss to Cincinnati.

But a win over the No. 22 Cardinal would be the logical endpoint for Wisconsin's remarkable turnaround from a struggling 2-2 team to a steamrolling Big Ten champion.

Alvarez plans to put the Badgers through nearly a full week of heavy practices at the L.A. Coliseum, where the team worked out Monday. The stiff workouts are necessary because the Badgers are shaking off some winter rust in the California sun after six weeks of workouts in their indoor practice facility.

"We're just getting back in game readiness," Alvarez said. "Luckily, we've got plenty of time to do it."

The Badgers haven't played since Nov. 13 -- a day that will loom large in Wisconsin football history for decades to come. Wisconsin won its seventh straight game and claimed its second straight Big Ten title by thrashing Iowa 41-3, while Ron Dayne broke Ricky Williams' major-college career rushing record.

Dayne took home the Heisman Trophy four weeks later. Since then, he has made countless personal appearances, finished his final exams and spent time with his daughter Jada in anticipation of the final game of his Wisconsin career.

"To finish up with another win in the Rose Bowl would be unbelievable," said Dayne, who chowed down on a huge chunk of prime rib on Monday at the traditional Lawry's Beef Bowl. "That's been our goal since the first day of practice, and now we're right there."

Wisconsin finished its season on a seemingly unstoppable roll. Since freshman Brooks Bollinger took over at quarterback, Wisconsin has gone 7-0 while outscoring its vaunted Big Ten opponents 265-87. The Badgers led the conference both in scoring offense and scoring defense while winning the outright conference crown.

A Stanford team that struggled to conquer a mediocre Pac-10 might not inspire much fear in some teams -- but those teams don't have Alvarez on the sideline.

"Coach never lets us forget how good a team Stanford is," McIntosh said. "We don't listen to any of the hype about us. We're working hard."

But it's not all work for Wisconsin and its legions of devoted fans making the trip with them. The Badgers arrived in California on Christmas Day, and they've made themselves at home.

They hit Disneyland on Monday afternoon, riding the Matterhorn and posing for pictures with Mickey before finishing the day at a Mavericks-Lakers game at the Staples Center. They plan to see a taping of "The Tonight Show" and make a visit to City of Hope Medical Center on Tuesday.

"Disneyland, Universal Studios, the whole L.A. thing -- that's why we like the Rose Bowl," defensive back Jamar Fletcher said. "But it's also the tradition. This is the bowl game you strive to be in when you're in the Big Ten. This was our goal."


 
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