LOS ANGELES – “I’m in, I’m on” has become something of a team motto for Wisconsin, stamped on wristbands worn by players during preparations for the Rose Bowl.
To make sure that comes true on Jan. 1 against Stanford, interim head coach Barry Alvarez has changed up the usual routine by holding an intense 10-minute scrimmage with full contact Thursday.
“That was something that we had never done before in any of the bowl preps,” defensive tackle Ethan Hemer said Friday. “But I really enjoyed it because we hadn't tackled anyone for a couple weeks.”
Hemer described the session as “short (and) crisp,” perfect preparation for bruising Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor.
Taylor rushed for 110 yards per game, fourth-best in the Pac-12. Unlike the three backs that finished above him, however, the senior did his damage by volume with 302 carries.
Taylor averaged just 4.77 yards per carry, the lowest mark of any of the top 15 rushers in yards per game in the Pac-12.
“He's running very hard when he's running the ball,” linebacker Chris Borland said.
“I wouldn't say Stepfan Taylor is a guy that's going to make a ton of people miss in open field,” safety Shelton Johnson added.
Borland also noted Taylor’s status as a three-down back, equally adept in pass protection and catching the ball. His 38 receptions are second most on the team, including a 23-yard screen pass for a touchdown in Stanford’s 21-14 win over USC.
“What's impressed me most is he catches out of the backfield really well,” Borland said. “He can block. He can do it all on the football field, so it's going to take a lot to stop him.”
Beef Bowl Champs
Center Travis Fredrick ate eight cuts of prime rib during last year’s visit to Lawry’s for the annual Beef Bowl, a feat he was not going to match Friday night in Beverly Hills.
“I’ll definitely eat my fill, but hopefully not eight this year,” said Frederick, who added “carnivore” to a list of accolades after being introduced to reporters.
Even without Frederick’s full commitment, Wisconsin consumed 619 pounds of beef, edging out Stanford, which took in 602 pounds during its trip Thursday, for their third straight title in the gastrological competition.
According to Lawry’s, which has hosted the event since 1956, the team that has consumed more prime rib has gone on to win the Rose Bowl in 39 of 56 yards, a winning percentage of .696.
However, Wisconsin has failed to come away with the victory on New Year’s Day despite downing TCU and Oregon in the dining room in its previous two visits.
Smith Good To Go
Cornerback Devin Smith, who suffered a concussion in the Big Ten championship game, is ready to play and will start in the Rose Bowl, co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash said Friday.
“He was limited early in bowl preparations, but he's been out there and he's going to be a hundred percent for the game,” Ash said.
“I'm definitely okay now, and definitely excited to get back out there and play,” Smith said.
Smith, a redshirt senior from Coppell (Texas), has started every game this season and leads the team with four interceptions and 12 pass breakups.
Foreman Attends Practice
Encino (Calif.) Crespi safety Tyler Foreman watched Wisconsin practice at the Home Depot Center on Friday.
A four-star prospect rated as the No. 8 safety in the nation by Fox Sports Next, Foreman verbally committed to Wisconsin in November and said he remains so after Bret Bielema’s sudden departure for Arkansas earlier in the month.
Holding Their Sides – With Laughter
Defensive tackle Beau Allen had the media in stitches during his interview preceding the Beef Bowl.
“I’ve been preparing for this moment my whole life,” Allen said. “All roads have led here.”
Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.