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Canada: 'It's hard to leave'

By TOM LEA
tlea@espnwisconsin.com

MADISON – As Matt Canada was approaching a group of local reporters following Sunday’s practice his words rang sound and clear. He attacked the elephant in the room and said he would answer any question he was asked, but that this would be the only time he would talk about his decision to take the offensive coordinator position at NC State.

That brief, albeit forceful, explanation essentially set the tone for an assistant coach that seemed somewhat upset or unnerved about the entire process that has undertook the Wisconsin coaching staff since Bret Bielema’s departure.

The following is the transcript of Canada’s meeting with reporters.

Reporter: How difficult was the decision to take the offer?

Canada: It’s hard to leave. It’s hard to leave a great place and a place you always wanted to go. I’m very blessed to go to a great place and work for a guy that I worked for. I’m really fortunate to have a great opportunity. Everybody knew how much I wanted to be here. When you look at the numbers in conference play, what we did on offense and the way we got better and everybody coming back, you certainly feel leaving here with the Big Ten championship and going to the Rose Bowl, you can walk out of here feeling pretty good about that.

Reporter: Is there any anger with how it played out?

Canada: There’s some frustration with the way all this went down. There are a lot of people’s lives that are affected by things like this, but it’s our business. We chose this business. It’s a great profession and it’s part of the business, but I think everybody probably deserved a little more time to celebrate the championship. It is what it is and we’ll all move forward.

Reporter: Did Barry try to get you to stay?

Canada: Coach is not in a position. His first priority is to find a head coach. I think coach Alvarez has been very supportive of all of us. He has to do his due diligence and that’s what he said. Things are happening. Things are happening in our profession right now so that’s where it’s at.

Reporter: Did you feel like you had to act quickly?

Canada: You feel like you’re offered a job at a good place and you’ve got to have a job. There are no guarantees. It’s not acting quickly. If you look out there things are happening fast. We all have to do what we have to do.

Reporter: You mentioned the frustration. What factors are most frustrating to you with how the whole process played out? You say you’d like to have more time to celebrate.

Canada: Yeah, everybody, our players and all of us. Obviously Bret (Bielema) did what Bret did. He had what he had to do and that’s his business. We had an awful special night on a Saturday night. We had to come back on a Sunday and things got rolling on Tuesday. That’s all I meant by that. I think, selfishly for our players and our offense, that was a pretty good night, but our players have done a great job. They’ve bounced back. It’s about them. They’re getting ready to go to the Rose Bowl and move forward.

Reporter: Has it been hard for the players to focus, do you think, with all this going on?

Canada: I wouldn’t want to speak to that. That’s up to them. I think they’re working hard. I feel like they’ve done a good job. We’re going to (Pasadena to) win the Rose Bowl. That’s what we’re focused on and that’s what’s important. We had a nice banquet there a week or so ago and celebrated being the Big Ten champions. That’s pretty impressive, too. I’m proud of those guys.

Reporter: What about NC State and what about working with Dave Doeren again?

Canada: I’m excited to go work with Dave. There’s obviously familiarity there and that’s great. I had a chance to do it a year ago and won a championship. They won another one this year and we won one here. There are a lot of good things with that. There are two sides here, to get to go with Dave to a place like this, they’re obviously very supportive of their program. I’m very, very blessed to have that opportunity. Don’t want to, by any stretch, go that way. I obviously came here with the intention of being here for a long, long time. That was the plan. Sometimes plans change. You have to trust that and move forward. I’m really, really fortunate Dave made the decision he did and I’m excited about it.

Reporter: You mentioned winning a championship and not having much time to celebrate. I can’t remember if you addressed this, but when you found out that there was going to be a change at the top and there was going to be some uncertainty what was your initial reaction?

Canada: I was probably surprised, just based on things. Obviously Bret did what Bret did. It’s certainly Bret’s prerogative.

Reporter: Based on what? Based on things is what you said. Based on what?

Canada: I was surprised. I’m thinking we’re coming back. We have a lot of guys coming back and I’m just talking about the offense. We lose two guys on an offense that again, going through the whole year, ups and downs and things that some people know and a lot of people don’t that we fought through. We played some different kids. Again, if you look at the conference numbers there they were pretty good. Obviously we came up short in some games, but a lot of kids coming back. I’m certainly excited for the future for those players.

Reporter: Will this temper your enthusiasm for the Rose Bowl at all?

Canada: No. All of this has been what it’s been. We’ve had to work through it. You move forward with that and you focus on the Rose Bowl. You focus on the Rose Bowl and my kids and helping them with the transition. You talk about frustration, my biggest frustration would be that situation. I’ll deal with that. We’ll go to the Rose Bowl and go out and win it. I’ve never been. I’m excited.

Reporter: Did you inquire about the head coaching job here at all?

Canada: No. Coach Alvarez has got his list. This is a special place. I’m sure whoever he hires is going to appreciate that. I think everybody knows how I appreciate the place and how fond I am of it. I came in here and respected it to a point of probably sticking with some things longer than we needed to. That’s up to coach. I think anytime you get another job is because somebody calls you. I haven’t been around many places where you try to get a job and you get it. Coach knows where I’m at. I’m working with him every day.

Reporter: If Joel Stave is healthy will you find a role for him in the game?

Canada: We’re seeing where Joel is at. Joel is not cleared yet. He’s getting some reps here and there. We’ve got to make sure everything heals up with Joel, but if Joel is healthy… Joel played very, very well in the games. You talk about the future of this place. What he was able to do as a freshman was awesome. People say what they want. The way he played at Nebraska, in that environment which is as good as I’ve been around, was really, really special. He takes care of the ball. Joel has got a great, great future. If he can play he’ll play some, probably. We’ll just see how we’re going and see where we’re at.

Reporter: When you look at Stanford’s defense, No. 93 (Trent Murphy) and No. 49 (Ben Gardner) look to be the two most disruptive guys. How do they get so much pressure in the backfield, penetration and tackles for loss?

Canada: Obviously they’re leading the nation in tackles for loss and sacks and all those things. They’re a disciplined team, which you would expect. They’re a very well coached team. They’re not a team that will be in the wrong gap. They know what they want to do. The linebackers play well. Their front seven is extremely, extremely talented and they play really hard. They know what they’re doing. I wouldn’t single out a player, but I think they’re a very good football team.

Reporter: Are you closing the book on UW? For example, if something happens and there’s a hire and you get a call?

Canada: I’m going to NC State.