By TOM LEA
PASADENA — The fact Wisconsin was able to rush for 218 yards against the nation’s third stiffest rushing defense was impressive. Unfortunately it didn’t translate to more than 14 points and Stanford went on to win the 99th edition of the Rose Bowl, 20-14.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who will now head to NC State to assume the same position there, met with reporters inside the Wisconsin locker room following the game. Here is a transcript of his brief conversation with the press.
Reporter: Curt Phillips is taking this really hard. Can you talk about what he’s giving you, his effort and desire to come back and play?
Canada: He’s a great kid, a great kid. He’s the first guy…he’s the kind of guy you want to coach.
Reporter: What did you say to him afterward? Is there anything you can do to help him?
Canada: I’m proud of him and I wish him the best. I know they’re going to be great here next year and I have no doubt about it. You’ve got nine guys coming back on offense. This was the tough year. This was the year to work through a lot of things and a lot of transition. They’re moving forward and they’ll have a top offense in the nation with all the guys they’ve got coming back. They have a quality staff coming in and they’ll do a great job.
Reporter: How tough is this moment right now, just coming off the loss and obviously saying goodbye to a lot of people?
Canada: It’s an emotional time. They’re kids you’ve hung in there with and they’ve hung in there with you. It’s been a great year with up and downs. We were right there. We had a chance. It’s too bad we didn’t make that last pass and see what was going to happen. I do think we were starting to go. Time was a factor, but at the end of the half we went right down the field and scored. I felt good about it.
Reporter: Montee Ball got going in the first half, but in the second half he really couldn’t get working…
Canada: Yeah, they’re a good defense. They stopped the run. We had the ball getting outside to Melvin, which was working for us a little bit. They’re sound. They beat us up front at times. There were blocks that we needed to execute and we didn’t cover them up as well as we wanted. We might have missed a cut, whatever. They’re a tough team.
Reporter: How about that fourth and one? Did they just make a really good play on that goal line?
Canada: Somebody fell off there. We had a shot. They did a good job of getting off on the snap count and we just didn’t quite finish.
Reporter: You guys were really good on third down conversions in the first half, but the second half you weren’t as good…
Canada: No doubt. We actually had better opportunities, shorter yardage in some cases. We had some critical plays, but we just didn’t make them.
Reporter: Did you think this team was ready to win a close game?
Canada: I felt great. You keep swinging. You don’t hang your head and worry about it. There were plays there that we just didn’t quite make. We’ll look back and critique all we want, but there were opportunities to make plays and we were very close. We got the ball, defense got them stopped and it was, ‘Let’s go win the game.’ Like I said, I think that last play, if we hit it we keep going and had a shot to win the game.
Reporter: Did you execute the game plan with Joel the way you wanted to or did you want him in there a little bit more?
Canada: Joel was ready to play, but he wasn’t fully cleared until we were right on the cusp of it. Curt was taking all the reps. We put (Stave) in and he threw a great ball, but we just didn’t quite come up with it. Curt was playing very well. Curt had strengths and he had weaknesses like we all do. I really thought Curt was playing well. I think he was 7-of-8 in the first half and led us right down the field. His mobility helped us. His leadership helped us. I think Joel understood that. Obviously the new guys will come in and move forward.
Everybody knows how I feel about Joel. His upside is tremendous and his future is so bright. He’ll be playing for a long, long time, not just the next three years. There’s no shock about that. I just believe Curt was going. He was until that last play there just didn’t go perfect. He was executing the plan. They’re a very good team. Take it all bad or whatever, but they’re a very good team. There’s a reason they are where they are. We just came up a little short.