MADISON - For the first five games of the season, the Wisconsin captains were able to lead their team to wins. Now, though, after a loss to Ohio State, this is where the leaders will have their mettle tested. For Chris Maragos, he welcomes the challenge.
After Wednesday's practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the senior free safety. The following is a question and answer with Maragos.
To start, is it kind of good to play Iowa and to bounce back against a good team again?
Maragos: You know, they're a tough team. Especially just watching them on film, they pose a great, great challenge for us. I look at them and they're so similar to us. The tight ends, the schemes and everything that they do in terms of their offensive personnel and the way that they execute.
Their offensive line, they come out there and they play tough. The receivers are always blocking down field and they're guys that are getting after it no matter what their role is. They're going to come in here and they're going to come out and bring their best and we better be ready for it.
Is that one of the more underrated things as far as making the offense tick when the wide receivers are blocking down field?
Maragos: Totally. I mean, for me, especially being a receiver and kind of looking at then and being on the defensive side of the ball, when you see receivers on run players that are going out there and are cut blocking guys. They're finishing blocks. That says a lot about the character of their offense and the way that they're coached.
I'm expecting a tough game. It's going to be physical, it's going to be tough and it's going to be a slugfest. We play brands of football that are so similar. It's a responsibility for myself to make sure that we're getting these guys ready to get it rolling.
How do you go about doing that? Do you talk to people? Is it a verbal thing?
Maragos: I think the biggest thing is that you need to pick and choose when you need to do stuff. Everybody on the team understands that its Iowa week and they understand what kind of game it's going to be. So, I think setting the tone at practice, just the tempo and the practice schedule that we've got, we need to go out there and make sure that we're executing and playing fast and making sure that we're keeping the tempo of playing on Saturday.
How has the tempo of practice been this week? After a loss has it kind of
Maragos: It's been great. We've had two good days (as of Wednesday). Guys have been coming out and they're flying around. The thing about this team is that they're so resilient. Obviously the loss hurt, but we didn't let it affect us and we didn't let Ohio State linger over. Guys are ready and excited for the opportunity and this is the most important game of our season because it's our next one. So, we're excited for it.
If you guys were to beat Iowa and take it to them, you are right back at the top of the conference too. There is plenty to play for. It's a trophy game too.
Maragos: It's a trophy game and it's a border battle, all those things. A lot of the guys, coach was kind of mentioning that Wisconsin recruits the Iowa commits and Iowa recruits the Wisconsin
.it's vice versa. So we're recruiting the same players. There's a lot that goes into it. The programs are very close together in terms of some certain things.
Again, it's going to be a slugfest, it's going to be a tough one and it's going to be a disciplined football game.
I know you guys don't like to talk about last year a lot, but after they beat you guys, they run across and they get that trophy. Is that a motivational factor?
Maragos: That was horrible man. I remember sitting there and it looked like that was their best rep of the day sprinting over. Those guys, they were hungry for it. Boy, I tell you, just to walk off there was just demoralizing.
They physically whooped us that game. That's not who we are. We take pride in what we do physically and they came out and gave it to us. I'm definitely remembering that in going into this game. However I can be a difference maker, that's how I want to be.
You guys played against Minnesota and that's a big rivalry. How would you rate this rivalry as compared to maybe that one?
Maragos: It's a big one. Anytime it's a rivalry game it's big for the players, it's big for the universities and all that kind of stuff. Even more importantly, we're taking the approach that it's the next game.
No matter what it looks like, no matter who it is, no matter what the rivalry is, whatever it is, it's the next game and that's the most important thing. We want to go out there, whatever game it is, whatever opponent it is, we want to go out there and do our best.
When you're watching film of those guys, they had a tough one against Northern Iowa to start the year and they had a tough one against Arkansas State, maybe not top-notch teams. Then they go and beat Penn State and Michigan. Is there a difference between those games that you've seen on film?
Maragos: They've played good opponents. Northern Iowa is a good football team and they play a good brand of football in FCS. When you look at those games, those are guys that are competing and they're playing to the best of their ability.
Even the Penn State game, all those guys are going out there and competing. Iowa just found a way to win. That speaks volumes to their character and the leadership on their team.
In the preseason, they lose Jewel Hampton, their running back, are you surprised with the way they've been able to run the ball?
Maragos: I tell you what, they're offensive line is impressive. They play hard and they finish blocks. They're the type of team that you can kind of tell what's going to be coming. But, boy, they execute it. That's the way they play.
They say, 'Ok, it doesn't matter what play is coming. We're going to out-physical you, we're going to out-technique you.' So, a team like that, they take pride in what they do and how they do it. They're going to come in, they're going to be sound, they're going to be focused and they're going to be ready to roll. We got to be ready to match that energy.
They are fun games to play in though, aren't they?
Maragos: I tell you what, this conference is unreal. Being in the MAC, the Big Ten, it's not even a comparison. It's awesome. Every week it's a great challenge.
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