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How staying in the moment has become the Badgers' mantra
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How staying in the moment has become the Badgers' mantra

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Paul Chryst thought he was rambling, but his thoughts on the subject were clear.

A reporter asked the seventh-year University of Wisconsin football coach how he teaches his players to stay in the moment. A favorite Chryst saying is, “Be where your feet are,” a reinforcement of the idea that the present is paramount.

Chryst’s Badgers have embraced that mindset this season, bouncing back from a 1-3 start to win three consecutive games. This weekend’s showdown against No. 9 Iowa at Camp Randall Stadium will be another test of UW’s ability to focus on strictly what’s in front of them and not the stakes of the game — namely, the inside track to the Big Ten Conference’s West Division crown.

“Everyone gets it — there’s a narrative that people want to talk about,” Chryst said last week. “I equate it to, whether it’s a game or the season, if you look at a game, there’s a lot of things that go on during the game. If you just are worried about the end of the game, which is the only time you have a winner and a loser declared, you missed the best part of the game, and that’s getting the chance to play it.

“I think it’s the same for our season. A lot of things happen throughout the course of a season and a lot of things happen throughout the course of a game. To make the most of the journey that you get to have, it’s being in the moment. I think individually, too, been around it so much and you realize … there are no guarantees.

“I think that it’s just an approach that you’ve got to take. If you want to be the best in the moment, you’ve got to truly immerse yourself in that moment. That’s all it matters. I get it, I’m not naïve, there’s always going to be a lot of talk that really doesn’t pertain and help, I think, individuals being in that moment.”

A number of UW players said that Chryst’s message of staying in the moment has been consistent throughout their time in the program. From freshman tailback Braelon Allen, who’s in his fifth month on campus, to senior left tackle Tyler Beach, who’s in his fifth year under Chryst, the mentality has been central to his coaching during good times and bad.

After UW’s poor start, one that saw the program extend a losing streak against ranked teams to eight before snapping it last week against Purdue, players saw firsthand how important turning the page is and how Chryst’s words apply to them.

“He always tries to kind of instill that in us, and it’s true — all that you can control is right now and anything can change, anything can happen in the future,” senior inside linebacker Jack Sanborn said.

“The past is gone. If you just start thinking and dwelling on the past, it’s going to catch up with you. It’s a slippery slope. He does a great job of making us understand that. Not only live in the moment, but enjoy the moment. Enjoy being out there with everyone, enjoy playing the game, enjoy going out there each drive.”

Chryst starts each news conference expressing how much he enjoys being around and working with his team. No UW coach or player denies that it was difficult to remain positive after Michigan ran away with a win at Camp Randall Stadium on Oct. 2. Senior cornerback Faion Hicks said the Badgers were in a dark place after that game and it caused some doubts to creep in about who the team was.

But three straight wins highlighted by the rushing attack and the defense — and a clear path toward the postseason emerging — have injected life into the team.

“There’s certain things you just can’t let affect the locker room,” Hicks said. “When we had that third loss to Michigan, it was important that coach echoed that, ‘Hey, man, don’t let this linger. Let’s get this nasty taste out of our mouth.’”

Some on the outside might mistake Chryst’s mindset as excusing the mistakes made in previous weeks, but players say he’s been critical when needed.

“You want to look back at the past and realize that we had an opportunity and we might have lost it a little bit, had three losses,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz said. “You get a second opportunity, you want to make the most out of it. You want to live in the moment.

“And I’m proud of the way this team’s reacting to it. They have an edge every day coming out to work, to treatment, to meetings, every single thing. It’s awesome. It’s really cool to see all the guys stay in the moment, keep that edge going.”

Chenal, Larsh honored

UW junior linebacker Leo Chenal was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week and senior kicker Collin Larsh was the conference’s Special Teams Player of the Week after their performances at Purdue.

Chenal had nine tackles, 5½ of which were for loss including 3½ sacks. It is the first weekly conference honor of his career and UW’s first since 2019.

Larsh made three field goals, including a 43-yarder in the fourth quarter that tied a career-long. He also made three extra points. Larsh is the first specialist to earn Big Ten weekly honors since Rafael Gaglianone in 2016.

From the infirmary

UW will be thin again at tight end this week with Cam Large and Hayden Rucci ruled out and Jack Eschenbach and Clay Cundiff listed as questionable. UW’s status reports don’t designate why players are listed.

Outside linebacker Aaron Witt will also miss the game, while outside linebacker Spencer Lytle, inside linebackers Mike Maskalunas and Jordan Turner, and cornerback Alexander Smith are listed as questionable.


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