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Postgame Quotes: Wisconsin vs. Minnesota



Oct. 20, 2012

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Postgame Quotes
Wisconsin vs. Minnesota
Oct. 20, 2012
Camp Randall Stadium – Madison, Wis.

Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema
Really excited to keep the Axe. Obviously a rivalry game and to play Minnesota and close the game out the way we did, I thought it did a lot of good for our players. I think our coaches, our players, everybody's gained a little bit of confidence week by week. A lot of guys playing good football. I'd also like to say thanks to the crowd. 11 a.m. kickoff, I thought they were great from the get go (especially) when we got things rolling there pretty good. Really need to be great next week, 2:30 kickoff, Michigan State, big game. We've been looking forward to.

As far as injury wise, I don't know where Ricky (Wagner) is at, if we'll have him back next week but he's making progress. Really came out of the game clean. Montee put himself back, after he got clearance, put himself back in there. I'm not really concerned about that. Couple of our special teams players got a little dinged up.

But give a lot of credit to Minnesota. I think they're making good progress. Coach (Kill) does a good job. And one of the things I love about our guys, we may not be the sexiest, prettiest things alive but we do know how to play four quarter football games. And for me personally it's fun to coach this group.

I know we don't have the record maybe we want to at this point. But we did become bowl eligible, 6 2 football team getting better every week. So I'm excited about that. So with that open up for questions.

QUESTION: You mentioned playing a four quarter game. You got stronger in the second half. Did you guys need to start taking advantage in the first, the chance there?

BIELEMA: I think so. Obviously in the first half we'd like to get some points out of those red zone opportunities. We took three huge sacks. Again Joel's just learning how to be a quarterback. Some of those things he's got to get rid of the football.

But you coach well on Sundays for a guy like that. And we'll point those things out for him. We don't want him to mishandle the game because he obviously played really good for the rest of the game. But it's part of a learning process.

The good news is he's a freshman. And I think our guys are getting better.

We also debuted James White as a quarterback. It was something he did in high school at St. Thomas Aquinas. During fall camp … we've been working with that for a while. Fun to see that come through and it's (a) difficult formation for them to line up to and obviously had a little bit of success.

QUESTION: What was the decision to use that?

BIELEMA: At Wisconsin we have a lot of big people. And that got quite a few of them out there. I believe there's, if I'm not mistaken, seven linemen on the field, six, seven linemen with two tight ends and two tailbacks, cut out the pretty guys, no wide receivers or quarterbacks. We didn't even put our fullback out there. (Derek) Watt's probably mad. But again there's so many gaps. When I first saw the formation, you got little people and then they sub big people in there as well, got people lining up in an unusual spot get James trying to find a hole and obviously there's a play of Montee coming around as well.

QUESTION: What's it meant to your offense to have White and Ball going at the same time?

BIELEMA: To get those guys playing, you see them running a little differently. Obviously they're breaking tackles, making people miss, getting something out of nothing. Also again, and I can't emphasize this enough, the reason Montee and James are having success, they're doing a lot of great things individually, but the people in front of them are playing well. Our offensive line is getting a hat on a hat. We're not quite there yet. But the guys are straining.

To have Ricky Wagner, probably our best offensive lineman, out of there; to be able to do those things, we knew it wasn't going to be easy. We wore them down. Not just the o-line but our fullbacks, tight ends, wide receivers are blocking extremely well down field. Coach Azzani, most excited I've seen a wide receiver coach get, when I think Jordan Fredrick knocked one of their better DBs off the ground. You can see that energy carry forward to our players.

QUESTION: Left (guard), rotated two series at a time in the first half, looked like Burge got more, was that the plan?

BIELEMA: (Robert) Burge, thought we'd have to use all those guys in there. I think there was a play where Robby's shoe came off, too. We've got to educate him on that. Because we were kind of caught shorthanded there. But I think (Kyle) Costigan, (Robert) Burge, Zac (Matthias), all those guys would be rolling through, and Tyler Marz popped in there in the big package. Good to get those guys reps and game time.

QUESTION: Have a name for that package?

BIELEMA: Barge. Barge. Very big piece of people moving down the field together in unison. I didn't come up with that. That's all Coach Canada. So it was fun to see that come through. I know the kids really enjoy it. Everybody gets a kick out of that when we play it in practice.

QUESTION: Were you hoping to use that package earlier, in previous games?

BIELEMA: We had and then we really got hurt with a couple of linemen. And we've probably practiced it for at least the last three or four weeks, and it's just the beginning of what that package can do. James can throw the ball.

QUESTION: Obviously Joel has been so good with play action. Where do you feel he needs to get more consistent?

BIELEMA: Like I mentioned earlier, getting rid of the ball in pressure. There's one thing to try to create a play or try to stay alive. But when you're outnumbered, when they're bringing more than one we have to protect, the guys are covered up, get rid of the football. Live to play another day. Great teaching. Two real good football opportunities where you're taking points off the board. We just can't go backwards.

QUESTION: Keeping the axe, can you talk about the excitement of the guys to still be able to embrace it?

BIELEMA: I think we take a lot of pride in that. I learned that when I first came here. I'm a guy from Illinois. Played at Iowa. I don't know what's going on. I hear these guys talking about the axe during the off season and our players probably get more engrained to it. Guys that are out of state really come in start buying into this whole thing. We know the guys at Wisconsin and Minnesota, it means a lot. But it's a representation of a victory. But it's a representation of a victory for an entire year. That thing sits in our trophy case.

I always get a kick I remember last spring we were I don't know if we were in Oshkosh or somewhere in Wisconsin and myself and Coach Alvarez and Ron Dane and I think Bo Ryan was there, and we had a few people in our line but people were stacked up 20 deep to take a picture with the axe. Lets you have a perspective on how popular you are.

But I think for our entire state and fan base it's a big, big deal.

QUESTION: Are there areas you'd like to see Joel come along, you said he's young?

BIELEMA: I think he's a guy that really takes coaching. He understands the situation. Right when there's never any if he's uncertain, he tells you exactly where he's at. So I think he can handle that. I think that there are some things as he gets a little more confidence on third down we like to see him better at. Again, that just takes a little bit of time. We have to be smart what we do with him.

QUESTION: You mentioned Devin Smith's solid play today. Address what he did on that pick to

BIELEMA: Devin Smith or Ethan Armstrong.

QUESTION: Address his play.

BIELEMA: Devin's played pretty well. I have to hand it to him. From coming back from that foot injury a year ago to come back to his senior year and play as aggressive as he is and what he's doing is he's setting himself up for an NFL opportunity. He's a guy that's got a lot of speed. A lot of ability. Things are very important to him and he's restructured his life I think in a positive way that hopefully we truly benefit from it now, and he can see the dividends down the road.

QUESTION: How would you assess your defense, especially with maybe the uncertainty of Minnesota’s quarterback?

BIELEMA: You know, we didn't have any idea who was going to play quarterback. You could see, I was watching MarQueis (Gray) and I saw he didn't take any reps as quarterback in pregame. We thought it was going to be down to Max (Shortell) and No. 9 (Philip Nelson).

The one thing with our defense, we don't do a lot of stuff. We kind of line up and play. Somebody put a quote in my box the other day and said I'd rather be a person that reps the same thing 100,000 times rather than somebody who tries to rep something different 100,000 times, and that's the way our defense is built. We just get really good at what we're doing. We don't do a lot. It allows us to play fast, physical.

I think our defensive coaches do a tremendous job, when a play hurts us they do a nice job of dissecting why it broke down and what we need to do to fix it. Classic case being that Ethan Armstrong pick. That was a sideline adjustment that they saw from the field. And Chris (Ash) and Coach (Andy) Buh got it together and it's a pick. It changes the game.

QUESTION: Were you surprised how much they used Nelson in the running game?

BIELEMA: He was a good athlete. We evaluated him. And obviously it's in Minnesota's system because of what they were doing. Even No. 11, the last couple of games they started using him more in the quarterback run game. So I know they’ve got a good group of coaches there. And they weren't going to reinvent the wheel. A lot of new plays, a lot of stuff we haven't seen out there before. Again give credit to our defensive guys.

QUESTION: What happened on Jack Russell’s kickoff out of bounds?

BIELEMA: You know what, I think the wind was coming across the field. When it happened, I didn't grab him. Kickers, you tend to like to give them couple minutes to gather themselves. They usually get a little sideways. I went over and talked to him. And I think he just kind of overthought himself a little bit.

But Kyle's (French) been hitting the ball extremely well. That first one he drove in the end zone. That was into a pretty stiff wind. So the good news is … we had one more kick, I almost actually gave Jack that last one because he had been doing pretty well, but just really wanted to ride the wave of Kyle making nice hits.

QUESTION: What went into the decision not to kick the field goal in the second quarter? What was Kyle’s range going that way?

BIELEMA: Actually, right at that, it was right about there. In pregame they told me 58 one way and 54 the other way is what, which I automatically subtract 15. But it was right on the cusp of that. But he's been hitting the ball really, really well.

QUESTION: With the struggles you had early in the season, how fun is it to see how far this team has come and how fun is it to coach this group?

BIELEMA: It's a lot of fun. I told our guys today, when I last met with them before we broke for pregame meal that this is a group that is a lot of fun to be around, a lot of characters, a lot of personalities. They work. They really, I think, enjoy the game, been playing well. And when people were beating us up or saying whatever, I think our guys just look straight ahead and worked, and have gotten better.

I'm really happy with my staff. I like the growth that they've had. Especially offensively, to go through what they went through, and to put up the numbers and account for some of the points that they're putting out there is pretty special. And I think our kids really have bought into it as well.

QUESTION: How much did you recruit Nelson?

BIELEMA: We recruited him. His dad played here obviously. And Coach Chryst, at that time he was a pretty spot on guy when we got after quarterbacks. And I had heard about him for a number of years and obviously put up some productions and then just obviously didn't go in that direction when it came but a very good football player.

QUESTION: On Chris Borland’s roughing the passer penalty.

BIELEMA: I came up to him. I let him have it pretty good. The one thing he said to me; he said: Coach, when I launched, when I left my feet the ball was in his hands. But obviously I think in that situation they're really trying to protect the quarterback. I've been emphasizing that, I'll send in plays. So definitely told him one more of those and he might be sitting next to me for a while.

QUESTION: Would it be easy for players to snap in this week?

BIELEMA: Absolutely. A lot of respect for Michigan State. Obviously a team we've got a great storied history with. And it will be nice to get them here in Camp Randall. Last couple of trips, two at East Lansing and one in Indianapolis. It will be nice to have one at Camp Randall.

QUESTION: What makes Michigan State a good rivalry?

BIELEMA: It's good football. I really respect Mark (Dantonio) and his staff. Obviously defensively they play really, really solid defense. I think there's a lot of we recruit against Michigan State quite a bit. Go after the same type of kids in certain regards. So it's just I think a game of respect. Really a hard fought thing of respect.

The D-line coach there Ted Gill I played for in college. A lot of ties to a staff we have a lot of respect for.

QUESTION: On Derek Watt’s improvement.

BIELEMA: He reminds you a lot of the other 34 (Bradie Ewing). It's fun to have Bradie, and Chris Maragos was our guest captain. We had tremendous people around us this weekend. It was fun because I was talking to Brady the last couple of weeks, ‘I want you to tell me what you think about No. 34.’ That was classic.

Bradie, I think came up with three surprise on sides during his career and Derek's doing that. The great thing about Derek, he's a freshman, nowhere close to as physically as big as he'll get over the next two or three years. I know people are talking about his older brother doing all these great things, but I'm happy with what I've got … I wouldn't mind taking the other brother back either.

Freshman QB Joel Stave
On the rushing performances from Montee Ball and James White:
“They continued to play well. The offensive line continues to open holes for them. It just makes my job so much easier.”

On his own performance:
“It could have been better. There are things I’d like to have back, but that’s been the case every game. I’m not going to play every play perfectly, as much as I’d like to. But that’s what I’m continuing to work for.”

On how the game is slowing down for him as he gains experience:
“I’m continuing to learn how to watch film better, and how to translate what I see on film onto the field.”

On next week’s opponent, Michigan State:
“I’ve seen them on TV a couple of times, and obviously they have a really good defense and are a well-coached team. They got a lot of good guys, so we’ll have to prepare well.”

Junior LB Ethan Armstrong
On forcing turnovers:
“Obviously we’ve made an emphasis on it in practice. We’ve been practicing it and putting a big priority on getting those turnovers.”

On his first career interception:
“It felt good. I was definitely glad I hung on to it. It was an exciting moment; something I’ve been hoping to get pretty soon, so I’ll take it.”

On maintaining possession of Paul Bunyan’s Axe:
“It was definitely fun, it’s exciting. It’s a rivalry, it’s something you really treasure. It means you won a game, it’s a ‘W.’ It’s a nice tradition and we have a lot of fun with it.”

Senior RB Montee Ball
On his and James White’s performances:
“When (White) starts playing really, really well, it kind of sets a fire into me. I told him I better get going, and vice-versa, which is the healthy competition that we have. It betters the offense. The offensive line is clicking, fullbacks and receivers are clicking. It’s a great feeling right now.”

On winning the last Axe game of his college career:
“Feels great. It’s just the tradition behind it; it’s something you want to be a part of. It’s an overwhelming experience, and something I’ll never forget. I wanted to make sure I was going to run around with my teammates and enjoy the moment.”

On whether he wants reps under center in the wildcat or ‘barge’ package:
“We started off in practice with me doing that, but I’m not really comfortable back there. I wasn’t too good back there. That’s James’s job right there, so he can get the ball in open space.”

Junior WR Jared Abbrederis
On whether he feels he can beat any cornerback in one-on-one coverage:
“I like to think that. Sometimes they’re going to get the best of me, but I always feel like I can be successful in those one-on-one situations. But you’re not going to win all of them, so you just have to know that as a wide receiver. If you lose one, you just have to get back up and win the next one.”

On his chemistry with QB Joel Stave:
“It picked up right away. We’ve thrown a lot in the summer, and we get a lot of passes in during camp too. We kind of knew each other, and he knew where I would be and I’d know where he’d throw the ball. So it just picked up right away.”

On keeping Paul Bunyan’s Axe, especially as a Wisconsin native:
“It means everything. We’ve wanted this game all week, and we’ve worked hard. Just like every other week, we just go out there and practice hard so that we can be successful. It sure feels good to go out there and chop down the goalposts, so it’s good to have it (the Axe) back again.”

On whether next week’s game against Michigan State has been circled on his calendar:
“It’s always fun to go play Michigan State. Last year, what happened in our two games against them (were) two really close games. It’s the next game on our schedule, so we’re ready for that. We’ll watch film tomorrow and get ready for the week.”
On what it means to get Ball and White going at the same time:
“It means everything. Keeping them fresh too -- bring one guy in, have him run a couple plays and then bring the next guy in with fresh legs. I think it wears down the defenses a lot. So it’s great to see both of them running hard and running really well.”

On whether he likes the ‘barge’ formation, which features no receivers:
“Whatever gets yards. It would be nice to be out there too, but we get our opportunities when we throw the ball. It’s good to see something work though.”

Junior RB James White
On combining with Montee Ball for a big day on the ground:
“It was a lot of fun. Our offensive line, tight ends and receivers really did a great job of opening up the holes. We were just making our reads and trying to score.”

On the new ‘barge’ formation:
“It’s pretty cool. It’s something I did in high school, so it’s not something that’s too new to me. It’s just another way to get me the ball, and I just try to take advantage of it.”

On whether the offensive line is hitting its stride:
“Yeah, we’re all just working together as a unit. That’s all it takes. We just keep getting better as a whole.”

On the importance of keeping the Axe:
“It’s very important. It’s the oldest rivalry in college football, and it (the Axe) has been here for nine years now, so for us to keep it here is a great win.”  

On getting Michigan State at home next weekend:
“We’ve played them two years in a row at their house, so it’s a different environment. But they’re still going to come out ready to play, so we have to come out ready to play too.”

On the competition between himself and Montee Ball:
“We compete every game. We try to outdo each other, and it’s a healthy competition trying to get the most yards possible."

Minnesota Head Coach Jerry Kill
Opening statement:

“First of all, congratulations to Wisconsin and they’ve got the same type of football team that they’ve had here for a long time. They’re a very physical group, well-coached and they’ve got a good group of kids who can make some plays. We give them some credit and we’ll continue to work to move forward and get better. I think there are some areas that we did get better at and then there are some that we slipped a little bit. But that’s part of building a program, so we’ll move forward.”

On his decision to start Philip Nelson at QB:
“We made the decision and I’m not going to go over all of the scenarios, but there was a lot of discussion made. I think no question, it’s a good move for us. In the situation where MarQueis (Gray) has not been able to be durable and is struggling right now, I think putting him on the outside and giving him the chance to heal up a little bit, but still help us make some plays.”

On Chris Borland’s roughing-the-pass penalty:
“He’s a heck of a football player, I think he was probably just playing hard. I don’t think he did that intentionally or anything of that nature. I think when you’re a defensive player and you play your tail end off, sometimes you don’t ever hear the whistle blow out there. You don’t know when to stop. I don’t think anybody was intentionally doing stuff. As a quarterback, I guess the encouraging thing is he took some hits and it didn’t seem to faze him a lot. We’re going to move forward, and I get questioned a lot, and I’m very confident in what we are doing and that it’s good for us.”

On his team’s run defense:
“I think we have some disappointed players and coaches. To sum it up as far as being on the field and talking to the defense, it’s no different. ‘Hey, why aren’t we getting this shut off?’ ‘Every time they are running the split reverse they are hitting the seam.’ I think the first half we battled in there pretty good and we were in good position at half time. The field goal was critical, I thought that thing was in there but evidently it wasn’t. That was a critical, critical situation. Then we came out and got a stop and thought we were going to hang in there. Give them credit, they physically keep coming at you. They did it to Purdue a week ago, they keep coming at you with those good backs and offensive line. Once they start wearing you out, then somebody gets out of gap and somebody gets out of another gap and they are strong enough to put it two gaps over. I think physically, that’s who they’ve been for a long time. You look at their defense and they’ve got four and five-year guys and we’ve got a lot of young guys yet. I think they just wore us down at the end of the day. And when you wear people down, a lot of times that’s where you make a lot of mistakes.”

On Wisconsin’s wildcat:
“When you haven’t seen it on film or anything like that and they put five guys on one side and three on the other, that’s a good move on their part. We’ve done that in the past. What it does is you get into that real fast and then you have to get moved over and you’re unbalanced and then they’ve got a man on you and then they crease you. That’s good coaching on their part and I credit them. That’s part of a week-to-week thing, and I’m sure next week they’ll have another little wrinkle to see. You get all of those big guys on one side and you get shifted over there and take care of that side, then they come back on the other side. Well coached, they’ve got a good team.”

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