Oct. 1, 2012
• Watch Bielema News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema spoke about the Big Ten Conference home opener, the loss at Nebraska and video sharing at his weekly news conference at Camp Randall Stadium Monday.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Bielema's remarks can be found below.
Bielema: (We) Took Sunday off to watch the film. Obviously during a loss, the coach probably takes it harder than anybody. Take a look at all the critical aspects, what we could have done better, what we should have done better. Did have some highlights and positives. Thought our guys came ready to play. Hostile environment. It was a great college football environment over there in Lincoln. Knew it was going to be. But until you get there and experience it.
I think our kids kind of really thrived off it the first half and parts of the second half as well. So a couple guys got rewarded, defensive MVPs two weeks in a row. Ethan Hemer just had another really good football game. Doing what we asked him to do and does a great job all week as well. And Devin Smith a guy that really played very, very well in the back end. Both those guys we gave co-MVP.
On offense, gave co-MVP to Jared Abbrederis and Joel Stave. Obviously, Abby had a nice couple plays in the beginning and obviously the guy throwing to him was Joel and for the most part, Joel, to be on the road in that environment and some of the communication factors, all the things that went into it, played a really, really good football game, got whacked a couple of times and got back up after that. So I think that was an upside for a freshman quarterback to be in that scenario. And a guy special teams MVP that's been impressive all year, a guy that actually leads the league in our punt team, Drew Meyer has been exceptional. Can't say enough about what he's done to prepare himself. Really took the challenge all summer and fall camp. Doing a really good job.
Scout team MVPs was Chase Knox, who does a great job every week simulating their quarterback and defensive scout MVP Joe Schobert, walk on from Waukesha West, playing for us and doing some nice things on special teams. Those guys we awarded those two.
Healthwise, on an injury front, should get Pat Muldoon back tomorrow. If everything clears today should get the pins taken out tomorrow and put himself back out there on the field. I know Brendan Kelly, I haven't seen him yet. I know the trainers felt really good about where he was Sunday. Running around and projections from when he got a couple things done last week that he should be back for the Illinois game. Got all this week to heal and see exactly where he’s at. And then actually a very good chance of getting Sheldon Johnson back as well.
He was out on the practice field yesterday. They're going to actually take an X ray on it today, this afternoon or tomorrow morning, and if he’s good to go and feels good during the course of the week, could be back out there on Saturday as well, which would be a nice addition for us. With that, open it up for questions.
Question: Brett, can you draw any comparisons to the present situation 2010 losing your Big Ten opener on the road at Michigan State.
Bielema: 2010 and 2011. Wasn't a Big Ten opener, but it was our first Big Ten road game to lose to Michigan State two times in a row. I get those questions a lot not only obviously media related, but sometimes my closest friends or my relatives will draw comparisons to certain years. I would say that this team is its own set of characters, and the great thing to be with these kids is they want to win every football game. I get it. It can be drawn to that.
We obviously didn't have a non-conference loss before that game. So to be a 3-2 football team, but obviously to win a game that's not in our division, that's in our conference is critical in a race, but it's not probably paramount. But I do know this. I learn a lot about our football team. I learned a lot about them in the first half, learned a lot about them in the second half. I get excited because a lot of the things that you saw unfold, a lot of them came within our way of doing things.
Nebraska did a lot of really good things. I'm not taking anything away from them. They're a very good football team. But there are some things that I think our guys, after watching the film and our coaches included, realized, if we just do a couple of things cleaner here and there, I believe the third and fourth quarter could have been to our advantage and obviously walked out of there with a win.
Question: Bret, I don't know if you were asked this after the game, I know every game is different and you want to establish Montee (Ball) in the running game and you want clean things up, but do you think at some point this team needs to also utilize (Melvin) Gordon or (James) White more? I know they had to be used one week earlier because Montee going out, and this week was a little bit different.
Bielema: I would say for sure, Jeff, James is the guy. He had fewer reps than Melvin, in total number of reps. I think Montee really looked good early on. There was no doubt he had pep in his step, and we knew he had success a year ago. He was amped up, geeked up to get out there.
And certain plays, you know, you start a series, there's a pitch count that Thomas (Hammock) will go into if a guy feels like he's wearing down within a series. James would pop in for Melvin. If James was out there, then Melvin I'm sorry. James would have popped out for Montee. If there was a James series, and before the game at least, thought to put Melvin in, in relief.
As the game wore on, especially in the second half, when we didn't have as many continued drives, that's when the numbers got a little bit skewed. Then, of course, at the end of the game, you just felt better with Montee, being in that situation before.
I think there will be an emphasis from the coaching staff moving into this game, here's how we are going to get them the ball. There are a number of plays that we're looking to get and kind of trying to keep task on that.
Question: Bret, your border games against Minnesota, Iowa obviously, the fans gravitate towards those. Where's the matchup between you and Illinois, kind of evolved the last couple years especially now that you guys are in the same division and going to be playing every year.
Bielema: I think during my time here, we didn't play them for a little bit. That probably took away from it. I never had an opportunity to coach against coach Beckman. I actually had a pretty good relationship with coach Zook, just personally, known him for a number of years.
I think there's a lot of respect. We recruit commonly against Illinois, not only with coach Beckman, but previously, the kids that are here now. I can see how that grows. A lot of times that probably generates more excitement into the game than anything.
Obviously, the fans are going to have the border battle, but I think this is something that's going to continue to grow, especially like you said, because they're in our division moving forward.
Question: Look across the landscape of the conference and just see some of the results, especially at the end of non-conference season, through this first month. Do you think the Big Ten is down a little bit in comparison to previous seasons.
Bielema: I get it. To be able to comment, I literally saw no other games on Saturday. So I can’t even really comment and obviously from Sunday moving forward, I've only looked at Illinois. So I really can't comment to that. I understand it. I get it. I know we don't have as many teams ranked now as we did before the season, including us, so I can get that analogy.
But I also, I've been in football long enough to know it's not how you start the race, it's how you end the race. My guess is there will be quite a few teams up there knocking at the end of the year.
Question: Bret, I know you guys said Danny (O’Brien) did a good job at Oregon State in the two minute drill and has done a good job at practice, but given how that fourth down play unfolded, do you rethink that now, say you need a two minute score this week against Illinois, let's see what (Joel) Stave does in a game?
Bielema: I think, Jeff, with all due respect, I'm not going to answer this in any way but the truth. As a coach, you can't rethink that way, as far as how you handled Saturday. I will point out that Danny actually came in on third down the prior series. So it wasn't like that was his first time going into the ball game. I get it, it was just for one play.
But Joel really got rocked on that play, on the completion to Kenzel (Doe). I didn't see that. I turned to the ball, saw Kenzel make the play, knew we had a first down, and then went into my normal way of reacting. Someone said, look at Joel. I looked out there, and he's slow getting up, kind of just a little bit off.
I know Matt (Canada) made a great decision there to run the football. It put us in a running play on that first down. Came back with a roll out to the right, and it just wasn't right. I mean, they brought some pressure, but also you really like Joel probably to get rid of that football a hair earlier. He made a draw out, got the intentional grounding. I sent that play in because he was getting pulled from behind and couldn't really throw it to his fullest.
That's when we kind of said, hey, he's not right here. We've got a third and whatever it was, 26, let's run a play. We named the run that we were going to run. Punt the ball. If we don't get it, give our chance for a defense to play and come back in two minute with Danny. That's exactly as it laid out from that point forward.
Couldn't have asked for a better start. I think he had a completion to Abby (Jared Abbrederis), and another completion to whoever it was, came out with a couple of positive throws. Made a third down completion. It was just short to Jordan Fredrick. And then, obviously, the fourth down call, it's a shame it ended up the way it did.
I thought Brian (Lucas) bought up a good point, Brian's looking into… I didn't see it until last night or actually this morning when I was getting ready. The replay of the Packer game last night where the backup quarterback came in and was trying to hand the ball off, and they gave the fumble to the quarterback because the running back never had it. Montee (Ball) didn't expect the ball, wasn't supposed to get the football, didn't have the football at any time, and it's unfortunate because the kid has one of the better stats in all of college football for rush to fumble ratio.
Even though it's just number two, you just would hate for him to have the responsibility of that. So I know we made that correction and moved ourselves forward. As far as how we handle this Saturday, it's all about what we see this week.
Long answer to your question, but I just want to be real clear with it. I didn't make any… We didn't make any decisions during the course of the week offense, defense, special teams that wasn't based off what we see during the week.
Question: Speaking of the hits on (Joel) Stave, I'm sure you're expecting more blitzing with a freshman quarterback. What’s got to happen to get that shored up and protected?
Bielema: A couple of things. Joel would be the first to tell you, the first game he played in, the first hit he ever got was 100 percent him on protecting the front. He knew that D-end was going to be unblocked and obviously got a shot on him.
I would say that offensively overall, to see your quarterback laying on the ground after he's been hit and you're an offensive lineman, that maybe, missed your block, a running back that didn't pick up protection, or if you're a quarterback that held it too long knowing that that pressure was coming, everybody's going to learn to move forward.
I think that's the part that I got excited about, as Sunday wore on, and as Monday as you're watching film, I named to our staff seven or eight guys on Sunday that have taken huge steps in the last three weeks. I mean, our wide receivers have made huge strides. Kenzel Doe, Jordan Fredrick, for Chase Hammond to go up and get that ball, I mean those guys are moving forward. Derek Watt’s moving forward. You got a freshman quarterback moving forward. You got Kyle Costigan at right guard getting better with every snap, and you've got a host of players that are returning. That's an exciting thing. If that wasn't happening, I'd be able to be frustrated. There's so many positive things, we've just got to line up and get a chance to play again.
Question: You look at Illinois this season with a new coach, what's the biggest difference in the way this team operates when you compare them to the way they played last year?
Bielema: Offensively, obviously, when (Nathan) Scheelhaase is in there, it's not the same offense, but there's a lot of similarities. It's a spread offense that tries to outnumber you at times to the fields or to the boundary, create numbers and spacing. Definitely a pair of running backs in there, number five and number six, who are very, very good.
I think their offensive line has a mixture of guys back and guys that are stepping up for the first time. You can see them getting better. Defensively, a little bit different scheme. They probably bring a little more pressure than they did a year ago, kind of the pure numbers. Very, very gifted on the defensive side of the football. And they've got a kicker that can kick it all over the place in the kicking game. They have their own set of challenges.
Schemes are easy to identify. What happens in a coaching transition is all the little things that you don't really know until critical moments. Obviously, we didn't have a head coaching change, but we had a lot of coaching transition, and some of those things pop up when there's critical moments in a game.
Question: You mentioned all the wide receivers that (Zach) Azzanni is trying to work in. With (Chase) Hammond, is it safe to say the biggest stumbling block for him is the inability to be healthy for a consistent period of time, at least to this point?
Bielema: I would say that's 100 percent true. I’ll just share, last week, I would say the week before, I brought his name up on Thursday how much we were going to get him involved. He was having a really good week in the UTEP week, and then towards the end of the week, his foot got sore, and he just didn't want to aggravate that to the point of no return.
But by far last week, he kept getting stronger as the week wore on. The good news was he came out of Saturday's game, grabbed him yesterday, and he feels 100 percent fine. Hopefully, we're over that hurdle and move forward.
Question: With a guy like that, he strikes you as a confident kid when he talks about his ability, but until you do it on the field, I wonder if he needed to at least catch or games to actually realize I can contribute.
Bielema: He 100 percent did.
And you may or may not have seen it… may have only showed up on coach's copy, but when we ran, for instance, on that first down play, like I was talking about after (Joel) Stave got hit, he took that corner on that side and handled it pretty well.
There was actually a play during the course of the game, I can't even remember where it was, where I had to get on him a little bit for as aggressive as he was being. One of the sayings we've always had here, if you're going to be big, play big. I think he's one of those kids. He's obviously a very Tarzan type looking body, really big, good looking guy. If you're going to look like that, you want to play like that.
Question: Bret, Jacob Pedersen's numbers seem down a little. There have been a number of drops. Have you evaluated that at all? What have you seen?
Bielema: Yeah, first off, the production that Jacob had in years past was when he was kind of in a secondary role. Obviously, he's in more of a forefront here. It's definitely been a drop in his numbers. I do know on Saturday I believe there was three balls that hit his hands, and he'll be first to tell you, I challenged him about two weeks ago and kind of had a nice game coming back.
I think we have to be smart about what we're asking him to do. The thing that happened a year ago, he was playing a role where he was moving a lot, and Jacob Pedersen was the… not Pedersen, Jake Burn was the point guy, Bernie was a 6-5, 265 pound guy. We might not be able to do those same things with Ped and expect the same type of results.
Question: When you say that, it sounds like you're saying, if he's (Jacob Pedersen) asked to block too much, it's going to affect his ability to get out.
Bielema: Until he proves to me otherwise, that's what we've seen. There's no doubt in my mind that Ped (Jacob Pedersen) is still an effective guy. When I watch him run routes, he had a couple of unbelievable catches last week during practice. But as a head coach, the one thing I realized is play one affects play 25 just as much as play 24 does. That's the play we've got to keep in mind.
Question: Bret, you've referenced a couple of times there's not many seniors on this team. How would you gauge the leadership? Is there a point where juniors have to step up more? Is it hard for them sometimes when there are seniors ahead of them to be the leaders and overstep their bounds?
Bielema: Yeah, two fold. I look at offensively, our two senior captains, the guys that would hope to step in that role, Rick Wagner is just not a very talkative guy. Has a lot of respect of our team, but he's not a guy that comes to the forefront. And Montee (Ball) has not been a verbal guy, and he's gone through his own set of trials and tribulations as of late.
That part, I looked at. I think defensively right away, the two senior captains, you take one out, Sheldon Johnson hasn't been there for three since Oregon State, left in the middle of the second quarter. For him not to be involved in that type of scenario is very tough.
And Mike Taylor, as much as you guys know this from interviewing him, is a pretty soft spoken guy. That's four of our 9. The other five guys are guys that are doing what we're asking them to do, trying to be great, trying to be leaders.
Robert Burge is one of those guys, doesn't play a lot. A couple of guys on the defensive side, Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie, corners that are doing everything they can to hang on to what they're doing. I think our juniors have stepped up. Abby (Jared Abbrederis) is a tremendous leader… Chris Borland on the other side of the ball. But it's just sheer numbers that can kind of be overwhelming to have those younger guys take effect.
Question: Obviously, you had a lot of confidence in Joel (Stave) to make the switch a couple of weeks ago. I'm just wondering, is there anything that surprised even you in the way he's handled things the past few weeks?
Bielema: I would say he's arrows up in all categories. I think at some point you would say I don't know if he can do it, but the part that jumps out to you. I think he plays better in games than he does in practice. To me, that's just something you've got to learn about your quarterback.
He's a very… I didn't know it until this… I mean, I thought I knew it, but he took some real shots on Saturday from really big people, and obviously handled that and didn't miss a beat. He's truly competitive. He really… that's probably and you talk about like the question was just asked about senior leadership.
I think for Joel Stave to have the ability to watch a guy like Russell Wilson, a guy that is competitive as he is and kind of learn that.
Just talking with people around Joel before he came here, I know he's very competitive and all that goes into it, but you learn a lot by watching players that are in front of you. I think that and seeing the film and being around a little bit of Scott Tolzien, that's really helped him to get to where he is probably at an early age.
Question: Montee (Ball) seems to be the type of player who always wants to make great things happen for his team. Given everything that he's been through from the decision to come back until now, has he had to fight that urge of trying to make too much happen? And have you had to address that with him at all?
Bielema: Yeah, without a doubt, and especially coach (Thomas) Hammock, you could see early on where he was really trying to press and make some things happen, rather than just let them come to him. That’s what he’s done that in the past.
I will share this with you. Every NFL scout that comes through here, to this point, has told me that he's a better football player this year than he was a year ago. The numbers aren't there. It's easy to see. I know he's gotten frustrated at times and all that goes into it. I know that drop on Saturday, I think that tore him up more than anybody could imagine.
But everything happens for a reason. Because as a head coach, we believe that. As head coach, I believe that. Our team believes that. All you can do is handle today and focus on making tomorrow better.
Question: You mentioned this a little bit earlier, but it's all still right there with you not having played a division game yet. Despite the fact you guys are 3-2, do you sense people still being upbeat in the locker room?
Bielema: Yeah, I like the optimist point of view, Jamie. The only thing you can deal with is the situation that you're in. We're 3-2. Would we rather be 5-0? Absolutely. We could also be 1-4.
We've lost a Big Ten conference game, but we haven't lost anything within our division.
This week it's not the case. We have Illinois coming to town, and Illinois is in our division, and they obviously want to go to Indianapolis as bad as we do. All you can do is focus on the task at hand.
It's frustrating to lose a football game, but you can't let Nebraska beat you twice. That's a very, very real thing in the world of college football. I've seen it happen time and time again. When you play a game, you always worry about your next game, but you kind of watch the teams that just went behind you. There have been a lot of teams that have played us. Whether they win or lose, a lot of times they have failure after us because of the brand that we played and the way that we go about things.
It's all in front of us. We control our own destiny, and that's a great thing to be able to say.
Question: Bret, not to put you in the middle of someone else's battle, but what is the protocol with regards to getting game tape before a game and evaluating that and seeing how that how each team is there protocol for that, and how do you go about that?
Bielema: Well, there is. Obviously, you guys asked me all kinds of questions. Oregon State, I decided that… I have no idea about that situation. So I'm… I just… Brian (Lucas), heads up maybe because somebody might ask me the question.
Actually, what's kind of neat, in our conference at least, we immediately put film on, even like the games that we are playing back that are non-conference. You put it on, and here's just a little scenario that I… because of the kickoff, or the onside rule this year, I've been very intrigued with how people are handling the end of the game. A, how do you set up kicks? How do you align kicks? How do you defend the kickoffs? I'm sorry… In on-side situations.
I knew that there was a play two weeks ago against Iowa when they were playing Central Michigan, and I just saw the clips of it where there was a play that was called back. They had to re-kick it, and then Central Michigan got the recovery. So I wanted to watch. TV copy, I couldn't see what happened.
So I clicked onto Iowa's special teams film a week ago Monday just to make ourselves aware of and saw the whole thing play out in front of us. Obviously, we don't even play Iowa this year, but because of the conference agreement, we have all of their film, every offense, defense, and special teams play. That's the way we’re obligated to send it in.
Other than that, I don't know what's going on with that. We have to turn in every offensive, defensive, and special teams film on Sunday I believe they even do it Saturday night, to be quite honest. It's literally the push of a button and sends over the internet now.