Badger Rewind: Bielema points to third downs in loss

<b>After assessing Saturday's performance, the Badgers' focus is now squarely on retaining Paul Bunyan's Axe</b>

After assessing Saturday's performance, the Badgers' focus is now squarely on retaining Paul Bunyan's Axe

Oct. 3, 2010

MADISON, Wis. -- On the 50-minute flight from East Lansing to Madison following Saturday's Big Ten opener, UW head coach Bret Bielema immersed himself in a book, "The Winning Combination: 21 Keys to Coaching and Leadership Greatness.''

The author, Pat Williams -- a motivational speaker and a senior vice-president of the Orlando Magic -- referenced 1,500 coaches and managers in compiling a game plan for success. Opined Williams, "Not all readers are leaders but I'm convinced that all great leaders are readers.''

UW athletic director Barry Alvarez recommended the book to Bielema, who read it over the summer. On the flight home Saturday night, he was using it to decompress and escape.

"There were a lot of great points and I wanted to re-read it,'' Bielema said. "I also wanted to remove myself as far as possible from what we just went through (a loss to Michigan State).''

Mike Lucas
MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com Insider
mlucas@uwbadgers.com

Upon the team's arrival in Madison, Bielema taped his television show from his office at Camp Randall Stadium. He got home at about 10:15 p.m. and watched some college football games. Because he votes on the USA Today Coaches Poll, he wants to keep updated on what others are doing.

Bielema was back in his office by 8:30 Sunday morning breaking down the film of the game. He watched all three phases - offense, defense and special teams - alone because he doesn't want to be influenced, one way or another, by anyone else in the room. At noon, he met with his assistants who were also responsible for grading the film individually.

"I make them talk first, I want to hear what they have to say,'' said Bielema, who will then share his notes and thoughts on the game with his staff. "That's the best way for me to figure out if we're all on the same page, and if we're seeing the same things in the same way.''

Did they see what he saw? "Spot on,'' Bielema said.

Reflecting on Saturday's loss, he said, "There were two storylines: Offensively, it was our failure to stay on the field on third down. Defensively, it was our failure to get off the field on third down.''

Besides the costly breakdowns on the kickoff and punt coverage units, Bielema noted that quarterback Scott Tolzien, "wasn't exactly his sharpest in delivering the football, and we also had some dropped passes that hadn't shown up to this point in the season.''

On defense, the Badgers weren't always assignment-sound and it resulted in some key third-down conversions by the Spartans. "It was one guy here and another guy there,'' Bielema said. "One guy would fail to execute and another would try to help out and get out of his gap. One of those deals.''

What was Bielema's message to his players?

"On Saturday, I told them we got out-performed; they played better than we did, we got outplayed and outcoached,'' he said. "For us to move forward, we have to make corrections. And that's why today (Sunday) has to be a big day of learning. We have to win on Sunday. If we let yesterday defeat us today, we're not going to move forward. That was a big point of emphasis.

"A big thing the players have to do is accept the mistakes of yesterday. That's huge. If you deny them, or if you don't learn from them, nobody has grown.''

There's a Vince Lombardi excerpt in Chapter Five of "The Winning Combination'' that addresses one of the core principles ("Building a Disciplined Team'') in the book.  

Reasoned Lombardi, "In a football game, there are approximately 160 football plays. And yet there are only three or four plays that have anything to do with the outcome of the game.''

Now for the kicker. "The only problem is that no one knows when those three or four plays are coming up,'' Lombardi said. "As a result, each and every player must go all-out on all 160 plays.''

Following a `'corrections'' practice late Sunday afternoon, the Badgers moved on to their next opponent, Minnesota. There will be no looking back on Michigan State this week, Bielema emphasized, because the all-out focus will be on beating the Gophers and retaining the Axe. A winning combination.

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