Oct. 5, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema met with the media at his weekly news conference on Monday. He addressed the Michigan State game, while also looking ahead to Minnesota.
Among the highlights, Bielema mentioned that Saturday's game may have been the best of Antonio Fenelus' season, while fellow cornernback Niles Brinkley played a "really, really good game other than two or three plays."
In talking about the offensive line, Bielema said that right tackle Josh Oglesby is feeling better than ever after suffering a knee injury against San Jose State.
"I really do believe, at that group in particular, the more competition we have, it makes every body else a little bit better," Bielema said. "So I think Ricky [Wagner] will know that Josh is waiting right there and ready for his opportunity as well."
A full transcript can be found below.
Bret Bielema: I was excited to get back to work this week. We sat back and watched film on Sunday, but changed up a little bit of our routine about how we approach that. We let the coaches get together with the players first, had an opportunity to watch it, then we came back in and met as a team, and talked a little bit about what we saw and where we need to move forward. We came out last night, made corrections on our Michigan State game that we went through on the field, and then quick jumped into Minnesota preparation.
I think it’s a really good thing that I learned in this profession, as coaches, you always take things a little bit more to heart, a little more deeper and longer than players. When you’re 18,19, 20 years old, you always bounce back a little bit quicker. I think that was the case yesterday, getting around our kids and feeling their energy. And the same will be said tomorrow when we take the practice field. We didn’t give out any MVPs, just something that we don’t like to do after a loss. Enforce it with our kids to move forward.
We’ll go into this week’s ballgame probably even a little bit healthier. Last week David [Gilreath] got a limited role offensively, and just by the way certain guys played. I don’t know if they were in it full go, 100 percent ready to be at the game-speed that we need, but hopefully move forward this week. We also have a chance of two guys coming back, Brian Wozniak, a tight end that hurt his shoulder during fall camp. He should get cleared tomorrow and [I] feel that he’ll be back with us. And then also Curt Phillips who the last two or three Sundays looked really good during, it’s not full scrimmage, but it’s really live work other than tackle football. So he could be back in the mix this week as well. With that, open it up for any questions.
QUESTION #1: Bret, Michigan State’s assistants admitted after the game, spoke of being in contact with [head coach Mark] Dantonio from the press box. I’m sure you’re aware of it. Do you have any recourse or do you have anything you can do about that?
BIELEMA: No. That’s being pursued, or it’s been brought to my attention outside of anything that I brought to it. Ironically, when they changed the policy in regards to instant replay, I actually wanted to know if we could get feedback from people outside the stadium on whether or not to review a play. So I inquired at the time, and that’s how I knew that you couldn’t receive or give phone calls or text messages.
So actually on Sunday, one of the things that I love to do, not love to do, but I start my day off with is reading ESPN. And I want to read the article that’s online about us so I know what recruits are reading, because a lot of times that’s where kids in the recruiting process will go. And I read a comment that said exactly what you’re kind of talking about, which I think initially raised the question. So, no, that’s not being pursued from our angle.
I know Mark very well, and that’s your body of work. As coaches, it’s not just a profession, that’s your life. That’s what he’s going through. And he should be very proud of the way his kids played, the way they executed, and ultimately, that coaching staff too. As a head coach, you sit back and admire the way those guys handle their business.
QUESTION #2: Bret, you mentioned that some guys you thought weren’t 100 percent or a full game speed, as much as you needed. Would you include Nick Toon in that?
BIELEMA: Well, Nick actually practiced pretty well Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. The position that Nick plays, you’re on the spotlight. You’re the guy that, you either catch the ball or you don’t. You either perform or you don’t. And bottom line, I know he felt, especially on Sunday after watching film, there were some things that could have been better on his end.
I think it’s just a part of a growing process that he’s going forward. During fall camp, you guys got to see a little bit, but to me Nick’s even more so than he’s ever been, has matured and put himself in a position physically to really be standout type player. Just like those other guys had three or four games to work themselves into the position they are, Nick maybe needed to get through that one to have a great close for the rest of the year.
QUESTION #3: Speaking of the receivers, were they winning their one-on-one battles, and do you need more production from that group overall?
BIELEMA: Well, for us, as much as we do in the running game, we need to be able to have a venue, whether it be a tight end, Lance Kendricks, Jacob Pedersen, or the wide receivers. Based on what an opponent gives you, if it’s called for a guy to win a one-on-one for us to have success, yeah, they got to win it. But on some occasions, it’s a different guy at a different place on the field.
QUESTION #4: You mentioned after the game just a mild concern about Scott [Tolzien] putting too much on his shoulders. And then when we talked to him, he was quite clear. He said, you know, it’s my job, blah, blah, blah. Just where do you think he stands?
BIELEMA: As coaches, you want to believe that you know and understand your players. And the more you’re around them, I knew that was going to be the reaction. One thing we try to assure everybody in Sunday’s meeting is that there wasn’t one person at fault, there wasn’t one phase of the game. It was a collective effort on all of our parts. I knew our players would respond that way. I really did.
My guess is when you guys went to interview them, they were probably not a great group of guys to interview. They were probably short, quick, and to the point. Nobody likes the way that they felt after the game. I use basically a saying that I’ve used a lot in life. In life, you choose your consequences. Everybody always says you want to choose your actions. Well, in reality, whatever you do, and whatever that means, that’s your choosing of those consequences.
When we chose to play in a certain way on a certain play, whether it’s how we played as a unit overall, whether it’s what we chose to do on third down, we all suffer the consequences when they don’t go the way you want.
But bottom line is you chose those actions. So that’s something we all have to live with. We didn’t approach the game the right way as a whole, and because of that we lost the game. And ultimately, we chose that consequence.
QUESTION #5: Could you explain what you mean by that? You said, they didn’t approach the game.
BIELEMA: If I do something, and I normally do it and the results are consequences that I don’t like, the only [person] that I can blame is myself. I would say this from a head coaching profession, the hardest thing I ever have to do is throw someone or remove him from the football team. If I do that, it’s usually not based on me making the decision just to throw them off. It’s based upon the actions that they’ve given me. When we lost the game on Saturday, it was based upon the actions that we gave during the game.
QUESTION #6: I guess what I meant was at the end of that you said, we didn’t approach the game as a whole the way we needed to. And I’m just curious what you meant by that.
BIELEMA: Going into the game, I felt about as good as, well, first off, I was sick Thursday, Friday, so I was pretty psyched when I woke up Saturday morning and felt like a million bucks. I liked the way we had kind of handled our business, liked the way we went into the game. Obviously, the first score on the board was theirs, but to respond back, it’s a 7-3 game, it’s a 10-3 game. But then we punt the ball and we give up a return.
Bottom line is the consequences of that play gave them a 10-10 deal. And that’s all I’m saying in a bigger picture. We’re trying to get kids to understand how little things make a big thing in the end.
QUESTION #7: Given your big picture goals, how daunting a task is it to recover from losing the opener in the conference play?
BIELEMA: I don’t know. Tell me what our goals were.
QUESTION #8: I’m assuming your goals were to win the conference championship.
BIELEMA: That’s why you write and I coach. What we want to do is get better on a weekly basis. We didn’t do the things we needed to do to win that football game, but my goal and aspiration for this group is to focus on one week at a time. And I think where we’re at now will probably let us focus on that goal better than ever before because there is a setback, but the immediate result is you get a chance to play Minnesota in a rivalry game and move ourselves forward. You wouldn’t have any of our guys talk about a Big Ten Championship or anything along that line.
QUESTION #9: When you guys looked at the tape, did you get enough plays made from your front four overall?
BIELEMA: Yeah, J.J. [Watt] was very productive, 10 tackles, and I can’t remember how many tackles for loss. Patrick Butrym did some really good things. I think the thing, as Sunday rolled around, as we were watching the film, down the close of the fourth quarter, there were some things that showed up in the fourth quarter that hadn’t in the first three.
The cumulative effect of playing a lot, we were on the field a lot defensively in the second half. Those things, we just have to make a closer look at to look at pitch count. By that, I mean how many number of reps are we getting, who can get involved in the ballgame. I know there’s a certain number of guys that, especially at certain positions, might have played their best game for 72 out of 74 snaps.
It’s those two snaps, or those three snaps, in each player’s game that gave up a play here or there that was a huge hand in the game. And that’s the part that we got to eliminate.
QUESTION #10: How hard is it to take JJ Watt out of the game? You know, is that one of the things you’ll have to struggle with?
BIELEMA: I think so, Tom. That’s exactly what I meant. What we have to do is determine what that pitch count is and maybe, Tom, we even looked at the detail of is it within a quarter, can he get this many plays. If you just start looking at overall reps, obviously, there’s a big difference in total reps in the first half versus the second half. To get the three turnovers in the first half meant those drives came to an end.
And at first I sat down and watched punt return on Sunday, and we only got one punt return in the game. Well, you forget that there were three turnovers which, if those drives ended up in a punt, you’d have those opportunities. I think you got to be real specific about how much a guy is getting a certain number of reps in a certain amount of time. And plus just the way J.J. plays, it’s a little bit different, in my opinion, than a guy maybe that doesn’t play with the same intensity and effort that J.J. gives you every play.
QUESTION #11: With wins and losses being the most obvious way to measure whether a coach is doing a good job with a team or program, besides that, how would you measure whether a coach is doing a good job with his team, with his program, over a period of time besides wins and losses?
BIELEMA: Well, as coaches, I think you take a look ultimately, I know I’m going to be judged, [by] most people would report wins and losses, and that’s all that goes into it. I think at Wisconsin there’s other factors that don’t need to be mentioned. They’re just kind of real I think in the culture that we live in. [Director of Athletic Communications] Brian [Lucas] always does a great job of pointing things out.
During the out-of-season, what we try to do is work a lot on recruiting, and that’s when I start to see statistics. One of the things I remember putting on a mailer right before the season started, it was a brag sheet on me. It was just amazing to see some of the numbers compared to the rest of the nation against schools that we compete against that really stood out. And that’s the part I guess that everybody is going to always use.
QUESTION #12: You said after the game you liked what you got out of using [Bill] Nagy as that jumbo tight end, so to speak. Do you keep [Kevin] Zeitler at guard and keep Nagy in that role of tight end this week?
BIELEMA: Yeah, Billy really got to that position, two reasons, is the fact that Zeitler was going to get the nod, but also Jake Byrne, we weren’t sure what role we were going to have him on Saturday. Now Jake’s back to full status. He actually practiced yesterday afternoon just because he didn’t get any reps on Saturday per se. And also Brian Wozniak getting back in. But the thing Billy brings you is he brings a big body at that position that should be able to help us in certain aspects of the running game.
QUESTION #13: Bret, the special teams have played pretty well for the most part, except you had a few big breakdowns. What do you think that’s coming from?
BIELEMA: Well, the part that we kind of really stressed on Sunday was we can’t have a mixed bag. We got to go out and be able to understand what you have, what’s going on on this play, it’s got to be expected of you. Defensively, offensively, we put together game plans, and obviously, we’re going to maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses.
In special teams, you only get a certain number of reps. You only get so many chances, and 50 percent out of two reps could be a huge factor. So I think that’s the one part we really try to emphasize is the kids got to be consistent in what they do.
I could be the first to tell you when we kicked the ball, and on that kickoff, I believe it was on that last kickoff, we covered it very, very well. Then we had a guy off-sides. We came back to the huddle, ‘are we going to kick it again or are we going to squib it?’ And I said, ‘Kick it.’ I held my breath a little bit, but they covered very well. In addition, they had a penalty so it ended up backing the ball up even further, which ended up helping us in the long run.
But the glaring one in this game is the punt return. There was a kick return. We had a guy bottled up, missed a tackle, and then he bounced out to the wide side of the field, and on top of that, had the facemask penalty, which was very disenchanting as well.
QUESTION #14: How much in general does team speed, or just overall speed, play in special teams, especially coverage I guess?
BIELEMA: I don’t know if it’s speed as much as concept, and being able to execute. You go back, I think the breakdowns you’ve see this year across the board, and I think a couple of you guys did a story on it, have been probably bigger than they’ve ever been. And it’s been teams with great speed supposedly in theory versus guys that maybe don’t have as much and vice versa.
QUESTION #15: You mentioned some guys who played well. Is [Antonio] Fenelus one of those? And can you talk about how he’s played for you this year?
BIELEMA: Tom, I thought Antonio probably played his best game. He really is a fighter, he’s a competitor. Ever since he’s been here, I remember the first week on campus, during fall campus freshman year, I think he went 14 or 15 practices with making a pick in every practice. He’s one of those guys, even the one he had on Saturday, the first one, just kind of flashed at the last minute in front of his eyes, and he made a nice play.
Niles Brinkley, to be quiet honest, he was one of the guys I mentioned earlier, not by name, but Niles played a really, really good game other than two or three plays. And at that position, if you’re great on 70 plays and there’s a couple plays where you’re not so good, not only do you know it, usually everybody in the stands does as well.
QUESTION #16: Given the effectiveness of [James] White, do you plan on working him even more in the game plan, maybe even put him ahead of [John] Clay?
BIELEMA: It jumped out to you right away on film on Sunday. Probably as a bystander watching the game, doesn’t know anything about Wisconsin, he’s a guy that’s gotten better every game. He’s a guy that football-sense-wise really, really gets it. Because of those plays that he made, I don’t there’s any other back in our program right now that on those two specific plays would have had those same results. So yeah, he merits getting more playing time.
I’m excited because I really do believe, just because I know what John Clay can do, we probably have two of the best running back combinations that I’ve been around. And that’s been around some pretty good backs. And it’s not like you can’t throw Montee Ball out, and get some good things done as well.
QUESTION #17: Bret, is it even more impressive what James [White] did knowing that these teams have seen him now on film? And secondly, do you view the Golden Gophers as kind of a wounded animal?
BIELEMA: First part, James has popped out every time we touch the ball. I go back to that first play, and there’s been some good ones, to me, just because if you saw the big picture, the play against Arizona State at the beginning of the game where he spun. He knew that the guy was going to try to get outside leverage. He saw him lower his head at the last minute, which means he was making a blind tackle. And he just spun and made a very, very good football play.
As far as Minnesota, glad we finally got a question about Minnesota. But they, because of where they’re at right now, I expect them to come in here as hungry and as eager to be part of success as anybody that we’ve faced to this point. They’re going to come in and know it’s a rivalry game, know that it’s homecoming here, and they’ll have all those things working on their behalf for motivation.
QUESTION #18: Given all the mixing and matching with injuries in the offensive line, how to do assess their play so far this season?
BIELEMA: Mixing and matching with our offensive line? Yeah. I guess there has been. We’ve had two guys that have been there a lot at right guard with [Kevin] Zeitler and [Bill] Nagy, and then at right tackle, it’s really been that right side is all. Ricky [Wagner], again, played pretty well. But the thing I’m excited about, Josh Oglesby’s feeling as good as ever. And I really do believe, at that group in particular, the more competition we have, it makes every body else a little bit better. So I think Ricky will know that Josh is waiting right there and ready for his opportunity as well.