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Bielema looks ahead to clash with Michigan State

ON WISCONSIN <b>Bret Bielema met with the media on Monday.</b>
Bret Bielema met with the media on Monday.

Oct. 17, 2011

• Watch Bielema Press Conference Small Video Graphic

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema reflected on the No. 4 Badgers' win over Indiana and looked ahead to a challenging Big Ten matchup with No. 15 Michigan State during his weekly press conference Monday at Camp Randall Stadium.

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: The trailers that ESPN has sent us in relation to that show Depth Chart, it'd be a must-see if you're a Badger fan. It looks pretty entertaining to say the least. We let them have some all-access at very unique times during fall camp and leading into that UNLV game was pretty special. It should be a really good show.

Just after watching the Indiana game, I thought there was a lot of things positive, a few things that we've got to get cleaned up, especially when our twos in there. Not only our twos on offense, defense, but we got into twos with the special teams units, saw multiple kickers, different personnel rolling through there, so it was really good.

Offensively, we gave the MVP to James White, who had a great bye week, and then, also, last week in his preparation, did a nice job coming off the bench. Defensively, Antonio Fenelus is playing as good as any corner we've had since I've been here. Our special teams MVP, we split between Nortman and Jared Abbrederis. Brad Nortman just continues to amaze me, not only the long punts, but the pooches, all that good stuff. Defensive scout MVP was Frank Tamakloe, and offensive scout was Tyler Marz, an offensive lineman who's a very good football player.

Sunday, we switched gears for that Michigan State prep, and obviously, they were the last team to beat us in conference play a year ago at Spartan Stadium, so we have all those things that we have to embrace. I think the road, a grass turf, a ranked team, College GameDay is going to be there, national TV exposure, but they're going to embrace the preparation this week.

The crowd noise and different things we'll throw at them Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week to try and make Saturday an environment they're going to feel comfortable in and go out and execute. So, excited about that, and I know that our kids have kind of taken every week with the same approach. I know you don't see it, but during the course of the week, we prepared the same way to beat South Dakota as we did to beat Indiana as we did to beat Nebraska. I like the guys' approach to what we're doing. I expect that to carry forward this week. With that, open up for questions.

QUESTION #1: Bret, I know it's several days out from the game yet, but do you have any idea on what Butrym's status might be given his injury?

BIELEMA: It wasn't a high ankle, Jeff, so that was a good thing. Patrick first said to me, on the bench Saturday, he said, ‘Coach, it's a good-bad’ or ‘a bad-good,’ however he phrased it. And he said, basically he felt really tight on Sunday, but it was better (Monday). And he's, I think, got a goal in his mind to get out there, maybe run around a little bit Wednesday and, hopefully, practice Thursday. And I think Patrick, because of the amount of reps he's gotten, he's so smart with the game plan, I would really feel good about him playing even if he didn't really get any real time until Saturday itself.

QUESTION #2: I'm sure if you've looked at tape at what Michigan State likes to do to opposing quarterbacks, they like to not only get after them, but it appears they really like to try to intimidate them physically and mentally. Russell (Wilson) has not taken many hits this year and appears to have a good presence in the pocket, but does he have his head on a swivel even more this week given the way they attack?

BIELEMA: Well, I like Michigan State's approach. I mean, to me, when I was a defensive coordinator, the one thing you could do is you can mentally or physically challenge a quarterback. And that's exactly what they're obviously doing on film, and some even kind of say it in the papers. So it's awareness. It's out there.

One of the good advantages of Russell is he doesn't really get overly rattled by anything that I've seen thrown at him, and obviously, Michigan State is a very aggressive defense. They bring pressure from everywhere, all over the field. And I do know this. I think our guys up front, our running backs, our tight ends, anybody that's called into action to protect Russell is going to probably do it to their highest capabilities this coming Saturday, because they know how important it is.

QUESTION #3: Wondering, do you like computers, and do you know what they have against you or your program?

BIELEMA: If anybody ever saw my staff, no. I don't type. I never learned how to type, so I’m not a real computer-friendly guy. The tweets that I send out, it takes me about five minutes to tweet them, which is why I don't tweet all that much. But the computers and the rankings and all that stuff, it's all going to sort itself through in the end. I really do believe in that.

Last year, I began to take notice probably with three or four weeks left in the regular season just because unless you keep winning, it's immaterial anyway. So I know that someone pointed out that they didn't really love us, but my guess is if we keep winning and things begin to happen around us, everything takes care of itself.

QUESTION #4: You mentioned Russell's poise, and, obviously, he's played professional baseball. He's played multiple sports. Would you expect that he will be overwhelmed in any way by what you guys are going to face Saturday?

BIELEMA: No. I think he appreciates the moment. I think he is excited. I know I got on the headset at the end of the Nebraska game, and he was just talking about how much he loved to be in that environment, the big stage, and play as well as we had. This is when the game was in hand in the fourth quarter.

And I think because of those experiences, Jeff, that's why you really don't expect to see him rattled. Now will he have his awareness? Absolutely. Will he have his head on a swivel? I would guess yes. Will he have his game plan down to the tightest execution possible? I would say yes.

QUESTION #5: When you have a player like that, whether it's in the offensive huddle or defensive huddle, is that contagious?

BIELEMA: One hundred percent. I know we're really going to stress our guys, I talked about them yesterday during practice. To me, there's three things you need to have on the road. You need to have, obviously, great execution. Well, how are you going to get that? You're going to practice well during the course of the week. We have to have great communication. How are we going to make that difficult? We're going to play crowd noise as loud as you can play it in that environment.

And then the third thing you need to have is discipline. We recruit discipline. That's something you really can't install in a week. You've got to have discipline in your mentality and your framework, and that's what we recruit to. When those three things add together, hopefully, if they all three come through, it will be a way to have success on Saturday.

QUESTION #6: Speaking of that discipline, do you worry about your players retaliating after watching Michigan State and all the personal fouls? And do you think that (William) Gholston should be suspended for a game for that punch?

BIELEMA: You know what? That's a great question. The suspensions and the talk of it, it's not in my hands. That’s obviously something between Michigan State and the league office. But what we do have to work on, and it'll be fun and enjoyable this week, much the same, if you guys remember when we played Arizona State two years ago, they had had 13 penalties before us, and we had fun with it.

We kind of embrace it. We don't run from it. So I give my offensive scout, or my defensive scout, team the liberty to kind of say whatever they want and push guys within reason. And I kind of explained this on Tuesday of last year and, apparently, John Moffitt didn't get the message. Actually, Marcus Trotter piped off, said something about his ancestry or something that, and Moffitt snapped and went after him, bent him over, was ready to beat the snot out of him, when it’s like, ‘Hey, hey. We told him to do this.’

We're not going to maybe go to that extent, but I want guys to have the reaction that they need to have on Saturday, and, unfortunately, the only way you do that is to kind of practice it and rep it. But, again, even in that little, short reactionary second of time when something happens, our guys have to be aware. It's not what happens, it's how you react to what happens. I thought Michigan wasn't overly reactive on Saturday. But you can kind of channel that, and we'll do our talking with our pads and we'll do it between the whistles.

QUESTION #7: Bret, you mentioned a couple times now after the game about emphasizing preparing for a road game. Is it just that stuff you just talked about, or is there more that you can do to emphasize and get it across to your players?

BIELEMA: No. I think that's it, Tom. Those three points are very, very important. When we're talking about discipline, now I’m talking about no pre-snap penalties, no unforced errors, keeping the ball security-wise is going to be very, very important. We've obviously been great with ball security. Well, that needs to continue on the road.

And then, on the same account, defensively, if we've got a chance to get our hands on the football, we have to come up with it. I thought Michigan kind of kept themselves in the game with a couple of critical turnovers there that they were able to get on the football, because they had guys run into it.

QUESTION #8: Going back to being on the road. At this stage of the season, the team has pretty much been at home all season except for a neutral-site game. Is it tough to prepare for or get ready for a road game this late in the season, that's really the first true road game?

BIELEMA: Well it's going to be, whether this was the first game or the seventh game. Obviously, it's the seventh, but we did have kind of a warm-up there with Northern Illinois and practiced crowd noise all that week. We've actually practiced the crowd noise a couple other times during fall camp and then, also, some of our home games that we had here this week.

So the big thing is it's the moment that we're in. We've got seven days of honing on it here, and I think our guys will really buy into it, and, hopefully what we have had is I had our offensive leaders and our defensive leaders talk to the young guys on Sunday about what they learned last year at Iowa, another ranked opponent on the road, kind of the same situation where that momentum swung from sideline to sideline. We just tried to always get it back, and we capitalized on turnovers and took advantage of the ones that we had.

QUESTION #9: On the other side of the ball, I'm just curious what you think, if whether their offense presents similar problems as it did a year ago, when, I think they ran the ball fairly effectively against you, and then on third down, you guys weren't able to get off the field.

BIELEMA: A lot of similarities. First off, the quarterback's making everything go. Michigan State, offensively, is very similar to us. It all starts with the quarterback. I think they have three really, really good running backs who, they kind of just go with the hot hand, it seems like, at times. It makes their play-action game good, because they have good wide receivers down the field. So I do see a lot of those same similarities. They're a little bit different this year offensively with some different things in the pistol, and two-back and one-back and all that jazz, but it's a very good football team.

QUESTION #10: You said you'd let your pads do the talking. But based on some of the things that they said, did you have to warn your players about not getting in a war of words, or are they at the point where you don't even have to remind them of that?

BIELEMA: I know there was a tweet early on from when Russell signed. I kind of made a point of that during fall camp, so they're already aware of it. And then I know some stuff popped up Saturday. Our guys are kind of in a mode. I don't really worry about policing these guys. I think they know the difference between right and wrong.

I pulled up some quotes on Sunday of guys that, I always say don't give ammunition, don't give bulletin board material to our opponents. And I said, here are some quotes that jumped out to me, and it was somebody in here asking Jacob Pedersen what they thought of Montee Ball's pass. And he said, I felt like I was in a duck blind in the Upper Peninsula. He makes a joke and has fun with it.

Travis Frederick said that he hoped it belonged on SportsCenter. He was having fun with it. James White, when someone's asking him if he played better than his last time, he goes, ‘Yeah, I look like a Little League running back.’ I mean, he's self-deprecating himself. That's what I want. That's what I want to recruit. I want kids that regardless if we win or lose football games, if we're doing things the right way, people usually like that and like that approach.

QUESTION #11: Bret, this Depth Chart show is obviously a good way to market your program. I'm curious, though. When you were approached about it, were you on board right from the start, or were you reluctant?

BIELEMA: What do you think? Yeah. I was very reluctant. It was kind of funny, because right away I said to Paul (Chryst), I said, ‘Well, I know if No. 16 from a year ago was here, we wouldn't be doing it.’ Scotty didn't want to be thrown off in any way, shape, or form. The No. 16 we have now, of course, embraces it.

And I said, ‘Paul, why don't you check with the quarterbacks, see if they have any feelings.’ And they were all kind of indifferent. Russell, of course, wanted to do it. Paul isn't exactly the most TV-friendly person on this earth either, so I gave him the option to get out of it, and he goes, ‘Bret, the reason why I want to do it was exposure. That's it. I thought it'd be a great way for us to have exposure.’

I ran it by our AD, and he kind of had the same feeling I did. And the more I talked to the people, and they said I could kind of have final say on what was allowed and not allowed, so that kind of gave me a little bit more of an insight to go ahead and do it.

I think it was funny. When I was talking to Russell, I said, ‘You're okay with this, buddy?’ He goes, yeah. He goes, ‘We were going to do it at Auburn, too.’ And I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’ He goes, because I knew about it when I was recruiting (him), but, of course, I didn't say anything. But (Auburn) had kind of used it as, ‘Hey, you come here, and there's going to be this special on you.’ I had never used it. It was just kind of an interesting recruiting tactic, you know. So that's when it really came to light.

And then the thing that I really believe is going to come out of the show is they really did want to just concentrate on the quarterbacks, but then they meet Peter Konz, and they want to have an interview with him. They meet Aaron Henry and all these other guys. There must be such… they need to fill time that they actually spent a day with me. I don't know how much that's going to hit the editing floor, but I think you're going to see a lot of things about our program come through that a lot of people don't have any idea about.

QUESTION #12: Is there any update on Nick Toon? And then a lot of players came out of that Michigan State game last year not happy with how they played. Is Nick one of those guys, you think, that wants to improve on that?

BIELEMA: I can't talk specifically for Nick, Tom. I would agree with you that there are a number of players that were not happy with their performance, including coaches, including myself, after that game. So I think you're going to see guys that have that as, not necessarily because we lost, just because we didn’t play well and take pride in the way that you put things on film.

And then Nick, it's kind of a special day for him. He left this morning early. He flew out to see his dad get inducted in the ring of honor at the Jets game tonight. He and his whole family were making a trip out of it, so Nick's out there in New York. He'll be back first thing tomorrow. And he basically shared with me on Sunday, he came in, how excited he was. He ran around on Sunday and felt real good and is going to jump into Tuesday's practice.

… He felt good on Saturday, and we probably could've played him. I just, I really felt that our other guys repped (well) during the week. I wanted to see how Duckworth was going to perform, Manasseh Garner, Kenzel Doe. Freddie Willis, unfortunately, got injured. I wanted to see those other guys perform and they did very, very well.

QUESTION #13: I know you said before that the BCS standings, they'll work themselves out at the end of the season, but at this point, are you surprised at all to see Wisconsin behind a Boise State and Oklahoma State when in all the polls Wisconsin is ahead of those teams?

BIELEMA: No, I wasn't. I don't know what goes on in those rankings, but I had a feeling that our non-conference … when we scheduled Oregon State, I guess it was almost 10, 12 years ago, worked out these dates. But since that time, they've been in a BCS game, so we thought it was going to be, obviously, they weren't playing great when we played them, but they've come back and played a little bit.

Northern Illinois struggled a little bit but now is back. They beat Western Michigan, who's leading their division. And then, obviously, any time you schedule an FCS (team) with South Dakota; unfortunately, UNLV went through a coaching change during the time, so I can't really do much about that out-of-conference scheduling. I know Boise State beat, did they not beat Oregon. Right? Is that who they beat early on? Georgia. All right.

So, again, we've got, obviously, Michigan State this week, was happy to see them win last week, because it kept them ranked. And then we've got Ohio State, who, maybe if they win this week, might sneak into those rankings as well, Illinois down the road. So our day will come. Just focus on the moment and keep moving.

QUESTION #14: Especially from your experience back in your playing days, how powerful a motivating force is revenge or a chip on your shoulder, and is there an expiration date for how long you can carry that around?

BIELEMA: I don't think the revenge thing. I know it's there. I would think it's more along the lines of what Tom said, that guys that didn't play well want to go out and prove. To me, it's better for us to almost be able to go and prove ourselves better than we were a year ago than maybe to have them here in our environment and have the revenge factor come into it.

To me, the challenge is just how I'm wired, and the way we've tried to kind of wire our kids is, now go prove that you're better. Anybody that played a certain way last year, let's go show what we can do better, and, hopefully, that's going to carry it forward. And bottom line, Michigan State's an excellent football team, and the opportunity to do that on the road is really special.

QUESTION #15: Your two-minute offense has been really good at the end of halves. You haven't needed it at the end of the games yet, but does that give you confidence if you do need it? And what have you seen that you've liked about it?

BIELEMA: One hundred percent. Well, I began to see it once I saw Russell. I mean, he's just extremely composed. Paul has given him certain liberties out there on the field. Since I've taken over, that's one area that I love, I can practice that. One of the things I really love to do is we always have two-minute at the end of practice two or three times during the course of the week. And every time, it's a different scenario, and you've got to figure out how to use a timeout, not to use a timeout, kill a clock, not to kill it.

When we scored the other day, I knew we had three timeouts. And I said to the defensive guys, I go, ‘Hey, if they run the ball, I’m using these timeouts to give our offense,’ plus, I want to run a punt return, because I thought we might be able to get one of those. So I called a timeout after the first one, timeout after the second one, and then I thought I was going to have to burn the third one, but they tried to throw the ball, which stopped the clock.

So our offense actually got one, which ended up being huge, because we were able to stop it down there, and had three or four legitimate shots at the end zone. I knew we wanted to get three points out of it, so I think that our offense is feeling comfortable enough. If we were ever having a problem with rhythm, that's something you might be able to throw in just in the normal part of the game to try and change the tempo of the game.

QUESTION #16: Bret, everyone talks about Michigan State's defensive line, but it looks like they like to blitz. I'm just curious, how often do they blitz, and do they blitz anywhere on the field? And are there any similarities between what you guys saw against Nebraska that might help this game?

BIELEMA: I think, schematically and personnel-wise, there's a lot of similarities that carry over to Nebraska. I think if you ask pure breakdown sheet, there are some definite tendencies that we've got to be aware of, not only, Jeff, like you said, that they're blitzing, but where are they blitzing from?

And, again, there's certain offenses. The one thing about Wisconsin and our preparation, a lot of times, we can't have good film to study what we do, because we're a very unique animal, even in our league. There's teams that run our type of offense but not how we run our offense. My statement's been a lot of times to our offensive guys and our offensive players, fellas OK, they may have had to defend a two-back power, but nobody runs it how you run it.

And the run game that we have and the feature, they may have seen that exact same play from the exact same formation but not with the guys we’ve got. We're at a point now in our league where I think we have just as good of personnel as anybody that's out there, and that's not always been the case. And it's a good feeling, but it's also one that you have to walk that line just a little bit to make sure you carry that edge. But also understand that, hey, I am better than you. Let's go out and prove it. That's fun.

QUESTION #17: How do you think Jordan Kohout's playing? And sometimes, guys lose their starting job. That can be difficult. Obviously, he's still playing a lot, but how do you think he's handled that whole thing?

BIELEMA: He, percentage-wise, graded out as good as anybody, between him, Hemer, and Patrick (Butrym) before he got hurt. So if Pat can't go on Saturday, it'll be (Hemer) and Jordan. Beau Allen's doing very well, as well. So I think that's the greatest thing that we've got going right now defensively is our depth up front. Without a question, that's made the biggest difference in the four-quarter games we've been in.

QUESTION #18: Bret, back to your comment about your personnel rising up and matching anyone else in the league. Did you feel that way last year? Was it something you saw coming last year, or is this the first year you can look on film and say, yeah, we're there?

BIELEMA: A little bit of both. Last year I began to see us play in a way that we're playing pretty efficiently, and I shouldn't say better personnel as much, Jeff, as, I mean it as what we do. There's obviously a lot of good football players in this league but, across the board, that's the part I think that probably attracted Russell more than anything is, and what he's enjoying now is, he's got a great offensive line. He's got running backs. He's got wide receivers and tight ends. That's fun. No one can focus in on one thing, and that balance has really really paid off for us at this point.

QUESTION #19: Coach, we've selected a fan question submitted on Facebook. Today's question comes from Casey Ward, and he wants to know with Russell Wilson, being his first time in the Big Ten and his not having a history with any of the teams that we're playing, does that affect his preparation in a game like Michigan State? Can you be more effective with less emotion, maybe, and more technique?

BIELEMA: That's kind of tying into the question that was over here. To me, there's no history on Russell in our league. Guys can go back and watch NC State film, but it really wouldn't have done them a lot of good, because he's such a different player right now.

But, on the same account, I hit Russell up on Sunday. I said, ‘Buddy, now, these guys, they play hard. This is big-boy football.’ And just make him aware, because you're doing him an injustice if you don't realize what's coming at him. Now, after he watched a couple of games on film, I think he realized what was coming. And I can see the smile in him, just that he's excited to play it. So it's a little bit of probably it helps and it doesn't help a little bit at times. Everything's new to him. He's just enjoying the moment.

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