Oct. 18, 2010
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MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema met with the media on Monday afternoon at his weekly news conference. He talked about the Ohio State game and also looked ahead to this week's matchup at Iowa. A full transcript can be found below.
Bret Bielema: Just want to say thanks to all of the people that were in Camp Randall on Saturday, especially our student section. I thought, coming out of the tunnel, there was a huge difference. And I really thought they were into it the whole game. And the way we started it, you can believe that it had an effect on our players as well. So, for everybody that was there, and was involved in that, thank you. There are so many people here at the University that made that day possible, with GameDay and everything going on. So as a head coach, that’s pretty special.
We recognized several guys. I just think in that game, you can’t give out enough recognition to guys that made things happen. Offensively, our MVP went to John Clay and James White, but [we] gave recognition to our offensive line. I thought Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt especially against the heart of their defense played extremely well. Nick Toon played well. Scottie [Tolzien] played well.
Defensively, our MVP went to three guys. Blake Sorensen played his best football game ever here as a linebacker, had a very productive day and then made the key interception at the end of the game to ice it down. J.J. Watt up front was also given the MVP. And Antonio Fenelus played really well. Actually, Antonio and Niles [Brinkley] played their best game probably together as corners that they’ve played this year.
Special teams-wise, we mentioned Manesseh Garner who was a terror on kickoff coverage. He kind of ignited that whole unit. But the guy that we gave it to was David Gilreath, to see him get rewarded for his perseverance and execution. He was excited to run that play. And he’s running away, I know there’s a lot of guys on that sideline that are pretty fast. I don’t think anybody could have caught him. He was headed for the end zone and very fun to watch. Ironically, that play happened, it was the first time all year that every guy on that unit scored a positive score on what their assignment and task was. So neat to see that unit be rewarded, especially Bradie Ewing with a final block there up the middle that made the thing pop.
As much as we enjoyed Saturday, and I’m sure guys are still getting pats on the back as they go through their first day of class back, have to shift our focus immediately to Iowa, a very talented football team who is playing very, very well. [They] came of a bye week, went up and handled their business at Michigan. It’s a trophy game for us, one of two to exist on our schedule, and one that’s very important to our kids. So it’s a tremendous challenge.
I know, for where we are right now, we’ve gone through a bit of a grind with the four weeks of non-conference, three conference games, now going to our fourth before a bye week next week. It’s a very unique week of preparation for us, and something that I know our kids are excited about. So [I’ll] open up for some questions.
QUESTION #1: Bret, do you have anything to draw on in your past for dealing with a week like this where you won such a big game, and then have to turn around and play another really tough game?
BIELEMA: I think you got to be smart. The kids on Sunday, you could tell they played in a very emotional game, they played very well. Yesterday in practice one thing we did is we kind of did some of the same preparation that we’ve done in the past about putting Ohio State to rest and breaking, come together as a team talking about where we’re at, move into an hour prep of Iowa, and then to go on the field and just work only on Iowa.
There wasn’t anything about [Ohio State]. There wasn’t anything about corrections or anything except moving forward. And actuallyc our players came up and wanted to do that, so it was something that showed me that they’re thinking right and acting right.
QUESTION #2: Bret, do you have any update on Mike Taylor and also [Nick] Toon and [Lance] Kendricks? And I know [Jordan] Kohout came back, but how’s he doing?
BIELEMA: Yeah. The good news is all the guys that had some issues on Saturday will be back in Saturday’s game. Mike Taylor, we got some x-ray information this morning, all things structurally were fine. What he basically did is he kind of rolled his ankle a little bit, which caused him to hyperextend his knee, and made it a little sorer, but there’s nothing structurally damaged there.
Lance Kendricks was having some cramping issues, and then that compounded his things. He had a knee that was a little sore, but he was moving around yesterday, and should be full go today.
Nick Toon, again, just took a little shot from a knee on the upper part of the leg, and he is moving around, should be good to go to practice tomorrow as well.
QUESTION #3: Kind of back to what Tom asked you about, I know that South Carolina beats Alabama, has a tough game in what can be a difficult place, I know this is even more difficult for you guys, do you, will you use that as an example or do you even need to of what could happen?
BIELEMA: Yeah. I think you always use examples in the world of college football. But I think as a coach you want to make sure that you can talk your players into something. I know everybody likes to write about it, Tom [Oates], his first two words in his article on Sunday was Austin Peay. Everybody wants to go back to that game.
We talked all week about not having a letdown against a team that you’re better than or that you should go out and focus. They had the right response that week. They had the right response this week. I think they’ll have the same response this week.
QUESTION #4: I was going to ask you about that, because the guys talked about preparation. I think [John] Moffitt in particular talked about how good the preparation was. Have they been generally pretty good in terms of consistent preparation, no matter who you’re playing this year or how has that been?
BIELEMA: Yeah, they’ve been locked in. I go back even to last spring when we played Wisconsin versus Wisconsin. And then we’d kind of go into phases during practice where we would work on specific opponents’ schemes just because our offense doesn’t run it. And kids would snap in right away.
Again, the seniors have played a lot of football. So I think they kind of give lead to that. I know on Sundays, they always grab the entire team and talk about what needs to happen. And they did last week, they did it again yesterday. And my guess is they’ll continue to do it.
QUESTION #5: I think you’ve alluded to your relationship with Norm Parker. Can you just expand on that? And I know he had the foot amputated. It doesn’t like he’s going to be back anytime soon.
BIELEMA: You know what, Jeff, I don’t know. I just kind of hear different things through people, but Norm, has always had a battle with that. I know being in our first staff meetings, and you know, those guys, their families weren’t around, so we would go eat at Hy-Vee, a little deli place or whatever, and we’d come back, and he’d take that shot, and he was on insulin shots back then. And he’s got an amazing sense of humor, no matter what the situation. So I just wish him the best. And whenever he’s back out there, it will be a better thing for everybody.
QUESTION #6: You mentioned after the game, [Nick] Toon looking like the Toon of old. How much of an impact does that have on your offense when he’s in there?
BIELEMA: It’s good because, as you know, when we run the football, the more weapons you can have on the perimeter or anything downfield, the better off you’re going to be. There were a lot of good plays in Saturday’s game, but that third down conversion by him was worth its weight in gold to me, just to be able to execute that, and keep the sticks moving, and to keep Ohio State off balance. And that’s a lot of the same things you’d hope to gain from Iowa as well.
QUESTION #7: You’re familiar with that defensive staff, obviously, and that scheme. Why is it so difficult to move the ball consistently against them for the most part? I know Michigan had a lot of yards, but they also turned the ball over.
BIELEMA: Yeah. I think two things. First off, the players know the scheme inside and out. Basically they play one front and a variation of two different coverages. That’s one thing to know. But the part that’s probably best displayed when teams start to have success against them, the players and coaches know how to correct it. They may say, ‘Hey, they’re getting us because we’re playing too heavy in this technique or we’re playing to heavy on this route or this concept,’ and then they can switch it.
That was one part that really jumped out to me last year watching the film. We had success early, and then really they didn’t change anything, they just played better at what they were doing. I think the players can refer to that more so than anything else.
QUESTION #8: You mentioned Manasseh Garner in the open. What have you seen out of him that allows him to excel in the special teams department?
BIELEMA: He’s very gifted. He’s very fast. He’s got a little bit of understanding of ball awareness, a football IQ. He’s played a lot of football at different positions, so I think his just general football awareness is really good. Once he gets excited, he got faster on the kickoff every play, and did a nice job of bending in. He’s the guy that will probably get involved a little bit more on the defensive side of things.
There at the end of the game, when we’re running out of guys to rush Terrelle Pryor, I about subbed him in without even checking with our defensive coaches just because I knew it would be a guy that had a fresh set of legs, that can go out there and run people down.
QUESTION #9: You mentioned that after the game, that all this week, or last week, there was no shortage of advice from fans, from your own dad, leading up to the game as to what to do. How much reaction did you get from them after the game, at least for the next 24 to 48 hours?
BIELEMA: A lot, I heard from a lot of different people, all positive. I think it’s interesting to hear from people that you don’t necessarily think you would, whether it would be media, whether it would be people that you play against, compete against, coaches in the Big Ten, whatever it is, I think anybody that knows who you are and knows what you represent, they’re happy when you have success.
QUESTION #10: You mentioned that you challenged your offensive line last week. I’m just curious, what kind of challenge they face this week, because that front’s got everybody back, and it’s probably better than Ohio State’s front.
BIELEMA: They’re very good. I think you’re right, Jeff, a lot of the same keys to victory or keys to success against Ohio State, at least offensively for us, will be very, very similar, which is great, because they’re a good carryover match-ups. Production, efficiency, all those same things will be coming up.
QUESTION #11: Bret, alluding to your 1 and 0 mentality, putting that aside, do you, were you at the start of the season looking at these two games as in a bit of a chunk knowing the emotional aspect involved of having to prepare for two quality teams like this back to back?
BIELEMA: Yeah. I think, Andy, as a head coach, I will always, when the schedule came out awhile back, you get it, I guess it’s three years out, you know, it jumped out to you right away. The whole conversation about conference alignments, that kind of even brought it that much more full circle. But then, the first time I knew it was real with my team, as a coach, you think one thing, but want to have a pulse on your guys.
I met with the seniors in fall camp, one on one and several of our seniors commented about how we have to have body maintenance, how they have to take care of themselves after the game against UNLV, after the game against Arizona State, after the game against Austin Peay, talked big picture about keeping your body ready for this run, ready for this stretch. And you know, they passed some team rules that kind of thought that way, some concepts about just trying to take care of the body to be ready for this little stretch.
QUESTION #12: Bret, how would you characterize this rivalry? Do you think moving to separate divisions will affect it at all in the future?
BIELEMA: I think, because it’s so intense, Tom, that it’s always going to be out there. It’s a trophy game that’s going to remain in somebody’s locker room now for three years because we don’t play two years after. That’s a big deal. So now it’s not just bragging rights for a year, it’s bragging rights for a number of years.
I know as a head coach, this is a big part in recruiting. It’s a big part in where we stand in the Big Ten, on a national level, and nothing became clearer than that, again, during conference alignments where you knew that there were certain things that people thought.
There are four teams in our new conference coming next year that have won national championships. And then the next two teams, probably by record, are us and Iowa. So it’s kind of where our place is in where we’re trying to be.
QUESTION #13: You mentioned the play of your cornerbacks, there was a lot of questions about your secondary coming in to the year. How do you think they’ve responded? And then the challenge of [Ricky] Stanzi and [Derrell] Johnson-Koulianos?
BIELEMA: I think their receivers are as deep as I’ve seen them. I think that’s been one key to the production of their offense is, obviously their quarterback has a lot of success, Ricky’s had a lot of success. We knew going into it our defensive backs were going to be some guys that had experience but wanted to play more consistent football.
The good news is they are. I think the play of Aaron Henry has been really key to that.
Also the coaching of Chris Ash. Chris is a very good football coach. Kids believed in him right away. As the game goes on, or as the season goes along, Chris becomes more comfortable with game day personalities and what they bring. I think that really came full circle on Saturday, because that’s a very gifted offense that’s over there.
QUESTION #14: Bret, I’m sure when the Iowa staff looks at tape of your defense, they’re going to know they have to do something with J.J. [Watt] on that side. On the other side of that though, do you think you need a little more from Louis [Nzegwu] and/or David [Gilbert] right now to help take some pressure him?
BIELEMA: I do. It’s not like either one of those guys is playing bad. Louis is [playing] great now, very well. But the production side, J.J. is very productive. It’s one thing to be a good player who is in the right position and does things the way you’re supposed to do it all of the time, but bottom line, the guy’s got to get tackled. You have to have the end-to-the-play happen. You’ve got to have a tackle, you have to have an incomplete pass, you got to force them out of bounds. Whatever it is, production has got to pick up. You know, J.J. is very, very productive. Blake Sorensen had 10 tackles, he was productive. So that’s the kind of thing we’re trying to really stress to David and Louis.
QUESTION #15: You talked about [Gabe] Carimi and [John] Moffitt. What did you see from Carimi last week either in leadership, in the way he played, just everything about the . . .
BIELEMA: You know what, ever since I’ve been around Gabe Carimi, he’s a guy that is very focused on success. I think he is a guy that handles his business. He is kind of a perfectionist. You always worried I think early on in Gabe’s career that he was going to be too hard on himself. But I also saw somebody, that he knew he was going to be going against [Ohio State’s Cameron] Hayward. He knew that he’s projected to be a very good player in this league. And he took it as a personal challenge to do that.
This week, I’m not going to have to remind him that [Iowa’s Adrian] Clayborn is over there, or whoever he’s going against is going to be a good football player. This is another chance for him to make a statement about what type of player he is. It wasn’t by luck that when the game was on the line Saturday, we went four times to our left behind Carimi and Moffitt. Those guys stepped up to the challenge. And I’d be very surprised if they don’t this week.
QUESTION #16: Regarding [Iowa’s Adrian] Clayborn, when you look at him on tape and evaluate him as a player, what do you see?
BIELEMA: Big, strong, opportunistic. You take a look at Iowa last year and that Penn State battle, they’re in it going back and forth. He comes up with a punt save, a block of a punt, scooping and scoring, and changing the game. [I’ve] had an opportunity to be around him a couple times too. You could just tell he’s a very serious kid, somebody that really enjoys. And obviously, for him to come back this year, I think he would have been a first-rounder, but he really buys into what they’re selling there. He wanted to come back and make it a special run.
QUESTION #17: Iowa got pretty good production out of [Adam] Robinson Saturday. Their running backs are depleted. How do you think their running game has been given that situation?
BIELEMA: Not to disrespect our running backs or anything, Iowa is going to run the football and kind of similar to here. I thought it was interesting, John Clay, did a lot of good things on Saturday, but he put those five linemen on his head. You’re not going to see me doing it, but that’s John’s way of making a tribute to his offensive line. He’s very respectful of that and knows that’s why he gets that same thing with James White.
I think the same culture goes on at Iowa. I was there for a number of years seeing it. But those running backs, they read the same plays every time. You know, they take the same footwork, they take the same steps from the line of scrimmage and make the same keys and reads and reactions. That’s why whoever is back there I think is going to have success.
QUESTION #18: I think John Settle said last week that you guys challenged John Clay as well just to run as he ended up running Saturday. Do you have to say anything to him this week or just leave him on cruise control?
BIELEMA: No. I’ve already said something to him just because I wanted him to know. I knew he was going to have success on Saturday off of what I saw on Wednesday and Thursday. And when I made that statement to the team on Sunday is what you have to take from that win on Saturday was you set the level of success on Saturday by what you did during the week. Now that’s expected. As coaches, we got to make sure we’re getting it. And some kids get it, some guys won’t.
I didn’t have to say one thing to [Gabe] Carimi and [John] Moffitt. They knew where they needed to be. You don’t have to say anything to Lance Kendricks. But there are certain guys that aren’t quite where they need to be, and that’s our job as coaches. That’s where we got to step in and make sure they understand it.
QUESTION #19: Last week, the Ohio State guys seemed to talk about embracing the atmosphere that they were going to face coming to Camp Randall, and the mindset you have to have in a big game on the road. Is there anything different that you want your guys to have as a mindset, big game at home this week versus a big game on the road?
BIELEMA: Yeah. From an approach standpoint, everybody was going to be cheering for you to everybody cheering against you. I graduated from Iowa. They treat me very badly I know when I go down there. So it’s a hostile environment. They’re right on top of you.
I think our kids will embrace the challenge that they have, but we got to have crowd noise in there during the course of the week this week when we’re practicing. We have to explain to them and make them understand how that noise has got to make them play harder, play longer, play faster. And it will be a different challenge, but yet a lot of the same things will carry forward.
QUESTION #20: You mentioned all the recruiting battles with Iowa. What’s it like going up against them constantly, and is there a specific thing you try to sell recruits on to differentiate the programs?
BIELEMA: Yeah, there is. It’s probably not so much location, why we recruit. We run similar schemes. Very few teams run the tight end the way that we have in the past. So when you’re recruiting tight ends, no one, very few people block offensive football like we do.
We had a couple of [general managers] in during the course of the week last week, GMs of NFL teams. And they basically [say] ‘It’s so relieving to watch, come in and watch film and watch you run the football like they want to run it the next level.’ We recruit against Iowa here in our state, and their state, in Illinois, Minneapolis, but also we end up recruiting against them in south Florida, in Texas, in St. Louis, in Ohio, in Pittsburgh, because of the same philosophies, offense and defense, and some of the other stuff I probably shouldn’t get into.
But, yeah, similar schools, very strong academics. And I’m not oblivious, but I’m probably a little more aware of it too just because every time somebody goes to visit there, the first thing, I can write it down to a tee, they’re going to come back and say, ‘Coach, can we see your tattoo?’ Every Iowa coach says that to him so I know their routine, and it's nothing surprising.