Oct. 24, 2011
• Watch Bielema Press Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema reflected on the No. 12 Badgers' loss to Michigan State and looked ahead to this week's road test against Ohio 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: It was a tough day yesterday. The plane ride home was extremely quiet, and the bus ride to the stadium to pick up our cars and our scooters. A lot of times I'll just have my headphones on, and I popped them off a couple different times expecting to hear some noise; didn't hear anything. I think the kids really absorbed the defeat Saturday night.
Sunday, went through the film and just saw a lot of things that we need to clean up. We did a lot of positive things. The best thing that I can say for that first quarter to start the way it did, playing as high as we were, to have a second quarter come apart as bad as it did, and for them to come back in the third quarter kind of take a swing here, a swing there, get a field goal, make a couple stops, punt the ball a few times, and then to finish the fourth quarter, gives me a lot of indication of what I think I'll see this week.
We'll come back to work on Tuesday. Expect this group to bounce back, as they did late in the fourth quarter, and put everything in as preparation. A great opportunity this week to go on the road, a night game, national stage against a traditional opponent that we all look forward to at Ohio State.
I think from a health standpoint, we should be pretty healthy. One of the comments that (strength coach Ben Herbert) made on Sunday when the kids came over, he thought they were physically a lot better than we thought they were going to be. The guys just weren't as beat up as we thought, possibly, coming into this week early on, and I think they'll prepare very, very well. So with that, open up for questions. We didn't have any MVPs after a loss.
QUESTION #1: What is your history, Bret, of getting, bouncing back quickly? Is it harder, is it as hard as it seems from the outside, or isn't it that big a deal?
BIELEMA: Fortunately, we haven't had to do it that much. The thing I said to the team on Sunday is, all right, we've got a group of new players in this room that have never been through this before. They've never been in a Sunday meeting coming after a defeat. For all the guys that came back from a year ago, we only did it one time. We don't gather after the Rose Bowl, so we only did it last year, unfortunately, against Michigan State as well.
So there's not a lot of history to go back on. But, again, I think the biggest thing is what kind of kids you have in your program, what kind of character you have, and then also just what are they willing to sacrifice to make it not happen again? I said to them, I want everyone to hear me on this one. I said, you should never get used to this feeling. This feeling should hurt. It should be in your mind, and it's something that we need to get rid of and shake out tonight, Sunday night.
But if you ever accept it, or if it becomes common for you, or you can think that this is something that you can live with, then it's going to begin to happen more than you'll ever want it to. So that was a very important thing for our, I wanted our guys to hear.
Last night, for instance, I have a group of coaches. They'll stay in that meeting and in their offices until 2, 3 in the morning to game plan for the next opponent. I mean, we didn't get home until, I know I walked into my house at 2:30. I couldn't sleep. I just really felt that I needed to clear everybody out. So, last night, I cleared everybody out of the offices about 10 and just said, hey, let's go home, regroup, come back in (Monday), and it's been a good day so far.
QUESTION #2: Bret, the obvious choices for guys who would lead things this week would be the captains. But I'm just curious, outside of the captains, who would you expect some guys to, whether it's in the locker room or on the practice field, to ease things up?
BIELEMA: I think, Jeff, it's the seniors. One of the things I pointed to this group last night is everybody's going to talk about what we lost. I know we lost to Michigan State, a team that's in the Big Ten Conference, but they're not in our division. I thought it was very important to point out what they have.
And before that game, we'd won, I believe nine or 10 straight Big Ten Conference games by almost 30 points. That doesn't just happen. Over the last three seasons, I know Brian's got it in his press release there's only three, maybe four teams that have won more games than we have in college football. That doesn't just happen. That's because you know how to train to win, and rely on those things.
When you are faced with adversity, you go back to what you believe in more than ever. You don't try to flinch, or you don't try to change what you're doing. You go back to what you know is good and to get that to come out, and that's what we've got to have.
So the seniors I kept after the meeting last night, put it on them, but there'll be underclassmen Montee Ball, James White, guys in critical positions, Jacob Pedersen, I really expect some of our guys that have kind of stepped into new roles to, hopefully, bounce back. Peter Konz up front will be another guy, Ricky Wagner, those guys are going to be important.
QUESTION #3: You go along the lines of going back to doing what you do well and knowing about it. Defensively, it looked to be there were some issues on the back end, whether it was linebackers or DBs with tackling. Was it angles? Was it positioning, losing leverage? What was the issue back there?
BIELEMA: A couple different things. First off, the fourth and 2 or fourth and 3, we had three guys right around the ball, and they all kind of played the ball. They didn't play the man. And there's a fine line you've got to be able to coach up and talk about there. We've got three guys that are playing the ball, and they all missed the tackle because of it. Whereas you've got a guy, a linebacker coming inside out. You've got a safety coming down on top of it, and you've got a corner kind of coming in from the side. We've got to assign someone to take the ball carrier.
And then another one was on the empty set that they actually ended up scoring on the fourth and, or third and whatever it was, it was third and long and (Marcus Cromartie is) coming in from the side, Borland's away from it. You have got three guys that, really, in my opinion, took bad angles. And the last one was (Peniel Jean) coming on top of it. So the only way you can simulate that thing is just full game-speed action, so we've got a lot of corrections, in particular, in the back end.
QUESTION #4: You mentioned after the game that you pretty much still control your destiny in the Big Ten race. Does that get emphasized again this week?
BIELEMA: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that I've really benefitted from, you guys know this because of my experience at Kansas State, I had a great two years of learning divisional play within a conference. And we were down, I think we might've been like 2-3 at Kansas State, we lost two or three games early on that no one really had predicted.
But Bill Snyder came in and he said, after that last one -- I think we had lost to Oklahoma State -- he said, if we take care of our business, we can get in the conference championship game and get to a BCS game. And everybody's kind of looking at him like he had three heads, you know. And, lo and behold, we started playing pretty well and came down to the end. I think we had to beat Kansas to make it to the championship game. We did that. And then we beat the No. 1 team in the country in Oklahoma, who was, at that time, regarded to be the best in the country and put ourselves in a BCS game.
So, yeah, we explain to them that this week is a divisional game. Four of our next five are. The only one that's not is Minnesota, which I don't think we'll have any issues getting motivated for that game. So with Purdue, with Penn State and Ohio State coming, those are big ones.
QUESTION #5: The last play of the Michigan State game, at this point, how many times have you watched film of that play and look back now and think there was anything you could've done differently, or was it just such a fluke play that you did everything you could?
BIELEMA: Saturday night when I got home it was on every 10 minutes on the TV that I was flipping through, so I had a lot of opportunities to watch it. We wish we could've done certain things better. I think every guy that was out there on the field, especially at the point of attack, wished they could do things better. But that's a formation and a play that you practice every week. I've never seen it actually obviously happen that way. I mean, for it to hit off a guy, the facemask, and another guy's arm and to have our guy's arms around it is just a perfect storm to get the right results for them, obviously, not for us.
QUESTION #6: After the game, you explained your strategy about the timeouts, and you seemed very confident in what you wanted, and why you did it. Having some time to reflect on it now, has any of that changed at all? Not knowing the outcome, would you still have done it the same way?
BIELEMA: We had three timeouts. I made a decision, and I think I actually said it to the offense to make sure, I don't know if Paul (Chryst) was on the headset with me, but I thought if they were trying to go into overtime in any way, shape, or form, that I want to get the ball back. We have the No. 1 offense in the country. We've got a quarterback who I've seen through four, or maybe even five of our first games, score at the end of the half willingly, seamlessly.
Phil Welch had hit a 50-plus yarder going that direction in pregame warmups, so if there was any way I could get the ball back, I wanted to do that. I didn't have it. But when they fumbled the ball, and it was second and 20, I called one immediately, because I knew we'd probably get ourselves into a third-down situation. Didn't know if they were going to run or throw it, and the clock was running to get to third and 8. So I called one there, obviously, and they did a good job. They converted.
If they didn't convert, we were probably going to go with either a field return with Abby (Jared Abbrederis), or a block that we'd gotten very close with probably. Their personnel, people probably don't realize this, but Michigan State runs traditional punt and regular punt or shield punt, so it's kind of a determination of what they put in the field. I think if anybody has seen my history, there isn't any doubt.
And what I get a kick out of, some guy grabbed me after the game, it was actually a parent, and asked the question, and he said, ‘Well, they just wanted to get to overtime.’ I said, ‘Why do you think they wanted to get to overtime? We were extremely hot.’ We wanted to get the ball back without a question.
It was also interesting, I did an interview with Kirk Herbstreit earlier today. He has a show, and I'd agreed to be on it last week. And he kind of made reference that he couldn't believe people were questioning, because from his point of view, he saw where we were going with it.
And it's really the local stuff, I think, probably more than anything, because you care. You hated to lose. And anytime you lose, you want to blame somebody. And I should be to blame. I'm the head coach. But from a national perspective, there wasn't any doubt what was going to be done, and that's what I did.
QUESTION #7: Now that Ohio State's got a couple guys back, are they starting to look more like the Ohio State we're accustomed to seeing?
BIELEMA: To have a bye week right before us really kind of keeps us in question of what they're going to do. They found Braxton Miller, I believe, going into the Nebraska game. That's where they were going to go. He got injured in that game. That's why the other quarterback came in.
In the Illinois game, he's pretty much in there the whole time. They win the game, and you can see that's where they're going. So from an offensive point of view, you kind of wish you had a couple more game films on Braxton just to see where they're going. They look more and more like the traditional Ohio State as they get further into the season, really settled in. Their defense is playing extremely well, playing with that attitude, that swagger. Their kicking game has continued to get stronger, so, unfortunately, yes, I think Ohio State's getting better and better.
QUESTION #8: Bret, you of all people should know what it's like taking over, following a head coach that was incredibly popular and trying to put your imprint on the program. Can you see what Luke Fickell's tried to do with Ohio State in the first couple weeks, and how does that translate to the field?
BIELEMA: You’ve got a new coach who's taking over for a guy that was very successful. But the realities of our two situations are so completely different, I don't even know if it's fair to justify. Luke got thrown into something, and has seemingly handled it very, very well. I've been impressed when I've watched him, when I talk to him, but it's really two different situations.
QUESTION #9: Sorry. Not comparing the situations, but just how has he tried to put his imprint on that program to try to what's different between them this year and last year that maybe has come from him?
BIELEMA: I really can't comment on that. I don't really know Luke. I knew him as a player. Everybody wants to draw comparisons. He was a nose guard. I was a nose guard. He was really good, I was kind of not as good. He, you can see the toughness, the tenacity, the attitude.
He's got a bunch of good coaches around him and you can tell that he's an ultimate competitor. I thought it was very interesting early on how confident (he was) in what he was saying, which, to me, that's great. I love confidence. I've never met a successful man who's not confident. So I think that's really a key factor, and, hopefully, he'll have his chance to continue to shine.
QUESTION #10: You mentioned just generically up front that the guys were in good shape physically, but how'd (Patrick) Butrym come through given the ankle? And, also, you were speaking about Willis' improvement, but he didn't play because of the ankle. Is he, perhaps, going to return this week, or what's the plan?
BIELEMA: Two points, Jeff. I think that's great. I know I came in here on Tuesday and was hopeful that Pat might get out there. I didn't think there was any way. Thursday, he went up and ran around, and we didn't practice him at all Thursday night. But I did say to him, I said, ‘You've got 50 hours’ or whatever it was because it was an 8 o’clock game on Thursday night. And then on Friday, I know him and Charlie and I were standing there, and I said, ‘Hey, you've got 26 hours.’
And the doctors came to us, and I think they were shocked. They're like, Coach, he's fine. And then the juices get going out there a little bit. He's a little bit gimpy, but he's back 100 percent. Freddie Willis, I know they ran him yesterday. I don't know if we'll practice him Tuesday, but my guess is he'll be there later in the week. And then another note, we just had a couple other guys, it was a physical game. Shelton (Johnson) came back in there, did a nice job. Dez Southward couldn't play. He wasn't cleared at the end of the game. He had a shoulder issue. So I think we'll take it easy on him at the beginning of this week but should be back out there.
QUESTION #11: Bret, it seems like more punt teams are using that shield protection. As more teams do that, are teams doing a better job of scheming against that?
BIELEMA: What Michigan State did is kind of shifted late in our formation, and then they basically brought a pressure to our protection to the right. And we had a guy on a guy, we just weren't able to block our assignments. And there are a couple of different -- just because I know what our schemes are, you try to apply it to other teams -- there's a couple different rules out there.
Some people don't. Some people are boundary teams. Some people are field teams. You can make some adjustments. S,o it still has been fairly good for us. We've been running, I believe, this is my fourth year, and it's the first punt we've had blocked. Unfortunately, it came at a very bad, bad time.
QUESTION #12: Do you have any update on David Gilbert's status?
BIELEMA: Yeah. It's 12:50. I think he's got an x-ray at 4, and he seems to think, if they give him the OK from that, he's going to be able to play in this week's game. I think that would be very optimistic. But I do think it's probably realistic that maybe not this week, but maybe the next week or the week after that, he'll be back. It's his birthday this week too, so we're going to give him a little birthday mojo and try to get him out there.
QUESTION #13: Has his injury, I mean, has it moved along faster, his progress, than you all expected?
BIELEMA: It has. David, I go back to my first year. I remember when Joe Thomas hurt his ACL. The doctors at the two-month mark basically said to me, they're like, ‘Bret, you know how Joe Thomas is kind of a freak on the field? He's a freak in the medicine field as well. He just heals, his body heals a lot faster than most people.’
And, David, genetically is freakish. He's just got some, whatever way your body is put together, he's got all the right bumps in all the right places. He's just physically fit. I think he's got a strong mind. He wanted to get back sooner than later. He didn't want to hear any talk about redshirt. He wanted to play. So I've been impressed with it, and the way he's handled it. He's just always kind of had a smile on his face and a good nature to him.
QUESTION #14: It seemed like Brendan Kelly was one of your better defensive guys in the fourth quarter. What did you see out of him in that quarter?
BIELEMA: I agree, Tom. Again, there's another guy that takes care of his body. Like, for instance, we had team dinner at 7 on Friday night. We have a snack at 10:30, and then I didn't have brunch scheduled until 11, because it was really 10 our time. Brendan Kelly about had a conniption. He had to eat. He has to eat every eight hours, otherwise something's wrong in the world, so we had to supply a little meal for him earlier in the morning.
But he takes care of his body, and I think that's why he got played the way he did in the fourth quarter. Really got a feel for the game, started playing up-tempo. He's got those long arms and he can really, really run, so I think that was a key factor for him in the fourth quarter.
Another reason, like Jeff asked earlier about calling the timeouts, I just watched our defense go three three-and-outs. And we have a top-10 defense that I thought would be able to come up with a stop, and we'd get the ball back.
QUESTION #15: As good as (Antonio) Fenelus is playing, I'm guessing teams are going to keep attacking Marcus (Cromartie). How do you think he'll hold up to that, and what'd you think of this last game?
BIELEMA: I think, Tom, this is a big week for Cro. There's no doubt. I made reference to the Northern Illinois game. Dave (Doeren) went at him right away. You've got a corner playing the way he does, as good as he does with Antonio, no matter who's over on that other side, is going to draw attention. But Michigan State went at him, and the challenge will be served, and, hopefully, he's going to come back this week and play better than he was last week.