Oct. 29, 2012
• Watch Bielema News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema spoke about the loss to Michigan State and injuries at quarterback in this week's Monday press conference.
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: Obviously, a very devastating feeling in the locker room and for our coaches and players who thought our guys invested a lot in that game. Going into that ninth week of the season, we just kind of preached about we've done a lot of good things. Let's give everything we have to get a victory on Saturday, and those guys invested a lot. When you do that much, it hurts.
An injury update, Joel Stave did meet with a team of doctors this morning. It's going to be a nonsurgical heal. He injured his left clavicle, and there was discussion on why we kind of took so long, whether it was going to be a surgery or non-surgery, all that kind of stuff. It's lined up pretty good where they're at, though. X ray it every week, but it's probably looking at an eight week recovery, which takes him out of the regular season. Outside chance of obviously something for postseason, but that would be right on the edge of it. And everything, if it goes to plan, should be 100 percent ready to go for spring ball. The good news is he's a freshman, so we have three years of eligibility remaining with him.
Arguably, might have been playing his best game against probably the best defense we've faced to this point. Unfortunate for him, very excited about the way he prepared and got himself ready to play that game and the way he was playing.
On the flip side of it, should get Rick Wagner back no problem. He was really kind of on the cusp of playing this week, but really it was my decision, our decision medically to keep him out of everything. He just wasn't quite there. So he should be back with us actually with us this week in some of our preparation later in the week and going forward.
Beau Allen, X rays are all negative. He'll just take some time to recover. In this bye week, I think it's very important for us to take this week, as smart as we can be, get our guys healthy. Of our top 70 guys, the guys that are going to determine the results in these next three guaranteed games, we've got to get the guys back and being healthy.
We'll approach the bye week the way we've done the last couple of weeks last couple of years. We'll give them some time on the front end here. We'll do some recruiting with my coaches; give the guys a little bit of time to recover. We'll have a good developmental practice on Tuesday, and get a jump start on Indiana and play some good, good on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday do some conditioning. They'll have the day off on Saturday.
Move ourselves into a little bit of advance Sunday of the Indiana week, just some of the challenges they bring with their up tempo offense and everything else.
We're a 6 3 football team that would love to be 7 2 or 8 1 or 9 0, but just the cards we're being dealt this year. We've moved forward. I thought our guys have responded every week.
You guys see the world of college football. You know there's a couple of teams that lost their starting quarterback on Saturday and struggled as well. I was happy that our guys kept it our defense kept playing, never really looked back, and obviously came up short. They'll come back strong. It's a good week to have a bye week. I think we'll take this week and move forward.
With that, open it up for any questions.
Question: Bret, is there any concern with (Joel) Stave in the future since he's apparently had the injury previously?
Bielema: Actually, I talked to his mom this morning. Because he was 10 1/2 lbs., they said they had to break it to get him out at birth. All the doctors have said that was completely normal and shouldn't have any effect. And I believe in fourth grade diving for a baseball or something, he broke it. There weren't even any signs of that.
So, yes, there is a history, but, no, the doctors didn't feel I think the big issue was whether or not to plate it or not. Two of our current quarterbacks, both (Jon) Budmayr and Danny O'Brien, have broken a clavicle. It's something quite common with quarterbacks, to be quite honest, unfortunately. Moving forward, this is a kid that's got a lot of football in front of him, and I want to make sure he's as strong as he is for the future, and they felt this route was the best. Again, it was a team of doctors that came up.
Question: You mentioned that Joel (Stave) was playing his best game of the season. What have you seen in him in terms of his growth, and how encouraged are you with that growth heading into the future?
Bielema: Well, first and foremost, he's a great student of the game. I think on Saturday I always walk out there if we see a player that's significantly injured -- I walked out there, and Joel was very upset. I don't think it was so much that he was in pain. I think he was upset that he knew something was severely wrong and he was going to miss some time.
More importantly, that he wasn't going to be able to finish off that game because I think he wanted to put a signature on that one, to be quite honest.
He really prepares well. He listens. Statistically he's gotten better every week. It's a shame because I think we were on a path that's very, very good, but you deal with the cards that you're dealt. It's not what happens in life, it's how you react to what happens. I think he'll react in a very, very positive way.
Standing with him on the sidelines Saturday, I said, hey, buddy, good news is you're a freshman, and I expect great things from you in the future. He made a couple of comments, but they were all positive, and it will be one that he spins to be the right way.
Question: Bret, Danny (O'Brien) coming in for his first significant action since, I think it was, Utah State was not an easy situation, and the running game was not clicking. But what did you see from him in that first sequence against Michigan State?
Bielema: The first one obviously wasn't pretty. It was a second and long. We ran a run play and didn't have success. Then we wanted to move him out of the pocket on third down because we thought that might bring pressure, but it didn't happen very well. He did make some plays. I think him and Curt (Phillips) both have had playing experience.
Danny's had his shot a couple times this year. We'll take this first week, this bye week right here, and pretty much give him and Curt equal reps and see where we're at going into Sunday. May not make a public announcement, but for sure we'll let our players know who's going to start the game Saturday. If it's not Sunday, then Tuesday for sure.
Question: Just wanted to ask the specific plans in terms of the bye week. You said some of the players get a couple of days off. Do you guys take any days off? How do you work that the next week and a half?
Bielema: No, actually, we had a couple of recruits in. Sunday was standard normal. Coaches came in, grade the film. Met with the team about 2. Sometimes we take the team out on the field, but just where we're at didn't feel like a necessary thing from a mental and physical standpoint.
Gave them all today off, like we normally have. Tomorrow they'll come over and get a lifting session, conditioning. The practice tomorrow will be more dedicated towards our developmental crew, the guys that are like our second and third stringers, guys that aren't playing any games at all that are redshirted.
Wednesday and Thursday both will be full padded practices, a lot of good, good, but also will feature four to six periods of emphasis on Indiana in the preparation for them as well as the special teams.
And then Friday they'll have an early morning conditioning session and then let them go Friday afternoon and have Saturday all to themselves. Coaches, you never have a day really from the time you start until signing day, there aren't very many days in there. I could have seven coaches on the road today and tomorrow. They'll come back tomorrow at different points during the course of the day.
Plans kind of had to adjust because of storms on the East Coast. That cancelled a lot of different flights and a lot of different recruiting offers we had in front of us. We kind of had to scramble on that. Friday I'll be able to get up and get on the road a little bit.
It's an interesting time for recruiting. You can be sitting by myself a time, but you can't talk to them. You can observe them, see them, be correlating with the coaches and be standing there while they're practicing, but you can't physically talk to them. So it's a good evaluation period, and for us it's a critical time.
Question: Bret, other than a handful of plays for Curt Phillips I think it was the Illinois game and a little more mop up duty we haven't really seen him practice in a long time.
Bielema: Three years, yeah.
Question: In camp, he didn't look 100 percent yet. Has he (Curt Phillips) gotten better physically with the knee yet? How close to being 100 percent for a guy who's had that many knee problems?
Bielema: I think first, if I remember right, didn't I keep you guys out the first four days, five days? He really looked strong, and then the whole double he began to fill out. That was the first extensive he's had action wise in a year and a half. I would think he's actually gotten better with a limited amount of practice time. Getting really heavy workdays on Tuesday and Wednesday.
I know this. There's probably not a kid that's invested more time to get on the field than Curt Phillips on our football team. Our kids like him. Kids love him. I think our coaches like him.
Matt (Canada) has been intrigued with Curt ever since day one. He's got that it factor that quarterbacks need to have. It will be fun to see him really compete this week. When he gets his opportunity, I expect him to have a little bit of success.
Question: With the obviously, the three losses involving close, tough losses, you guys have had injuries, quarterback changes, even coaching changes. How much of a roller coaster has this season been? Can you think of a season you've had so far that's been even similar to this?
Bielema: No, I was just sharing it with Brian on our walk over. It is what it is. My life as a head football coach. You drive to work every day and say, what's going to happen today that you have no idea is going to happen? That's kind of game. That's kind of the game. That's kind of the profession.
You take these experiences, and it defines who you are. It helps you in the future. You'll be able to have these reference points. I make coaching points all the time to my staff. I've got guys that want to be coordinators. I've got coordinators that want to be head coaches, how you handle these situations, what you feel you've done well, what you feel you could improve upon.
For players, I think they've handled things very, very well, stepping into roles they didn't expect to be in. Sometimes as a head coach, I always say to my players, especially my staff, I hate it when I'm right. But on Thursday's team meeting, when I had my 70 travel guys, and I say, there's somebody in this room that has no idea how big of a role they're going to play in the game this Saturday. It may be a backup reserve defensive player. It may be a backup quarterback. It may be a backup center. Someone is going to have to be ready that right now doesn't expect to play, and here we are.
That's kind of what I made the point on Sunday. We've made a living off of next man in in this room, and you can't be looking around and feeling sorry for yourselves. You've got to be preparing in that way.
As a head coach, in a sick way, I've kind of actually enjoyed some of the challenges that have come my way. I really enjoy being in difficult situations. It kind of gets your juices going a little bit and being able to see success and be able to adapt to failure. We're all growing. We're moving forward.
I think there's a lot of places if some of these same things had happened, you wouldn't be looking at a 6 3 team. This team could easily be a 2 7, whatever the numbers are. The kids have really handled the situations very, very well, and my guess is these next three weeks will be much more of the same.
Question: Did you feel Danny (O'Brien) was prepared to go in the game on Saturday?
Bielema: I did. Those guys are in difficult spots. Danny transferred in with the dream of being a two year starting quarterback at Wisconsin. It started that way and got side railed. Now I know Matt (Canada) felt very, very confident that he was the guy to go to if there was a sudden change within a series or something like that, the last two weeks, as far as continuity between what Joel (Stave) does and what our offense would need to do.
It will be interesting this week because Curt (Phillips) obviously has some unique skill sets that are going to be very unique to him, and we'll kind of see which direction we go.
Question: You touched on this a little bit, but the circumstances surrounding when Danny (O'Brien) has played opposite the beginning of the season, there were offensive line struggles and some other issues. Then he was thrown in against one of the top defenses in the country. In that respect, do you think Danny has been unfairly criticized by some people? I know you don't follow the outside world type stuff, but when you see the results and see the way he's played?
Bielema: I get it. I haven't unfairly criticized. Like you said, I can't control the outside world. I think as coaches we understood where he's popping himself into and the difficult scenarios he's been a part of. Even at the end of the Nebraska game was a difficult scenario.
So those moments, if you take them the right way, will make you better for the future, and I think Danny's done that, but a lot will be shown this week in practice as well as next week.
Question: Bret, I think you mentioned briefly after the game you want to make sure you don't lose some guys mentally just because of all that was invested in the loss to Michigan State. Did you meet with the players yesterday or not?
Bielema: Yes, Sunday I did. Again, very, very positive I always tell my coaches that one of the things we do on Saturday morning, regardless of what happened today, win or lose, tell me how your players are at post game and where they're at.
I made the guys kind of repeat some things to me Sunday I'm sorry, Saturday after the game about where we're at, where we need to be, where we're going to go. Made reference yesterday to where we currently were, talked about the Michigan State game, but also what lays in front of us with the bye week and kind of a unique thing to have Indiana, a team that we're vying for a spot.
The months of November, the last couple of years, have kind of worked out for the way they are right now in a weird sort of way that we've never been at the top of the list. We've never been the team that everybody was counting to win a championship the last two years. But at the end, we were. And it's because we handle everything on a week to week approach. This thing is no different. We've got everything in front of us. We have Indiana. We have the two teams that are ranked ahead of us right now in our division.
For us, we personally couldn't ask for and these schedules were made three years ago. It wasn't like they were made post Penn State and Ohio State issues. These things were made in advance of that. So it's kind of, again, a sign that everything happens for a reason.
Question: Bret, when you looked at the film, what stood out on that touchdown drive they had in the fourth quarter? After your defense had played so well.
Bielema: Well, a couple of critical pass plays over the middle. We're there. There was a QB scramble. Obviously, the touchdown play itself was something we hadn't seen, and I thought, give credit to them.
I don't think we weren't playing prevent or anything like that, but it was definitely some plays that went their way, and they got in a rhythm. They did some nice things, some nice adjustments. One of the things that really jumped out to me Sunday on film, not just that last drive, but there were four balls on the ground, and we got one. Just seems like the ball is just not bouncing the way we need to make it bounce at this point.
You create your own opportunities, and we just weren't able to do that.
Question: Bret, when evaluating whether or not you're going to go with Curt Phillips or Danny O'Brien, specifically Curt, how much of it depends on how well he performs in practice as much as it is how well his offensive line, the guys around him find their skill set specifically schemed towards what he's able to do?
Bielema: I'd say a lot of it depends on practice, but on the second count, you've got to wait for what you see in games. I think Curt and Danny both, when they know it's I'm not saying it's open competition, but they're going to be the two guys getting the majority of the reps, and we'd like to see how they handle it. You obviously like to see both guys feel comfortable in what they're doing, but they both bring different skills.
It's going to be a bit of a juggling act, but it's something our coaches and players will invest in and be good at.
Question: Bret, do you have any idea at this point what your plan would be if injuries happen at Indiana and you need to go to a third option at that position?
Bielema: Yeah, Chase Knox. We brought him in already this morning. Chase is a redshirt freshman that, if that's the scenario we end up going to. I'm sure James White would volunteer for quarterback as well.
We'll handle those things as they come, and hopefully we don't get to that situation.
Question: Obviously, those lost yardage plays in the second half were a big issue. Was that just a perfect storm of a lot of different factors going on?
Bielema: There were some drives, before Joel (Stave) got hurt, where we really looked good. Even with Danny (O'Brien) in there, there were some nice hits. But the negative yard plays, guys returning them across our face, put us in some second and longs, and it was definitely the perfect storm of certain down and distances.
But also, we lost a little bit of our rhythm there, and that was a very difficult thing to try to get back offensively against a really, really good defense. You know, the one that really took the wind out of your sails is when you score on the first play after the turnover with James White, and they have the holding call come back.
Then to put it in a positive, I think the next play with Abby (Jared Abbrederis), the end around went for seven or eight yards, and then they have the off sides with the offensive line. Those two plays were the ultimate those were the ones that really kind of stuck you. We pride ourselves on playing clean football, and when you don't, it really, really shows. In losses, it's magnified.
I think we're the least penalized team in Big Ten football going into the game, and I think we still might be there this week. I haven't looked at the stat book this week, but those penalties in critical situations. I always emphasize to our guys, players and coaches, everything is multiplied by a thousand in the red zone. It is what it is. Red zone is critical downs. Third down, fourth down, and red zone downs are magnified a thousand times over.
Good news out of bad news is the guys that committed those errors are freshmen and sophomore that are going to get a lot better. I still point out to our guys, we have 115 guys on our roster and over 50 are either redshirt freshmen or true freshmen. We're going to get better, and brighter days will be ahead not only next month but also for the future of Wisconsin football.
Question: Bret, you had mixed success with the barge, you had the snap that went over James' (White) head. Did you see enough to continue using it? I think one with Montee (Ball), the toss to the left, I think he was this close to going perhaps the distance.
Bielema: I think there were two plays in that set. Obviously, there was huge success to get it in the red zone on the first one, and unfortunately got called back with a holding call. There was a play that went over James' head, I think, is going to be a pretty big hit. Never really got to develop, but by my numbers, it looked really, really good.
Yeah, I think it's a nice change up. It's obviously something that puts a defense into preparation, advantages for us. You've got to be able to execute. Otherwise, would have, could have, should have.
Question: Since we're on the topic of quarterbacks, I wonder if you can update us on Jon Budmayr and Bart Houston, how they've gone in their respective rehabs through their injuries.
Bielema: Just had Jon Budmayr, had a chance to sit down with him and needed to talk over where he's at. Basically, he's on a plan where he's getting healthy. I know the trainers were not only excited with his arm surgeries but also his hip surgeries. He's continued to move forward.
What he's going to do is make an evaluation in December, January, if he can play the game. If he can play the game, what direction he's willing to go because he will graduate this year. He'll have options in front of him there.
Bart Houston, everything's on track. He comes out there before practice. He throws around. He's not involved actually in practice, but all the pre practice stuff, throwing, running around, doing all the things.
Just bumped into him on the way here. He's filling out, being able to be back on our weight program, and doing all the things that all the other freshmen are doing except for actually practicing. I think, as we get into Bowl practice, he would have an opportunity to be limited on what he could do, not scrimmages or anything like that, but I think we can get him in some skelly and some different things we do development wise.
Question: Jake Byrne wasn't exactly a household name among all the stars you had on offense last year. Haw hard has it been to replace what he gave you, especially in the running game?
Bielema: Jake, I said that earlier in the year, there were two guys that probably weren't on everybody's radar, but Bradie Ewing and Jake Byrne were huge factors in the run game for us, and those two guys went on to NFL opportunities.
We've got some guys that have continued to make strides. Jacob Pedersen played extremely well again. To have somebody as large as Jake was and the ability he had to block, we've definitely tried to replace that and haven't been able to do the same results. It's coming along.
Question: Bret, Indiana is one of those offenses, up tempo, try to get as many plays as possible. What do you think of that trend overall? Do you think going to Oregon is going to help you at all?
Bielema: I do. I do think, Tom. Oregon prep, that was definitely the fastest preparation we've ever had. I'm just talking to coaches that have played against Indiana, within our league and stuff, and it sounds like they go at a tempo that is trying to do just that, go at a tempo as fast as you possibly can.
Then they'll slow it down and make you race to the line and kind to change it. You can definitely where there are times they maximize the clock as well. It's a little bit of a mixed bag. Good thing is we do have two weeks to prepare. I think our defense, to get the numbers to work against our defense, and also just teach our scouts the pace that they need to play to get our defense ready.