Nov. 1, 2011
• Watch Bielema Press Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema reflected on the No. 19 Badgers' loss to Ohio State and looked ahead to a return to Camp Randall Stadium to face Leaders Division foe Purdue during his weekly press conference Monday.
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, after a loss, we don't have any MVPs, but were a number of good examples on film on Saturday, guys doing a lot of good things at times, different units performing very, very efficiently at times, but just not enough to win a complete game. So we took that and kind of dismissed that on Sunday night. Don't practice on Monday.
But from what I've seen from this group, I know that they're going to respond very, very positively and come back with a good week of practice. And I'm excited about an opportunity to go against Purdue, who we're tied with in division play at 2-2 in our league, so a challenge there. As far as injury-wise, don't know if we'll have David Gilbert there. There's a chance of him this week, but it'd be later in the week if we got him back. He hasn't been cleared yet as of to date.
And, really, everybody else, guys are always banged up a little bit more after a loss than a win, so had a number of guys come in on Sunday with some bangs and bruises, but nothing that should withhold anybody for Saturday. With that, open it up.
QUESTION #1: Bret, I think the Sunday after the Michigan State loss you had a specific message for those guys when you met them on Sunday night. I'm just curious what you tried to tell them or sell to them after this one.
BIELEMA: At Michigan State, I kind of pointed to some of the things that they had done in the past, and why we thought we'd have success going into Ohio State, and then I really didn't say a lot of specifics about Ohio State. But big picture (Saturday) night, what I basically did is kind of went around the room, talked about taking things personally.
As a man, a lot of times, guys take things to heart, what they really believe to be a big part of who they are, what they are. I pointed out certain guys around the room and kind of stressed that for us to get to where we need to be, whether you're playing good ball, whether you didn't do well, whether you played 80 snaps well and five wrong, take it personally, what you did, and try to carry that forward to help the team.
QUESTION #2: Bret, you just approached that, talked about it a little bit. You had, accountability's been a big part of this program for a couple of years. Do you sense any lack of that, or has that slipped away at all in any way? Is there anything to fix?
BIELEMA: Oh, there's things to fix. Things are always there to fix. There's things to fix in a win. There's things to fix in a loss. I think in regards to accountability, I would say that our team as a group, especially by our leaders, have high accountability, and that's what's going to help us rebound, and come back after these two losses.
QUESTION #3: Chris Ash, yesterday, expressed frustration with the fact that out of X number of plays, say 65 out of 70 would be good, 5 would be big hits. Given your defensive background, what can you share with him that you maybe, if you haven't already, about how to deal with that, and what do you think some of the issues have been? Has it been fatigue or maybe mental lapses about a guy vacating a zone, or letting a guy catch a first down pass at the sticks and not reacting quick enough, things like that?
BIELEMA: I would say most of our issues that have popped up have become two things. Basically either a wrong alignment or assignment or a lack of communication. Those are the two most common things that you'll find on any defense. And I think even in wins that ratio would still be there. There's four or five plays that you're going to want to take back. It's just that everything is magnified 100 times over after a loss, you know.
And being as that two last-second plays you'd automatically go to the fourth quarter. I think that we've got to be aware of, as coaches, guys do fatigue, and we don't have a lot of depth, you know. When Lou (Louis Nzegwu) went out of the game in the fourth quarter, we were without, probably, our two best defensive ends going into fall camp that aren't on the field. We'd already lost a corner, and guys have responded very, very well. But it's not just in the game. As you get further into the season, guys have fatigue faster than they do in game three or four.
QUESTION #4: Bret, do you point out to these guys that there's still a path to the Rose Bowl for you even though you don't really control your own destiny, or is it just on this week? You know, how do you treat that . . .
BIELEMA: I think they know it's out there. I mean, people are going to talk to them about it. But for us, to get where we need to be, we need to take care of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and take care of Saturday. Purdue is our challenge. I think any time you're in this situation, the more you can focus on a task at hand, it just helps the picture become clearer overall. I understand it, and I know there's a lot of scenarios out there. And I think that's something that's on their radar, but it's not something we openly discuss.
QUESTION #5: Bret, what's your approach with the punt protection this week, and how frustrating is that, it seemed like a similar breakdown, you know?
BIELEMA: It was, again, two different calls. Obviously, the same formation, same alignment, and basically the same area they got hit. They had run that same actual block/return with three guys rushing and seven guys holding up with a one-man return, I believe it was on punt three. So we had blocked it up efficiently there, and, obviously, didn't get it done on that particular play. I think we have to be guarded with, not to give the details of what we do, but you definitely look at both the protection, the scheme, the call, and the personnel.
QUESTION #6: Bret, given the way things were lined up for this team two weeks ago and the nature of these last two losses, does it feel at all to you like it's turned into kind of a season of lost opportunities, even if that might be a difficult thing for you to admit?
BIELEMA: Obviously, you're within a play or two, arguably, of each game, of winning them. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out 8-0 sounds a lot better than 6-2. But for whatever reason, and however the things came about, you're going to take these things, and it's going to define who you are and what you want to be.
This is a team that has always been about senior legacy, so I know our seniors are feeling the challenge that's in front of them. And we've kind of always talked about, in our program being accountable for what we start. Tom mentioned at the beginning, and, bottom line, we've lost two games. You've got to own it and embrace it.
And there are two kinds of men in the world. There's people that go out and do what they do, and there's people that second-guess what people do. And I don't think we have any guys in that pool. I think we have a lot of guys that want to go out and do what they do.
QUESTION #7: I think the Big Ten road record in conference games is something like 8-18. I know that was a big emphasis for you guys winning on the road in the Big Ten. How big a challenge is that? Could you talk about that? And then are you still a fan of night games too?
BIELEMA: Going back to the Iowa game a year ago when we lost to Michigan State, we put a huge emphasis during the course of the week how tough it was going to be to play in that environment and, for us to have success, all the things you've got to do. And then, obviously, we went out and won that game and continued through and won a couple other games on the road that year.
Obviously, started out this year, had Northern Illinois, was a neutral site, but it was, again, on the road and playing with it. And then to face two opponents back-to-back, two of the better teams in our leagues that, traditionally, have always played well at home, both of them, it was their homecoming crowd, and they were a frenzied crowd. It was a difficult environment, and we didn't handle it well at times.
So I'm always going to be a fan of night games. To me it's not like we embarrassed ourselves the last two weeks. There's plenty of teams around the world of college football that were higher ranked than we were that got pounded pretty good by people that weren't ranked or weren't good teams. So I understand why people are upset. And, believe me, there's no one who will be more upset than me, but we didn't make a fool out of ourselves. We lost a couple of plays, a couple of games on the heartaches that will last for a lifetime. But in the end, it makes all of us stronger.
QUESTION #8: You mentioned having the guys focused on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Purdue, etc. But are you, personally, familiar with the scenarios that are out there, and will you allow yourself, once your team is done playing on a given day, to become a fan of other teams in the league?
BIELEMA: That's a great question, Jeff. And for any of you that know me probably know that I do a lot of things behind closed doors that are for my thinking. And nothing bad. I mean, as a head coach, that's part of my responsibility.
I have to think about I've got a running back and a center that are probably two of the best players on our team, so I've got to think, I'm not going to be aware of it, but I've got to think long term. What do I have to do to replace those guys beyond what's in front of me? So that's my job as a head coach. I'm responsible for everything that we do, and for me not to have that in the back of my mind is wrong.
QUESTION #9: Mike Taylor's 22 tackles, have you had many linebackers play a better game? And then a couple of the guys said that he was one of the players who said something in the locker room afterward. And he's normally a quiet guy, but for a guy to do that, coming off that performance, do you think it's even more meaningful?
BIELEMA: I think you guys have known for a long time I've been very excited about Mike Taylor, because he just never has really been healthy. And for him to have 22 tackles in this day and age; back when I coached linebackers, and you used to leave it up to coaches to tally tackles, and I always used to get a kick out of certain teams that had 16, 18 tackles, and it didn't quite add up on film.
But now the NCAA manages it. Obviously, Ohio State manages the tally when you're visiting. So to come up with that number, it wasn't a surprise. And when I got to watch the film on Saturday, I knew he was very active on the field. Mike is extremely fast. You know, in games like that where speed is going to be of importance to make a play, he was very efficient. In my opinion, the best leaders, a lot of times, are the guys that say very little and do a lot on the field. But when they speak, a lot of people listen. So I think Mike's in a position to really say some great things and have our guys pay attention.
QUESTION #10: You talked a little while ago about the second half of games where guys may be getting tired and those kinds of things. With regards to Nick Toon, whether it's fatigue, injury, the defenses that are being thrown at him, is there anything to explain the disparity of numbers first half of games recently versus second half?
BIELEMA: I think awareness of defenses, first off. Obviously, he's been very effective especially the first six games. He didn't play in the sixth one, but the first five games. In the first half, you make adjustments and take away some things. That's why some of those other guys are coming open in the second half. And bottom line, too in the first five games, Nick Toon didn't play in the fourth quarter. I mean, you can look at those numbers, but you've got to also understand the bigger picture why numbers are skewed.
QUESTION #11: Besides Mike, Clax (Kevin Claxton) and Chris (Borland) also had a tremendous game. And that's probably the strongest game you guys have had from your linebackers this season all across the board.
BIELEMA: I'm an old linebacker coach, so I really take a lot of pride in watching those guys play, and I can't say enough about Dave Huxtable. I think Hux does an extraordinary job with that group.
Clax, as much as I love Mike -- and (the way) Mike is playing, I kind of almost saw that coming -- Clax is the guy that, from game one to where we are now, has really improved. He's got a cast on his hand, is becoming an effective blitzer. You know, Chris gets more and more comfortable with the middle linebacker spot, and I think those three guys, in particular, played well.
QUESTION #12: Bret, the battle between your offensive line and Ohio State's defensive line, it appeared just from the press box, they won the line of scrimmage physically. I'm just curious, once you broke down the tape, was it that simple?
BIELEMA: Ohio State's Ohio State. They've got good defensive linemen. I wouldn't say across the board they won all the time, but they won their fair share. And the part that I think our offensive line has always prided themselves on how they play the hole, and as a group, that wasn't there. And that was a big factor in the game, so it's one that I know they take it as a challenge, and they'll move forward.
QUESTION #13: What sort of challenges does Purdue present, and does this game take on more meaning now that, all of a sudden, both teams are 2-2?
BIELEMA: Fifteen minutes into this, and we get to answer a Purdue question. I think, Purdue, going back to a year ago you guys might remember it wasn't exactly a great first half for us. We had to come out in the second half and kind of take the game into our hands. Purdue, I know this for a fact, returns, returned more players than any other team in our league, and you can kind of see where they play very, very well at stretches and have come out fast in all the games.
Obviously, they knocked off Illinois a couple of weeks back and played competitive with Michigan all the way through almost the fourth quarter of last week or midway through the third, so it's going to be a very difficult challenge. Their quarterback, I see that No. 19 is listed being back. I know he was out at the end of the game yesterday, but they've got a couple of quarterbacks that have done well.
They've got wide receivers, got team speed. I think defensive line-wise, they've got a couple of big guys inside that are going to be a very difficult task for us. They're athletic at the linebacker spot, so it's definitely going to be a tough contest. And you know, right now, like I said, in our division, they're 2-2 just like we are, so it's a dead-even match right now.
QUESTION #14: I apologize in advance. This isn't about Purdue. But what do you make of your ability to come back in the fourth quarter these last couple games? Is it adjustments, urgency, what?
BIELEMA: Well, I think two things. First off, it's mainly been offensively driven and starts with the quarterback. Russell Wilson is exceptional about learning within the game. He's a guy that's never going to accept defeat. So, he's the guy that gets them going all the way through.
I do think Paul (Chryst) does a nice job of making adjustments going. I thought any time you have a team that plays well together, that's when you've got something. And I thought a great example on Saturday was, in the fourth quarter, when time was running down, I actually thought about making, having an onside kick. We had three and a half or four (minutes), whatever it was, and I kind of thought about it a little bit and made a decision with two timeouts that we'd cover, hopefully pin them deep, make it three and out, and get the ball back, and that's what happened.
We kicked off. I believe we pinned them inside the 20. First down, they ran the football like I thought they would. I let the clock run. I called timeout on second down, called timeout on third down. But we had to get the stop on third down. If we don't get that stop, they're going to be able to drain the clock the rest of the way. So here you have a coverage unit that does it, a defense that comes out and does it, a return unit that comes out and gets the ball advanced a little bit, and then our offense goes out and ultimately scores.
You can't ask for anything better to execute from a football, coaching, whatever. And then to have 1:18 on the clock, and they have some fundamental breakdowns. We let the quarterback outside, and, obviously, the communication, busted coverage is unacceptable, and it's something that we've definitely got to correct.
QUESTION #15: You alluded to that play again, that touchdown pass, but I don't know if enough has been talked about what set that up, the kickoff return. First of all, was the kick in the right place, and were there guys in position to make tackles?
BIELEMA: We actually missed five tackles on that execution. That exact same kick call, that exact same return that they ran was stopped, I believe on the 19-yard line, by Conor O'Neill on the second kickoff of the game. So bottom line, they executed better. We didn't tackle efficiently, and the result was the ball got close to midfield.
QUESTION #16: Bret, unfortunately for Russell, I know it's all about team here, but as far as Russell's concerned, he's dropped down in the Heisman watch ;ist. Do you think it has to do with the losses? Is that fair in your mind, or no?
BIELEMA: I think the the Heisman Trophy should go to the best player in college football that helps his team win the most games, and that's traditionally where it's gone. Russell is a big part of why we've had success. And I know it's something fun to talk about, but the least concerning thing, I'll bet you, to Russell is that. He's more concerned about wins, and how he goes about it. Believe me, from what I've seen on the field and the way NFL people are coming through here, he's going to be duly rewarded for the way he's playing.
QUESTION #17: Bret, your numbers are just off the chart on third down offensively. Do you chalk that up to fate the last two games facing better defenses? Are the numbers going to come down eventually, or have you seen anything specifically third downs?
BIELEMA: Well, I think the last two defenses we've faced, although Nebraska was very efficient as well, has something to do with those things. Again, I think you've got Russell coming up in a minute, but he's got a running back who catches the ball well. You've got a running back that can also run the ball on third down, which we've done occasionally. And then you've got wide receivers and tight ends that catch the ball very, very well, so there's a lot of options for him to go to. The key is for us to get protection, find the right read, and throw the throw.
QUESTION #18: Regarding Purdue's offense for a second, a different quarterback that you've faced last year because of injury. I'm just curious, and it looks like they use one of their wide receivers/quarterbacks as a wildcat. What sort of problems is that going to present this week?
BIELEMA: Well, kind of every team now, all of those spread teams, they all usually have what they have what we call an imposter or a wildcat, -- he just impersonates a quarterback. Each team kind of has a little package that they go to.
But, for instance, Purdue, one time lined up in that, ran a reverse to the quarterback, who's lined up as a wide receiver, and then he threw the ball down the field. You know, so it's kind of one of those, ‘Hey, make sure we've got all of our bases covered.’ Everybody's on high alert. And it's just another wrinkle that every offense has had. You know, the two quarterbacks, they do kind of have their own packages for both quarterbacks when they're in the game, it looks like.