Nov. 8, 2010
Watch archived video of Bielema's press conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema met with the media at his Monday news conference. Among the topics, Bielema discussed the health of the team, the play of the cornerbacks, his fourth-down decisions, play along the defensive line and more. A complete transcript can be found below.
Bret Bielema: In review of Saturday's game, we gave MVPs out offensively to Montee Ball. Another great job by him in getting himself prepared and stepping in there, and then when John [Clay] went down in the second half, can't say enough about Montee and what he did. A couple other guys did nice jobs. Got Lance Kendricks in there for a little bit, and good to see Nick Toon get five catches and do some good things, but Montee was really, really special again.
Defensively, we actually gave out two awards. Antonio Fenelus, who won the Big Ten co-MVP for the entire conference, we gave [it to him]. Antonio had [nine] tackles, played really, really well, playing confident. And then Patrick Butrym, inside, our defensive tackle, probably had the best game of his career to this point and just really did a nice job of getting off blocks and making plays.
Special teams MVP went to A.J. Fenton, who starts on three of our four units, came from Erie, Penn., who isn't playing a lot of defense for us, but has really been special the last couple weeks on special teams unit. So it's fun to see him get that recognition and then offensive scout was Zac Matthias, a guard, a young player for us in our program, and then also defensive scout was Andrew Lukasko.
Saturday's game, the way it went by and then we watched it on film Sunday, was really just a good example of just believing in what you're doing, not flinching, and moving forward with the plan. I thought our guys did that in the second half and was excited to see them have that success.
Now moving into this week, it seems like it's been forever since we've been here, to have that last memory be beating Ohio State here. I think after that game, one of the things I love to do on Sunday is sit back and reflect on why we have success or if we have a setback. One of the first things I put down was the crowd, the environment that we played in in that game. I know it was a night game, and you're playing the number one team in the country, and now we're coming back to an 11:00 game against Indiana.
I think I always ask our players to prepare and act the same way and move forward. The crowd going into that Ohio State game was unbelievable. If there's any way, especially the student section. The only thing that's disheartening for me is when I go on the road and see other environments and great venues, whether it be in a couple of weeks going to Michigan, it's going to Iowa, their student section is completely full an hour before the game and how much an effect that has on that game prior to the snap.
We've been very good this year. I believe we scored on six of our nine first possessions offensively. If you're not in the seats before the first couple minutes against Ohio State, you never would have saw David Gilreath's kickoff return. So anything we can encourage students, I know our season ticket holders have a different effect. They're usually there many hours in advance, but if we could get the student section going, I think it would be a very, very special thing to close out the rest of the year. So student newspapers, hit that message strong.
With that, injury-wise, offensively, John Clay, he was actually trying to get back in the ball game there late, but just didn't feel where we was at that we needed to do that, especially the rhythm he had. We'll see exactly where he's at as the week moves through. He did have a slight MCL sprain. So he just basically, the x-rays, the MRIs came back and didn't even look as bad as possibly James [White's] from a week ago. So there is a chance for him this week.
The other guy that may be questionable for Saturday is Peter Konz. He reaggravated the ankle injury he had. But all the others, James White, Lance Kendricks, all those guys should be full go on offense. Defensively, Jay Valai was a little bit nicked up, got the emotions going, got back in there, and played well in the second half. So expect him to be full go this week, and then everybody else coming out of the game on Saturday on the defensive side were good. So hopefully we'll be a little bit healthier than we were last week.
QUESTION #1: Regarding [Peter] Konz, if he can't go, is it safe to assume that it will be [Bill] Nagy, and if it is, what do you expect from him, given what he's given you in other areas this year?
BIELEMA: Billy's been exceptional, played really three different positions, center, guard, and tight end. I think we will probably move full-go with him, because I don't think Pete's going to be ready until maybe Thursday or Friday. We'll make that move and move ourselves forward. It's been nice to be able to move him in there. We know John Moffitt can do that, but I'd rather just interrupt one position rather than multiple. But if Billy was in a situation where he couldn't go, which we don't foresee, but John Moffitt would be the next guy if Pete wasn't there.
QUESTION #2: From a cornerback standpoint, Antonio [Fenelus] and Niles [Brinkley] are not the biggest guys lacking prototypical size-wise, but how do they make up for those shortcomings, I guess?
BIELEMA: Well, they're both a little bit different. Niles is a very good athlete. He was recruited here as a wide receiver. He's got season and experience. He's really been starting now almost three years and probably playing his best football right now because he's believing on techniques, he's been coached. [Defensive Backs coach] Chris [Ash] and him, although it can be a little adversarial at times, I think they got general respect for one another, and he's playing well.
Antonio has always, when he came in, we said, `Hey, you're not the biggest guy out there. You're not the fastest guy out there. You got to play with a chip on your shoulder,' and he does that. He's a very, very good technician, understands his strengths and his weaknesses, not only himself but also within each call. Both of them, I think, have pretty good instincts.
QUESTION #3: You've talked about Ash a little bit, Chris Ash. Why, from your perspective, have the cornerbacks improved this year? And then can you also talk about the test they're going to face this week? Because if I remember correctly, Niles [Brinkley], they took advantage of Niles a little bit, Indiana did last year.
BIELEMA: As far as this year to the last year, I don't overanalyze it, other than the fact that it's a year of experience under their belt, a new coach. I hired Chris for a reason. I thought he's very good at [being a] technician, very hard on kids about the fundamentals of winning. I think anytime you're coaching DBs and wide receivers, as you know, there's been a wide receiver in the news with a lot of attention drawn to him lately. A lot of times, that's your very, I should say `bright personalities,' guys that maybe are the hardest to buy into the big picture. For the most part, we recruit great kids here that do, but it's always a difficult balance to kind of measure those things out. I think that's the part I've really noticed in especially the two corners.
The other part that's a big factor, a lot of times your corners play based off how well your safeties play. And Aaron Henry is playing really good football for us. Jay [Valai] or Shelton [Johnson] has come in and done some nice things. There's great communication back there. So how those four guys work together has a big effect.
As far as preparing for Indiana, they rank, obviously, very highly in many offensive categories, throwing the football. I believe three of their top receivers are in the top four, if not top three. I didn't see the stats this week. [Ben] Chappell has got a great ability to throw all kinds of passes, soft passes, hard passes, long, short, over the middle, outside. So it's a very difficult preparation. He doesn't get sacked very often because if he does get pressure, he's not going to take that sack. He's going to get rid of the football, whether it's complete or incomplete. He's not going to take that sack. So they're always playing ahead of the chains somewhat. So it's a difficult preparation for us. Totally different from Purdue's preparation, yeah.
QUESTION #4A: You're on a roll with your fourth down decisions, five in a row over the last three games. Does a coach obviously have to walk a line between bold and foolish there?
QUESTION #4B: And do you talk about, you said after the game your ability to anticipate has really helped your comfort level there, what's coming.
BIELEMA: I think you're 100 percent right. In the first half, we had an opportunity to maybe go for it, just felt that we weren't in rhythm, we weren't in sync, I didn't feel confident in what we were doing. A lot of times I'll tell [offensive coordinator] Paul [Chryst] on second or third, especially third down, I'll say, `Hey, you have two here,' as long as we don't lose yardage or something along that lines. But ultimately, I have to make that decision. I either tell him to go full speed ahead or back.
I think even during the course of the game, I've just noticed so many times during the past two years that there isn't a decision that's made. I already kind of know what's going to happen, and I'm going to make that. It's never a, I think if you sit there and try to make moment decisions, you're going to get yourself in trouble.
One of the great advices I got from [former head coach] Coach [Barry Alvarez] when I became a coordinator was after you're done with your series, you thought about the next series, if you had a third and long or if you had a third and short, or what were you going to anticipate calling and playing ahead of the game. And then as a head coach, I had to translate into full circle. Now I kind of have to be ahead on both sides of the ball. That's part, been the best thing for me.
QUESTION #5: Do you consider those decisions bold then and how bold do you think you are as a head coach?
BIELEMA: I can't determine boldness. I will say this, you don't call things you don't expect to have success. I think that's an important part for you to realize. As a head coach, you don't want to call a particular game-changing decision unless you have a pretty good idea it's going to have success. I don't have much doubt when I run John Clay behind Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt. To me that's pretty good decision-making.
The punt fake was something I saw, I believe, and I knew it could happen, and we executed it.
So I get what you're saying, and because they worked, they're bold. I'm sure you'd have another adjective if they didn't work. But that's probably just the way the game handles.
QUESTION #6: You mentioned Tyler Dippel before last week. You said that not being fundamentally sound was somewhat of an issue. Did he take a step forward Saturday, and then also about [Patrick] Butrym, what specifically did he do that has continued his progress?
BIELEMA: Two different situations too. Tyler is in his first year of playing. Went through adversity; he lost a relative and had to go to California, and kind of threw him out of sync, had some couple glitches earlier in the season. What I love, Tyler loves football, loves to compete, and we actually used him as a defensive tackle in certain situations. The last two or three weeks you could see it coming and developing. I remember Dan Brunner, his high school who now coaches at Whitewater, he called me when they were coming back from a game. It was neat for him because we were winning, he was listening to it on the bus, but got to hear Tyler involved in the game plan. A lot of people have their eyes on him, and I think Tyler's playing at a high level because he wants to please people. So to find him a niche is great.
Patrick Butrym on the other hand, is a guy who's played some football. He got on and off blocks, engaged and disengaged as well as he had since he's been here. That's just repetition. It's muscle memory, and the things that [defensive line coach] Charlie [Partridge] engrains in him, and he was very active. For him to be in as many plays as he was, at defensive tackle, those things don't just happen. You got to make them happen, and he did a nice job.
QUESTION #7: You're ranked a lot higher in the human polls that in the computer polls. You know, you're 5th and 6th in the human, and 10th is the average of the computer. Do you got any idea, I mean, you often say you're not a sexy team, yet you've impressed the voters. What is it about this computer rankings? And, you know, the Big Ten has four teams in the top 12 of the BCS. Wouldn't you think that, you know, you'd fare better in the computer rankings?
BIELEMA: I don't know the specifics that goes into those things. I realize somebody's got to program them, so you wonder what is going through there, exactly how they come up with their formulas. But the poll I really appreciate and respect is the coaches' poll. I do think, and I understand that, there's probably coaches out there that don't put in the time. I myself, I pride myself on doing it. They give you some guidelines.
The AP vote is always going to swing a little bit. I think the AP vote is always, I don't mean to offend you because I know you got an AP vote, but it is very reactionary. You get excited when good things happen, then you're all the way down when down things happen. But the coaches' poll seems to be consistent.
The part that was brought to my attention, us and Auburn are the only two teams that have beaten Top 15 teams this year. I realize that certain teams have had good signature wins, but for Auburn to do what they did to [Arkansas] and LSU and for us to beat number one and then come back on one week and beat Iowa there I think holds true to people that know the game. And an AP voter is included. I think they really respect, which is why we've probably stayed where we are.
But none of that matters. I know it's something to write about, and something I would be asked about, but our kids know that the way they played the first half last week, if they repeat that in the second half, we wouldn't even be having these discussions. So that's the important thing that always holds true.
QUESTION #8: Back to [Patrick] Butrym for a second, he was the only returning guy, at least at that position, coming back. Did you talk to him about his responsibility this year, both as a player and potentially as a mentor, given how much youth you've got at that position?
BIELEMA: Absolutely. Patrick and J.J. [Watt] are two guys that we singled out a year ago. [Defensive line coach] Charlie [Partridge] didn't even have a senior in his room. And for you to coach four guys, potentially as many guys as are in that room, to not have one senior is very different. We had some guys, Kirk DeCremer would be a senior and some guys fall by the wayside unfortunately due to circumstances outside of football. But we really hammered J.J. and Patrick, and they both have responded so well.
It's kind of nice J.J. is getting some recognition on these national awards. And because of J.J. and Patrick's success, it's easy to see it on the football field, but both of them are Wisconsin kids. Got a Catholic Memorial kid [Butrym] who is like a little kid in the candy store because they've advanced in the playoffs. I mean, any time when I ask a kid about his high school team, and he knows the score and the situation, I know he loves football, because he loves where he came from. J.J. Watt, as soon as he was done with practice on that Tuesday, he [went] home to watch his Pewaukee play. And, yes, his brother's on the team, but he loves football, and those things carry forward to here now.
J.J. and Patrick, when they leave here, whenever that is, they're going to want us to have success just like they did, and that's the stuff that makes this program different, in my opinion.
QUESTION #9: Bret, can you talk about what the job Ben Herbert has done with your guys the last couple of years and just build him up, especially the defensive line, the linebackers, how he's gotten those guys ready to play, especially in fourth quarter situations?
BIELEMA: Yeah. I think, and no disrespect to John Dettman, he was tremendous with me my first two years, and I would say a long career with Coach Alvarez. But Ben, I think, has really done a great job of adapting to the way kids think now, the way we prepare, the way we handle. I meet with Herbs daily about where we're at. I'll meet with him after a lifting group, `Hey, how was their energy?' and that affects how I schedule practice.
Ben engrained in their mind all summer that, yeah, everybody is going to feel great in week one, week two, week three, but how about that back-to-back weeks against Iowa and Ohio State. He can kind of say those things, because it's not football-specific with him, and he can talk about the conditioning factor. I could never say that. I could never say, `Hey, think about Iowa and Ohio State,' because I don't want them to think it's any less important than those other ones, but he can say those type of things.
[Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez] and administration has been very, very good with me to, A, put him in that position and then also be able to reward him for his great efforts, because if there's one guy in our program that all of our kids, without question, as soon as they walk in the room, believe what he's selling, it's Ben Herbert and his staff. They really do a nice job, and to be quite honest, Jamil Walker and Brian Bott have done a tremendous job as well, his two assistants.
QUESTION #10: You talked about your decision to play [Jay] Valai and then bring him back in the second half. For a senior, I mean every kid probably thinks he can play. Do you listen more to a senior, you know, who's lobbying, do you think?
BIELEMA: Yes and no, but you have to go with what you saw and Jay wasn't at his best on that first scoring drive, and [defensive backs coach] Chris [Ash] recognized that. And then Jay, I think coming out in the second half, after feeling the emotions of halftime and where the team was at and what he needed to do, wanted to hop back out there, and Chris trusted him, and he played very well.
One of the main learning experiences I shared with the team after the Iowa game was Peter Konz played that whole first half. You can't really see how a center is playing. You can see the obvious, but you don't know until you see the film on Sunday. I remember I always walk through the training room at halftime, and Pete was there, and I could tell just by his eyes and his face he maybe wasn't feeling the best, and I said, `How are you feeling?' And he kind of looked down, looked up, and that's when I went in to [offensive line coach Bob Bostad] and said, `Hey, I don't know where Pete's at.' But Pete had the knowledge as a sophomore, and in this conference race, to realize he may be a detriment in the second half. And for him to say that, and for us to be able to plug Billy [Nagy] in there, for us to get that win, you never know how much of a factor that was. So I kind of use both sides of that scale.