Nov. 8, 2013
BY MIKE LUCAS
Wisconsin outside linebacker Brendan Kelly seemed amused to hear that Vince Biegel was the subject of so much media attention after Wednesday’s practice.
To amuse himself, Kelly had purposely gone up to Biegel earlier in the week and asked if he had any extra tickets for Saturday’s game against BYU at Camp Randall Stadium.
“I knew he wasn’t going to have any,” said Kelly with an impish grin.
If you don’t already know the Biegel storyline, you haven’t been paying attention. Biegel has been the go-to interview for every media outlet in the state because of his family ties with the Cougars.
It all started with his dad Rocky Biegel, a legendary high school athlete in Wisconsin Rapids. Not only was he the state player of the year in football, he was a two-time state champion in wrestling.
As a senior, he won every match with a pin.
Rocky Biegel could have gone anyplace in the country to play football. As it was, BYU was an easy choice over Wisconsin which was embarking on the second-year of the ill-fated Don Morton era.
“I watched some old black and white film on him,” Vince Biegel said. “He was more of an inside linebacker, kind of a battering ram. I’m more of an outside linebacker and more of a finesse guy.”
In 1991, Rocky Biegel had 192 tackles, the second most for a single season in school history. Biegel ended up with 371 career tackles, a mark that still ranks fifth all-time at BYU.
“Obviously there are a lot of people from (Wisconsin) Rapids who are always comparing me to my father,” said Vince Biegel, the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Wisconsin in 2011.
“At the end of the day, he always wanted me to be my own person, whether that is with football, hockey, track, whatever. He actually told me, ‘Be yourself, be your own person.”’
If he needed more encouragement on this front, he could get it from his uncle, T.D. Biegel, a BYU fullback in the early ’90s; or his granddad, Ken Biegel, a high school coach for nearly four decades.
“There will be quite a lot of family and friends there (Camp Randall) rooting mostly for Wisconsin, I hope,” said Vince Biegel, whose brother, Hayden, is a UW freshman offensive lineman.
“I kind of knew early-on from my recruitment that they would be playing in 2012,” Biegel said of the Badgers and Cougars. “Everybody has their own path. My dad’s path then was to go to BYU.
“It was the best thing for him -- just like it has been for me to come to Wisconsin.”
Some of Rocky Biegel’s former BYU teammates are expected to be in attendance, including Shad Hansen, the career leader in tackles. Ty Detmer, the 1990 Heisman winner, was also invited.
“I’ve been kind of looking forward to this game all year; it has been kind of in the back of my mind,” said Vince Biegel. “But I’m going to try and approach it like every other week.”
Good luck with that. Biegel’s demeanor can best be described as “excitable” at times. But he has begun to harness some of the energy but not at the expense of what makes him special on the field.
“If you want to be a good college football player, you have to have a high motor,” Biegel said. “That’s what I try to embrace, on and off the field, with the weights, the game prep and the film.”
Biegel has relied heavily on the experience of Kelly, a sixth-year senior. Kelly said Biegel can be guilty of “trying to do too much” but he also said, “Vince has come a long ways this season overall.”
Biegel’s game is maturing, Kelly suggested. In this context, certainly, you don’t want to discourage anyone from playing with energy or playing excited or playing with a high motor.
“It’s finding that balance,” Kelly said, “between when to power up, when to power down; when to slow down, when to speed up. Sometimes too fast is not a good thing.
“Too slow is not a good thing, either.”
Nobody has accused BYU of going “too slow” this season. Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall committed to a high-tempo offense when he tabbed Robert Anae as his playcaller.
Anae has been influenced by two “speedsters” -- Rich Rodriguez at Arizona and Mike Leach at Texas Tech. UW defensive coordinator Dave Aranda was a graduate assistant on the Tech staff with Anae.
How fast is fast for BYU? In a 47-46 win at Houston, the Cougars had 115 plays.
The Badgers had 64 plays in last Saturday’s 28-9 victory at Iowa. The Hawkeyes had 72.
BYU’s tempo ranks favorable with Arizona State’s. The Sun Devils ran 93 plays against UW.
“We’ve had a little introduction to that (tempo) with Arizona State,” Kelly said. “But Arizona State wasn’t a representation of what we want to do this Saturday at all.”
ASU won the disputed game and had 468 yards of total offense; a season high for an opponent.
“It’s kind of an eye-opener when you prepare for a team like Iowa one week,” Kelly said, “and you come back the next week and you’re playing the exact opposite type of offensive team.”
Simplicity on defense is one of the keys, Kelly proposed, along with execution.
Echoing what Aranda has said about the Arizona State game plan, Kelly noted, “You can’t have a million different packages, you can’t have a million different checks because there’s not enough time.
“When they’re going 10 seconds or less between snaps, you have to be able to run on the field and play the defensive call without a lot of checks.
“The biggest thing is letting us line up and letting us play against these guys. You want to be able to go man-on-man and see who the better team is.”
Kelly has nothing but respect for BYU quarterback Taysom Hill. “He’s not only a fast guy but he’s a big guy (6-foot-2, 221),” he said. “He can do a lot of different things; running and throwing.”
Communication is always vital on defense, but even more so against a tempo offense, when making personnel substitutions, or adjusting defensive packages to down-and-distance situations.
“Half the time, you’ll see four or five guys sitting on the numbers every single play,” Kelly said, “and if they’re not running on the field, they’re running to the sidelines.
“It’s similar to what we did against Illinois and Northwestern.”
Is it similar to line changes in hockey, a sport that both Kelly and Biegel played as preps?
“Similar,” Kelly said. “Except this might be a little faster than hockey.”
• • • •
During practices, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen will routinely position himself a few yards behind his punt returners and engage them with conversation between kicks.
“He’s talking to all of us, ‘Let’s go, let’s catch them all today,”’ said Kenzel Doe, a kick return specialist. “Just his presence there, I’m like, ‘All right, he’s the head coach, I can’t drop the ball.’
“So you wind up focusing a little bit more on trying to change the punt and on catching the ball, just so you can impress him and he’ll throw you out there during the game.”
Doe wondered if he might not be taken out of the game at Iowa after misplaying two punts
“I definitely did think about it,” he said. “After that second one (punt), I thought, ‘Man, I messed up again, I know they’re going to put Abby (Jared Abbrederis) back there.’ I just kind of expected it.
“But he (Andersen) put me back out there and I felt like I did a good job the next time.”
Andersen had a direct response Monday on whether Doe would continue to return punts.
“He’s done a great job all year long,” Andersen said. “We had a couple get caught in the wind (at Iowa). I don’t know how to practice that; I don’t know how to help Kenzel in that situation.
“But we can help him with his decision-making process. I’ll look back at myself and try to create some of those situations in practice to help the young man.
“It matters to him, he cares a lot and he’ll be back there doing it for us (against BYU).”
A nasty northwest wind, registering 13 mph at kickoff, played havoc with kicks in Iowa City.
Punting into the wind late in the second quarter, Connor Kornbrath’s kick traveled only 36 yards. It bounced short on Doe and almost ricocheted off UW teammate Dezmen Southward, who was blocking.
“I saw a line drive kick,” Doe explained, “so I was expecting it to one hop right to me where I could catch it and go. I wouldn’t have to worry about calling it (the return) off.
“But the ball bounced more straight in the air and by the time I tried to call it off, it was a little bit too late. I should have called him off as soon as I saw the line drive.
“You’re calling out ‘Peter, Peter’ and giving hand signals. A majority of the time they don’t hear the ‘Peter’ call because of the crowd noise. That was on me.”
Punting with the win on the first possession of the third quarter, Kornbrath got off a 38-yard punt that was mishandled by Doe and recovered by Southward.
“Usually punt returners are at 40 yards,” Doe said, “but they backed me up to 50-55. We were expecting a deep kick with the wind and he kicked a line drive that was short.
“I was trying to run up there and catch it (on the fly) and not make the same mistake that I made the first time and it still cost me. I definitely learned a lot from that game.”
BYU, meanwhile, will have to learn to live without its No. 1 punt returner, JD Falslev, who has been sidelined for three to four weeks with a broken hand.
Falslev was averaging 10.4 per return and had a 71-yard touchdown against Middle Tennessee. Falslev’s loss will also be felt on offense. He was BYU’s second-leading receiver with 23 catches.
During the Cougars’ bye week, Falslev, a 5-8, 175-pound senior, was injured while on the Flow Rider wave simulator at the indoor Provo Beach Resort. He had surgery on his hand the following day.
Mendenhall didn’t have a problem with what he was doing. He told The Salt Lake Tribune, “It could have happened dropping his books and falling down in the snow or something.”
Labeled an “avid surfer,” Mendenhall added, “I felt bad that it happened but after riding maybe 30 waves or something, sometimes that happens when you get on the board.”
Many Badgers fans may be surprised to learn that Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in kickoff return average (26.5) in conference games only.
“We talk about it in meetings and even before the game,” said Doe, who’s averaging 27.8 yards on 10 returns, including a season-long 54-yarder at Illinois. “We take a little pride in it.
“It’s not just me. When I’m running back a kick and the hole is wide open, you have to give it up to the people who are blocking. I just follow Zoo -- where he goes, I go.”
Zoo is Kyle Zuleger, who is Doe’s personal “protector” and lead blocker on kickoff returns. “He’s like a special teams All-American,” Doe said. “He’s going to sacrifice his body for the team.”
Zuleger’s primary role is to instruct Doe on whether he should return a kick from the end zone.
“I’m listening to Zoo as the ball is coming to stay or go,” Doe said. “Sometimes I’ll tell him, ‘If the ball is at the top of the letters, let’s go.’ It’s basic communication between me and Zoo.
“If I catch it, and I hear ‘Go, go’ then we’re gone.”
Doe has seen enough of BYU on film to know “they’re not a team to sleep on.” He also knows, “If you can win a majority of the special teams reps, you have a good chance of winning the game.”
• • • •
Some are scholarship players, some are walk-ons, some are projects.
All are offensive linemen on the UW scout team that operates against the No. 1 defense.
After most practices, you can find this group of players drilling with Josh Oglesby, a former All-Big Ten offensive tackle for the Badgers. Oglesby, 24, is now a graduate assistant coach.
Oglesby’s overtime sessions will last for about 15 to 20 minutes.
“I don’t want to grind them, they’ve just had a long practice,” he said. “Sometimes we get caught up in the teaching part more than the actual doing and we end up being out here a little longer.
“The guys are like sponges, they want to soak up everything they can. They ask a lot of questions, which is good.
“I think they like it because they still feel like they’re part of the offense and not just an extension of the defense with being on the scout team.”
There’s another positive byproduct of the post-practice workouts.
“It helps build confidence for them,” Oglesby said, “and at this position (O-line) confidence is so big. Just knowing that you can go out and block that guy is a big deal for our group.”
Wisconsin is known as a developmental program and this is another example.
“We’re just trying to give these guys a jump-start into spring ball,” said Oglesby, “when they’ll really have an opportunity to compete for positions and learn the offense.”
Oglesby has enjoyed his exposure as a coach to younger players, especially the “opportunity to mold them in some way and kind of give back to a game that gave so much to me,” he said.
As a player, Oglesby was in some loud stadiums, so he has seen first-hand how a noisy crowd can have an impact on the road team’s offensive line, particularly a no-huddle offense like BYU’s.
“It’s a huge factor,” he said, “for those on the perimeter -- the tackles and tight ends. When everything is communicated on the line, it makes it difficult, especially on third downs.”
Noise was not a factor the first and only previous time these schools met. In 1980, BYU’s Jim McMahon led the Cougars to a 28-3 victory over the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium.
McMahon completed 22-of-34 for 337 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a score. Not much flustered him, though he had to call a timeout when his teammates couldn’t hear his cadence.
It came in the fourth quarter and the crowd was reacting to the pom pon squad and the Portage Plumber, a Camp Randall mascot during an era of some really bad football.
Back then, if the crowd noise was excessive for the road team, the quarterback could turn to the referee and request some relief. McMahon followed the protocol but he was directed to take the snap.
So he called time instead.
That same year, it was handled much differently by a different referee in a Big Ten game between Michigan and Wisconsin in Madison.
The Wolverines drove to the UW 4-yard-line where they faced a fourth-and-1.
Michigan quarterback John Wangler stepped up under his center to call signals, but backed off and complained to the referee that his teammates couldn’t hear because of the crowd noise.
Most if it was emanating from the students in the north end zone of Camp Randall.
Seven times, Wangler stepped to the line. Seven times, the students roared. Seven times, Wangler threw his hands in the air and walked away from center.
The Badgers were warned twice -- an announcement was made over the PA system -- and then stripped of all of their timeouts, one by one. That was followed by two delay-of-game penalties.
Wangler eventually took the snap -- some 10 minutes after his initial refusal to do so.
The rule was summarily discarded. Feel free to yell your lungs out Saturday.