Nov. 15, 2010
• Watch the news conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema with the media on Monday at his weekly news conference. He talked about the challenges presented by this week's opponent, Michigan. A complete transcript can be found below.
Bret Bielema: After getting a chance to watch the film on Sunday, I know coming out of the game, someone sees a score like that there are a lot of different ways to take it. But when you put on the film, the part that jumped out was in the second half, the guys that we had play. We played 11 defensive linemen. We had a lot of guys get in there and get valuable game experience that if we have to use them down the road this next two weeks or not is to be determined, but guys just came in and played very, very well.
The guys we recognized out of our starting group, offensively really had some guys play well, but we gave it to Bradie Ewing. This is a guy that, from game one to where he is today, is playing as good of football at that position since I’ve been here, and we’ve had some good ones there, so he’s really doing nice work. It was nice to see the conference give recognition to James White again. He was the Freshman Big Ten Player of the Week, and I think that’s the third time he’s received that honor. Hopefully that will pay off for him down the stretch.
Defensively, we gave it to two guys, Aaron Henry and J.J. Watt. J.J. only played 34 snaps, but was very productive with the two fumble recoveries, two tackles for loss, and did a nice job. And then Aaron Henry, with the pick six to end his day, was a very special moment for him. We said in this game, we thought that the free safety would be able to get involved in a lot of plays. Chris Maragos made several interceptions last year. That gassed Aaron up pretty good, and he came through.
Our special teams MVP was David Gilreath, who is really doing a nice job for us in the return game, setting things up, and giving credit to the other guys, because a lot of guys have done good things for him.
Defensive scout, Jake Irwin, whose alma mater, Waunakee, will be coming here to the stadium at the end of the week for state playoffs, but Jake is going to be a good player in our program. And then our offensive scout, I can’t remember right now. Who? Ike Williams, Isaiah Williams. Yes. Ike, actually, was a kid that was committed to Purdue and came our way and has really shown during fall camp, he’s probably a wide receiver that’s going to be able to step up big for us next year. So those are the guys we recognized.
Now on to Michigan. Brought our guys over Sunday, really had the same plan that we did the last three weeks, getting them. Physically we didn’t take them on the field Sunday; gave them today off. Tomorrow they’ll come in, get the game plan, and move forward.
Michigan, offensively, is scoring a lot of points, moving the ball a lot of different ways, playing extremely well. Defensively, they probably played, just this last game was one of their best games defensively, and as we all know how tough it is to go up and play at Michigan. It’s a great challenge, and it’s a way that I think our guys can block out all the other stuff that’s going to be thrown at them and just focus on playing in a great environment in college football.
So with that, I’ll open it up for questions.
QUESTION #1: Bret, Michigan played the same way for a long time. You’ve played against them, coached against them. How different is the challenge now than it was prior to Rich Rodriguez coming there?
BIELEMA: I would say even in Lloyd [Carr]’s last few years, they had gone to kind of a different offensive philosophy. If you remember, I believe there was one game where we commented there was over 40 different formations. So they really have become a little bit more multiple. Obviously, the change that Rich brought has been a completely different venue, but they’re clicking on what he believes in and what he coaches as well right now offensively as any other time during his time there, from what I’m seeing.
QUESTION #2: What’s the plan with [John] Clay and [Peter] Konz this week in practice?
BIELEMA: Good point. Clay is still kind of a yet to be determined. I haven’t seen him today, but yesterday he was moving as good as he has. I don’t know if we’ll have him for Tuesday, but do expect him to get a limited amount of work this week. Pete felt a lot better. We really didn’t use him at all last week, just let him rest. So if he can go, right now it would probably be more of a reserve, still kind of just go forward with the plan with Bill [Nagy] at center, unless Pete really comes on.
QUESTION #3: Can you address, you know, preparing, they’ve been, especially against Purdue, they used [Denard] Robinson and [Tate] Forcier, just the different problems both of those guys . . . because they’re not the same player.
BIELEMA: They’re not the same, but there are some different play calls, but they don’t get in different sets or different philosophy, and I think they expect them both to know the plan, move them forward. But I think, as always, you’re going to play the player strengths that are in there, and it is a little bit of a challenge.
QUESTION #4: What are the different challenges that [Denard] Robinson presents, maybe that [Tate] Forcier doesn’t, and vice versa?
BIELEMA: Robinson, to just qualify the two, everybody wants to talk about him running the football. He looks very special doing that, but I know he’s had some picks, some bad decisions, but he’s got a live arm. Because of what he can do in the running game, really throws your secondary and linebackers, a lot of times, in isolated coverages.
Forcier, we had him in camp. He is a shifty guy as well. He can move. He’s a savvy kid that’s got good ball skills, and I think he brings a component where he kind of is the unknown. Denard, you know what’s going to come at you. Forcier seemed to make a lot of in-play game adjustments and decisions.
QUESTION #5: What did [Purdue’s Ryan] Kerrigan do against [Michigan] that allowed him to have so much success? Was that just a great individual effort or can you take anything away from that film?
BIELEMA: As we all know, Ryan’s a great player. Because of what they were doing, a lot of times, he was in some isolation, blocks, that one-on-one, and he took full advantage of it. He was a guy that really seemed to be revved up for that game. Just knowing Purdue’s record, and here’s a guy that’s going into his last couple games as a Big Ten football player, and you saw the best in him.
QUESTION #6: Bret, it’s a luxury I’m sure you like having, but if John [Clay] is available to play, do you have a challenge trying to use three backs or do you go back to focusing on using two? How do you make that work?
BIELEMA: Yeah. I don’t know if we’ll have that three-head thing this week, because John, I think, won’t be at full strength. But when that situation does pop up, whether it’s in the next game or in the bowl game opportunity, it’s something you got to be smart about when and how you use them. I think it’s hard to get three guys in rhythm all the way through, but you can definitely go a strong two and the third one comes in with his needs, kind of like what we had going with John and James [White], and then Montee [Ball] came in to surface at the end.
QUESTION #7: You’ve said before that you’ll point out to your guys on film maybe some areas that you can take advantage of. I think with Arizona State it was penalties that they were doing. Michigan seems to be turning the ball over a lot. You guys are forcing turnovers now. Is that something you have shown or will show this week?
BIELEMA: Yeah, definitely. We made a big point of it on Saturday’s game, for instance, about ball security and taking care of the football and the exchanges, the snaps. We repped like crazy wet-ball drills on Thursday and Friday with our specialists to try to get them used to being in that position. Bottom line, on Saturday Indiana had some turnovers, we didn’t. I think it was a point of emphasis that our guys carried forward to the game. Michigan had five turnovers on Saturday, and I know our guys will be aware of it.
QUESTION #8: You’ve played them since, but since it’s the first time we’re going back to Big House since, can you use that as motivation still, does it not, does it not even factor into the equation? Some of the guys obviously on the team weren’t even around then.
BIELEMA: Right. I think it’s kind of what we’ve drawn from the past; it’s a part of our history. You have to embrace the negatives and the positives experiences that you have and grow forward. I mentioned it briefly on Saturday to the guys; I don’t think we’ll use it much during the course of the week except for another great example of how hard it is to win in the Big Ten on the road.
This is a different team. It’s a different set of senior leadership. It’s a different group of coaches. We’ve all grown from that day, and the best thing that, again, I think that this team really embraces, and the Michigan State game happened for a reason, whatever it was, we had to learn from that day. If we just left everything in East Lansing, we’d never be where we are today. We learned from that experience and grew, and I think that’s the true sign of a good man.
QUESTION #9: Did you ever think you’d see a Wisconsin team averaging 40 points a game, and what do you think all has gone into that?
BIELEMA: Two things. First off, I always remember this day, my first year as a [defensive] coordinator, [offensive coordinator] Paul [Chyrst] wasn’t here, and Coach [Barry] Alvarez, when he hired Coach Chryst, kind of had given me a little background information on him and was very impressed when I saw him work practice. What you’re seeing on Saturdays is what I see every day. I thought there was an interesting comment, I don’t know who interviewed [defensive coordinator] Dave [Doeren], but Dave basically said, “I’m not surprised because I see it every day.” It’s not by chance that this offense clicks.
Paul puts together a plan with a group of coaches that I think really believe in what we’re doing, and it’s done 365 days a year and the result is. The most gratifying thing to me Saturday was when the twos went in and did what they did, and when threes got in there, when your fifth-string quarterback went in there and had success, your fifth-string tailback, it’s not just a one-string thing. It’s a program thing. That jumps out. And then just the decisions that Paul makes in the red zone. I know a lot is being said about how successful we are.
I developed this relationship with Paul, defensive, offensive coordinators always kind of have a little grudge match going during spring ball. Coach Alvarez’s philosophy, he kind of just let us, Paul and I would say, “hey, what do you want to work today?” and I remember it was the red zone scrimmage. I’m like, “yeah, whatever you want, I’ll gladly do it.” I had been playing our base defense, and they, for two periods, beat the living snot out of us defensively. And it was a whole new offense that was thrown in this red zone, and he didn’t give me any forewarning that this was going to happen.
I kind of said, “Okay, Mr. Nice Guy Chryst that everybody talks about.” He really has an uncanny way of scheming things down there that is very successful.
QUESTION #10: Bret, did Nate Tice show you enough on Saturday that he could replicate Denard Robinson on your scout team?
BIELEMA: Yeah. He will stay signaling down on the big end. He isn’t going to, that is a tough challenge for us this week. It was fun to see Nate get that opportunity because he is a guy that a lot of kids respect. [Offensive coordinator] Paul [Chryst] made the call, just thinking we’d keep the ball alive. Those guys that were playing there, Jake Current, who handled the snaps the entire fourth quarter, is really our fifth-string center, fourth-, fifth-string center. He never practiced one snap last week of Indiana prep. He was being the center that Indiana was against our defense.
Kyle Zuleger same deal. He’s down there as a scout team running back. Those guys that were playing didn’t have any reps against Indiana’s defense. For them to go out and have success was very rewarding as a coach.
QUESTION #11: Who will run the scout team quarterback as Denard Robinson?
BIELEMA: Well, Joey Brennan does a majority of it, but then what we’ll do is put Jeff Lewis in at quarterback, like when Terrelle Pryor, when we were playing Terrelle. So we’ll probably mix in running backs or wide receivers at the QB position.
QUESTION #12: To kind of go back to your comment about learning at Michigan State and winning on the road, that punt return at Michigan State seemed to swing the momentum and you guys never got it back. But at Iowa, is that where you saw the difference, where it was a back and forth game, and I don’t think you guys ever, you were able to take the momentum back I think it was four different times in that game.
BIELEMA: Yeah. I would say that and just staying true to what we do. I think at Michigan State, when there was some adversity, guys kind of looked around and didn’t know how to handle it. You even saw it maybe early on in the Purdue game, but then all the sudden they snap in and play the way we coach them to play for the entire year, and that’s when good things happen. I think you’re right on; to be able to withstand those momentum swings in Big Ten road games is huge.
QUESTION #13: Back to the offensive prep, we always joke on Thursdays how long it’s going to take you to get to interviews, how long the offensive coaches are going to keep them. I know Tuesday and Wednesday are the heavy workload days, but how sharp do they have to be on that Thursday at the end before the coaches are satisfied?
BIELEMA: As coaches, you always want to be sharp, but I tell you, I’ve walked off the practice field and watched a great Thursday practice and you go out and don’t play well and vice versa. I think a lot has to do with Friday and Saturday. I made the decision when I took over to coach on Fridays to actually practice. I was at Kansas State, we won 11 games both years, and we never practiced one Friday in my entire two years there. So it’s kind of a philosophy thing, what your kids want to snap into.
I remember there was a time last year when I tried to cut down Friday’s practice a little bit, and Scotty Tolzien went bananas and wanted to stay out there and throw the ball 20 more times. So you kind of got to play to the personality of your players. And for our guys, they are perfectionists, and that’s why I think they want those reps.
QUESTION #14: It seems that in the polls the voters, whether it’s coaches or media, all seem to have high regard for you and for the other Big Ten teams. The computers, not so much. Have you been able to figure out what it is the computers don’t like about you and the rest of the Big Ten teams?
BIELEMA: No. We kind of hit on that last week. I think you should, if there’s any way you could find out who’s programming those computer polls, that would be a neat story within itself. But I think that the human element factors in scores. I pointed that out last week. I’m not saying that because we just scored 83 points. I’m talking more like when teams get beat by a certain, two good teams playing head to head. I’m sure the way that the games break down have more of an effect on the voter because he sees the reality of it, where I think the computer is just strictly just off of who wins and who loses, and that doesn’t come into play as much.