Nov. 26, 2012
• Bielema News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema met the media Monday and looked ahead to Saturday's Big Ten Football Championship Game while also offering updates on injuries and his thoughts Nebraska players.
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: I think the great thing about being able to be engaged in this week, as the last couple weeks unfolded, our kids knew exactly where they were going to be. I'm very excited about that opportunity as a head coach.
I think last year we didn't quite know where we were going to be, and one of the frustrating things was the Big Ten Conference made you turn in certain things two weeks in advance assuming that you were going to make it and that kind of goes against all the things I believe in my own mind. It was a difficult time last year. This year we made it a lot easier setting up our schedule. The events, we're a home team this year, what that all means.
I know our kids really hadn't thought about it much, but one of the things I talked them to on Sunday was the advantage we would have by being in this environment already. It's a really unique experience, more so than any other game I'd ever been involved with, bowl games or anything, just all the different little things that you have to be engaged in, in addition to playing in Lucas Oil Stadium. It's a very different stadium. It's a very, very unique environment and something that our kids have already been there.
We'll be in a different locker room. We'll actually be in the Colts home game locker room. So we get to change the venue a little bit, but our timing and all that stuff will be exactly the same.
Couple of injury updates. Great news today. All the guys from Saturday we were a little bit concerned about, Abby (Jared Abbrederis), (Kyle) Costigan, those two in particular, were very, very good reports this morning coming out of the obviously, we don't work them today, but should be limited tomorrow. We'll probably have them in noncontact for a couple of days here.
Chris Borland will go through practice tomorrow, at least against our scouts, simulating the Nebraska units as well. Those guys will be back. Brought to my attention I really hadn't thought about it much until yesterday when we broke down and started watching film of Nebraska, which included our game, this year's game, we didn't have (Pat) Muldoon and (Brendan) Kelly, two of our top three defensive ends. Didn't have Shelton Johnson, and Chris Borland an hour before the Nebraska game this year, Told me he wasn't going to be able to play, so he hadn't practiced all that week and obviously went out there and played. A true warrior. But he sucked it up.
Even though he's coming off an injury, he'll be a lot better prepared than he was in the last meeting we had. And kind of another neat thing, some guys that are very big players for us now didn't get a chance to play in this game a year ago Devin Smith, David Gilbert, Ethan Armstrong those three guys, it will be their first Big Ten Championship Game as well a number of guys on offense who hadn't really played much until this season.
Very, very excited. Obviously, some tough things we left on the field the last couple of weeks, but the fact of the matter is, I told our guys, hey, you're a 7-5 team going to Indianapolis. If you were 8-4, 9-3, 10-2, 11-1, or 12-0, you would still have to do the exact same thing you have to do this weekend, which is play Nebraska for an opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl.
I know there are ten other teams in the league that would love to be in our position. To have this opportunity is something we're going to cherish. With that, open it up.
Question: Bret, what was (Kyle) Costigan's issue in this past game, and what was the issue with (Chris) Borland in the first Nebraska game?
Bielema: In the first Nebraska game with Chris, it was a lower leg. I can't remember if it was a calf it wasn't a hamstring. Maybe it was a knee. It was a leg injury that was pretty sore, which the week before he had managed to play through the game and came back on Sunday and was real sore. We didn't practice him all that week.
(Marcus) Trotter had trained that week as a starting mike linebacker, and that morning Chris didn't think he was going to go, and then he got wrapped up in the moment, and the doctors gave him clearance.
Costy (Kyle Costigan), he's got a bad wheel, but he also I don't know if it was a full all out scale concussion, but he was a little bit foggy on some things on the sidelines. Then on Sunday they just wanted to make sure everything was correct. He's been cleared and should be 100 percent.
Question: What is the best benefit of having been through this game before for your players?
Bielema: I think two things, Tom. First off, just that it is so unusual. I didn't expect it to be as much as it was last year. The stadium itself was really a very unique thing.
They have two in the one end zone, you have a lower suite level area that players are standing in the background, and Jim Sorgi was one of the first people to reach out to me and say, hey, you want to point these things out. It's a very unique thing.
We talked to Russell (Wilson) about it, and you could see why that happened. It wasn't such a big deal. Sorgi made the point that, when it's a Colts game, have the people or three quarters of the people in that suite have on Colts jerseys, and it looks like there are 70 defenders on the field, and it was very real. I don't know how big of a factor it had, but it's something your kids don't see every day.
And the flip side of it, just playing in a rematch game. You have to obviously learn from the mistakes you made the first time and also realize the advantages you have from playing someone a second time.
Question: If Chris (Borland) gets to go, what's the important of having him in that lineup?
Question: Yes, if he goes. Especially with Nebraska's rushing attack.
Bielema: Two things will jump out at you. One, Chris is a tremendous football player, and that's something for everyone in the world to know. But he's a very, very gifted leader. When times are tough or when things aren't going your way, he has an uncanny way of making a really big play.
I remember last year in the Penn State game, he blew up a pulling guard who knocked him into a running back, sent the ball in the air, and that was a major turning point in that game. Derek Landisch, not taking away anything he did, he had a great ball game, had ten tackles, and played extremely well. It's just Chris obviously has that in game experience, playing in big games and big venues.
Question: Rex Burkhead is back after having some injury problems and was particularly dominating against Iowa. How do you perceive Nebraska will be different with Burkhead in the lineup?
Bielema: Again, he's a very, very good football player. He's very powerful. Some of their zone schemes and running attacks, he brings an element that maybe number eight and number five don't necessarily bring as far as the physicality element. I'm not saying if I'm balancing correctly, but he really brings a package to the game that's really tough to simulate. He goes at it 100 miles an hour when he's in there.
Question: Bret, your run defense has obviously been really good all year, but when you looked at the film from Penn State, what did you see run defense wise?
Bielema: There was a couple of big hits that were nontraditional runs. They made a couple of plays in the draw game. They ran a tackle trap early on that really hadn't surfaced all year, and they were bringing a back side tackle wrapping around. They kind of changed that look a couple of different times. We had to fit it exactly right. It's kind of a unique play against a spread set. Those things jumped out at him.
But our linebackers continue to come downhill and make plays. Our guys played really good defense, and there was a play, when we backed them up with a 15 yard offensive pass interference, and they completed a third down play to get it to fourth and six, fourth and seven, and they hit a crossing route at busted coverage and scored a touchdown, and on the next play they hit just a little running play for a two point conversion. That really was the key point of the ball game. That was very, very critical right there.
Question: Bret, when you made the change at offensive line coach after week two, you said you knew it wasn't going to be an overnight thing and that it would take time. At what point in the season did you start to realize that things were progressing in the way that you wanted? Was there a certain game where you realized it was looking like it did in years past?
Bielema: I made a change on Sunday, and in Tuesday's practice I knew it. I heard a couple of defensive lineman make reference to it in that first week when they were going good good, just about the different approach to coming off the football and just the physicality aspect we preach here on a daily basis.
I would say the real impact in a game I could see it coming. There's a lot of times I see things during the course of the week where I'm very excited, but you maybe don't see it come out until an exact time. I would say probably I'm not even quite sure the Nebraska game was the one, but I would say early in Big Ten play I knew we'd made the right decision, or I'd made the right decision.
Question: In a championship game like this, how much do you think momentum coming into it plays a factor in how the two teams play?
Bielema: Saturday, you're going to see two teams that have put themselves in a position to be there. Neither one are really going to give a hoot how they got there. We played two heart breakers to two of the teams that lost in overtime to two teams that we battled for the title with, unfortunately lost, and maybe that gives them justice to carry that with them because they're done playing now.
We have an opportunity to play two games in front of us, and what has not destroyed us has definitely made us a little bit stronger. I think our kids, after being around them last night, might have been more excited for a Tuesday practice at any point in the year, which is kind of crazy to think. But it isn't a false bravado.
I think this morning I've seen guys up putting in some overtime. I've just never seen that much this early in the week. So they know what's in front of them.
Nebraska, obviously, didn't have their best performance on Friday, but I don't think they're going to let that deter anything they've got coming into the stadium. It's going to be an electric environment, and one, as we know from last year's game, will be energy charged and full of emotions and energy.
Question: Last time out, turnovers played a big key between you guys and Nebraska. How important is it to force them into those turnovers this time around and preventing them on you guys' offensive side?
Bielema: In football, especially here at Wisconsin, when you win the turnover battle, you traditionally win games. We have to protect the football because they do a very good job of attacking it and ball hawking it. That's going to be a critical part.
Because it's a non weather factor game, there are certain times, when you're playing in a certain type of game, where you might say the weather is going to affect that stat a little bit. But when you're indoors, it really shouldn't. It's just being able to take care of the football and make great decisions when you're throwing it, be smart about how you catch it and obviously, defensively, take advantage of every opportunity you can get.
Question: Coach, how big of a factor is Eric Martin on Nebraska's defense? Is it important for you guys to keep him off (Curt) Phillips? Will it be pretty tough to do that?
Bielema: Yeah, he's obviously I would say a player I know he's a little bit banged up. Now he's just healthier, but he looks as fast as I've ever seen him on film these last couple of weeks. He brings a lot of energy. He's a very powerful guy that's got a lot of quickness and suddenness.
Obviously, with them not having 55 in the game, they're going to look for some other guys to make plays because he was a critical guy in our game and that played very, very well for him. It all starts up front. I think both Nebraska and Wisconsin believe in that. He's going to be a guy that we need to take care of.
Question: Last couple of days, you made a number of references to having been through this last year, where you played a team twice and then got a rematch with them in the title game. What sort of impact did it have on your preparation this year and what do you anticipate this year, having seen a team during the year?
Bielema: You know, Rob, you have to be very hard on yourself as a coach. What went wrong in that first game? A lot of times when we get done on Sunday not a lot of times. Every Sunday you put to bed that game, what you did well, what you didn't do well, what did you learn from the things you didn't do well to make yourself better this week.
It has carryover, but it doesn't. We just played Penn State, and now we're playing Nebraska. Some of the things we didn't do well against Penn State really don't apply to Nebraska because it's two different types of schemes; you follow what I'm saying? So this is a little bit unique.
Now you really have to go back to that game that's what I asked our coaches and our players to do go back and watch that game like you were watching it Sunday after we lost. We all know how we felt. Go in there and be a critical eye about what you did or didn't do well. As coaches, what didn't we prepare or prepare ourselves to do well or not do well and take it from there. You've got to be your own hardest critic.
Question: How different is Taylor Martinez now compared to when you played him two months ago? Have you seen any progression with him?
Bielema: I don't think Friday's game was a good assessment of how well he's played. I even read an article where I saw in the game he had the double gloves. I know that he was struggling with the elements there a little bit.
You know, the part that I took out of our game, which I then saw repeatedly during the course of the year, certain games jumped out to you Michigan State, a couple of the other games that he is really throwing the ball extremely well. A guy that, I think, earned the respect of all of our players after our game, just about how well he could execute the throwing game.
We all know he's a good athlete. We know he can run. But he's very, very clean and precise in his throws, his reads, his reactions, and ultimately on his throws.
Question: Obviously, Bret, Curt Phillips has had success in the two minute situation the last two games. Is there anything you can take out of those situations that could help him in other parts of the game? I'm not saying go two minute offense, but you kind of cut it loose more with him or take more chances?
Bielema: I thought it was really interesting. He had pretty good command out there, but he still really wanted at times we've let quarterbacks take over the reins during two minute if they've been here for a while. It's something I asked Curt because he's kind of done a little bit of both, but he still really wanted the influence of Matt (Canada), getting the call from the sideline and see what he saw from the box. That's a part of the coach and the player that are growing a little bit. I think that's very, very clear.
There was a play on Saturday that the two passes that led the one before, I believe, before Ped's (Jacob Pedersen) catch I can't remember who caught it but that was a call Matt saw up in the box, and called it into the right hash there and did a nice job of getting it done. We had a couple of time outs. So it was something fun to be able to have that advantage on the last one there.
You know, Curt can throw the football. When he sees it and reads it and reacts to it, I think the part that probably has shown up, in my opinion, from an old defensive coach, there are some plays where he maybe wasn't quite sure he could throw it. If you just hesitate a half second, sometimes that window can close.
In a two minute situation, you're ill afforded any of that moment of indecision. I'm sure the second the last play that he threw, obviously, was very close to being a pick, and I think he will probably go back and look at that, and what could I do better to make sure that that opportunity doesn't rise up again.
Question: Joel (Stave) and Danny (O’Brien) both played against Nebraska the first time you met. This is going to be the third quarterback you guys toss at the Huskers. Is that a benefit for you guys? What kind of benefit is it?
Bielema: Well, it's what we're living in. I don't know if it's a benefit. I think it speaks to the character of this team that three quarterbacks have played and we're in the position we're in. Everybody has kind of had a hand in it. And it's fun to see the resiliencies.
Of course, you guys aren't I don't want you on our headsets, but Danny was unbelievable on Saturday with thoughts to, not just Curt, but to the offensive coaches, what's being said down there on the sidelines, what's being relayed, again, just that was a tough game for Danny now, man. I think the world of that kid. That kid was really down to us at Penn State, could have, would haves, should haves, and all that jazz. It was probably a tough week for him because he knows where he wanted to be.
If he would have went to Penn State, if it would have been any different because obviously (Matt) McGloin had a great year. But here's a kid on the sidelines doing everything he can in his power to help us win a football game. I think it speaks volumes of those three guys.
And Joel, he came in the other day, he's ahead of schedule. He doesn't have a sling on. They're very impressed with how fast he's healing. A lot of positive things, but those three guys working together is pretty impressive.
Question: You mentioned having your players look at the Nebraska tape, look at it like it was just last week. When you look at that tape from the perspective of what they were able to do against your offense after your fast start, what are some of the things you need to do better this time for the game?
Bielema: The line of scrimmage is always a deal with us. And really third down got to be the issue, just being able to convert. It's one thing to get us in manageable situations. If it's a third and four, third and eight, it doesn't matter. We have to have success.
With an offense you're facing like (Taylor) Martinez, they're so explosive, you're going to have some series where they're going to make a play. They're a good offense. You just can't routinely shut them down.
I was going through the Big Ten stats, and we're either one or two basically in many defensive categories, us and Michigan State, where Nebraska is pretty much number one in everything in offense. It's the tale of the two tapes there.
Now it gets to be about how does that other factor work? They're very good on defense, but on offense we can do good things. I think special teams are going to be critical.
Question: Coach, I'm sure it's been frustrating with the close games that you guys have lost this season, but when you look at the game tape, is there anything in particular that really jumps out at you, particularly in the overtime games?
Bielema: Not just in the overtime period, but in those close games, we need to have something positive happen. We've been able the last two weeks to put in a game winning drive and win the put the game into overtime, but there's plenty of times when we could have scored earlier in that series, kicked a field goal, put a score on the board, and then that last series would win the game.
Yeah, there are things that are all around us. There are a lot of people in this world that worry about what you don't have. We need to concentrate on what we do have. And what we do have is a group of young men that really are resilient. They're hard working. They're very coachable, and we have to maximize that world. It doesn't do us any good to worry about what we don't have. We have to really focus on what we do have. If everybody can take that into effect, it will really help us all.
Question: You mentioned after the game, Bret, you wanted to go for two at the end of regulation, but you used your two point play on the touchdown. Do you normally go into the game with one two point obviously; you've got more than one.
Bielema: Yeah, we have three that we planned in practice and repped. Not to foreclose what number two was, but it just wasn't from what they had kind of switched to doing defensively, it wasn't going to be a great call for us. That's why we didn't go to it and didn't feel like going to number three.
So just kind of made the decision you know, we played well there at the end offensively and didn't want to go to the well a third time and not give a chance for our guys to go out there and win it on a couple of different plays rather than trying to sell it all on one.
Question: You mentioned the word revenge a little bit earlier. Is that the theme for this week or the message for this game?
Bielema: I did say revenge? I'd like to pull up the video on that. Anybody else? I don't think I said revenge. But if I did, what I had made reference to, it's a chance for our guys to play an opponent that we didn't win, didn't beat before, and that is always a motivating factor.
It's not a game as much of bad feelings or ill will or anything like that, it's just they beat us last time, and you want to win, you want to play, you want to compete. I haven't used the word revenge. If I said it, I really it's not a theme at all. I'm not trying to play off your question. It's 100 percent true.
Bielema: Rematch, yeah. Quite a bit of difference.
Question: Did you hear (Bo) Pellini's answer yesterday in the teleconference when he was asked about them being able to win close games yesterday?
Bielema: I didn't, Jeff. We went first, and I got off the telecon.
Question: He basically said, you need a little bit of luck, and you can't really identify sometimes why you do it, but he said it helps to have a veteran quarterback and make some plays. You've been on both sides and won a lot of close games at times, but this year not. What's the line that separates the two?
Bielema: I probably owe Bo a beer next time I see him. That's a good answer. I'm not going to make excuses. We've lost close games. You know, we've won close games. We've lost close games. We've lost more than we've won as of late.
I do think there is a certain amount of does the ball bounce the right way? Do you get a call? Do you not get a call? I got done with the Ohio State game and was very, very upset with the way things unfolded in overtime. I thought there were some things that could have really helped us that are outside of our control. When you don't get those, you don't get them. That was my argument to powers that be was when do I get these? Because I want to know when they come because they change your life. They change your status.
Going back to last year, we had a couple of games that things were taken out of our hands when we weren't on the field with calls and overturns and all that goes into it. You need a break here or there. I do think good things happen to good people, not that the people that we've been playing aren't good people. I want to make sure our guys understand that perseverance will prevail.
Not to get overly religious, but I'm a big believer in those who have been humbled will be exalted, and those who have been exalted will be humbled. A little bit of just lying in the weeds and waiting for our opportunity.
Question: Obviously, your line functions as a unit, your offensive line. It appeared that Ryan Groy struggled at times against that good tackle they had, and we didn't get to talk to him afterward. What was Ryan like after that game?
Bielema: I saw 47 make a lot and Jordan Hill, my only regret is I can't remember if we listed him as first string. When we do the all conference ballots, a big injustice is they let you vote for four D linemen, and the three linebackers and four. To me, you should almost slide them, especially in D liners, you'll be two inside guys and two outside guys.
Ever since I've been a head coach, they've traditionally always gone to the defensive ends because they've been kind of more prominent with stats and numbers. So I've always tried to say, hey, let's vote for two inside and two outside. This year, I thought there were probably four or five defensive tackles that deserved first string consideration and a couple of them on our roster.
So I went into that game knowing he was very good. I left that game on Sunday, when we got done watching the film, I don't know if I've ever seen a defensive tackle play at the level he did. He's strong, but he's also very, very quick. That's the part he brings to the game is he's an explosive player in a short amount of time.
Our first play of overtime, it's blocked up. Montee (Ball) is probably going to hit about the I think he'd get to the five before he was hit, and Jordan ran him down from behind. He came off a block that was pretty solid at the point. But, yeah, he played it wasn't just Ryan. I understand where you're coming from. Ryan struggled. But anybody that went against 47 had their hands full on Saturday.
Question: You mentioned things bouncing your way and waiting around for them to happen. With a quarterback like (Taylor) Martinez, do you attack him, or do you kind of wait for him to mess up?
Bielema: Taylor brings a couple different things that you have to be cautious on. He's a mobile quarterback that understands football. So in certain situations, if you bring pressure and all of a sudden he can escape that pressure, he can run for a long time without someone getting him down.
On the flip side of it, if you can bring some pressure when he's not expecting it, you think it would work on your behalf. He's a quarterback that you always got to ask yourself is, if we design a blitz or a pressure and one guy's going to come free that you feel is going to come free and make this play, you ask yourself, can he make this play? Because he can make someone miss, and all of a sudden that formula that you created with matching numbers to their numbers doesn't always work in your favor.
So I think you've got to be cautiously optimistic about what you bring to the table in order to pressure.