Dec. 6, 2010
• Bielema's press conference | Carimi reacts | Captains' takes
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema spoke with the media Sunday night after it was announced that Wisconsin would be facing TCU in the Rose Bowl. A complete transcript can be found below.
Bret Bielema: Obviously very excited. I’ve been anticipating this announcement, obviously, because of where we stood, and nothing really changed in front of us, so a tremendous opportunity. I went to a Rose Bowl as a player, and haven’t been back since until last year, and I haven’t really shared the story with anybody other than I shared that with the seniors last week.
Last year, after our Miami game, had an opportunity to leave our game, hop on a plane, red-eye flight, go back to Pasadena and watch Coach [Barry] Alvarez get inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. We stayed a couple extra days and had an opportunity to take in the game, and it was very unusual for me, just because you were going to a football game that you weren’t working in.
I remember walking into the stadium, and having an opportunity to look around. I had some sideline passes. Right before the game would start, I heard somebody yelling my name in a voice that I heard, and I turned around and it was O’Brien Schofield. Went over to him and talked to him, and he said, ‘Coach, this place is unbelievable. It’s unreal. We got to get the team out here.’ I just kind of nodded my head and gave him a hug and walked away.
To come full circle a year from now and have this opportunity and to be able to take these guys out there and experience everything that goes into the Rose Bowl, one of the most prestigious places in college football will be very, very unique. Excited about the opportunity and look forward to the challenge of playing TCU. They’re a very good football team that has gone through a season undefeated, won a lot of games over the last several years. Coach [Gary] Patterson, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I’ve gotten to know him from recruiting down in Texas and see his work firsthand, and they’ve done a tremendous job to get to where they are, so it will be a very, very difficult challenge.
With that, I’ll open it up for questions.
QUESTION #1: With the offensive line, you guys have a huge size advantage over the defensive line. How much do you think that’s going to factor into, I guess, the outcome of the game?
BIELEMA: I think because of what we do offensive line-wise, one of the greatest things that came out of the All-Big Ten announcements is we had six offensive linemen get All-Big Ten, and there’s only five positions on the field. It’s never been done in Big Ten history that I’m aware of. I don’t ever really look at it, and I don’t think anybody else from our team looks at it as a standpoint of how big they are, how small they are, or how fast they are. It’s just about what they do and how we got to be able to compete against it.
They’re the No. 1-ranked defense in the country for a reason. They’re obviously very productive. I’ve seen very little of TCU just because I haven’t seen any games broadcasted and haven’t done a film exchange until today, so we’ll probably be able to answer that better maybe a week from now.
QUESTION #2: I don’t know if you can answer this, but just from what you know about [Gary] Patterson, what has he been able to do to elevate that program consistently as he’s been there, to the point it is today?
BIELEMA: I’ve actually been a fan of anybody that plays good defense; you want to pay attention to what they’re doing. And the common ground that’s been very, very clear since he’s been there is playing good defense. I think they, just from the recruiting battles we’ve had with them, they stay pretty much within the state there, within that area, and build with some good home-school talent. And they play extremely hard, play extremely tough.
I know I made reference to that, some of the NFL scouts as they came through, I just asked them, during the closing weeks here, what kind of team they were, and that was one thing that was very common amongst everybody that had seen them either play or practice is just how hard they play and how tough they are individually.
QUESTION #3: How do you keep this team focused, because it is the Rose Bowl, not only now but when you get out there to Pasadena?
BIELEMA: I think you have to educate them on it. One of the things we’ll do is kind of take bits of pieces, when we meet together as a team, and talk about how special it is, 97th game. The stadium is very, very unique. It’s just breathtaking how beautiful it is in there. We’ll go in the stadium beforehand just to make sure our kids aren’t awestruck by that.
I don’t really worry about this team being focused. One thing that this group is is they take every day for what it is. They know nothing is more important than today and work themselves through it. We’ve had success in the bowl games because we’ve handled our preparation, and I don’t think this will change.
QUESTION #4: So when you sat in the Rose Bowl a year ago thinking about bringing your own team back there, did it seem realistic, and how close did you feel at this time you were?
BIELEMA: It did. I said it in the locker room last year. Unfortunately there’s a lot of dumb NCAA rules out there. I said in the locker room after the Miami game, I said, the seniors that were leaving us that day, ‘You weren’t part of a championship season, but you laid the foundation for where we are to move forward. And when we do win a championship,’ I said, ‘I’ll buy you all a ring,’ and didn’t think that would be a NCAA violation, but now we’ve kind of found out that I won’t be able to do that. So I’ve disappointed them again, but we’ll try, maybe I’ll send them a picture of a ring.
I really felt , last year, we were on the verge of being a championship-level team. We weren’t able to close out a couple games the way we needed to, and the scars of last year, I think, propelled us to this year. Like I’ve said a number of times, when I left that Michigan State locker room, I was very, very confident that the team would respond in the right way, and to win the back-to-back games, then I knew we had something special. I really felt going into the bye week that this was a team that wasn’t going to be denied.
QUESTION #5: Bret, according to your ballot, BCS got it right. You had TCU third, you had Oregon and Auburn number one. What does that say about TCU that they’re not in the championship game and they haven’t lost a game?
BIELEMA: A lot of it is where they started probably. I don’t know if Auburn was ranked that high, but I know Oregon had a high ranking. And just as they’ve moved themselves forward, I think, you have a tremendous amount of respect for anybody that’s gone undefeated, no matter how it happens or whether they got lucky in a game or whatever it is.
Bottom line, TCU has handled their business all the way through, so has Oregon and Auburn. Only two get to play in that game. I’m very excited because we get to play the only other undefeated team in the country. I know a lot of people are going to say TCU should maybe be in that championship game. The way it all works, they’re not, so now we get to play them. It’s our own little championship game.
QUESTION #6: You mentioned you thought you were verge last year. I’m just curious if you can summarize what you think the differences were this year that put you over the top, and also do you think this was a case of maybe some guys having to learn the hard way last year in some of those losses?
BIELEMA: Yes, I think six guys in the back of the room, our six captains, they’ve not only endured the experience of last year, but the three [years] prior to that the trials and tribulations of 2008 and to put us where we are was that. The bottom line, I think there’s three keys to why we’ve been able to have success this year. The least-penalized team in college football is huge. We weren’t beating ourselves before the snap. To be where we are in turnovers and turnover margin is incredible, just the way we’ve handled that aspect of it.
Then third thing is just I think this team has an unwavering resolve. Whatever the situation is, they find a way to get themselves through it, individually, as a unit, offense, defense, and special teams, and collectively as a group. They really have an unwavering faith and a way to pull through things.
QUESTION #7: Do you expect TCU to be kind of licking their chops, as they didn’t get into the national title game, and maybe now they get that chance to prove themselves against a marquee school?
BIELEMA: I don’t ever speak on behalf of another team. I know we’re excited. I know we’ll be excited to play in a BCS game, something none of us have ever been a part of. I think for us to play a clean and a Wisconsin-type of football game will be fun to do.
QUESTION #8: Coach, do you ever look at it as kind of what if we hadn’t lost the one game, or is it it’s the Rose Bowl, it’s good enough?
BIELEMA: I get it, and I understand why people go to that. I would say that if we didn’t experience the scar of Michigan State, I don’t know if we would have been able to do what we did from there forward. Sometimes the reward of the journey isn’t the end, it’s the journey itself, and I really believe that what we went through this year from day one to get to where we are is worth everything.
QUESTION #9: You kind of alluded to this, you said this will be our little championship game. Coaches use carrots all the time, and they try to frame things. Do you paint it we’re going up against one of, what is it, three unbeaten teams. If we win, maybe we finish two, three in the country? Are those some of the things you’ll sell to your guys?
BIELEMA: Absolutely. It’s a Rose Bowl game. You’ll have a Rose Bowl champion is bottom line what it is. I told our guys, I think said this the other day, I have a Rose Bowl ring that is at my house in my little jewelry case that has all my watches and rings, but it’s nothing I would wear around because that Rose Bowl thing on the side wasn’t a winning performance. You want to carry that with you, and you want to know that it’s the championship, and that’s what’s very important.
Bottom line, I think Coach [Barry] Alvarez has put on a certain level, not only amongst Wisconsin fans, but in coaches and people that know football because they went out there and won three of them in a decade, which has never been done. So that’s probably the clarifying thing.
QUESTION #10: Bret, it’s not a surprise, but do you have a reaction to the fact that Mark Dantonio ranked Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin on his ballot in that order?
BIELEMA: Mark’s the coach of Michigan State. I’m sure he voted how the Michigan State head coach would want it to be. The only thing that jumped out to me is I’m excited because we have three teams, this is great for the Big Ten to have three teams in our conference in the top 10 in the BCS shows the strength of this conference and where we’re at. I think it’s a good thing for our league and just listening to the people talk on the BCS Countdown Show, that’s what’s come back is the amount of respect to Wisconsin. Mark, I’m sure I’ll give him a jab when I see him at the spring meetings, but they beat us fair and square, and he can have that opinion.
QUESTION #11: TCU has been carrying this [non-automatic qualifying] banner all year, yet they’re the higher ranked team than you guys. You know, they’ve got this long winning streak. Are you guys the underdogs? And that’s a role Wisconsin has played well in the Rose Bowl.
BIELEMA: Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve never really used the underdog, but I’ll just say this. I think this is a way for our program to get a lot of respect. I think to go out and win a BCS game, anytime you’re able to do that, and as much as I love the seniors that are in this room, we have a lot of good players coming back, and hopefully it’s a great way to send momentum into 2011.
QUESTION #12: Coach, you kind of touched on it a little bit with that answer, but, I mean, you said the guys from last year built the momentum, laid the foundation for things to come this year. What does a Rose Bowl berth do going forward?
BIELEMA: I think it’s big. I’ve said it a couple times, and I’m not joking, we don’t have to wait 10 years to get back to where we are. I think that once you taste this, it will be our job as coaches to make sure the guys stay hungry. It was kind of fun to, on Saturday we had a developmental practice, which is, I don’t make any of our seniors go, and we exclude some of our more premier players that have already shown to us that they can play winning football.
A lot of the seniors and guys still came to the practice. And to watch them, I kind of went around by position and I’ll say who looks good, and they can see guys and know how special they’re going to be as they continue to grow and develop. There’s a lot of that. One of the things I’m excited about to have two back -to-back Big Ten Freshman of the Year. I think it speaks well for us recruiting-wise. James [White] and Chris [Borland] weren’t the most heavily recruited guys. James was a little bit more, obviously, than Chris. But I think what we’ve got a hold on right now at Wisconsin, from my staff and our perspective, is what brings success here.
For some of you, if you didn’t see the awards show on Friday night, I can’t tell you how many people were at that banquet and said you could see how great a kids we have, and I think that’s why a lot of you guys in this room, I’ve been at places where media wants to take a shot at guys and kids all the time, but I think we’ve got good kids, and it’s hard not to like them and want to see them have a little bit of success.
QUESTION #13: Can you go back, you know, five or six years and talk about when you were recruiting Scott [Tolzien], did you, what did you see out of him and did you think he could be leading a Big Ten championship team into the Rose Bowl?
BIELEMA: I’ll be honest, the main recruiter for Scott was Coach [Paul] Chryst. I might have talked to him maybe a couple times on the phone until he hit campus. But when he hit campus you could see he was exactly what Paul described, very business-like, very focused. A man of few words, but what he said was very, very detailed. And then once he comes here, he just continued to do what he’s kind of done over the last two years. He just handles his daily business. He’s very, very determined to have success. He’s got a great awareness of where he is. It’s not a surprise to me. The thing that’s going to be nice for Scott, after this game, he’s going to have an opportunity to go on to the NFL, by everything that everybody is telling me.
The thing that those NFL people keep saying to me all along is he’s this way all the time. He’s the same guy every time on film, and he’s gotten better this year, and a huge reason why we’re at where we are today.
QUESTION #14: You’ve mentioned the lack of penalties and turnovers. How did you be so proficient in those areas, do you think? And obviously, the kids have bought into that’s how they’ve got to play to have success. Can you talk about how you’ve been able to do that?
BIELEMA: I think it goes back again to January and winter conditioning. If we’re going to start a drill, I want it to start exactly where it’s supposed to start and end where it’s supposed to end. If guys are over the line when we’re running a sprint, if we’re not finishing through the line, during spring ball, they’ll be the first tell you, if we have penalties during practice, if you have a penalty, a lot of times I’ll make you log roll 100 yards at the end of practice for every penalty you had. Just reinforce in their mind and condition that you can’t allow those things to happen. And if they do, the cumulative effect is you can change the momentum of the game and you can lose a game by being stupid on how you perform.
QUESTION #15: How much of a factor in that as well is peer pressure? Because I know coaches can say things that after awhile kids can tune out, but I think when their players get in someone’s face, it might have a little more . . .
BIELEMA: It does. I asked all these seniors, as we closed out the last two weeks of the season and going through this bowl prep, be tough love. As coaches, we can say things and players are going to be like, ‘oh, coach has got to do that.’ But if another player reinforces, if somebody jumps offsides, and I’ve heard it on more than one occasion where our offensive line or whoever, somebody will get on guys for playing stupid.
I’ll go back, I was very frustrated on the Thursday practice before we played Northwestern. We were having a two, I’m sorry, it was a Wednesday practice, and we were having a two-minute drill, and a little scuffle broke out between a wideout and a DB, and all the sudden it interrupted the flow of practice, and I was really upset. I remember when I was going to the huddle and trying to break it up, there was two offensive linemen saying, basically saying this is . . . this is unacceptable. We’re supposed to be practicing.
It kind of brought a smile to my face because it made me understand that a lot of our kids, for the most part, now those two that were involved in the fight, really upset me, I grabbed each one the next day. But the team understood the concept, that just took away from our preparation. I think that’s a big deal.
QUESTION #16: You mentioned this was a big recruiting weekend. Is it too late in the recruiting cycle to get a big boost out of the Rose Bowl for 2011? Does that come in 2012, or do you think you’ll still get a big boost?
BIELEMA: I think as the season went along, we were after certain kids. We didn’t change who we were recruiting because we started having success. I think it might help us close a couple things out, but we’re pretty secure where we’re at. Last weekend was a big recruiting weekend, as it is always because of the banquet. Our kids do such a good job in front of the mic. We try to get all of our kids that we can in for that weekend that are committed to us so the parents get a good feel for what we are.
QUESTION #17: Bret, are [offensive coordinator] Paul [Chryst] and [defensive coordinator] Dave [Doeren] , are you any closer to losing your offensive and defensive coordinators now as opposed to a week ago?
BIELEMA: I’ve got several guys that are in that position and time will tell. I’ve placed phone calls on their behalf. All of my coaches I think the world of. I think the thing I’ve learned as a head coach is you’re only as good as the people around you and the message they’re sending, and I really love the group of coaches I have, but I also understand I’ve had to replace some coaches since I’ve been here, and I think we’ve done a good job of doing that. If they are in a position to move on, and that’s what they want to do, I wish them the best of luck, and we’ll find somebody to replace them.
QUESTION #18: Coach, how many times have you dreamt of going to the Rose Bowl as a head coach, and also, I mean, in that sense, how much of a fulfillment to this of all the hard work you and the players have put in?
BIELEMA: I’m not a big dreamer, but this is what you want. You want a Big Ten championship. That’s what we wanted. I loved Culmer [St. Jean], one of his things he said, he’d love to win a national championship, but the only way you’re going to get there is to win a Big Ten championship, and that’s the process that we go through. I think our kids, Gabe [Carimi] made a point of it in one of his articles I read where he said, we didn’t talk about winning a championship or going to a BCS game, we talked about daily improvement, working on the task at hand. That’s the way this group has got to where they are, and I think not only do they know it, but the kids that return next year know that if you work every day, you win games. If you win games, you’ll go to bowl games. If you win them all in the Big Ten, you’ll go to the Rose Bowl. And if you win them all, you got a chance to play in a championship game, so that’s what it is.
QUESTION #19: Bret, there’s going to be a lot of time here in the coming days to talk about TCU, but what things have jumped out at you from whatever preliminary look you’ve had with them?
BIELEMA: I think, first off, undefeated season and really for two years. I know they lost a game last year to Boise State. To have the record that they’ve had over two years jumps out to you right away. I would say for me, just to see that their defense number one in the country and the numbers they’ve produced, in combination with, ironically, I think we’re tied dead even in scoring offense, which tells me they’re probably based, and just knowing [head coach] Gary [Patterson], I think he thinks a lot like I do. I think he’s a defensive coach by nature, playing good football, staying turnover free, and being good on special teams.