"There was a lot of frustration after the [Nebraska] loss, but the coaches really helped the players to channel it," an observer said.
During the week leading up to Ohio State, the coaches told the team they were "opening up some things" and "wanted the players to have more fun out there." The squad not only worked the Wildcat, but saw some additional blitzing packages worked into the practices.
As one observer said, "Scrap (interim head coach Tom Bradley) talked about taking risks and playing to win. I think he got some criticism for going for it on fourth down (and getting stopped). But it showed this team that he is a believer. I think that got everyone to play a little harder."
So what is the state of the squad this week? Here are some answers to some pressing questions:
How is the mental state of the squad?
"That [OSU] win helped a lot," an observer said. "Playing loose was a big part of the win, which gave everyone a boost."
Many observers point to Bradley "finally making the call" with Matt McGloin at quarterback as another significant move. "That has been a frustration. I think as simple of a call that it was, it sent a strong message to the players."
So, is McGloin still the starter?
Yes, McGloin has seen the majority of first-team snaps in practice this week. They have worked in Ron Bolden a bit, but basically "when Matt needs a break or they want to review something with him." Observers also expected Bolden to walk through the game-opening script for Wisconsin in Thursday's practice, but that is something the second-teamer does every week.
What has Bolden's reaction been?
"He's not happy with it, but everyone realizes the chips are down and the staff has to do fundamentally what is best for this team," an observer said. "How he responds after the season? No idea, and I don't think that is really on anyone's mind right now, to be honest."
How were practices this week?
With the holiday week, the schedule shifted up a bit, but the players put in some "grueling" practices. According to one observer, "It was the toughest we've probably had since early season. A lot of contact and extra focus on special teams and tackling." The only day with full pads, however, was Tuesday. So the coaches tried to get the most out of the hitting that day.
Where does the running game stand?
Silas Redd is still recovering from a bruised collarbone. But he was out of the cross jersey Tuesday, meaning he was involved in contact.
The injury limited Redd's carries to eight against the Buckeyes. The coaches are hopeful Redd will be able to do more against the Badgers. In his stead, Stephfon Green has continued to see first-team work.
How is Devon Still's health?
Still revealed to FOS earlier in the week he was battling the flu against Ohio State, which impacted his play. "I felt I had to be out there for my team, though."
"That's just the type of player he has become," an observer said. "Devon has grown so much; he's been amazing to his teammates and coaches."
Still is said to be recovered and 100 percent and has practiced this week.
Are the coaches working in new wrinkles into practice?
In a word, yes. They have continued working with the Wildcat, and are also "working some changes on defense" with some looks and personnel.
Most observers feel that Bradley realizes he will "have to take some risks in this game," but he also believe he "has the horses to play Wisconsin's offense, if they keep Wisconsin guessing."
What is the player-reaction to the idea Bradley may not get the head coaching job?
"It's upsetting to a lot of guys," one observer said. "He's shown what kind of man he is through this. He could be out making calls to find his next gig, and he only cares about us."
Bradley, who is already known for putting in extra hours, has been "working like a dog — taking in extra film, reviewing plays and working the scheme."
As one observer said, "A lot of guys are hoping he ends up [with the permanent job], but this is working to his advantage. Guys are going all out for him. If he asked the players to run to Madison, I think they'd simply ask him to point the way."
How was Penn State handling the Thanksgiving holiday?
With students away on holiday break, the staff took the team to a movie Wednesday night, renting out an entire theater. Thursday saw a brunch and then early practice (no pads). Later in the day, the players were scheduled to have a holiday meal with coaches, support personnel and their families.
Anyone not making the trip to Madison was excused following Wednesday's practice, so they could spend Thanksgiving at home with their respective families.