View From the Bleachers

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema made some tough, gutsy calls in the Badgers 31-30 win over Iowa Saturday. Columnist Michael Bleach says: Be thankful.

MADISON —Anyone who has ever played a Madden football game — so any male under 30 years old — knows the feeling.

A running back falls one yard short of moving the sticks on third down, bringing up the make-or-break call of 4th-and-1. Before the coach has even thought about what he wants to do, you are yelling at the TV, "GO for it! GO for it! It is one freaking yard!"

Then when the offense stays on the field, you yell "Finally" and huff into stony silence that no sane girl friend would dare try to interrupt. If the punt or field goal units take the field, you collapse back into the chair, incomprehensibly muttering while you text your best bud what an idiot so-and-so is. It's alright, we have all been there.

For Badger fans, however, those outbursts should be a thing of the past.

Because Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has more then proven he has really freaking huge … you know … cojones.

The Badgers 31-30 victory over Iowa should be more then enough evidence to prove that.


• Down by three, facing a fourth-and-one from the two-yard line, Bielema is faced with a decision — tie the game up with a gimme-field goal or risk no points and send the offense back out there. You know what happened, the offense stayed on the field and John Clay rumbled in behind Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt for a two-yard touchdown plunge.

Just like that and Wisconsin has taken the lead, damaged the morale of the Iowa defense and given a confidence boost to the left side of his line.

"It is nice to know coach 'B' has the confidence in us to get that yard," Moffitt said before joking, "he takes enough of it out on practice that he should. The whip is longer on our side of the line."

• Trailing by a touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-four, Bielema called in the trick punt play the Badgers had designed during the week. To an outsider it seems obvious. If Iowa is only rushing two guys on the punt and sending the rest into coverage, then yeah, fake the punt and run for an easy first down.

Of course, it is never that easy.

"Whew - it was a deep breath," Bielema said

Still, Bielema had the juevos to execute the fake, something a lesser coach could not have pulled off. The Badgers game winning touchdown drive stays alive.

• Finally, a lesser noticed gutsy call, but the Badgers faced one more fourth down in the game. At fourth-and-four from the Iowa 34-yard line and UW lined up with … an empty backfield and five wide outs. Of course, it worked. Quarterback Scott Tolzien hit third-string running back Montee Ball for seven yards and four plays later Wisconsin took the lead.

Again, to an outsider, the thinking is obvious. Tolzien has been in a groove, Iowa has no film on the Badgers spreading the field, take them by surprise.

Easy to say, much less easy to call when the game is on the line.

In today's game, coaches seem to prefer to chose less effective conventional methods rather then trying to win with unconventional methods that can be backed statistically and logically in their effectiveness.

In fact, there is psychological reasons behind this. It is called Loss Aversion. Humans are wired to prefer "avoiding losses to acquiring gains." ( And yes, I just quoted Wikipedia as a credible source.

In his fifth year of head coaching, Bielema has shown the confidence and intestinal fortitude to risk public embarrassment to turn the odds of winning in his favor. This is an exceedingly rare trait and one that should be absolutely admired.

Badger Nation should be thankful to have a coach with such big…

Michael can be reached at or follow him on twitter @michaelbleach.

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