Gearing Up for the Stretch

After enjoying a lazy Sunday, No.9 Wisconsin is back in tempo. With a week filled of lighter practice and Purdue prep work, the Badgers will get refocused on next Saturday's game while the Wisconsin coaching staff tries to iron out the remaining wrinkles in its 2011 recruiting class.

MADISON - For the first time in weeks, Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema actually followed through with Sunday being the day of rest.

Waking up after his football team upset No.13 Iowa, 31-30, at his alma mater Saturday, Bielema enjoyed a couple extra cups of coffee, calmly watched the game film and watched Sunday Night Football while having dinner with some close friends.

"I told myself I wasn't going to get mad on Sunday," Bielema said.

The time for reflection was short lived, however, as Wisconsin's fifth-year coach is already in work mode, preparing No.9 Wisconsin (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) for its first of four straight spread offenses to end the regulars season, starting with Purdue (4-3, 2-1 Big Ten) in West Lafayette, Ind., Nov.6.

With the majority of the coaching staff on the road this week recruiting, including Bielema, the coaching staff gave the players Sunday and Monday off, will go light Tuesday through Friday, have off Saturday and get back to work Sunday. Even with the injuries, Bielema is taken a page out of Barry Alvarez' playbook and keep the tempo moving forward.

"During this bye week, (we'll) stay with the speed of the game, stay good vs. good, make sure our kids are playing fast," Bielema said. "We'll do that, and a combination of Purdue introduction in all three phases."

The Badgers will also look to shore up the remaining spots in their 2011 recruiting class and get a head start on identifying athletes 2012. Wisconsin currently has 16 verbal commitments for 2011 and could finish the class in the low 20s.

With the success of the last two weeks, Bielema is finding out that there aren't enough scholarships to satisfy the interest the Badgers have generated.

"The thing that has stood out the past two weeks is the exposure we've gotten and the amount of people that want to jump in our boat," Bielema said. "You always want more scholarships but since I've been here, this is probably going to be the least number of kids we can sign, and it comes on a year when you have a lot of kids that maybe want to hop in your boat. It's something we have to work through."

From the Infirmary

The coaching and training staff is in a wait-and-see mode with a number of injured players, including a couple that would be unavailable if the Badgers had a game on Saturday.

James White's x-ray was negative and has a knee sprain, but the coaching staff expects him to bounce back quickly. Lance Kendricks, who injured his ankle on a kickoff return, is in the same situation.

Peter Konz (ankle) and Nick Toon (quad) are expected back this week and Jordan Kohout (ankle) will have limited reps this week and be full go next week.

"We've always talked about the next men in here," Bielema said. "Our guys probably get tired of me talking about it because there's been so many examples."

The main example Bielema referred to was 2006, the last time Wisconsin went down to Iowa City and won. The Badgers won that game 24-21 by using back-up quarterback Tyler Donovan and back-up safety Ben Strickland, both of whom played critical rolls in winning.

"It's just something I think for us, and particularly at Wisconsin, to be able to do that," Bielema said. "we don't have enough of those sexy guys. I am excited to get them back."

Ewing Getting Angry

Starting the season with Ryan Groy in the backfield, junior Bradie Ewing, who was expected to have the job out of fall camp, saw his repetitions diminish. That has changed the last two weeks. Not only did Ewing deliver the key block that sprung David Gilreath for his 97-yard kickoff return against Ohio State, Ewing gave Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn a number of pops on Saturday.

He also caught a seven-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, his fourth career touchdown on 10 career touches.

"My guess is that he took it a little personal," Bielema said of Ewing being replaced by Groy. "Bradie Ewing is an unbelievable kid. He's so strong mentally that when that situation came up, he knew what he had to do to get on the field. He's playing very mean and aggressive in what he's doing and he's learning to block on a move a lot better."

More importantly, Ewing has changed his mentality from friendly Boy Scout to angry running back.

"Bradie's Mr. Wisconsin," Bielema said. "He could be governor here at some point. He's smart, good looking, family is great people, but it took him awhile to become mean. Last Thursday, there's a scuffle and I'm like, ‘Nobody fights on Thursday.' Bradie was mixing it up with one of the linebackers. I was just chuckling to myself that it was Thursday, we're in half pads and Bradie is getting into a shoving match."


Offensive MVPs were Scott Tolzien and Montee Ball. Tolzien finished 20 of 26 for 205 yards, one touchdown and one interception while Ball was vital in the passing game, catching a team-best five passes for 41 yards and scoring the game winning touchdown.

"I really can't say enough about what Montee did, especially after you pop on the field and see the little things he did," Bielema said.

Defensive MVPs were J.J. Watt and Ethan Hemer, who registered six tackles in his first career start.

"He did a nice job getting off blocks and making tackles," Bielema said. "The only play he was unblocked on he missed a tackle. I think he was so free, he didn't know how to react. He did a nice job using his hands and his feet to make plays."

Special Teams MVP was Brad Nortman, whose fake punt on fourth-and-four kept the game-winning drive alive.

"They are still filing out police reports, trying to find out who shot Brad," said Bielema, referring to Nortman's less-than graceful fall at the end of his 17-yard scramble. "I really think he's (taken) a step forward. Obviously it's a fake, a running play for him, but you could see the confidence in him swell."

Offensive Scout MVP was freshman offensive lineman Robby Havenstein and Defensive Scout MVP was Marcus Trotter.

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