When the Badgers take on the Horned Frogs in the 97th Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Wisconsin will be trying to stop the ninth-ranked offense, averaging 491.5 yards per game, and the fifth-ranked scoring offense, putting up an average of 43.2 points per game.
It'll certainly be a challenge, which was why Bielema was pleased with the duel text messages he received after Thursday's practice when he was attending the College Football Awards Show in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with left tackle Gabe Carimi and running back John Clay.
Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, using UW's fourth-ranked scoring offense (43.3 ppg), and defensive coordinator Dave Doeren, whose unit held Michigan's sixth-ranked offense (500.9 per game) to 442 yards and 24 points, took charge of practice and, according to Bielema, certainly got the most out of their players.
"Dave and Paul both texted me, were very excited about the way practice was," Bielema said. "Saturday's developmental practice was awesome. I was amazed the way (Sunday), Scott's timing was on."
Tolzien timing is rarely off. The senior currently holds school records with a .685 career completion percentage and a 154.4 quarterback efficiency rating. He also ranks fourth at UW with 5,112 career passing yards and 398 completions, sixth with 32 career passing touchdowns and seventh with 581 attempts.
He's also won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, given annually to the top senior quarterback in the country.
Bielema, who has gone on record saying Tolzien would make a great coach, spent roughly 10 minutes Sunday during individual drills watching the quarterbacks. What he witnessed was the constant encouragement from Tolzien to the younger players, like freshman Joe Brennan, the highly-touted thrower from New Jersey.
"I don't care what quarterback threw a ball, Scotty would say, ‘Nice throw,'?" Bielema said. "He'd give coaching points on every throw the QBs were making. I think it's been great"
With Tolzien graduating after this season and with sophomore quarterback Curt Phillips recovering from a knee injury, the Badgers have been incorporating Brennan into different things, including putting him on the travel roster, to get him accustomed to the preparation needed to succeed.
"Obviously that's a position that's going to be up in the air when the season's done," Bielema said.
The Growth of Henry
Although he was named an honorable mention freshman All-American and named UW's co-rookie of the year as a cornerback, Bielema originally wanted to move Henry to safety at the beginning of his career, but was convinced otherwise by former defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks.
After Henry struggled at the corner position a year after suffering a torn ACL, Bielema made the move to safety, a move that rewarded Wisconsin in its championship year.
Starting all 12 games, Henry established a career high with 53 tackles and returned two interceptions and one fumble for a touchdown, a big reason he was a second-team All-Big Ten selection.
"The way he played all year, I was hoping he would get first team," Bielema said. "He's so strong mentally. He's got three (touchdowns). Some guys go their whole career (without one) and he has three in a year. I really do believe in good karma. He's one of the greatest kids in our program and good things happen to good people."
Extra Points: Bielema was also encouraged that other than the players out indefinitely with surgery, everyone should be available for the game, including Clay, Lance Kendricks and Antonio Fenelus … Bielema said with UW losing four senior wide receivers, freshman Manasseh Garner, who was recruited as a H-back and has played defensive end this season, will be moved to receiver permanently … Wisconsin's Athletic Department will have a Rose Bowl budget of $2.2 million, which will cover travel, lodging and meals for a variety of parties.