Losses can snowball, such as they did during Maragos' first season on the field for Wisconsin in 2008, and losses can serve as motivational tools for the rest of the season. When it comes to Wisconsin's heartbreaker in East Lansing, Maragos believes in the latter for this year's Badgers team. Why? It all has to do with the character in the locker room; character Maragos knows from talking with the players is at an all-time high.
Maragos – who made his Seattle Seahawks debut Sunday on all four special teams units and finished with one tackle in a 6-3 loss at Cleveland – talks about bouncing back, getting motivated after a bad loss and how there is a lot left out there for Wisconsin in our weekly feature.
BN: Talk about defending the Hail Mary pass, something you worked on every Thursday at Wisconsin. How is that defense coaches and how is it supposed to be executed?
Maragos: Basically a normal ‘victory' formation, Hail Mary defense, has three guys on the end line to protect all three deep zones. Then you are going to have underneath guys that are man-to-man on each receiver. They are going to be hip to hip with those receivers and when the ball is thrown, the quarterback commits to where he is going to throw, all the guys on the end line work to that zone. One guy is going to commit to playing underneath the receiver, one guy is going to commit to playing in the back and the other guy is going to be in the front.
The responsibilities of the guys covering the receivers are they should be boxing out for a tipped ball situation. If the guy who is a jumper tips it, you have a guy boxing out the receivers so they can't make a clean catch on the ball. Obviously, they didn't have No.7 boxed out, they tipped it and he caught it. Abbrederis mistimed his jumped, it just so happened they had a guy behind and it bounced off his facemask and it bounced back. It really is one of those unfortunate things. Fifty percent, the jumper doesn't get a clean knock on the ball, and that happens sometimes, which is why it's really crucial everybody is doing their jobs.
BN: What was the bigger detriment to Wisconsin's defense – Michigan State going 8-for-16 on third downs or averaging 7.0 yards per carry on first down?
Maragos: I'd say the first downs because the next two downs you are playing against the chains. It's tough to call defenses for Coach Ash and Coach Partridge want to call because you are in those short situations. It starts everything out on a bad foot, because each down sets up the next down.
BN: What surprised you or was different about the team you saw on Saturday compared to the team you saw the first six weeks of the season?
Maragos: I felt like those first few weeks you saw a sense of calmness and a sense of purpose. They knew where they were going and what they were doing. It seemed like they had that edge and that confidence. Not that they didn't have that against Michigan State, but Russell didn't seem quite comfortable back in the pocket, looking to scramble right away, and the unit just seemed off. It's just one of those things where you are playing a good team and it's juts tough. The margin of error is that much smaller and they are going to have to learn to fight and battle. They'll bounce back though. They'll be OK.
BN: In your Wisconsin tenure, you had tough losses that you guys bounced back from the next week and other losses where it snowballed into the following week or longer. What is the key to bouncing back after a tough loss with these Wisconsin coaches? What needs to happen Sunday and Monday to prepare yourself for a difficult task Saturday?
Maragos: That's a really good question. Honestly, it's getting back to practice, going back to work and getting back into our groove and your rhythm. The best remedy for their heartache is going back to work and diving into Ohio State prep. I guarantee that once they start going and working, they won't be thinking about what happened last week, as hard as that sounds.
BN: The big message from Bret Bielema on Monday was there is a still a lot left to play for. In your tenure, one loss would be real damaging to the Rose Bowl chances. Now with divisional play, one loss doesn't ruin your chances at a Big Ten championship. Even though the national championship is gone, how important is that for the team to focus on?
Maragos: No question. The thing is this team is really set up to have a lot of success. The Big Ten championship game would be a great thing for Wisconsin to aim for with this loss. They are going to be able to correct themselves and do all the goals that they want to do. They still can obtain those things. They have to keep grinding and those guys in that locker room are going to keep grinding.
BN: Last question on Michigan State. Kirk Cousins threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns against the UW defense and Marcus Cromartie, Antonio Fenelus and Aaron Henry all bemoaned themselves after the game for missing on some key plays. What was your take on the secondary's performance?
Maragos: First off when I played against Kirk Cousins, he was one of the better quarterbacks we played that year. He is just an impressive individual and a good player, so they were going to have a tough task. In terms of what they were able to do to the secondary, Wisconsin definitely could have played better and I definitely think they could improve. The biggest thing I saw was the attack of the secondary. I didn't think they were attacking as much as they were used to doing or maybe accustomed to doing. It seemed like they were back on their heels a little big and catching things instead of going after them.
BN: Ohio State owns the all-time series against Wisconsin by a wide margin but from your time in the NFL and talking with different players, do you get a sense that the power of the Big Ten is shifting a little bit and that Wisconsin is becoming the more dominant team?
Maragos: No question. I felt Wisconsin a better team against Michigan State. Michigan State won the game, but I think a lot of people would agree Wisconsin has a better team. Times have changed. Wisconsin has put themselves in the position to have a lot of success in the conference and really level the playing field.
BN: Two part question. One, what makes Ohio Stadium so tough? Two, what about this year's Buckeyes team impresses you from a defensive perspective that could give the Badgers the same kind of trouble that they did against Michigan State?
Maragos: Just from playing there, they have a really good fan base and they have a lot of fans there. It's just a really good place to play. In terms of their defense, they've always had a competitive defense and so the guys underneath those great players have seen the pattern that has been set. They have guys that attack and be competitive, just like Michigan State was. It's a great opportunity for the offense to bounce back and prove who they are and what they do.
BN: What's the key to victory this week for Wisconsin and what's your prediction?
Maragos: As good as Russell Wilson is, what Wisconsin does well is run the ball, and that's going to be the key. Establishing run and doing what Wisconsin does, which is run the ball, they have a lot of success and everything plays off that. When guys know how to play in those positions and they move the ball, the Badgers are hard to stop. I think Ohio State is going to give them a tough game because it's on the road, but I am going to say Wisconsin 31, Ohio State 24.