Novembers to Remember

Wisconsin's senior class has won 37 games over the last four seasons and played some of their best football as the season winds down. Under Coach Bret Bielema, the Badgers have asserted their dominance in the month of November and have kept the success going this season.

MADISON - Senior left guard Kevin Zeitler has been a part of a lot of wins over his four year career – 37 in fact – that they all seem to blend together over the course of time.

Zeitler doesn't put any more thought on one victory or the other but couldn't help but be more than surprised when he found out that Wisconsin is almost unbeatable when the calendar turns to November.

"I'm guessing, it's just because by this time, the team is starting to click more," Zeitler said. "We're used to all of the calls and changeups. A lot of defenses do similar things. It's just recognizing it and doing the assignments."

It's more than just a one year trend for Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten) in the month of November. Under Coach Bret Bielema, the Badgers are 17-3 in the season's third month, a record that includes UW going 9-0 at home and outscoring those opponents 416-178.

One of those wins came over Penn State, a low scoring 13-3 decision in 2007 that could be similar when the 21st-ranked Nittany Lions and their conference-best scoring defense come to Camp Randall for the season finale Saturday.

Ask any member of UW what has paved the way for November success and the direction is pointed back to what strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert does in year-long conditioning drills.

Herbert, a Pennsylvania native who played defensive end for the Badgers from 1998 to 2001, traditionally grinds his players during roughly an eight-week stretch in both the winter and summer that not only gets them physically prepared for a grind, but mentally, as well.

"I believe he's the guy that gets our kids in that mentality to physically do certain things," Bielema said of Herbert.

So much so that Bielema had Herbert gave a halftime speech before the second half against Minnesota and was again chirping in the locker room at Illinois after Wisconsin gave up 17 points and 224 yards of total offense on five Illini drives.

Just like in every other halftime locker room, there was no panic, no wide eyes and no sense of urgency with players prepared for the intensity of a four quarter game. After all, Wisconsin enters Saturday averaging 7.28 yards per play, converted 51 of its 59 red zone attempts into touchdowns and rank third in the country in third-down percentage (55.1 percent).

When Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley broke down five of Wisconsin's 2011 games, he counted a total of roughly 15 times Wisconsin was in a third-and-7 or longer situation, hardly a suggestion of a team in disarray.

"Worst case scenario for them is third and five," Bradley said. "That's a long third down for them. They're very efficient on offense. You always see them in thirds and twos and threes, and they hold the carrot. Big, strong physical Wisconsin group."

That physicality is helped engineered by Bielema, who over time hasn't been afraid to dial down a practice later in the season when the situation calls for it. After Scott Tolzien left following UW's 2010 Rose Bowl season, Bielema said the senior quarterback wrote him a note thanking him for the opportunity and that one of the things he appreciated about Bielema was when to add time to practice and when not to.

The formula appears to have worked, as the Badgers have scored at least 62 points and allowed less than 23 in their last three November home games.

"Maybe the kids' legs were zapped, or they're getting a little bit tired, maybe you back off 10 or 15 minutes on a practice, get less work time, but you get better work," Bielema said. "(Tolzien) felt that that was just as important as anything and, as a head coach, I take a lot of pride in that aspect."

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