"I rather be a person that reps the same thing 100,000 times rather than somebody that tries to rep something different 100,000 times," said Bielema, reciting the quote. "That's the way our defense is built. We just get really good at what we're doing, we don't do a lot and it allows us to play fast, physical."
Going against a struggling offense starting a brand-new quarterback, Wisconsin held Minnesota to 245 total yards, forced two turnovers and limiting the Gophers to 90 second-half yards in a 38-13 blowout Saturday at Camp Randall Saturday.
"It's a rivalry game for us, so it means everything," said linebacker Chris Borland. "We take it very seriously and enjoy it very much when we get to keep (the axe)."
The Badgers (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) have won nine straight victories over the Gophers, representing nearly a decade of state and program pride. And while the final score didn't indicate it, Wisconsin really had to work defensively, especially considering the circumstances.
With senior quarterback MarQueis Gray fighting off nagging ankle sprains and backup quarterback Max Shortell battling his own physical setbacks, Minnesota coach Jerry Kill decided to give true freshman Philip Nelson his first start. Further complicating things, Gray was moved to wide receiver to, according to Kill, "(have) the chance to heal up a little bit, but still help make some plays."
"There was an element of surprise," said Borland.
A dual-threat quarterback, Nelson found his rhythm on the third drive of the game following Wisconsin's opening score. On an option look, Nelson hit tight end Drew Goodger for 18 yards, scrambled for 17 and hit a wide-open Brandon Green for a touchdown.
"We had to adjust on the fly," said Borland.
Following the drive, Wisconsin put more safety help in the middle of the field to eliminate the pop pass. It was the key move, as Minnesota only had one more scoring drive, one more drive over 42 yards and put linebacker Ethan Armstrong in the right possession to make a diving fourth-quarter interception following the corrections.
Wisconsin also forced Minnesota to go three-and-out on seven of its 11 possessions, improving its three-and-out percentage to 42 percent on the season (42 of 100 drives), and held Nelson to 13 of 24 for 149 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions
"I think our defensive coaches do a tremendous job," said Bielema. "When a play hurts us, they really do a nice job of dissecting why it broke down and what we need to do to fix it."
The emphasis for Wisconsin since its second-half meltdown against Nebraska in the conference opener was to take baby steps. Despite heading into its ninth straight week playing a game, Wisconsin appears to be getting stronger at the right time.
"We're improving each week, and that's a very important aspect of a team," said Borland. "You want to be a different team later in the season than you were early. We continue to improve."