The second-year head coach must have known that his defense was tired of being criticized.
After three-straight weeks of allowing 300-plus yards to non-conference opponents, Wisconsin's defense made the statement they desperately wanted and needed to make, holding the visiting Hawkeyes to just 228 yards of total offense in a big 17-13 victory.
"We were disappointed in how we played against the Citadel and we had a real good week of practice and it showed [Saturday]," junior cornerback Allen Langford said.
Last week against The Citadel, Wisconsin, a 44.5-point favorite, allowed 254 passing yards, 377 total yards and 21 first-half points in what Badger defenders called ‘an embarrassing performance.' So when it came time for Wisconsin's defense to be made available to the media on Wednesday, head coach Bret Bielema had a different idea – let the defense's play talk for itself.
"I didn't know about it until Thursday night when Coach [Bielema] told us that he put us off the media because he wanted the next statement we made to be on Saturday," Langford said. "I thought that was a great statement because we deserved the criticism after last week."
With a struggling offense like the Hawkeyes coming to town, the Badgers picked the right opponent to make a statement against.
Coming into the week, Iowa was only averaging 161 yards per game, ranked dead last in the Big Ten. The week before against Iowa State, a team that gave up 363 yards to Kent State and 327 yards to Northern Iowa, the Hawkeyes could only manage 233 yards of total offense. Some of the lack of production could be due to first-year starter Jake Christensen, whose stats entering the game - 529 passing yards, five TDs and one INT – were less than stellar.
So when game planning for Iowa, Bielema felt that if his secondary could pressure Christensen often with frequent blitz packages, the Badgers would be in good position for success.
"When you have a quarterback that's at the beginning of his tenure, we wanted to make [his] decisions [for him]," Bielema said. "In a game like this, you have to put yourself in position to have success."
The plan worked to perfection. Wisconsin sacked Christensen four times for 18 lost yards and registered eight tackles-for-losses which erased another 35 yards of Hawkeye offense. Freshman Aaron Henry, used primarily in nickel packages, was the big beneficiary of Wisconsin's blitzing, earning two and a half sacks on Christensen.
"Either they were going to block me or they weren't going to block me and those three times I got sacks, they didn't block me," Henry said. "It's just me and the quarterback and my heart is racing. In all due respect, I am trying to knock him out."
"If you could sign five guys like him every year, you'd be in business," Bielema said about Henry.
After allowing the Citadel to go 5-of-12 (42 percent) on third down the week before, Wisconsin tightened the screws, holding Iowa to just 2-of-16 (13 percent) on its third-down attempts.
"That was part of our defensive goals for the week to win the third down battle," Langford said. "All great defenses get off the field on third down."
In their Big Ten opener, the Badgers showed how great a defense they can be. After getting criticized by the fans, the media and themselves, the Badgers showed how powerful their defense really can be. "This was a statement game," Henry said. "We wanted to go out and prove what Badger football is really about."