Bielema News Conference - 9.15.08

Talking about his goals for this off week, the importance of having guys back and working on future non-conference schedules, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema addresses the media Monday.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema -

OPENING COMMENTS: We got into Madison actually about 6:10 Sunday morning, so it was a long trip for our guys. We gave them Sunday off, and today they'll just basically come in and do some conditioning with Coach . . . tomorrow, resume work, get a chance to look at the film from Saturday, as well as a little bit of prep in the Michigan.

Couple things came to light today. I was informed that it was the first nonconference opponent that we beat that is ranked in the last 50 years. Last time was in '58, so it was a great accomplishment not only for our team, but the program and the University of Wisconsin.

After watching film, offensively, we gave the MVP to P.J. Hill. Although he didn't get in the end zone, really, I don't know if I've seen him play better. The way that he handled the game, the situations that came at him, really did a good job, and obviously hanging on, hung on to the football. Defensively, although Dre had a great game and is pointed out by the Big 10 Conference, Matt Shaughnessy was outstanding in the game. We gave him the MVP. Obviously, created the big play.

And overall, our defense, that was the lowest point total that Fresno has been held to at home since 1986. So 22 years ago was the last time they've been held to 10 or less. Special teams, I didn't give one out. I didn't feel anybody really stood out. There was a lot of okay performances, but no one really kind of stood out above the rest. Our scout offensive MVP was Pete Konz, our defensive scout MVP, Adam Hampton.

Injury update, Aaron Henry is a lot better. We saw him yesterday. He came in during our treatment session on Sunday. We'll wait and see what he's going to get done this week, but our goal has been, and I know he's mentioned it, to be back for the Michigan game in preparation. We'll see what he can do this week. Casillas and Beckum were great. After the game, had no issues. Yesterday, had no issues. So they're full go, and I think we had a chance to see them guys perform at their level, where they were at and can get better.

New guys, Allan Evridge, his was just a cramping, was fine. We saw Jaevery McFadden come back with a clubbed hand in the second half. He'll have a surgery, and he should be back for practice by Tuesday of next week, probably have to be casted in some form. Jason Chapman, in addition to having some cramping issues, he also had some ligament damage to his hand. He'll be casted, but he'll be ready to play. Everyone else, just the normal bumps and bruises.

With our off week, we look to get a jump on Michigan, get better at all four phases, all three phases of the game. We're going to scrimmage our young guys tomorrow. We're going to keep moving forward with our developmental roster. As assistant coaches, I've sent several guys out on the road today, a little bit tomorrow, and then they'll be on the road again Friday, so a chance to make a step forward in the recruiting process. With that, I'll open up for any questions.

QUESTION #1: Bret, regarding Matt Shaughnessy, not just . . . Saturday's performance, but how much of his game is above the shoulder pads, just his intelligence?

BIELEMA: He's very intelligent. I know we've yelled certain things on the sidelines. He's great about looking to sidelines. As coaches, we know a few things, and we've tipped him off. Last week, the batted ball versus the bootleg, we told him right before the play that we thought it was going to be . . . he listened and reacted. He does a great job, you know.

Even if you guys remember back to two years ago, there was a throwback to the quarterback, something you rep maybe one time during fall practice. But any time color flashes across your face, you got to respect it. And he was out there, and defended it, and made a great play, just an indication of what kind of football player he is.

You know, we have several NFL scouts coming through and talking about our senior prospects, and, you know, four of our top prospects, really five of them, are guys that never redshirted, Matt Shaughnessy, DeAndre Levy, Jonathan Casillas, Andy Kemp, and Eric Vanden Heuvel. Those guys all, and Travis Beckum, those guys never redshirted, so their football learning curve is still in front of them.

QUESTION #2: What did you say on the fourth and one, and should Evridge have checked out of that play?

BIELEMA: Well, they over shifted their line, obviously, and did a good job from a defensive point of view. But if we were able to come on our down block a little bit better by Josh, and if, I believe it was Andy, was able to get around there and do what he did, we felt we had a positive play. But there was no set check at the line of scrimmage on that one. We were going to line up and run it.

QUESTION #3: You guys haven't exactly, you know, you're not leading the country in pass attempts, but you haven't given up a sack yet. I'm just curious how much of that is the line and how much of that, it looks like Allan is more content to stay in the pocket and move around a little bit and let his roots develop.

BIELEMA: Well, he is, and, you know, he did a great job of scrambling on that first scoring opportunity that came our way. I believe it's a lot of combinations of not only our line doing a better job but, you know, a better job by our offense of understanding where the football needs to go, which means getting the ball out on time, not taking a sack. In addition to that, I can't say enough about Bob Bostad and what he's doing from a scheme standpoint, protection standpoint. It's just a huge jump from where we were a year ago about giving up pressures.

QUESTION #4: You talked about it being like for 50 years since a Badger team has won against a ranked nonconference opponent. Besides just getting the win, and what it might mean for perception, actually what do you hope your team, your players, benefits mentally, physically out of having been in that experience and getting the win?

BIELEMA: I think just the phrase been there, done that. We're going to be going on the road here to Michigan, and it's been a long time since we've been able to win up there as a program overall, so I think it's something that you want to draw from. What I was probably, I mean, I was pleased with the W, don't get me wrong, but just the way our kids handled the road, they embraced the environment that we had there.

That was a great college and football game day environment, from the time you walk out of the locker room to go down and warm up, when you come back and go back in. And obviously, the reception that we got when we were going through certain areas of the walk, as well as out there on the field, it just, it was great to see them smile and take that and use it as energy and as power within.

QUESTION #5: Regarding the bye this week, some teams I've seen build off of what they've done through a bye week and come out strong. Other teams, they've lost some momentum. What are some things you concern yourself with at this time and how are you going to prepare for that?

BIELEMA: Well, it's a balance between getting better, getting a jump on Michigan, and also getting healthy. I think those three things were what we looked at as a coaching staff. I went over certain things on Sunday about what our emphasis needs to be. You know, I made a little joke with our guys and told our coaches this should be the easiest 1-0 week out of the year. If we don't win this week, we got problems. And it really is that.

I mean, we have an opportunity to get a jump on Michigan. We have an opportunity to correct our mistakes. We have a chance to expand our packages, offense, defense, and special teams, just because you have more of a preparation time. And more than anything is to allow some of our guys to get healthy.

QUESTION #6: Coach, can you talk about Phillips' blocked kick and if your confidence has wavered with him at all?

BIELEMA: Not a bit. Phillips' blocked kick was a result of a low kick, you know, and he's done that on two occasions, and both those have been blocked. When he operates and gets his ball underneath it and lifts it off the ground, we've got not issues.

And I can't say enough about our two freshmen, punter and kicker, the way they responded to some adverse situations, to be able to come back out there and do it again. You know, for Brad to have a not-so-good punt, come back and punt well. For, obviously, for Phillip to have one blocked and come back and make one and convert it, which ended up being the game-winning field goal.

QUESTION #6: Bret, you were gracious after the game, to say the least, about the play that was reversed. Now that you've looked at it, I'm assuming more than once, do you have a different view of that?

BIELEMA: Well, again, it gets down to the officials and the things they see on the field. Obviously, as a Wisconsin fan, as a Wisconsin coach, anybody that has a W on their heart, they felt that that was one that, you know, should have stayed with the ruling on the field, I'm sure. But the officials, you got to trust what they say and what they do, and that went upstairs. Coach Hill did a great job of, he challenged the play, and the view that he had, and apparently the view that they had upstairs, gave the opportunity to reverse the call, you know, and that's just the fact that we got to live with it.

On the flip side of it, you know, you take the play two plays later, well, DeAndre Levy potentially could have intercepted the next pass and gone to the house and sealed the game. We didn't have it happen. Then we had a long screen play. And to me, I mean, obviously, we kicked a field goal to win it, but DeAndre Levy runs down a play of 57 yards and tackles that guy before he gets in the end zone, which would have been 14 compared to our 13.

If we don't score any more, that's a difference in the game. And the effort that John showed on that was tremendous and hopefully something we can build on again. There's the phrase it's not what happens, it's how you react to what happens.

QUESTION #7: What did getting Casillas and Beckum back do for the team?

BIELEMA: Huge, I think just energy during the course of the week. You know, a game on Saturday may have been won during the course of the week when Travis practiced the way he did on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, I think gave confidence to some guys early on.

And then Jonathan Casillas didn't miss a rep last week. I know after Tuesday's practice, he was really sore. And J.C. has got a little track guy in him. I mean, he wants to feel right in all phases of his, nothing against Coach Nuttycombe and track guys. It's just that that's a saying in football, that sometimes their body has just got to be all right. And he went out and battled through some perseverance, or persevered through some pains on Wednesday and practiced lights out, and I think that got him to where he was on Saturday.

QUESTION #8: Bret, Levy has played at such a high level almost since that Illinois game last year. Have you ever seen a player kind of put his words into action like he has?

BIELEMA: DeAndre? And I would say that, from last year to the conclusion of the Tennessee game to where we are today, DeAndre has always been good. I coached him as a freshman, as a linebacker, and Dave's obviously had him now going to three years. He's always been serious. He's always been intent. I mean, you're going to try to do the right thing, but there just seems to be a presence to him now that it's on me, I'm going to do this, and has really, you know, taken his play to another level.

They had a very good tight end, one of the best ones I've seen. He's not like Travis. He's not like Garrett. He's a, you know, a traditional big guy that uses his body well. And if you tune in and watch the film, number 11 took it to that tight end on Saturday, and that was the difference in the ball game.

QUESTION #9: Bret, did you see, I know there were a couple big plays in the second half. I'm thinking of that touchdown pass, where that guy weaved through traffic. It looked like some guys were in position to make tackles. Were they just fundamental, did they not make the tackle because there were some fundamental breakdowns?

BIELEMA: Well, I think if you watch that play, and I watched it on the replay board, one thing that Fresno was very good at, if they had a big play, it was up very quickly on the video board. And on both plays, on the, it ends up being the one touchdown, you know, Jonathan Casillas is on his heels. His butt is behind his heels, and the same way with, I believe it was Shane Carter coming in on it.

From a defense standpoint, we always talk about there's no chairs on the football field. Any time your butt is behind your heels, you can't redirect, and you can't make tackles, and that's the position both those guys were in.

QUESTION #10: And I say usually on Sunday, you talk to the team about what happened around the world of college football. But when you do now get together with the team and talk about those things, what would you say, or do you say, to them about the fact that the rest of the Big 10 seems to have taken a hit in the national perception in the rankings, in different things, while you guys are moving up or still there, but the conference as a whole seems to not be represented very well on a national level?

BIELEMA: Well, and that all changes after one weekend, you know. There's probably not a group of people in the world that change quickly than analysts and sportswriters. I mean, they move very quickly with what happens on any given Saturday. None of those teams lost to a Big Ten opponent, so that doesn't affect the Big 10 race in any way, shape, or form.

Ohio State obviously went into a very hostile environment. From everything I can tell, USC is a very good football team. That doesn't change my opinion on where I think Ohio State is in this conference and the level of competition we're going to get. Michigan is Michigan, and they'll be the toughest we've seen them yet this year when we show up there in two weeks.

And you know, what we did is we went out and handled our business, and I was pulling for every Big 10 team. You know, that Saturday took forever to get through. I was sitting there watching all those teams play. I'm excited for the conference because I know this. As a group, there's a lot of teams that have good football teams, and fortunately, we've been able to get through it unscathed. Hopefully, what we've learned to this point is going to be able to help us in Big 10 play.

QUESTION #11: Bret, you talked before about the football value of this game you just played. Are we heading in a direction where maybe the Wisconsin's of the world are not going to have road nonconference games, where the economics will dictate that, how Wisconsin would have four home games?

BIELEMA: Well, I don't think so. The formula that we've kind of came up with is three home games and one away game out of the four that we got. And, you know, on the schedule that we have in front of us, right now, there's different things we're working on to complete our schedule for next year, that we're very close to getting done with. We have home and homes with Oregon State and Washington State, two BCS schools in the near future.

I've had some conversations with three other teams in respect to conferences that we've never shared a series with. But it's something that we're excited about. And I've kind of had a little game plan in my mind that I've discussed with Coach Alvarez and John Chadima a way to kind of get us a home game but let it not be, I mean, an away game but not let it be too far away.

QUESTION #12: It seems like it sometimes takes John Clay one or two plays to get up to that game speed to get ready. Have you noticed that? Is that an issue? What do you think that is, and how do you deal with it?

BIELEMA: Well, his first play last week was, this past Saturday, was, you know, going to his right. It was an inside zone. It was kind of a muddied look up front. It really wasn't his fault. But the first clear look that he got where he was supposed to go and where he was supposed to hit it was that play where you saw him bull ahead and kind of energize the sidelines. I think as you develop as a player, you just learn to see things better.

P.J. Hill is reading plays better than ever before in his third year because he's been there, done that. And until John is able to experience those things, there will be plays that maybe aren't so clean to him. But his attitude, his excitement, his energy, the last guy that was pouting, there wasn't anybody in that locker room that was, but, you know, two guys, John Clay and Zach were significantly decreased in the amount of plays they got, and they were smiling ear to ear.

Zach was, Zach came by and patted me on the shoulder when he hopped on the plane. I mean, it's just, those guys think the right way, and it's so special to be around this group because that's how they think. They really do appreciate what the other guy does.

QUESTION #13: Bret, that game you referred to but didn't say which city it was in, is that northeast or southeast of Madison?

BIELEMA: Actually, both. You know, there's a, I think, as much as you guys want to, it's amazing, not amazing, I've had several national radio spots over the last two weeks, had an opportunity to talk to the USA Today yesterday, and they couldn't believe that we would schedule such a game and make it such a tough nonconference schedule.

And I wanted to CC several of you guys just to understand and appreciate when you, on a national scale, to go play a non, unranked opponent on the road was a bold challenge. It's one that was part of a three-game series. We have the last one coming next year with Fresno State, and hopefully that's something we continue in the future.

QUESTION #14: Bret, having said that, would you go back to Fresno?

BIELEMA: I would go back to Fresno if it was, one thing that we would probably work into and something I've carried forward, actually, I've rewritten two contracts since I've been here, to have either neutral or switching officials. You know, it was, and when this three-game contract was, I actually got educated. There was an original three-game contract that was signed between Fresno and Wisconsin, and the fourth game that was played was actually a BCA game, if I'm not mistaken. Right, Coach? That's how that fourth game came involved.

And when these contracts were being written, it was commonplace to have the home game host officials, I think strictly based on cost. And that's what's kind of evolved now is when we play, you know, like when we play MAC officials, although we share the league very similar, when we played Marshall, they had to be neutral officials, not our officials, not their officials. I think that's a good way to do it.

QUESTION #15: You said you expect Michigan's best. Any early thoughts on Michigan?

BIELEMA: I, you know, had an opportunity to watch just a little bit of them this morning on special teams. They've got good players. One thing Michigan has is good players. And obviously, there's new schemes, offense, defense, and in special teams. So those kids are getting acclimated to what the coaches are asking them to do. My guess is with as quality of coaches as Coach Rodriguez and his staff is, you're going to see a big jump with two weeks of preparation on what they can do.

Any time you turn the ball over as many times as they did, you're going to have some issues, and that was a huge factor in that game. So I'm sure there will be a big emphasis on turnovers in all phases, offense, defense, special teams for them. And I, you know, I really like their running back. He's a good football player. And up front, I know we've recruited a lot of the same guys, offense and defense, so I know they got good players.

QUESTION #16: Bret, a couple of years ago, Joe Paterno was hurt here. Charlie Weis gets hurt on the sidelines. Do you, are you so locked in that those types of things are bound to happen as a coach? Or is there a way that, a mechanism, you know, whether you have a body guard or whatever the case may be on the sidelines, that you could prevent that?

BIELEMA: Well, hopefully, I have a couple of players that yell heads up, to be quite honest. You know, I remember my first year, or maybe it was last year, it had to be last year because David was here, David got hit on a kickoff return, and I was about ten yards away. And he was littler then. He's, you know, gained about five pounds, but he went flying through the air, and I just kind of shouldered him and knocked him down. But you had to be ready for it. And that clip with Charlie, I mean, he's ten yards behind the play, and, I mean, he didn't have any vantage of it.

Now what I always try to do, I do try to stay sideways. I very seldom will I turn and walk. I always try to stay ahead. On defense, I always try to stay ahead of the play. On offense, I usually stay behind the play. And that's just where I like to be. I'm usually away from where everybody else is. There's so many people that follow the football. It's better to be either ahead of it or behind it if at all possible.

QUESTION #17: Are you full speed ahead with Aaron Henry playing, and is redshirt even in the conversation?

BIELEMA: It has, I mean, we've had discussions, but, you know, we felt all along if we can get Aaron back in time for the Michigan game, or shortly thereafter, you know, until there comes a point that, you know, we don't feel it's beneficial for him to play. But the part that the redshirt was originally created for is for a medical redshirt, for you to be in a situation, if you're hurt at a certain point, to be able to take that year and gather yourself from a medical standpoint. And if, you know, being where he's at right now, with a knee injury, and still have two full years of eligibility after this year, you know, you never know and can see in the future. It would be great to have that for him in his hip pocket.

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