Bielema News Conference - 9.29.08

Two days after a season-altering loss in Ann Arbor, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema addresses the media on the importance of moving past Michigan and on to Ohio State.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema -

Full Transcript

OPENING COMMENTS: Sunday, after a loss is probably one of the worst days in the coaching profession, just from the standpoint you watch the video for the first time yourself, as many times as you replayed it in your head the night before. Then you watch it with the staff, then you obviously watch it with your players. So you end up watching the game film three or four times on one day, on Sunday, and it gets to be a long day.

The one part that we did try to capitalize or try to point out to our guys, there were still a lot of positives that happened that, you know, get overshadowed by the negatives. So our MVPs, offensively, we didn't have anybody stand out, but defensively, O'Brien Schofield probably had one of his best games, but we still gave the MVP to Jonathan Casillas, but OB played extremely well.

The MVP on special teams, Antonio Fenelus. Out of six kickoff coverages, he had the tackle on five of those six kicks and did a tremendous job for us on punt return as well, almost got a blocked punt. And then just also on special teams, you know, Phillip Welch tied a school record with four field goals, and David Gilreath, from a returning standpoint, I think he's in the top of the Big 10, has done a tremendous job for us. And then Will Hartmann to put a hand on a helmet, hand on the ball and get a turnover, we created two turnovers in the first half. Offensive scout MVP was Curt Phillips, and defensive scout MVP was Tony Megna.

With that, the same thing I said a minute ago about Sundays being a long day, we need to move forward into Ohio State. They're a 4-1 football team that's improved every game that they've played in. They settled in on some personnel, obviously. The headliner being their quarterback. Pryor is the starter now, and then obviously with Beanie Wells returning, we're excited to get into Camp Randall for a night game.

Just an injury standpoint, Garrett Graham, who obviously didn't play in last week's game, the week before, well, in our preparation into Ohio State, he practiced on Tuesday, was limited on Wednesday, and then we basically, because of the way he was feeling, opted not to play him on Saturday due to the doctor's recommendation to get him through to Wednesday of this week and then practice.

Maurice Moore injured himself in the latter part of our bye week, then didn't practice at all last week. Everything tells us that he should be able to practice tomorrow. And then Aaron Henry continues to be slower than we thought in his rehab process, and we basically have this week and next week to get through our six games before the NCAA makes us make a decision about redshirting. So that's where we're at with that. I don't expect him to play this week.

And then obviously Travis Beckum, during our bye week he practiced really good on Tuesday, Wednesday, tweaked it on Thursday, sat out the entire week last week, went into the game, and basically was cleared from a medical standpoint, but we put it in Travis' hands on, you know, any time you're dealing with the type of injury he has, we can't see it, we can't feel how he's feeling, and we left that up to him. Gametime-wise, he didn't feel comfortable. At halftime, we asked him again. He didn't feel comfortable.

And then the competitive nature of Travis in the fourth quarter, after he saw certain things go a certain way, felt compelled to get out there and played for us, and obviously did some nice things. Was able to catch a nice pass for us, but, again, everyone knows how that two-point conversion came out. And that by no means was the single only factor in our game, obviously, but I know it was disappointing for Travis because of what the end result was. But he practiced last night, and will sit out obviously today, and then we'll expect him to practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday of this week and play Saturday.

With that, I'll open it up for any questions.

QUESTION #1: Bret, speaking of watching those game tapes, it was interesting talking to Newkirk last night about the McGuffie late touchdown run . . . talked about a couple of different things he could have done on that play. In a game like that, when so many different plays could affect the outcome of a game, what response are you looking for from your players when they watch that game?

BIELEMA: Well, the big thing is to take those plays and move forward. I believe we had 68 snaps on defense, and 8 of those plays were plays that we felt we could change the outcome of the game if we had them back. You know, that's a small number, but yet, on the same account, the one thing that we really tried to strive to enforce in everybody's mind, and obviously Mike has played a lot of ball here for us, in the Big 10 play, every play counts.

I don't care if you're the right guard on punt. I don't care if you're the left tackle on kickoff return. I don't care if you're our defensive tackle from the line of scrimmage or you're right guard on a routine offensive play. Every play counts, and you never know when that one play is going to have a huge effect on the game. That's a point that we've really tried to engrain in our guys, and we didn't want to have a learning experience that we did on Saturday, but hopefully we do.

QUESTION #2: Bret, you've been involved in a lot of football games. Is there any one that compares (to the Michigan game)

BIELEMA: As a head coach?

QUESTION #2: Or anything.

BIELEMA: Yeah. There's games that have gone on during my playing career, during my assistant coaching career that, you know, games that were in your hands, you know, that you obviously felt you were in control of and then to come out of there with a loss, and you don't know how it really affects your season until you're entirely done, but there's been similar occurrences, yes.

QUESTION #3: Are there any games or times that come to mind that you can relate to?

BIELEMA: You can, but I don't really relate. I'll at times tell different stories of my past, but, you know, in dealing with our current roster and dealing with our current players, it's best to live in the future of what they've done, and I'll draw on comparisons. You know, I thought, you know, as I sat down and did my TV show yesterday, Matt Lepay brought up a good point where in my first year, we were down by 18 points to Illinois and came back and won, and realized the momentum swing that took place out there. Obviously, the same thing happened this past weekend, but we were on the receiving end rather than the giving.

QUESTION #4: Bret, the last two weeks the defense has given up some big plays in the second half, not that the offense has not put teams away, but is the defense getting worn down physically in the second half or do you feel that it is something else?

BIELEMA: Well, the easy answer would be that you would feel that they're, obviously, not as good in the second half as they are in the first half. And at certain positions, we have decent depth, but not all positions, so it's something we have to make sure that we're on top of as a staff to make sure we're rotating our guys through. But you know, on both of those drives, the time of possession factor was still huge in our favor this past weekend. So you know, as far as amount of reps, there's only 68 snaps, that's not an overly abundant amount from a defensive standpoint.

But you know, when things start to go against you, when momentum swings to that other side, then every rep you feel just a little bit more. So you know, I've really limited our guys from a defensive personnel, our starters, from being on any special teams. So it's just a matter of our guys being able to play.

QUESTION #5: Bret, I believe after the game, one of the receivers mentioned that maybe some of the drops were from a lack of focus or concentration, and another player hinted that some of the players weren't giving maximum effort possibly or carrying plays all the way out when they should. When you hear or read something like that, what is your reaction to it, and is that a concern?

BIELEMA: Well, the only player that I heard or witnessed to people not going full speed, I believe, was Chris Pressley yesterday. And Chris Pressley was echoing the thoughts of his head coach when I addressed the team on Sunday, expressed displeasure on two plays. One play being when we threw the slant route at the end of the game that ultimately was picked off and then returned for a touchdown. I felt we could have given better effort by certain guys that were on the field on that particular play, and Chris echoed those same thoughts.

And then I got on the defensive personnel because on a PAT field goal block, when in my years of being a defensive coach and the years that I was a defensive coordinator, you define who you are on how you play PAT and extra point and field goal opportunities, because that means something negative just happened against you. You just had a touchdown scored on you. You let them drive the length of the field and now they have a field goal snap. That's got to be when you dig down and play harder than you've ever played.

And there was one occasion, on both sides of the football, where that didn't happen. So I really would find it hard to believe if anybody on our roster would question how hard someone is playing consistently, but there was one play on both sides of the football where I questioned it as a head coach.

QUESTION #6: You mentioned the depth on defense in certain positions. Is defensive line a place where maybe you don't have enough guys or you need to get some more guys some rest at certain times?

BIELEMA: Well, you know, obviously, Matt Shaughnessy probably plays at a higher level than any of our defensive ends, and any time he's not in the game, you know, we realize we don't have one of our best players on the field. And then the next best guy is O'Brien Schofield. A close second to him, Dan Moore is probably playing as good as he's ever played, and he just needs to continue to come along.

And then Brendan Kelly, you're still dealing with a true freshman who was playing on the road for the first time in a Big 10 play. He in particular didn't play great in the Fresno game, but was, to his credit, was coming off a hamstring injury. So it's hopefully depth that we're going to continue to move forward. Obviously, there's some packages where we take a defensive off the field and bring in Dre in substitution packages.

QUESTION #7: Bret, just to clarify, on the interception that was returned for the touchdown, were you not pleased with the effort after the pick, in pursuit, or was it the entire play that you weren't?

BIELEMA: No, it was after the play, after the pick had happened, the reaction of three or four guys. And in my opinion, you know, and again, it gets down to a little bit I've never played offense. I mean, I got to play quarterback when I was in junior high, but that don't count. I mean, you really, I don't know if you, from an offensive standpoint, you don't appreciate how much every point counts.

You know, and when that pick happened, obviously there's going to be certain players in that vicinity, but there were three or four guys that came over there and they had a whole covey of guys in front of them. It was like their whole defense was able to get in front, and some of our guys just, in my opinion, if we just submarine go down and have people fall over us, we're going to be, you know, maybe in a first and goal situation from the five, six yard line, but he got it all the way in the end zone, never gave our defense a chance to make a stop. That ended up being the go-ahead touchdown.

QUESTION #8: How do you break down what happened to the wide receivers and the tight ends, and were there any young guys, Isaac Anderson or anybody, who showed a little spark or something?

BIELEMA: Well, I think everybody is going to look to the negative, but I'd point out the positive. You know, and this week, moving forward into Ohio State, with their last catch, David Gilreath made his last catch. Lance Kendricks made his last catch. Nick Toon made his last catch, you know, which, you know, they didn't catch their first ones, and it was subsequent to being in a position where we could have maintained the chains moving if those guys had made those certain plays.

Obviously, Lance's two catches would have been first downs. Nick Toon's first catch would have been a touchdown in the end zone. But for those guys to move forward, I look more to how they played their last snap, and that's why I'm excited about the opportunity we have in front of us this week.

QUESTION #9: Just to clarify something on Travis, you said about you left it in his hands leading into the game because he knows how he feels. I thought after the game you said that because he didn't practice late in the week, you didn't feel comfortable using him in the game.

BIELEMA: Well, ultimately, what I have to do as a head coach, the first person to give clearance to our guys is the medical training room. Basically, because of the history Travis has had over the last three or four weeks, they didn't want to push him beyond what he wanted to go. I know Travis wants to get out there as much as anybody, so the ultimate decision whether he was going to go on the field or not lied in Travis' hands. The medical people felt if Travis felt he could go, we could let him go.

As coaches, we were hesitant if he decided on Saturday that he could play because he hadn't gotten any reps. He had not repped full speed in practice Monday, well, since a week ago Thursday. And for Travis to get out there and be effective on every play, he needs to practice. When I was making reference to what you just said, if he was on the field, any hesitation I would have as a head coach is he did not practice, I wouldn't know how he would be able to play.

You know, that wouldn't prohibit or stop him from being out there, but it would cause concern and, obviously, you know, on one play it looked good. I'd point out the fact that if Travis had lined up one-half yard deeper on that two-point conversion, he'd probably be the hero of Wisconsin football right now. So I admire Travis and respect what he had. He and I had a discussion and realized, you know, the effect that it has overall now, you know, from the standpoint of him going into the ballgame and not knowing where to lineup and ultimately taking the two-point conversion away.

QUESTION #10: Coach, looking forward to Ohio State, can you just talk about Pryor and what you guys are going to have to do to limit him?

BIELEMA: Well, the first time I saw Pryor was three years ago on recruiting film, and he's an extremely gifted student athlete. Obviously, they've made a decision, after the USC game, to move forward, probably for one primary reason, he's an extremely talented playmaker, not only just running the football, but throwing the football. He's got tremendous poise in the pocket. And I got to know him just on a limited basis, but he's got great presence.

Obviously, the more hostile an environment we can create on Saturday in Camp Randall will be our benefit. But it's something that I know their offense consciously moved forward, and they're going in a certain direction with an athletic quarterback.

QUESTION #11: Bret, the 1-0 philosophy is something that you've preached every since you got here. After such a, kind of an emotional loss, how important is it that your team kind of adheres to that and you kind of preach that this week, especially moving forward to Ohio State?

BIELEMA: Well, it's a point that was a major emphasis in our meetings. Obviously, what I just mentioned at the beginning, when you have to sit down and watch the film on Sunday, it's one of the benefits of our program, I believe, is that we come in on Sundays and we watch the film. You know, in my three years of being here, we've only had to endure a loss six times. This is the sixth time. It's not easy. It's nothing that I want to ever get used to. It's a very painful experience, but it's something you have to endure.

But as soon as Sunday is over with, film session is over with, we go out to the practice field. We kind of changed up what we did, really because we lost, and we did some things offensively. We're a quicker tempo against scout team defensively.

Went into Ohio State introduction, one of our guys, you know, has mentioned on several different, I believe in four different interviews that I listened to, our players last night made reference to 1-0 and this is the mentality they got to take, which, you know, I love hearing our guys regurgitate what we say as coaches. And they really do believe in the things that we emphasize, and hopefully that will help them get through the time that they're in right now.

QUESTION #12: Bret, you guys had a few big hits in the running game Saturday, some other plays that weren't as successful. John had two big plays for you. Has he warranted, I know you've got a rotation in the field with the running backs, but has he warranted more time from here on forward?

BIELEMA: You know, John had a tremendous play that everyone caught the eye of. I mean, he did a great job of an isolation play to the right side there. And then the best thing about that run was when he was able to step through the tackle by the safety, get us down in a position to be on the goal line. And then on the pursuing play, on the next play when he was running, basically almost the same type of play to our left, kind of got buried up in their line of scrimmage, wish that he had seen a different cut, but then did a tremendous just instinctive move to bounce the ball way outside, and that's not a normal bounce.

You know, some of the times, we had talked about John's running style. He wanted to take things that were designed to go inside and take them out right away. This is draw your whole defense in, everybody collapses, and, in my opinion, probably the best aspect of that play, obviously John did a great thing. He saw Isaac Anderson blocking his tail off for about 10 seconds that really made a difference in that play, basically allowed the play to get in the end zone.

The play that normal people don't see is a play that John was in where the game was extremely tight, and he went the wrong direction and, you know, it kind of just goes unnoticed out there. But as coaches, now you get in a situation where you know every play counts and you're in the third and fourth quarter, and you know P.J. Hill has been there, done that, and has done certain things, and you know he's at least going to go the right way.

And John Clay is a tremendous football player. On Saturday, if I'm a freshman, and I scored the only touchdown in the Michigan/Wisconsin game, and I'm asked after the game, you know, if I should have gotten more playing time, and I saw his response, he said the coaches give us a plan and we go out and execute it. He does exactly what we ask him to do, and that's why I'm so excited about him for the future. And he knows, in his own mind, that he's at a stage where he gets better every day, and hopefully he'll be there very soon.

QUESTION #13: Follow-up question, what is preventing him (John Clay) from getting more carries, little things like that comfort feeling with the coaches?

BIELEMA: A comfort level in critical situations. But I will share this with you, going into Saturday's game and a change from Fresno State, basically in every situation, P.J. was our best option. We felt Zach Brown was our next best option, independent of where we were on the field, down the distance. Going into the Michigan game, P.J. was our best option, in our opinion, for all down the distance situations, and then John Clay had moved into the best spot for short yardage and goal line situations. So that hopefully is going to carry forward and we can have a package that's specific for him.

QUESTION #14: Ohio State is going to be the first home game in almost a month now. Are the guys excited to get back to Camp Randall, especially for such a big opponent?

BIELEMA: Well, I believe they're excited to play a football game. Any time you play the game that you did on Saturday and have it end the way they did, they're going to be excited to play anywhere. And to have it be in Camp Randall, to have it be at night, to be in an environment that they've had a lot of success in, I'm sure makes them all feel better, including the head coach.

QUESTION #15: Bret, you've won 16 straight at Camp Randall. Is that something that you talk to your players about? Is it a point of emphasis?

BIELEMA: You know what, we don't really talk much beyond the current week. I'll talk, and I'll hint during the course of the week, you know, about being in Camp Randall and having the obvious opportunity to have success in front of our own crowd. But you know, from a head coaching standpoint, you also got to realize this week, I know we're playing Ohio State, believe me, and I understand how good a football team they are and the tradition they have. But for us to be able to have success on Saturday, Wisconsin needs to get better, and that's what we're going to emphasize.

QUESTION #16: Coach, it's been five years since Wisconsin's upset win against Ohio State. Especially with the loss last week at Michigan, can you use that as, you know, as positive morale and to get the troops going?

BIELEMA: Well, I would, but I wasn't here. You know, so it's hard for me to reflect on something. My first year here, we were able to beat Ohio State at Ohio State, and I guess it might have been my second year, but the last one that they won here, I wasn't part of that, so. And I've really tried, now I will bring up the game last year, because really, from our standpoint, really our offensive preparation, USC is very, very good film to watch. And then obviously, our game a year ago is probably the best film for us to move forward. So you can talk about last year and realize how much of an opportunity we had, but not being able to capitalize on a W.

QUESTION #17: You know, people have talked about the drops in the Michigan game. But I think after the game you also said that you thought Allan missed some things down the field, not with throws so much, but reads. When you reviewed the film, did you, did that bear that out?

BIELEMA: Absolutely, yeah. He did a, there was a lot of things that Allan did well, and there's some things he didn't do well, not only in the throwing game, but a popular discussion topic was the option calls, you know. Our first option, if we had a positive block by our receiver out to the wide side of the field, that was probably going to be at least a 20-yard gain, if not score. On the option play where he fell down, that was probably even a bigger hit just because of what their corner play was to the wide side of the field.

And then obviously the third down play that got tipped by their defensive end was going to be a big hit if that gets in his hands. Now those are would have, could have, should haves, but those are things that we felt we would be able to execute with Allan in there at quarterback. And when those things don't come through, that's the disappointment we have.

QUESTION #18: I guess in baseball one of the beauties, if you have a tough loss, you can come back the next day and maybe get it out of your system and turn the whole thing around again quickly. How much, as you sit here right now, is there, boy, I wish we could get out there right now, erase the memory of what happened, and get on to maybe back to winning and how much is there, boy, we need some time?

BIELEMA: Well, I can't comment on a baseball standpoint. I was the last kid picked in gym class for baseball every time. I couldn't play the sport to save my life. But you know, from a football standpoint, you've always got next Saturday. The part about bowl games is it's going to sit in your, you know, in your stomach for the entire year or that last game, whatever it ends up being. But I know that our kids, you know, yesterday when we were out on the practice field, after we had watched the film, there was a huge emphasis on getting through Sunday and getting a jump on Ohio State.

On Monday, they can come in, I've already seen a lot of kids in film watching this morning, as well as last night, and then move themselves forward. I know that, I obviously sent our four team captains in to speak to the media last night because I know that they know what we preach in our program and what will get them through this week. I gave specific indication to those guys, hey, if you want to talk about Saturday, you can, but, you know, try to get the media to move forward with you. And if you don't want to talk about Saturday, you don't have to.

And some of you forget to realize that, you know, players don't have to do interviews. And when they're constantly being hammered about what's happened on Saturday, I think it reinforces in my mind how well they think. The rest of the world can talk about last Saturday. As coaches, as players, as people that walk in our program, we cannot spend on minute on Sunday until this coming Saturday worrying about what transpired on Saturday. We can correct it and move forward, but we can't dwell on it. And I like that because that shows, in my mind, our players think the right way.

QUESTION #19: There is a lot from the Southern Cal/Ohio State tape you can get or given that caliber athletes for Southern Cal, does that factor in there too a little bit?

BIELEMA: Are you saying we don't have those guys now?

QUESTION #19: What similarities do you see with USC on tape?

BIELEMA: I was talking more from our offensive personnel. USC kind of is similar to what we do. You know, they have a quarterback back there, because of their personnel with two tight ends and strictly the personnel that we have on there. You know, one of the, I've talked in here repeatedly about how our offense is kind of a unique animal in the Big 10. That's great, except for when we go and play other teams. A lot of times we don't have a lot of prep film on what a team may do against our type of offense, if that kind of follows what.

I was just in Paul Chryst's office this morning, and he and I were in there discussing an issue, and Andy Kemp came in. And Andy said, he always checks with Paul, hey, what film should I watch the beginning of the week. And Paul said, USC and our game from last year are probably your two best films to watch, and that was just kind of a spin off of that.

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