Bielema News Conference - 10.6.08

Wisconsin looks to get back on track against the highest-ranked team in the Big Ten on Saturday. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema addresses the media on Monday, talking about the improvement of the young corners, bringing along John Clay and looking closer at the quarterback position.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema -

Full Transcript

OPENING COMMENTS: I told the players yesterday in our meeting that I was proud of their preparation during the course of the week, their effort that they gave, not only on Saturday, but they did what they did on Sunday, from last week, all the way through the game time. I was happy with the way and proud of the way they competed for four quarters. I was happy and proud of the way that they showed toughness in the physical play that they demonstrated on the field.

But the bottom line is, we didn't win a football game. We need to correct and eliminate the mistakes or the negatives that happened during the course of the game. As coaches, we have to look at and analyze everything from schemes to calls to plays to personnel, different things that we can change to put us on a positive track. And there was a lot of positives out there, ultimately, but the loss is the one that everybody has. It sits in their hearts and their heads, until we have an opportunity to get back on the field this coming Saturday.

Offensively, I thought our offensive line, in particular, even after the 15th play, when John Oglesby went in there and probably played as good a football game as I've seen him play since I've been a head coach here at Wisconsin against good personnel. So we gave an offensive MVP to Eric Vanden Heuvel.

In addition to that, John Clay played his most complete game, did a good job for us running the football and also did some nice things for us in protection. So he's made a gigantic step forward defensively. Jay Valai played his best game here as a football player, was really, really easy to pick up on film, just made some great breaks on the ball and really played physical. So we gave Jay Valai and Allen Langford defensive MVPs. Lang played really good as well with the interception, as well as a couple of pass breakups.

On special teams, Billy Rentmeester was unbelievable. He had five knockdowns, three of which are big-time hits that really were a statement in the return game. Offensive scout MVP, the guy that simulated . . . was Dex Jones. Dex did a good job for us. Our defensive scout, Tony Megna, simulated Laurinaitis during the course of the week.

With that being said, our focus right now, on the top of our list, is getting better at Wisconsin football, all phases. We obviously have a very notable game against Penn State, the highest-ranking team in the Big Ten Conference. They do a lot of good things. They run the ball well. They defend against the run well. They lead the Big Ten Conference in number one rush offense and total offense, number one rush defense, number one total defense, and, from my point of view, from a special teams standpoint, they lead the Big Ten in kickoff returns.

They got three or four different guys back there that have had some success this year. So we've got a tremendous challenge on our hand and an opportunity to right the ship. And I know our guys, you know, definitely felt the pain from Saturday, but showed me good resiliency yesterday in their practice. We'll give them today off, a lot of them have been up watching film, and we'll move ourselves forward.

Just from an injury standpoint, this week our expectation, unless anything happens during the course of the week, is we'll probably be as healthy as we've ever been since camp, since our opening game. Travis Beckum really had no ill effects from last week's practices, as well as the game, and performed fairly well for us on an offensive side.

Garrett, I saw him in the pool earlier this morning. He's going to make it a go tomorrow and feels a lot better than he did a week ago at this time. Maurice Moore is back being healthy. Gabe Carimi, I haven't got an update on him as of yet. He's going to be evaluated this afternoon. But I do know from yesterday's evaluation, he's in a lot better situation than we originally thought after the game. And he looked pretty good this morning down there, doing some rehab. So I don't know his status exactly yet. Hopefully, he'll be able to progress that during the course of the week.

QUESTION #1: Bret, what should have happened defensively on Pryor's touchdown run when the call didn't get in in time? How would you have liked to see them respond?

BIELEMA: Well, I'd like to see the tackle, you know, the tackle on the quarterback, first off. And if he hit tackle, and if they pitched the ball, we'd like to defend the pitch. But bottom line on that play, they subbed from 10 personnel to 11 personnel. They called it. We wanted to get in there.

What they had done, basically, in that same down in a different situation with that personnel, a time prior to that, was a tackle for loss with the same call. And they went with it again, and, obviously, they executed a new play. And hadn't shown that play out of that set yet, but we can't use that as an excuse or crutch. We've got to make the play on the quarterback and then, obviously, be able to defend the option play as well.

QUESTION #2: Bret, in a situation like that, where there was, you had four guys who obviously were trying to get the call down pat, right before the snap. Do the players have the green light from the staff to call a timeout on that or does that have to call from the side?

BIELEMA: That has to come from the sidelines. Our defensive personnel, you know, obviously, in a situation where, you know, you're getting down towards the end of the game, you only have one timeout, you know. Obviously, if they called it, if they felt that they weren't ready, I wouldn't have objected to it at all. But for the most part, we try to take that into our hands on the sidelines. And from where we were, I would have preferred if something had come from upstairs to let me know if they didn't feel that the linebacker to that side, which I believe was DeAndre, wasn't in a good position to get a timeout out there.

But because of where I was on the field, obviously, I have to stay behind the white lines. I do have that liberty, as a head coach, to leave the box to get a timeout, if I feel the desire. But I didn't think we were in as bad a position as we saw when we watched the film on Sunday or the play after.

QUESTION #2: I'm sorry, so once you watched the film, you didn't think the defense was in the wrong position?

BIELEMA: No, from what I saw on the field, I didn't feel we were in as bad a position as I saw when we watched the film.

QUESTION #2: Okay. And so then, who would normally from the booth call you and say, hey, Bret, they're not lined up. You can't see it from your vantage point. We need to do something.

BIELEMA: Well, anybody that's in the box from a defensive personnel standpoint, I'm listening and have those guys in my headset. But upstairs is Randall McCray, our defensive, our linebacker coach, and then also a defensive student assistant, a defensive GA.

QUESTION #3: Bret, you spent an awful lot of time talking to the officials before you went to the locker room at halftime, I'm assuming because of the Jefferson play?

BIELEMA: Well, I had an objection with that play. But on a play prior, where there was actually a second and eight, we had been, and a second and three, we had a false start by Kraig Urbik, which moved us to a second and eight. And then, P.J. Hill, I believe it was P.J., it might have been John, rushed for a first down.

And when he rushed for a first down, there was failure on the field for anybody to stop the clock when we, in college football, when there's a first down, the clock stops, until the chains are moved and the official gets back in, and he chops the play, and allows the clock to be started. No one on the field stopped the clock. The clock continued to run.

I was in the ear of the official on my near sideline, the line judge too. You know, I pointed out to him that the clock was in progress and that it needed to be stopped. He didn't give the proper response and, ultimately, you know, burned off, according to the Big Ten office today, it burned off about 10 to 12 seconds that should have been there for us at the end of the first half. And, you know, I was just basically asking the official to do that while it happened. And then, obviously, I have to move on to the next play.

And the reason I grabbed him before the end of the half is, I wanted Bill DeMainer who was the head official at that time, was an excellent official, to review the situation. And they basically came up to me at the beginning of the second half, said that they blew the call. And I've had that same opinion expressed to me today from Dave Perry.

QUESTION #4: Coach, it seems like we've seen steady improvement from Niles Brinkley and Mario Goins at corner. Can you just talk about what you've seen from them?

BIELEMA: That's a good point. You know, in retrospect, I mean, well, obviously, we gave Jay Valai and Al Langford, two DBs, the MVP. But, in reality, the other corner position probably played their best game too, Mario and Niles both. Just before I came down here, I saw Niles in Coach Cooks's office, watching film, and sat down with him.

And, you know, the bad part about playing corner is, you know, if you make a mistake, the whole world knows it. On the same account, you make a great play, and it's usually everybody has their eyes on that as well. And those two guys, Mario and Niles, have continued to grow. A big question mark for us going into the season, especially with the evident redshirt of Aaron Henry, those guys have really continued to grow against some quality opponents there on Saturday. So that's a positive.

I thought, you know, as I looked and assessed everything on Sunday, I always just try to write down a note or two on everybody that plays in the game. I obviously have to do it from the special teams' standpoint. But when I watch the offensive film, I try to make notes on a player that I felt played well or didn't play up to the ability. And, you know, some guys jumped out to me. Those two guys, Niles and Mario, played well.

Josh Oglesby did not miss a beat when he popped in there at left tackle. I was very proud of the way he competed and the way he, you know, showed up, ready to play. And then, obviously, John Clay, what he continues to bring. And Antonio Fenelus really did a good job for us. Again, on special teams, Devin Smith did some stuff for us on special teams. So there's some play of young guys. Patrick Butrym, a redshirt freshman, in at the defensive tackle position. There's enough positives of some young guys to get you encouraged about the future as well.

QUESTION #5: Does that mean Aaron Henry is a redshirt now?

BIELEMA: You know what, he didn't practice Sunday. I came up to him, after their practice on Sunday, and I said, you ready to go on Tuesday, knowing that he probably would say no, that he wasn't ready to. So after this point in the season, unless there's a dramatic need for him down the stretch, you know, that we were just devastated by that position that he needed to play, kind of like the same situation Jake Bscherer is in at the tackle position, the only way they get on the field is absolute necessity for the team to win.

QUESTION #6: Could you go over the first two timeouts in the second half? I think the first one, the nickel defense was on the field defensively, and then the offensive one, coming out of a TV timeout, and Gilreath running off the field.

BIELEMA: Well, there wasn't a TV timeout. That was the problem. We were, an indication that there was going to be a TV timeout, we were not told by the same official that let the 12 seconds go off in the first half that we were going to be into that situation.

The basic understanding of today's 25/40 second rule is, coming out of a TV timeout, you'll be in a 25. If you're just running, you know, from a kick play, it will also be from a 25, where there's a break, and people have to change chains. We thought we were going into a TV timeout.

I was on the defensive headset, talking about a special teams play, and it didn't get, I would say, with about 18 seconds, is when the huddle found out that they were going to be, you know, going on the clock. The clock had actually started. I was very disappointed in the way that it was communicated to our people on the sidelines that we were, already started our 25 second clock.

When we ran out on the field, I didn't feel, I believe we got out there with about eight seconds, that we were going to be able to get a play off without a five yard penalty for delay of game. And the defensive one was, again, personnel. On the field, we want to get different people out there against their attack.

QUESTION #7: Bret, after the last two weeks, do you think maybe expectations were a little too high for this team?

BIELEMA: The expectations are high on this team, and we'd like them to be high. As long as I'm here, it's better to have high expectations than low expectations. And we're five points away from being a 5 and 0 football team.

We've definitely, you know, asked our guys yesterday that, you know, just kind of put it in terms, over the last two weeks, there's probably everybody in the game, offense, defense, special teams, coaches, that could take five things and do them over again better. And that may be the difference between us having five more points or holding them to five fewer less points and put us in a situation that would be very positive.

You know, I'd take the last drive, and I've watched that thing several times now. And, you know, the ball bounces out of the running back's hands, and it kind of takes the right dribble and goes right back up into Pryor's hands. Then Jay Valai comes up and makes another good break on the ball. We let a receiver in on a call that shouldn't have ever, you know, taken place. But those things happen.

We get our hand on the ball, the ball is bouncing around live, and it goes right into their receiver's hands. If that ball bounces into a Badger hand, Jay Valai probably would have been the Big Ten player of the week with two forced fumbles in a way to secure a Badger victory. But because it ends up in their hands, because they score at the end of the game because we can't convert during the two minute situation, we drop another game and we're 3 and 2, and that's the reality we live in.

QUESTION #8: It seemed, like in the 12 and 1 season, those things all happened for you, you know. And then, last season and maybe this one, they haven't happened for you. What do you think the difference is?

BIELEMA: Well, obviously, it's winning and losing. It gets down to the way you execute fundamentally, offense, defense, special teams. But also, a little bit, you know, has to go into the way the ball bounces. In the back line end zone play there, I thought Allen Langford did a good job of getting the ball out, and it bounces right into the hands of Niles Brinkley, but it's a little bit behind him and underneath. You know, there are just certain things that, you know, don't go your way, and it's the reality of the situation.

Just for us to be healthier this week, I did experience this and know this, in my first year as a football coach, we stayed relatively healthy that entire year, which was a huge, huge factor in our success. When we did have an injury, when actually someone did leave the ballgame for the first time that year was in our eleventh ballgame, with Ben Strickland at corner and Tyler Donovan at quarterback. And that was really the only lineup changeup that we had that year. So staying healthy has probably a bigger impact than just the luck of the ball.

QUESTION #9: With the spread's emphasis on kind of big plays over maybe grinding it out, do you have to redefine the big plays allowed as a defense? Do you expect big plays are going to happen against you maybe a little more, given the way people are playing offense nowadays?

BIELEMA: No, I think a big play is still a big play. We have a certain yard marker that we rule off by. You know, I do think that, you know, when the team spreads you out, the chances of a mistackle being a result in the big play, you know, definitely increased because a missed tackle amongst the core of the formation is a little bit different. But that's not going to be anything I would define or determine big plays. We had a number of big plays from an offensive standpoint that, you know, were big and critical for us. But from a defense standpoint, I don't see how that would change.

QUESTION #10: Could you evaluate Evridge's progress and what you hope to see out of him more, maybe going forward? And is anybody pushing him for playing time, right now?

BIELEMA: Well, the part that Allan has to, you know, be able to improve upon more than anything is probably the accuracy of the passer. There's a number of plays in the last two games, in particular, that, and they've surfaced in every game, where the ball might be a little behind him, a little over him, a little under him.

There was a particular play that we wanted to go to in the beginning of the second half that was kind of a unique situation with P.J. and John Clay in the backfield together. The first one was about five yards in front of P.J., the next one was about a couple feet over his head. Now you'd like the second one to be able to be a catched ball.

But bottom line, you know, we've got to expect the ball to be delivered with better accuracy. I saw that he made a reference that the Ohio State player made a great play to make a break on the ball at the end of the game. I think he caught the ball in self-defense. It was thrown right at him, you know. So he's got to see a clearer picture of what we're trying to get done.

And, you know, I mentioned at the beginning of my press conference that, you know, as coaches, we have to evaluate everything, offense, defense, special teams, schemes, calls, but also personnel. And, you know, obviously, as a football coach, you know, you look at positions that haven't played as well as you'd like them to play. There's a lot of guys on our team that are playing as good of football or better than we thought they could to begin with.

But Allan is not immune to that, and, obviously, the next guy in would probably be Dustin Sherer. You don't need to read into it, Allan is going to start on Saturday and, you know, be our quarterback. But, you know, there comes a point in time where you have to make an assessment of where we are as a football team.

QUESTION #11: I mean, you had mentioned Penn State and the stats in the Big Ten. Could you be more specific about offensively, who really stands out, and defensively . . . doing?

BIELEMA: Well, their quarterback is, to me, a guy, from a year ago when we played him to where we are, right now, there's been a change at that position. A lot of the other guys are back. I think they're a very talented offensive line. They've got a great group of wide receivers. They've got running backs. A couple of them in there, they do a good job.

But the difference is the quarterback. He's, I think, got composure. I think he's got a good sense of what they're trying to get done, from an offensive point of view. Because of their non-conference schedule, as well as the people they've played to date, they've been able to be in rhythm and have been able to execute.

The thing that jumped out to me, I sit down and I watch special teams. I believe, if I'm not mistaken, they've had 18 punts, which isn't a lot of punts to be into your, you know, sixth game. On the flip side of it, I think they've covered 53 kickoffs, which means that they're kicking off quite a bit, which means, they're probably scoring quite a bit.

So, you know, there is a lot of things out there that shows that their offense is doing some very good things and doing it in every ballgame. There hasn't been a game where they've really been stifled or nullified. Really, just this past week, playing Purdue, but the flow of the game wasn't really one that was going to breed that.

QUESTION #12: Bret, have they changed their style of offense, with a more mobile quarterback, or are they still doing pretty much the same things?

BIELEMA: Well, they remind me a lot of when they had Robinson. And, I mean, obviously, it's a little bit different quarterback. But Penn State had been a traditional I, you know, an offense that was more similar to what we do. And when they had Robinson, you know, they experimented with him.

His first two years at wide receiver, they would line him up and run him back. And then, they settled in him as a quarterback. And his senior year, they went predominantly to a spread offense, and that's what you see out of them, right now. But they also do still have their two back formations and their two tight end formations.

QUESTION #13: Are you comfortable with how you brought John Clay along? And given the impact he has on a game, would there have been any way to speed up that process a little bit?

BIELEMA: Well, the main factor with John, really, in the beginning phases, you know, he didn't practice at all during the off week. For us to move forward, it can't be just, you know, go and see what happens on game day. You have to practice it, and John wasn't able to go during that course of the week.

I thought, going into our bye week, we used him as well as we could have. He played in all three games going into the bye week, and then, unfortunately, wasn't able to practice at all that week. He did practice a little bit on Tuesday of the Michigan game, and then, obviously, Wednesday, Thursday, and then played on Saturday.

And then, we had, you know, adjusted and did certain things more with him during the course of last week, and the dividends were seen on Saturday. And obviously, based on what he showed us on Saturday, not only from a standpoint of carrying the football, like I said, also did some nice things for us in protection, he can continue to grow.

What you don't want to do with a young player is put them into a situation that they're overwhelmed in and they have failures, because you can probably lose them or set them back as much as you can move them forward. They can take bigger gains forward, you know, better seam(?), but you can take some gigantic games backwards if they suffer through some defeats that, you know, potentially could affect the whole team.

And he's at a vital, vital position. Obviously, quarterback would be another, you know, situation that you would really be concerned about. A mistake in route as a wide receiver, usually, you just don't get the football. Obviously, drops are very visible. But when you have a mistake as an offensive player at other positions, it's not as glaring as what, at those two positions, in particular.

QUESTION #14: Brett, I'm sorry if I missed this Saturday, but Brendan Kelly, is he out for the season?

BIELEMA: You know, no one asked that question. Brendan, on the last play of two minute O on Wednesday, basically got his thumb caught up inside, and he joined our club crew and had surgery on, I guess it was Friday afternoon. And he's going to miss the rest of the season. Fortunately, for us, it took place after the fourth game, before the fifth. And so, he's allowed to have a redshirt season. And we'll pursue that with our medical people.

QUESTION #15: What did you see in Valai that allowed him to have that impact? Has he just been making steady progress and getting comfortable?

BIELEMA: He has. If you want to do a nice story, Jay Valai is a guy, probably a year ago, not at this time, maybe just a little bit before it, was really struggling. He was a guy that had battled it out with Aubrey Pleasant, wasn't able to take over that role, had been delegated to, you know, some special teams, and wasn't seeing the love or wasn't seeing the light.

And came into my office, and I'm sure, at that point in time, he was fully considering possibly asking to transfer or, you know, that maybe Wisconsin wasn't the right place for him. I urged him that we were going to put him in on some special teams and call on his, the one thing Jay can do is, he can run and hit. At that time, he hadn't grown as much as he has, right now, as a football player, but had some success.

And then, the bad part was, he had a concussion a year ago. I believe it might have been the Illinois game or possibly the Penn State game. Sat out for a little bit. Came back and just took the right approach of getting better as a football player, really developed during our bowl practice. And then, came out and played well in the bowl game against Tennessee.

Continued to move forward during spring football. Fall practice, he's been good. He's been good in all the games. But again, there were little things that we wish he could get better upon. And he's really taken a personal challenge, I think, to become a more complete player. And then, you know, if you take a poll of the Ohio State offensive personnel, I'll bet you that they're very impressed with the attitude that Jay Valai brings to the football. Those two guys that he put out, those were some pretty severe hits.

QUESTION #16: Bret, did you envision Oglesby as a left tackle, all along, when you were recruiting him and watching him in practice?

BIELEMA: You know what, I envisioned Josh Oglesby as a Badger, and I figured he was going to play offensive line, much to his chagrin. He wanted to try tailback, fullback, tight end, but he is an offensive lineman. You know, the part that's always fun is, when we have scouts or visitors, anybody that has been to practice for the first time, they all talk about the size of our offensive line. And then, you have the guy standing in back, with his helmet off, that's bigger than all of them.

And, you know, when Josh first popped in there, you know, there was, I'm sure, some hesitant breaths on the offensive staff, you know, because he's done some things in the goal line situations and finished up some games. But you're going against Ohio State, two very good defensive ends, whatever.

The I ended up over there, and I can't say enough about our senior offensive linemen. I saw Andy and Kraig both grab him, and at least they did a good job for us, and didn't miss a beat. And I think the way he approached the game, he was into the game. You saw him really, you know, grow as a football player. You know, Josh is a great kid, and he's got a lot of personality, but he's still a little bit on the immature side in certain areas. So the more he can make a step forward as a man, as a football player, there's going to be a benefit for all of us.

QUESTION #17: Can you talk about Gilreath's impact on offense too? I mean, that was the goal coming in, he wanted to do on offense what he had done for you on special teams. And it seems like he's doing that.

BIELEMA: Well, and it was great, because, you know, from the last game, you know, I thought the best catch, David had never scored a touchdown. And bottom line is, his touchdown grab against Michigan gave us a chance, you know, for the two-point conversion, which would give us a chance to put it in overtime. He knew he was going to get whacked, made the catch.

And, you know, from that point forward, might have solidified in his mind, maybe his quarterback's mind, our offensive coordinator's mind, that Davey can make catches and make plays from a wide receiver standpoint. And, you know, he had a critical third down catch as well, and still did some good stuff for us.

The kickoff return that he bounced outside, and they changed up what they did and were skimming too real hard, and he recognized it from the first kick, and then made a nice adjustment. And obviously, had the late hit out of bounds there, which, you know, gave us another 15 yards. But again, a great indication of him growing as a football player.


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