Bielema's Monday News Conference - 10.13.08

Believing his team is getting full effort and needs to focus on the attention to detail, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema touches on a range of topics during his Monday News Conference as his team prepares for Iowa.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema -

full transcript

OPENING COMMENTS: As early as Saturday night after the game, just trying the gauge the pulse of our team in the locker room, the mood of our coaches, then obviously Saturday night to think about it, and Sunday during the course of the day, I decided to change things up and move in a little different direction.

We did our normal lifting, conditioning, stretching with our players. After that, we gave them some time to get away, come back, we had a team meeting that I briefly spoke about where we were as a football team, where I felt we needed to go. Gave our defensive and offensive coordinators a chance to address their troops, and then broke up for a short period of time individually with our guys.

What I gave the staff direction to do was show the guys the clips that they needed to see from Saturday's game, but the emphasis needed to be on moving forward to take our team, take our approach and focus on our direction towards Iowa. So with that being said, I didn't given out at any MVPs really from Sunday night to where we are now. I've been trying to dedicate all the staff time as well as the energy and efforts of our players towards Iowa.

You know, the thing that jumped out to me right away with this football game is ever since I came back into this league after leaving for a short stint to go into the Big 12, Iowa was on a fairly significant role at that time, and we've been able to counteract that in the last two years with two wins during my time as the head coach. And I know that it's a huge emphasis down there, just on the information and the people that I have down there giving me feedback, as to this game for them has had a huge emphasis, as it has been in our program.

Their defense is very tough. They're number two against the rush. They've got a lot of physical football players up front playing their best football now at this time of the year. Their offense settled into the quarterback, the number two rusher in our conference, a very, very good football player. It's a tremendous challenge and a great opportunity for us to go on the road and get a good gauge of where we're in the football program.

Injury-wise, Kraig Urbik will go through some tests this afternoon. We should have some more information about him tomorrow, but we were encouraged. Actually, I know last week I said that while Gabe was better than expected in his diagnosis on Sunday, I did feel that actually Kraig wasn't, although he might have been in a little bit more pain than Gabe, his injury may not have been as significant as Gabe's. So Gabe himself was convinced on Sunday that he'd be able to go. He had full flexion, full extension, was able to demonstrate to me how he can get in and out of a stance. So we'll go through today and tomorrow. Obviously, it will be our first full-padded practice of the week and see where he stands there.

Garrett Graham came out today feeling pretty good. He was really excited about the way he felt on Sunday. Just saw him actually right before I came down here, and obviously we got our grass turf going on out there, so what . . . for him, but he was feeling fairly well about where he stood from an injury standpoint.

So with that, I will open it up for any questions.

QUESTION #1: When you talked to the team Sunday night and said this is where we are, this is where we can go, what were some of the things you shared with them?

BIELEMA: Well, we're a 3-3 football team, a team that's completed six games, that you have six games in front of you. But I went back to our goal wasn't, you know, sometimes coaches will take a look at the goals and make a little bit of an adjustment depending on where the season is.

But we had 13 team goals, and the first 6 of those 13 are all day-to-day thinking, day-to-day mentality, how we approach practice every day, how we approach the game week. Obviously, one of the biggest ones out of order is the 1-0 mentality, and I don't think there's any better time than this season to focus on that mentality to get where we need to be.

QUESTION #2: One of things Dave Doeren shared with us last night was about every defensive starter had stopped in his office and talked about ways to fix this. Is that the attitude of the players that you feel coming across rather than, you know, just trying to get this fixed?

BIELEMA: Absolutely. You know, I know that, you know, we have a large majority of seniors in our starting lineup, but guys that have been through, some of the varsity guys that understand, you know, tough times bring about tough people, and tough people are the ones that last. So I know we're in a difficult situation where we are.

I know I take certain things that I've learned in my life, and obviously, you know, I think, Tom, you were the one that asked me if this is the most difficult challenge that I've had as head coach. And, you know, to lose three games in a row is a difficult challenge, but as the head coach it makes me think a lot about experiences I witnessed.

And, you know, I go back and I relay the story to our team. My second year at Kansas State, our first year I believe we went 11-2, won quite a few ball games. Came back the next year, we were ranked I believe number eight at the beginning of the year. We won our first four games, then lost a game to Marshall at home, which you guys made reference to when we played Marshall. Went on the road and lost to Texas the next week. Went on the road and got beat by Oklahoma State. Went out of the rankings. Everybody kind of, you know, left us for dead.

Went on to win the remaining six games. Had an opportunity to play in the Big 12 championship game against the number one team in the country, beat them, and earned a BCS birth. We actually played 15 games that year. We played in the Andy Robinson Classic to start the season off against Cal, so we were an 11-4 football team that, you know, I was disappointed, but on the same account, finished strong and did a great job of righting the ship.

QUESTION #3: How did Josh play, fill in at left tackle and Nagy in for Urbik?

BIELEMA: Well, Josh, you know, it became apparent on Thursday that Gabe wasn't probably going to be the starter or be able to play in the game. And our feeling was that Gabe wasn't in a position to be the starter, give him another week to recover before putting him back out there.

Josh had shown us in the previous game that he was able to do certain things and do them well. And I can say that, you know, on Sunday when we sat back and watched the film, there's obviously a few things he can do better, but he didn't stand out as a sore thumb by any means.

And then Billy, I was, you know, pleased with his ability to come in here. Billy, because of Josh's position, had repped all week in our jumbo package, knew he was going to be involved in our game plan. But when he went in there at guard, again, for the most part, outside of a few plays against a pretty good defensive personnel, really didn't stand out in a negative way.

QUESTION #4: We talked to Paul yesterday about the quarterback situation. He said, you know, we've got the luxury of time to determine if we want to make a change. How much influence or how much say will you have when you sit down and talk about that position?

BIELEMA: You know, a lot, because Paul and I have made discussions in the last couple weeks about the quarterback situation and where we would go. And, you know, during the course of Saturday's ballgame, after that last series, we obviously made the change and went in a certain direction.

I think on Sunday, you know, we both agreed that Dustin, when he was in there, did a lot of good things. Obviously, Paul deals with him on a daily basis and can kind of better gauge what he thinks they might do once put in a situation.

I liked Dustin's response, and how he handles this week, you know, on the same account, I pointed out . . . after the game, you know, Allan, on that scoring drive, did a lot of things that we've been asking and expecting him to do, you know, as far as taking off with the football, scored on a play where he broke the line of scrimmage. So he did some things, but on a single count made us make a switch with Dustin, and how they handle this week will determine what happens on Saturday.

QUESTION #5: Coach, offensively, other than, you know, players not finishing blocks, finishing runs, is there just a lack of physicality on the offensive unit?

BIELEMA: Well, it's a lack of, you know, I told the kids on Sunday, if I had an issue with lack of effort, the lack of desire, the lack of toughness in any phase of our game, we would be going through a pretty intense drill period out on the field. We'd be going through an intense film session.

But what I saw in all phases of the game was attention to detail. We were doing enough things before the snap that created negative situations that prevented us from winning a football game or having a chance to score points or stop them from scoring points. And it's not just limited to the offense. But, you know, from an offensive point of view, I don't want to see anymore issues with personnel being on the field, you know.

We obviously got a penalty because we had 12 men on the field. Everybody was, had formed in the huddle except for the guy that needed to leave didn't leave. So, you know, we've got to do a better job of doing that. Not do a better job, we got to eliminate that mistake because it surfaced in the last three ballgames.

QUESTION #6: Bret, when you were talking about Kansas State being four and how you rolled off six straight wins and you ended up with a BCS game, when you were meeting with those players after that losing streak, if you will, and then got going, was it stated to those players at that time if we do this, we can get here? And, if so, did you say that to your players yesterday, or have you spoken to them about if we do this, we can get here?

BIELEMA: You know, the main emphasis after that Kansas State situation was the tight end had first brought it up in fall camp about the 1-0 mentality. He brought it up in reference to if we get on a roll, it doesn't matter, we just got to keep winning every week. And when that situation arose, where we got beat by Marshall, we're a 4-1 football team, that same person spoke on behalf of the team about you need to take this week and approach it as, hey, you know, bad things happen, but we got to move on.

And then reemphasized it again after the loss to Texas. And then probably got up and tripled the effort, you know, and everybody's starting to wonder if we are done, but the other thing that jumped out to me in my recollection of that time was after we had lost our third ballgame, Coach Bill Snyder, who I know has been able to be who he is because of an extreme mental toughness, you know, explained to our staff, the way the Big 12 works in the East and West Divisions, if we were able to do what we needed to do, then we'd still have an outside chance.

Some teams would have to take care of the situation, but we could represent, you know, the Big 12 going to the championship game. I think even as coaches, he didn't say it to the players, but he said to our coaches, we're kind of like, you know, that's coach being coach, but, lo and behold, it ended up being true.

So, you know, it also gave me an indication as a head coach. I also thought about my time here, you know. I never experienced three losses in a row with Coach Alvarez during conference play, and I reflected back to my first year when we were a 9-0 football team, and then the, you know, the adversity we faced.

But to go back to the next year when we lost on the road to Penn State, we lost his final home game at home here against Iowa, a game that, you know, could have meant a lot in the BCS standings and everything that goes with it, but the response he showed us coaches and our players, and obviously we went on to go out and win a football game at Auburn when no one else thought we could, again showed me from the top down how you needed to, you know, set the standard to what needs to be accomplished and seen in the program.

QUESTION #7: You're familiar with Iowa's defensive philosophy, and they got a lot of interceptions this season. Are they still, you know, trying to keep things in front of them and require the quarterback to take chances, and then pounce on those mistakes?

BIELEMA: Yeah, and they've also incorporated a lot more blitzing in their scheme this year is something that's been a little bit different for them. I really think their two safeties did a great job as a play in the Ohio State game where they basically then gave the quarterback a look in a two-man situation, he drops down to a single two cover and he makes an incredible break on the ball.

So their safeties, corners, and linebackers have all done a great job of breaking on the ball, and I'll go back to my time. I sat in those defensive meeting for three years and, you know, a lot of it was placed on, you know, being in a position to make a break on ball, not dropping it in zone areas, but dropping into zone coverage against personnel, and you can see that carry forward in the film. And their front does a great job of creating pressure with just four people.

QUESTION #8: Coach, after starting Tyler last year and now Allan this year, two seniors, does next year have any influence on the quarterback that's going to be your starter this week?

BIELEMA: Absolutely none.

QUESTION #9: You know, Bret, everyone said the NFL is a quarterback league. Is the college game getting more like that now? You know, you obviously got to have a decent quarterback playing the position to have success. But if you look at Iowa went through it and teams that have had to struggle with that position is it becoming more and more like that in the college game?

BIELEMA: You know, obviously I know very few people have witnessed it, but I've got a quarterback throughout junior high, throughout high school, until my third year, just because I was basically on the team and they ended up switching me to a different position. But even going back to junior high and high school, I'm not sure I'd pat myself on the back, but I think I was one of the better players.

So the coach at that point put me at the quarterback position, because you naturally want that position to be a playmaker for you. You want it to be someone that also when you're in the huddle, other people admire and respect and can kind of cater to him and give themselves to.

So the better teams I've been around, the better teams that I've witnessed, the teams that, you know, maybe go beyond people's expectations, are typically the ones that probably have a guy in that position that, you know, plays way above their own personal abilities, and maybe the team's abilities overall.

So and actually, you know, I know everybody's going to, you know, it's a natural reaction, it was a natural reaction in this room last week when I talked about several things in personnel that I had to look at, everybody focused on the quarterback. It's just what people do. He's the pretty boy, he's the guy in the middle, he's the guy that gets the attention, he's the guy that, you know, I thought it was great in reading the comments, you know, I admire Allan for stepping into that meeting room after the game on Saturday and answered all those questions. I mean, he's a standup guy.

You know, Paul made reference to, you know, when we made a change at, you know, quarterback, you got to take the good with the bad. You get patted on the back when you're doing well. When you get, you know, a kick in the rear when you're not. It's just part of the territory. That's why you see special people in situations.

QUESTION #10: Coach, you've been a part of quite a few of these Iowa-Wisconsin games these past couple years, and they often seem to kind of come down to the fourth quarter. Can you talk about how usually close and physical this game is between these two teams?

BIELEMA: Well, it's a traditional Big Ten game, our game last week against Penn State, the first two games were a four-quarter football game. I expect every game from here forward to be. We've got five more remaining games in Big 10 play. I expect them to be four-quarter game.

Iowa, in particular, you know, because of the way they play offensively, defensively, tend to be in four-quarter games. All their games, up until this past week against Indiana, when the game was kind of out of hand towards the end, you know, that's their style of play, to make it a four-quarter game and, you know, not give up big plays.

Every one that I've been involved in here since I came back to Wisconsin has been a four-quarter game. It's just kind of the nature of the beast.

QUESTION #11: Did Chris Maragos give you something of what you guys were looking for when you decided to make that whole switch?

BIELEMA: He did. We had, you know, anticipated Chris to be, you know, good in certain areas, but on the same account, you know, I know there were two plays in particular that jump out in my mind where he lost a little leverage on a receiver that he had and gave up a big play in the passing game.

So he definitely didn't play a perfect game, but when Shane Carter came in and, you know, made a nice big pass breakup on a deep ball there, didn't support the run on a couple of different occasions when he had the time. So what we got out of that position combined was a positive.

QUESTION #12: After playing back to back games against Ohio State and Penn State, which are traditionally two of the more physical teams in the conference, you had some injury issues, do you worry about the physical toll those games will take on your players, or can you do anything to help that out?

BIELEMA: Well, you know, part of the reason I didn't really want to go out there on Sunday was, you know, I don't like playing three very physical football games in a row. I thought we'd give our guys an extra day of rest and come back Tuesday.

That did enter my mind but, you know, it's not going to, you know, I can't call Kirk and, you know, it's so hard on certain quarters, certain players. That's just the nature of the beast. It's the nature of who we are. It's the nature of who they are. And, you know, fortunately for us, I think we do recruit that type of mentality. I know our guys come here with the idea that they're going, you know, be a physical football team, and it's always a battle.

QUESTION #13: Urbik's got a pretty impressive streak here on the line starting every game. How impressive is that to you and, given what you know about him, is he going to do absolutely every single thing to try to get out there?

BIELEMA: Yeah, it wouldn't be surprising to me to see him do everything this week. He will be pushing the doctors as much as he can. I know he was in a pretty good amount of pain on Sunday. I haven't seen him yet today, but, you know, based on where we were with Gabe a week ago and, you know, indicating that he hadn't seen anything from a visual standpoint, just by testing and kind of gauging where manual tests on him, they, you know, again shared with me information. They didn't think it was as significant as Gabe's. But it gets down to everybody's, everybody's being just a little bit different.

QUESTION #14: What does that streak mean to you?

BIELEMA: Well, it's impressive, you know, because it's been in multiple positions. It's been, you know, over the course of several years. You know, Kraig came in as a guy that, you know, I knows he's recruited by other programs, but he was a typical Wisconsin kid who came in, bought into what we're doing, was able to find himself in a starting role as a freshman quite as many snaps as you can. That's survived the storm in the middle there quite a bit.

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