"I am glad it was after this game than last one," Bielema said in his Monday news conference. "I drove away thinking what might have happened if it wasn't a victory."
It's amazing how quick some people can forget about the past after one week of football.
It certainly wasn't the prettiest game but the Badgers were fortunate to get the breaks when they needed them. Illinois's Juice Williams threw three interceptions and the defense let the Badgers score the final 17 points of the game. It was the first time UW overcame a second-half deficit of at least a touchdown to win a game since its last home game against Illinois.
Bielema mentioned to reporters on Thursday that the Badgers needed to get back to basics in order to find the winning approach, meaning UW needed to line up and execute with what plays were being called in the huddle, convert on third downs and overcome in the face with adversity.
Three times on Saturday, Illinois started its offensive drive in Wisconsin territory and twice the drive ended in an interception. Wisconsin defense limited Illinois to a season-low 309 yards of total offense. Illinois entered last Saturday's game leading the Big Ten and ranking ninth in the country, averaging 484.6 yards of total offense per game.
"After film review, I thought there were a couple things that jumped out to us," Bielema said. "First off, it was a total team effort. I thought all three areas of our team had to overcome some adversity, didn't do everything right, but were able to respond and have a positive result in the end. It was a four-quarter game and we won, something we weren't able to do during that four-game stretch."
Much like he was when he announced that sophomore Kirk DeCremer's career was over, Bielema was obviously disappointed when he talked about senior Travis Beckum's career coming to a sudden halt after he broke his left fibula against Illinois.
"It was a difficult one to live through and experience," Bielema said. "I thought Travis was one of the few guys that have been full circle with me. First time I ever met Travis to where we are Saturday, Travis has done a lot here at the University of Wisconsin and every indication I have of him as a person, an individual and a competitor and as a winner, he's got a lot of great things ahead of him in the future."
Choosing to prolong his NFL career and come back for his senior season, Beckum, who finished his career ranking third in school history in receptions (159) and yards (2,149), had struggled to stay healthy in his final season.
After missing all of spring workouts recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, Beckum suffered a hamstring injury in fall camp and missed UW's first two games of the season. He returned against Fresno State but re-injured himself and missed the first three quarters of the Michigan game, where he lined up incorrectly on a two-point conversation and cost UW the tie.
In the last three weeks, however, Beckum's numbers started to increase. He lead the team in receiving yards against Ohio State and Penn State and is currently the second-leading receiver on the team with 23 catches for 264 yards.
"He had given us so much in the last two weeks preparation wise and I know that I met with him last week and encouraged him to just go out and do what he does," Bielema said. "To have it end that way was a blow."
The prognosis for Beckum's injury is unknown but Bielema equaled the injury to the same type of leg break Matt Shaughnessy suffered during spring camp. Bielema said he was indicated that Beckum would be able to start doing some running and movement at the end of January, which would set him up well for the combine and personal workouts.
"He's gotten better by the hour as far as his spirit," Bielema said. "He has an unyielding spirit and I don't think he'll look back with any regrets. We've got to live with the punches and roll with them and I know he'll take the same accord. He made a decision last year to come back and improve on his draft status and in my opinion, even with this setback, he probably will improve his status."
Previewing Michigan State
Arguably the toughest conference opponent the Badgers were going to face all year on the road, the Spartans (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) have dramatically improved in year two under head coach Mark Dantonio. After suffering a 38-point defeat at the hands of Ohio State, the Spartans bounced back with a 14-point win at Michigan, its first win at the Big House since 1990 and first win against its in-state rivals since 2001.
Led by a stout offensive line, running back Javon Ringer, the leader in attempts (300), yards (1,373) and touchdowns (16) ran for 192 yards and two scored against Michigan. Ringer's 1,373 rushing yards is also best in the nation and has rushed for over 190 yards four times this season.
"I think they have got a great offensive line, especially the right side has a lot of experience," Bielema said about the Spartans. "Their defensive line is the heart and soul of what they need to do. Mark D'Antonio, a defensive coach, knows that it all starts up front and you can see that in the way that the play. This is an opportunity to go on the road in the Big Ten and play a ranked opponent, something we haven't done since Fresno State."
You said that in an interview that if you could be anybody else for a day, you'd be (Wisconsin men's hockey coach) Mike Eaves … why?
Mike never has a bad day. I get so focused in on the world around that I asked who else would be up here with me and he explained the troubles Mike was having playing against ranked opponents. When I walked outside and saw Mike for the first time, he was all smiles and grabbed my hand. As you guys know, I didn't know how many periods were in a hockey game before I first came here. Those guys, including Coach Johnson, have really been able to educate me in that world. I know I didn't want to be Bo. I am not that smart. I can't filibust several topics for as long as he can so I didn't want to go down that path, although I admire and respect Bo.
I figured if I said Lisa Stone I would get all kind of cross-dressing references and stuff so I went with the safe bet with Mike. I wouldn't of said Barry Davis because he's way too short.