If it Ain't Broke ... Don't Fix It

With the two-quarterback system working well enough to lead the UW offense a win, including junior Scott Tolzien throwing for more yards in his start than any other QB in Badger history, head coach Bret Bielema and his staff plans on sticking with the same game plan against Fresno State.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema -

full transcript

BRET BIELEMA: Well, I had an opportunity to watch the film on Sunday, and saw a lot of positive things. We awarded a couple guys some MVPs on offense. That was really unique to give Isaac Anderson, Nick Toon the offensive MVP, but those guys had an impact on the game throughout. Can't have a bigger impact than Isaac on the first play. Obviously, Scotty (Tolzien) had to throw it, and the protection needed to be there, but then Isaac came up with a couple plays early. And on the flip side of it, when the option came for Nick to get a couple plays, he took full advantage of them. One of the things I did like offensively is that six guys caught the ball. So we're able to spread that around a little bit.

Defensively, we went with O'Brien Schofield and Chris Maragos, two guys that played extremely hard. Chris coming up with the last play at the end of the game, and then OB because of the depth at the defensive end, just really played hard. J.J. (Watt) did a good job as well, but we went with those two guys. And then a neat story from a special teams perspective, Will Hartmann, I believe he had four kickoffs and all the phases of the kicking game, I'm sorry, four tackles in all the phases of the kicking game and really has taking a forward leadership role on that, that department, and really showed up on Saturday.

And then two scout team MVPs on offense, Sam Edmiston, a young man that walked on from Ohio is doing a great job for us, and then Nick Hill from here in the state. Both those guys really did some good things.

So came out of it relatively injury free. Unfortunately for us, we went into it a little with an injury bug, with Louis Nzegwu, he's feeling better than he, way better than he was a week ago. He'll progress through some things this week and hopefully get him back for Saturday. We'll have John Moffitt back out there this week going through practice. And then really no new additions from the game that are surprises. So with that, I'll open it up for questions.

QUESTION #1: How about Brendan Kelly?

BIELEMA: Brendan last week, I guess it was almost a week ago now, was taken off the crutches, and he progressed during the course of the week with pool work and, you know, different things during the course of the week. Now last night he was in, we were in modified gear for our practice last night, but he was in that and participated. He'll kind of work himself through this week, and there is a chance for him this week, if not next week for sure.

QUESTION #2: Bret, if John comes back at center and through the course of the week shows he's ready to play and start a game, do you pop him back in there at center? And if so, what do you do with Travis (Frederick)?

BIELEMA: It probably depends a lot, Jeff, on how good he would look, just because Travis did some really good things Saturday. And you know, one part that we would like to have a little more depth is at the center/guard, and John could probably get you through both of those situations as well as Travis, because Travis played all spring and really most of the summer at guard. So it really just depends on how well John handles it this week.

QUESTION #3: Bret, based on what you saw from your quarterbacks, does your approach this week change at all? Does Curt (Phillips) warrant more playing time? Does Scott warrant more playing time? How do you handle that?

BIELEMA: We'll probably go into the game plan, you know, a little early in the week to tell, but we'll probably go in it the exact same day we did on Saturday. I thought, you know, both of them came in and did some things that were brought to my attention. I didn't realize this until Sunday that Scott had actually thrown for more yards than any first-time starter at the University of Wisconsin. So he really handled and managed the game well, and I like the way Curt came off the bench. And we kind of shared with him during the course of the week what we thought he would walk into as far as the timing of it and, you know, really did some good things. So we're going to stick with the same game plan.

Now, I'll share this, though, too. You know, if things weren't going the way they were with Scott, Curt might have came in earlier or might, if it was going extremely well and we weren't doing well defensively, he might have came in later. It all depends on the flow of the game.

QUESTION #4: I think you mentioned last week, (Bill) Nagy was going to get a little different treatment. Has he had that?

BIELEMA: He did. He had it on Friday, said it hurt. He's in a boot, and they have to mobilize that. I want to say maybe he'll get out of that boot maybe tomorrow, but the chances of him getting back in this week are probably unlikely.

QUESTION #5: Kind of a follow-up on offensive line play. Since you've been head coach, do you like or do you feel that holding calls have been called consistently? Offensive holding I'm talking about.

BIELEMA: Yeah, I'm not going to get into the specifics of that, but, you know, there is an emphasis this year from the way holds are going to be supposedly called. And if that continues the way that they are saying it, it kind of cleans it up and kind of defines what are guys feel they'd be able to get away with and have an understanding of what's reality and what's going to be called in a gray area, so. I think what Bill Carollo is really trying to do is make things very, very clear in all phases of officiating to make it better for us coaches and players to understand.

QUESTION #6: As a former defensive coordinator, if you're preparing for Paul Chryst's offense with the shifts motions and different formations, and then you throw in the Phillips factor, is that a pretty tough preparation, do you think?

BIELEMA: It is. You know, there's two things that go into it. First off, Scott and Curt, in respective areas, are totally different. Their strengths are totally different. So that builds in a little bit of unique preparation. And then because of what we do offensively, you know that you may align on one thing and get something totally opposite. You may have strength at one side of the formation, and after a quick shift, it may be back to the other side and could end up before the snap being back to where it was. So that's a little bit of a unique preparation, and anything we can do to, you know, put something on film and make guys prepare harder is a better thing for us.

QUESTION #7: Kind of on the other side of the ball, Dave (Doeren) really likes that 3-3-5 look. You talked about the versatility it gives him. Did you do something similar to that, especially back in '04?

BIELEMA: We did some odd stuff, I believe we broke it out in the Purdue game, but that was more of a, you know, try to take advantage of our personnel and trying to take advantage of a different look versus the spread. And that's what kind of all that look that Dave's referring to primarily takes place for us on third down, independent of down distance and, again, trying to maximize our personnel. You know, that's when you saw (Chris) Borland come out on the field. Mike Taylor would be out there at the same time. Blake Sorensen might be out there. It's a way to get Antonio Fenelus, who really was playing pretty good football for us during fall camp. So it's a way to try to maximize our personnel, but also give us a little bit of a different look defensively for third down.

QUESTION #8: Bret, with regards to your quarterbacks, how much overlap is there in your playbook for the two guys? I'm just curious that what can Curt do that you, a play for Curt that you wouldn't call for Scott and vice versa?

BIELEMA: Well, going back to when we made the decision to go with Scott as a starter and put Curt in the position that he was in, because we felt he'd really done some good things, Paul and I had discussions about, hey, this is what Curt's really good at. And you know, just from a standpoint of being in the system only for a year and a half, not having the knowledge that Curt, or that Dustin and Scotty had, just to try and minimize the playbook, minimize it into things that Curt's going to do well in. You know, whether it's a what he can do in a run game, what he can do at the line of scrimmage, limit the amount of formations and jumps and shifts, and then also just schematically what Curt can do better, you know, other than being able to run the ball versus maybe having an option of just one or two things on the field before he takes off.

QUESTION #9: Bret, you had a number of guys make big plays in that game. It looked like they might come around and be potential playmakers for you. Were you encouraged by that?

BIELEMA: Well, anytime you see a guy make a play, you get encouraged, because once it happens once, you kind of expect it to happen again. But to be quite honest, when guys make plays, when Mike Taylor rips the ball out from a running back, I'm sure everybody looks at him and goes, my, what a great play. I've seen it 20 times during practice. You know, when you see a guy get a hand on a ball or get a good rush.

I was happy, you know, I'm excited about the younger players playing well, but as long as I've been in this business, when your seniors play well, that's a good indicator of good things to happen. And for O'Brien Schofield and Chris Maragos to step up the way they did and to play the way they did down the stretch, you know, just gives me a good indicator that they're in tune with what we're trying to get done. They're very focused. And when those guys play well, now you have a chance.

And on the flip side of it, you know, Garrett Graham, although I believe he had six catches, really didn't have a big, big play, and he's been practicing very well, so I expect him to be a guy that can kind of raise to the forefront.

QUESTION #10: As far as Fresno State this week, they've got a history, well deserved, of good special teams play. I think they blocked another, it was a punt this week. They got two against you guys last year. What, from playing them and studying them on tape, why are they so effective at getting to a field goal, a placement, you know, a punt?

BIELEMA: Well, they really are good at, you know, PAT/field goal block. They've taken advantage of that over the course of time and did take advantage of a punt block. But, you know, a little bit of personnel. The one thing they've got a lot of, and you can especially see that when you break down offensively and defensively, they've got a lot of skill. They're probably the flip side of us and, you know, being from where we're from geographically and what we can be able to recruit, the linemen are never really an issue for us. It's more along the lines of skill. They've got a lot of that and some guys that, you know, it's one thing to be fast and to be quick, but there's an art and there's a skill to guys that can block punts and kicks and they've had a ring of them.

QUESTION #11: I guess I say that styles make for great fights, when you guys have faced Fresno, going back a few years to even when they came here in Camp Randall and won, what is it about this . . . program that makes for such good matchups, close games, when they play the Badgers?

BIELEMA: Well, again, personnel. I wasn't here for the game here, but I know the personnel that was on the field, and they did a good job. Last year, going into our game, you know, just two teams that battle it out and ground it out to the end, and, you know, this year, they're very similar to us again. They have a new quarterback in their system, but around that quarterback they have very, very good skill, like I just mentioned, at the wide receiver and running back position. And at the quarterback position, they really have a couple guys that bring a different flavor to the meal as well.

So you know, as far as what makes it close, Pat Hill is a very, very, very good coach. He emphasizes all the right things. He's had success over the years at a program that hadn't had it in the past, and has renewed the sense of the pride there, and I think that's, they walk around, you know, that they'll play anybody, anytime, anywhere, and that carries over to their players and has given them the chances that they've had.

QUESTION #12: You mentioned Isaac Anderson up front. I mean, is that what you're going to expect from him, not necessarily yardage, but in terms of productivity week after week? Because I think back to that day in camp where he gave up on that play, and you guys really got him. I mean, we're talking two different players.

BIELEMA: Yeah. But that's what happens in practice, you know. Practice practice is and players play. You know, the thing I had mentioned to Isaac in front of the team meeting yesterday was I recognized two wide receivers, and as a group, that group might have drawn my attention more from any other position group in front of the team while being able to compete and play the way we need to play. So you saw a response out of them that you liked.

And as important as Isaac's first touchdown grab was, as important as his catches were in the ballgame, and Nick as the game wore on, the play that jumped out in my mind as a head coach was the head gear, when the guy tore off his head gear, he just kind of got up, moved upon his business. The official threw the flag, and we got a 15-yard penalty. There wasn't a retaliation. Second guy always gets caught. And to me, that showed the mental maturity that we're looking for, and that was a positive, positive thing to reinforce with our guys.

QUESTION #13: On that onside kick, I think you had Taylor, Borland, and (Mickey) Turner. Is that your hands group or are they in there to make contact with other people?

BIELEMA: They were in there, first off, I give credit where credit is due. The Northern Illinois kicker, I saw him do that five times last year. He does a high ball kick where he drives the ball in the ground. And you know, when you slow it down on film, you know, they're crossing, their onside unit is crossing the ball on the 30-yard line, and that ball isn't being placed in there, into anybody in our unit's hands at the same time they're getting hit from that front line.

So you know, you have two basic thought processes when fielding an onside kick. One would be to send your guy at their guys and have an opportunity to block for the second row, or the front row, what we teach them is their feet are on the 42-yard line. If anything comes at you, you catch it. If anything is over your head, you block the most dangerous, and that fell right on the 42-yard line.

The ball placement was different, although it was the same kicker, you saw him line up. It's very unusual for a right-footed kicker to kick the ball to his right on an onside. Most right-footed kickers kick the ball to their left. And last year he kicked it to the same side he did now, but before the snap he had scooted around over to the other side and done it like most teams would, and then shifted over at the last minute. So our guys were in the right position, and, you know, he delivered a good kick and a lucky bounce, bounced off Mike's front pad and went right into the hands of the Northern Illinois player.

QUESTION #14: There were some times Aaron Henry was, I think, in and out of the lineup a little bit Saturday. Were you guys taking it easy on him? Did you see rust, or what was, you know?

BIELEMA: No. More along the lines of Antonio Fenelus doing good things. Devin Smith, from the time of fall camp, if you want, you know, cornerback is unique, you only got one on the field. If you take the cornerback position, Devin Smith has probably played as good and as consistent at the corner position of anybody in our program from day one to where we are today. Was very productive yesterday as well. Antonio Fenelus has come on very, very strong the last two weeks. I go back to last Wednesday and Thursday during our preparation, and Antonio got his hands on several balls and was really making some nice breaks.

So went into the game with the full expectation of those three guys playing, and then I think when Aaron got hit with that pass interference on a third and 14, you know, we kind of made some, a decision, hey, let's get Antonio in there and see where he's at. So Antonio is going to play this week as well. Those guys will be on a rotation to get all three of them out there on the field.

QUESTION #15: Are there a lot of benefits to playing extra games, whether it's sub packages or playing multiple guys at a position, you know, to get a lot of guys involved in reps?

BIELEMA: I think one aspect that we, yes, in answer to your question. I think that more came about after last year. I mean, we were sitting here and we really thought as a staff if we were able to rotate, especially at certain positions, at defensive line, if we're able to get just even a three-man rotation in there instead of just trying to rely on, you know, we really relied on (Mike) Newkirk and Chappy (Jason Chapman) so long, we thought maybe they'd be better in the third and fourth quarter if we relieved them more in the first and second.

So that's been a point of emphasis, trying to get guys in there, rotate them through and hopefully we'll be stronger down the stretch. You know, I told our offense, I always go positives and negatives on Sunday. One of the positives to our offense in the middle, I'm sorry, the end of third quarter, our offense had monopolized the clock for 12 minutes in the third quarter. On the flip side of that, Northern Illinois had the ball for 11 minutes in the fourth quarter, and that's where that momentum swung. So it's something we made our guys aware of and cognizant and that's something that we have to be aware of at all times.

QUESTION #16: Bret, when you talk about, just look at the defensive line rotation. You went pretty deep and played some guys who hadn't really played. How tough is it to stick to a rotation like that when, you know, you haven't seen these guys play in some cases?

BIELEMA: Well, you got to go off, Tom, you got to go off what you see in practice. And you know, from a defensive tackle perspective, it was tough to decide who started between Patrick Butrym, Jeff Stehle, and Dan Moore. Actually, Dan had had a mild concussion earlier in the week, so he had missed some practices. That's why he didn't get the spot, but those three guys, in my eyes, have played equal and played well.

At the defensive end, after we lost Louis, the next man in was (Anthony) Mains, and you were a little bit apprehensive just because he was very nervous. He was a first-time player, very anxious to get out there on the field. We broke him in with some special teams play. I think he played 29 reps on Saturday, and he didn't, he didn't stand out from a negative point of view, so that was a positive thing. And this week we'll oil up David Gilbert, get him involved as well, so that will be another man in the rotation, as well as the return of Louis, and then Brendan Kelly eventually back as well.

QUESTION #17: So you're going to, Gilbert is going to play?

BIELEMA: I do. I think so. We had kind of gone with where we weren't going to, and then with some depth issues and I kind of had a conversation with him where I thought he could really help us in several phases of the kicking game, as well as from the line of scrimmage. So our intent is to pursue that and see exactly where he is by Wednesday, Thursday, and make a decision.

QUESTION #18: Bret, how unusual is it to have your initial play called days in advance, knowing what you're going to do on that first play, as you did with the pass play against Northern?

BIELEMA: Really not that unusual. I'll tell you it's unusual in an opener, you know, because a lot of times it's based off of what you've seen on film. But we did say this, and you guys remember back to my press conference, Northern Illinois does what they do, you know. And Coach Kill is a guy that believes in a system and stays with it and sticks with it. So we had a pretty good idea and understanding that that was going to be a look we got.

I know that, you know, just because it's a first play of an opening game, for both sides of the ball, there's really not much precedence from '09 to go off of, so that was a little bit more unusual. But I go back, I think I said in the press conference afterwards that, you know, when I was a defensive coordinator, if you were attacked personally at your position, whether it be a corner, a tackle, a linebacker, on the first play that that meant the coaches felt they could have success, because that's where you want to go. You don't call a first play with the idea you're going to fail. So you know, it's something that we try to take advantage of, and it's something we routinely try to do.

QUESTION #19: Back to Fenelus for a little bit, his one area that he still really needs to work on is a tendency for untimely penalties. I know there was in practice, in red zone time, where he didn't use the proper technique and got a penalty in the goal line, and then he got this one this past week.

BIELEMA: Well, I think that, yes, that it's a young player that has to learn when he can press and when he can't. That's a big deal, you know. You know, I believe, I don't exactly know where the ball was, I want to say it might have been on the three yard line or somewhere down there. Basically, when you're running a fade down there, the quarterback is just going to take the ball and take a step and throw it up. You know, as long as you got your hands on the receiver when the ball is in the air, it's a penalty, and that was kind of a hit and miss, you know, timing of it, but obviously went against him.

The thing I like about Antonio is he's got a very short memory. He's a guy that, he understands corner play and the reality that, hey, I know I'm going to make a play or I might get called for one, but I got to make up for it, and my guess is he will.

QUESTION #20: Have you changed your mind about using (Dezmen) Southward?

BIELEMA: Dez, no. You know, Dez, a lot of you know this, and we actually just had, I had a conversation with his high school coach this morning about a current prospect, but Dez only played football for basically one year. And fortunately for him, he played in Florida, so he got spring ball and then fall camp, but then he broke his wrist during fall season, missed I believe six or seven ballgames before he came back and played in the final two or three. So his relative football window is very, very small.

So we've kind of, although I think he could help us on some special teams, just basic football stuff is very, very new to him, and I don't want to, when you're dealing with a young player, you know, just like last week when I said with our freshmen that were going to play for the first time or guys getting in there, the last thing you want to do is emotionally scar someone so that you hinder their growth. And believe me, if I thought he could help us and play in a winning fashion, I would, but just don't see it as being in his best interest right now to continue down that line.

QUESTION #21: You talked about the play of Maragos and what he's done and made, you know, play of the week. When you talk to him, though, you can't help but in, I guess, a (Tim) Tebow-like fashion, see that it's his mission to make even a bigger impact off the field, away from the game, in his life. What impresses you about him as a person?

BIELEMA: Rob, Chris Maragos is a tremendous student-athlete. You know, he was a transfer student who came in and earned the respect of his peers immediately. Again, I bring up, you know, he was brought to my attention by Luke Swan, a young man that's heavily, I knew Luke from my time with him being very Christian oriented, you know, huge with the FCA. And as soon as I met Chris, his family, his background, and, you know, I think half the town of Racine wears a 21 jersey on game day.

I've said that several times that he just represents everything that's right, you know, and is a guy that, there's a lot of times where you see players maybe that, and I don't mean to upset Chris, he has just enough athletic ability and then enough to play at this level, but because he can draw on things within his mind and within his heart to kind of propel and pass the normal majors of your athletic or skill, that's why he can kind of go beyond where he is. And that's what you saw in the fourth quarter, you know, a guy maybe with more skill or more ability may not have played as hard on that last snap to get our defense off the field, and ultimately ice the win.


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