MADISON – "It's not so much what happens, it's how you react to it."
It's been one of Head Coach Bret Bielema's favorite sayings since he took the reigns of the Wisconsin program. Over the last four years, Bielema has had to deal with a variety of issues – success, failure and criticism being three of the main headlines he's had to endure recently and usually had the answers for.
It's safe to say he has never battled an opponent like this. Worst yet, it doesn't seem he has the answer.
In what started with a couple minor cases with young freshmen living in the dorms and an ill-feeling junior Gabe Carimi has swept through the Wisconsin football program like a brush fire – the flu.
"Sunday and Monday, it progressed and got a little worse," a hoarse Bielema said after Tuesday's practice. "I had the doctors address the team today and had a full practice afterwords. Hopefully some of the things they are doing in the training room and getting full rest will allow them to be able to join us tomorrow."
With Tuesday usually being Wisconsin's heaviest work day of the week for game prep, the Badger coaches shorten down the periods for players coming back from the flu in hopes of utilizing them during drills despite their limited stamina. Although Bielema said the Badgers had a full practice, Wisconsin appears to be battling flu-symptoms throughout the lineup, not quarantined to any one position.
Bielema didn't know what exactly his players are infected with, didn't shed any light on who was all affected, if the Badgers are through the worst of it or know if said players would be ready by this weekend's game against Fresno State.
"We've got to approach our daily preparation the same as we did approach Saturday," Bielema said. "If your number is called, you've got to get in there and perform. As coaches, we've got to be smart about what we are doing and what we can ask our kids to do with limited practice time."
It appears that once players recover from it, they are able to get back rather quickly. Bielema mentioned that Carimi was sent home Sunday for a good-night sleep and returned with minimal symptoms Tuesday.
"He came back and practiced real well today," Bielema said. "Our entire offensive line was intact and it was good to see those guys. You can see that if they get the reps, they are going to move forward."
While some aspects of game planning are being put in peril for Saturday, the fact that the Badgers battled Fresno State successfully last season (winning 13-10 on Sept. 13, 2008), not to many new things need to be game planned with UW's returning players.
"Basically what they did a year ago, there's a lot of carry over because what they did a year ago is basically the same thing," Bielema said. "Offensively, they should be a little different based on the new quarterback and skill players around him. Defensively, they've always done what they do."
"I know Fresno State isn't going to be concerned with any type of illnesses we have."
A Camp Randall Boost
A night-game atmosphere always brings out the best in the Badgers, which is evident by UW winning 22 of its last 26 games. A big reason for the UW night-game success can be attributed to the rowdy atmosphere, and the fact the student section is fuller than usual at kickoff, all of which provided a big fourth-quarter boost to the Badgers.
"I had many people comment to me since Saturday who were around our players, guys that were around our sidelines, that have been around the sidelines for a long time, the way our guys approached the game," Bielema said. "One of the things I was very excited about was our crowd reaction. It's a night game, it's the fourth quarter, the game was in position where it was kind of in check, but because of the way things unfolded, we are in a tense situation. I had several people come up to me and tell me that when our defense took the field in that (28-20) situation, it was the loudest it had been all night. That's a tribute to our fans and a reason we have such a good winning percentage in college football."
Junior center John Moffitt (pectoral muscle) returned to practice and, ‘felt really good,' according to Bielema. Moffitt went through individual work during practice along with some things leading into team drills.
Brendan Kelly (groin) practiced, but was one of the players affected by the flu bug. He was limited today, but Bielema said that was pre-planned before the symptoms.
Louis Nzegwu (shoulder) wasn't in full gear, but Bielema did report he was better today than he was a week ago.