Wofford Up Next for Wisconsin

With two non-conference wins under his team's belt, Wisconsin and head coach Bret Bielema turn their attention to Wofford, an FCS opponent. With an opponent from a different division, Bielema addresses playing this opponent and what the UW program's goal is in terms of scheduling.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema -

full transcript

BRET BIELEMA: Well, you know, on Sunday there was a lot of things that popped out on film that as coaches, we need to take a look at and make sure that we're putting our guys in the best position from the opening snap to the last. A lot of things we can correct. A lot of positives out there as well. I just like the way, as we mentioned after the game, the way they persevered and battled throughout the whole game. So take those things and move forward.

We recognized a couple guys. You know, and any time I think as a coach your seniors are playing their best football of their careers, you can feel good about the way the season is going for them individually, and that has a huge effect on the team. And just to start that off, we gave Garrett Graham our offensive MVP. He shared it with John Clay, especially John Clay in the fourth quarter. But Garrett, you see all the plays that he makes as far as receptions, but sometimes the things that he does in the blocking, that was the best we saw him block probably during his entire time here. Really strained to compete, blocked two guys on the touchdown run by Isaac (Anderson). So good example there. John Clay did some good things. Hopefully his momentum will carry forward.

Defensively we gave it to Chris Maragos for the second week in a row. Did a lot of good things in the game and then came up with the game-winning play at the end. And then special teams with David Gilreath, what he was able to do in the kick return game, played as good as he had. Really saw two big hits that one clean and he found the right hole, and then Philip Welch to come back and respond to give us the longest field goal in Camp Randall was very special, and especially to kick the game-winning field goal.

I got a kick out of it on Sunday when a couple, somebody in here asked or someone in the media asked him if he was nervous going into that last kick, and he said that he was more nervous standing there talking to the reporters than he was at that time. I found a little bit of pleasure in that. But he, you know, is back on track. And as we know, Philip has been very successful in the past, and sometimes you just got to work yourself through a couple situations and come out on top.

And then on the scout team MVP, offensively we gave to Tyler Holland, who actually works with our DBs, but every week he goes over and emulates an offensive player and goes hard for them. And defensive MVPs went to two guys, Leonard Hubbard, who's trying to prove his worth to get out there on the football field with us, and Kyle Zuleger, a walk-on that is going to do some good things for us in the future.

So brings us to Wofford and all that they bring to the table, a very successful team in their division, and has had some success against some opponents in the non-conference scheduling. They played South Carolina a year ago. It's just another example of a very good well-coached football team that will come in here and give us their best shot, and another opportunity for the Badgers to improve and move forward.

QUESTION #1: Are you through the flu or is this something that hangs?

BIELEMA: The flu, I think, is through us, but on the same account we had two new guys pop up yesterday, so we're kind of just going off what our medical staff and trainers have told us to, you know, handle when it comes up. We sent those guys home yesterday and let them try to get as much rest as they can and get themselves back to being healthy. But one of the things that Denny Helwig and Gary (Johnson) and Dr. Wilson had shared with us is you're never going to be totally through this. Guys that haven't had it, even guys that have had it could get another strain at some point, and you just got to give them plenty of rest at that time and hopefully the worst is behind us.

QUESTION #2: Bret, from what you've seen, what do you think the difference is between FBS teams and FCS teams?

BIELEMA: You know, first off, you got to make sure you got all the proper terminology. I remember a day when it was easy with 1A, 1AA. But you know, with the FBS teams, you know, because of the scholarship allotment, you're going to have better numbers, you know, just from what we're allowed to do and, you know, 85 full scholar(ships). And we can't, a lot of you may not even know this, you know, from our standpoint, when I offer a full scholarship, a scholarship, it is a full scholarship. There's not partials. There's not halves. There's not quarters. It's a 100 percent scholarship to attend our university. What they're allowed to do, they can actually get more numbers. Some of them … some of them do it, some of them don't, but because they can split that money allotment up.

But what happens, and it's kind of, you know, different by each school, they're able to recruit to a certain type of methodology. You know, offensively what Wofford does is very unique, so they go out and get players that fit in that offensive scheme and defensively what they do. So I think the numbers game gets to be a little bit different, but on the same account, there's, you know, I probably watched 10 minutes or 15 minutes of NFL football last night when I was in the locker room. And just when I was watching it, there was two players playing that made significant plays when they flashed up their alma mater were both, you know, FCS teams just from a year ago.

QUESTION #2: From the Packer game?

BIELEMA: No. You know what, it was, geez, who was it? Maybe it was the Redskins. Yeah, I didn't get to see any of the Packers. Just saw actually when I got home last night, it had just finished.

QUESTION #3: Do you think it puts you in a little bit of a no-win situation to play these teams in a sense that if you don't win big, you might take some heat?

BIELEMA: No. You know, I can see, and I honestly understand where that comes from, but, you know, kind of one of the things that we always talk about is we prepare to play teams, not divisions. We do as much as we can to beat the opponent that's in front of us. Scheduling is a very, very complicated and detailed thing that consumes a lot of time, but it's probably one of, as I've said in here before, is one of the more frustrating things to go through.

But, you know, what I look for on Saturday is an improvement from where we were a week ago. Our kids have nothing in the decision process of who we're playing. All they do is go out there and line up to play against the opponent. And I can tell you just by, you know, observing guys through yesterday, through guys coming in and watching film today, they're excited about the opportunity. Defensive guys know the unique challenge they have, and offensively we've put a huge emphasis on trying to get certain aspects of our offense moving forward, and that's what it's going to be about.

QUESTION #4: Bret, at a glance, how similar is Wofford's offense to Cal Poly, and if it is similar, how much value can you get out of the tape from Cal Poly game last year and the seniors knowing what to expect?

BIELEMA: Nothing really from a film standpoint. You know, Cal Poly is part of 2008. We're in 2009. There will be that comparison because of the FCS comparison, but it's an option type offense, but nothing, you know, drastically similar to Cal Poly. Wofford has a variety of different formations, schemes, plays. They really give you a large gamut from an offensive point of view. Defensively, run a couple different looks and have players.

The one thing that you can see when you turn on the film, offensively, defensively, and special teams, those kids play very, very hard. They're very well coached in what they ask them to do and they play with a tremendous amount of pride. They've got great facilities. You know, a lot of times when we've played an FCS team, maybe the film quality or the conditions of the stadium may not look that great, but I believe it's Carolina that practices there and uses their facilities. They've got unbelievable facilities and probably why the resurgence of their program.

They've been very, very good. I believe last week they were ranked number 14 in their division. I didn't see the rankings yet coming out this week after their success on Saturday. And Charleston Southern actually opened up against Florida, you know, in their home opener to start off the college football season. So there's a lot of good football out there.

QUESTION #5: Bret, what's the status of (Travis) Frederick and your depth at center? Where do you think that's going to be at the end of the week? And also, you mentioned getting some things going on offense. I'm assuming you're talking about the running game consistently.

BIELEMA: Well, to answer your first question, Travis Frederick, we were very happy on Saturday to find out that, you know, there wasn't a fracture. It was a sprain. He actually played two plays, I know he played one play, might have played two plays, because when I sat down to watch the film on Sunday morning, I saw the play where he got rolled up, but then I saw him right back in on the next play. And then he kind of came over to the sidelines and, you know, he thought at the time he thought he might have heard something pop. So we were very relieved when it wasn't. You know, the kids always ride Travis because he's kind of just a big human being that doesn't seem like would be able to break down very easily, but he got landed on just the right way. So he's in a boot. He's day to day, may actually practice tomorrow. I won't be able to tell you really until Saturday if it's a go.

But as far as our depth now would be Peter Konz who will hop in there, and I mentioned the offensive MVP. I did make special recognition of Peter, and he might have shared this with you. You know, Pete played last week at left guard on Tuesday, a little bit of center. On Wednesday, when Jake Bscherer went down, Pete repped the whole practice at left guard, played a little bit of left guard and center on Thursday and Friday, and then popped in and played the whole game at center. For what he did shows a great testament to who he is, how he prepared, and, you know, we made a big deal of it with our team, but also kind of said to our team, that's what we expect. You know, he just kind of went out and did what you're supposed to do, and because he prepared the right way, it wasn't a glowing or a glaring issue. He just did what we asked him to do.

As far as, you know, what we need to do offensively, there's a lot of things, Jeff. And, you know, I would like to have big rushing numbers, because we recruit to that type of thing, and we felt going into camp that John Clay, Zach Brown, that combination would be able to give us some things. Obviously, it came alive really good in the fourth quarter, and John made a play that would make it happen. But also, just doing all the other things.

We had two pre-snap penalties, you know, that we have to take care of on the sidelines, and those things have been addressed, and we don't want to see that pop up ever again. And then, you know, the part that we have to do is constantly prepare our guys for adverse situations. You know, Nick Toon and the alignment error that he had, that would have been something that Isaac had been repping all week, but when Isaac went down to leg cramps, Nick went in there, and hadn't repped it the way it was. So we either, A, have to stay away from that call or make sure Nick's in tune with what we need to get done. Those are some of the scars that I went through a year ago that hopefully are going to help us this year.

QUESTION #6: Bret, you've said frequently to expect an FCS opponent every year because of the seven home games that you need. Are fans any more accepting of that do you think?

BIELEMA: You know what, I'm not going to turn the question on you, but I really believe, you know, I was looking at, for instance, when I saw the common factor with Florida. Florida is the number one ranked team in the country, has won two. They opened up with Charleston Southern, who Wofford just beat. And what jumped out to me right away, well, if they're playing it I wonder if they're getting these same type of questions. But you know, I looked down the line, they're going to play Florida State here in three weeks. They play Troy, and then I believe Florida International University, which is in their home state.

So I was looking at that, and then I've also had, obviously, discussions with our administration over the course of time, and one of the things that became difficult for us this year was not having a BCS opponent on our schedule. And for the next eight years, not this year, but for the next eight years we've already got a BCS team between Arizona State, Washington State, Arizona, and Virginia Tech, we have a BCS team on our schedule of our four non-conference games.

Now some of those will be because you're going home and home. So I think if you have a BCS team on your schedule, in particular, if you can get one at home every year guaranteed, then a look at that third game, or that second, third, and fourth non-conference schedule a little differently.

Really got caught in a jam. This year's schedule was really determined in my first two years. We had a team that backed out to us that had a three for one agreement that really put us behind the eight ball. Had a couple different opportunities that came forward that we thought were going to work out. They didn't. That put us in the situation that we are currently living in. But my goal is what we all want. I want as good a schedule as we can have that's also a manageable schedule because of the Big Ten schedule that lays in front of us. And you know, it's a work in progress.

I'm excited. I just, you know, had a discussion today with a team that, if that would happen, it would be very, very exciting, but I've learned not to say anything or give tips because it could just kind of end up coming back to ask a lot of questions that you don't need to have answered.

QUESTION #7: The play John Clay made, I think everybody has been waiting to see that. I think judging by John's comments, he's been waiting to see that. What do you think that could do? Can that do something for him?

BIELEMA: That's a good point. I think John is a momentum guy, as much as maybe you would like to have him be the guy that starts momentum, in some point during his career hopefully he can be that, but I'd also say this. You know, one thing I said to our offensive staff on Sunday, when I watch that film, I saw it a couple times during the day, you know, highlights of it on everybody's news channel, but when I sat down with the coach's copy, from behind, there's a center getting up to the next level. There's a guard, two guards on both sides that are on their right men, two tackles, including a tight end on the back side with a cutoff, great footwork by John Clay, snap, exchange, handoff. We had David (Gilreath) going in motion behind him on a play that's had success.

That play, from an offensive conceptual standpoint, was as pretty as you could be. I mean, that's a Bo Derek. It looked great. I mean, it was as good as good can get. And then, you know, the result was a touchdown, and everybody wanted to talk about John Clay's run. But you know what, Pete Konz might have had his best block of the day. The two guards were phenomenal, and that's what we need to see.

And I like about this team is, yes, John got to score the touchdown and ran out of gas as he closed the end zone and went into a nose dive, took out about our whole cheerleading crew out the back end there. I didn't see that during the course of the game, because I signaled for one. He just kind of nose-dived. He completely ran out of gas. But that was pretty to see from an offensive standpoint. If one of those guys wasn't on their block, they're probably going to hit John for a four- or five-yard gain. But everybody was firm, they were covered up, and the result was a touchdown.

QUESTION #8: This might be an obvious question, but he's listed number one in the depth chart this week. Does he get the start?

BIELEMA: I went over the depth chart with Brian (Lucas) several times this week. I have to get the slashings right, but John is, what we'd like to do is see John and how he takes the reigns and see where he goes. You know, (John) Set(tle)'s going to have a discussion, probably has already had it this morning, with John and Zach. And you know, not that anything is disappointing with Zach. We just felt John, with the momentum he gave us. The part I shared with John was, hey, you know, you got energized, the offense got energized, our defense went out and played with great energy, Camp Randall, who has the best fans in college football, went nuts. I had a number of people comment about the way the crowd reacted to the game as it wore on, and especially, you know, double overtime, you know, some of those guys start their pregame rituals pretty early. Things got very long for them, and they went ahead and made the most of it.

QUESTION #9: You've talked a lot of times about how difficult it is to defend a running quarterback. Scott Tolzien is not a running quarterback, but I'm just curious, as a defensive coordinator, you see a guy stand in the pocket time after time with a blitzer coming in his face and make the throws, how frustrating is that for a defense?

BIELEMA: Well, it brings up two points. First off, you know, a defensive coordinator that is a specialist in that will continue to try to bring it, and we got to make sure we can protect it, because one of the, you know, I put up on our team meeting board on Sunday when we met, I just put up the sign +3. And I said, what does this represent? And I thought a lot of our players would, you know, we're at Wisconsin, we got a high ACT score to get in here, I thought they would all share with me that was the differential in the outcome of the game point total wise. But all of them, in unison, said, you know, turnover margin.

And no matter what we did, that's the thing you can't put a price tag on is, you know, we took it away three and never gave it up, and that's a huge point of emphasis. One of those interceptions that Scott had was a hit by an unblocked pressure and, you know, that was unfortunate for him, but also emphasized that much more why we need to protect Scott.

Now I think Scott eventually was going to have to make a move and get out of the pocket and be able to change things up, but we did a pretty good job of protecting him on Saturday. We got to make sure that nobody gets any clean hits on him. There are a couple of things we can easily clean up just with a better technique by a couple different guys, but, you know, we got to do some things also with Scott to show that he can move around.

Scott's not afraid to run. And, no, I'm not going to sit here and tell you he's Curt Phillips. You know, part of the reasons it was a hard decision to make down the stretch was because of what Curt can do, and maybe that's the changeup you got to have.

QUESTION #10: Do you accept what happened to Aaron Henry on that one drive as totally the flu or has it been a struggle at all for him to get back into games after the year off?

BIELEMA: Well, Tom, as you know, visiting with Aaron, I don't think there's a young man in our program that cares more about winning than Aaron. So what I gave kudos to him about was just, you know, it was a tough preparation for him, and he is coming back. You know, he's got a damaged knee, and he's a guy that really wants to be out there. On the same accord, he's the guy that wouldn't want to be out there if he's going to hurt his teammates. And I believe he knew he just wasn't quite where he needed to be. Those were some very, very talented wide receivers. I really think, in watching them perform on Saturday and watching the film on Sunday, that might be one of the most gifted set of wide receivers we've seen, and the quarterback, who did a pretty good job.

So the challenge was in front of him. I know he gave some things up in the air, but, you know, Devin Smith gave up that big play, came back and played pretty solid after that. Antonio Fenelus rebounded after a couple plays and played very well. You know, I was very encouraged. The defensive PI that we gave us with Jaevery on a wheel route that he was kind of caught behind the play, so I thought our defensive backs played better not committing any penalties. You know, there was a facemask on Niles (Brinkley) that was a question to whether he grabbed the back there or not. They're going to make mistakes. They're going to move forward, but I like this, again, just the mentality of this team that they're going to work to get things done.

QUESTION #11: How would you assess the performance of the special teams so far?

BIELEMA: Tom, on our side? Saturday, and going back to last week, it's been frustrating for me, I'll be quite honest, in the punt return game. We've had two new formations sprung on us. Northern Illinois had never shown the formation they were going to show. And then last week, Fresno State had had one punt the week before, so wasn't a lot of game planning. Today's formations have really changed because of what they're legally being able to do.

See there's a dramatic difference in punt coverage, college versus the NFL. In the NFL, you can only have two guys release until the ball is kicked, which, you know, allows you to do the more traditional punt formation. Now you can have everybody release at the line of scrimmage, brings about fakes. I really felt, in these first two games, and you had to be guarded against fake responsibilities, which limits the amount of pressure you can bring, as well as the number of people you can have back.

I was very pleased with our kickoff return, because we always say that the return game is the first play of an offensive series. So when our kickoff return took the field, we were down 14 points on two different occasions and had that ball get past the 40-yard line was great momentum for our offense. Our coverages needed to improve dramatically. Punt coverage, Brad (Nortman) actually probably kind of almost outkicked our punt on the first one, and then there was a couple very specific things that we'll get ironed out at the line of scrimmage. And kick coverage, the same principle. We had two fundamental breakdowns that lost contain one time and another guy up the alley that is going to, you know, prohibit us from having success. We got to get those cleaned up.

QUESTION #12: You may have answered this at some point during camp, but how are you coaching them differently, either you personally or involving staff?

BIELEMA: Well, I think you always coach differently from year to year because you learn from life experiences, but, you know, one emphasis that I made during fall camp was the involved on the special teams. I asked Will Hartmann after he was named, was put on scholarship, to get up and talk to the team about the importance of special teams because that's really all Will does for us. He's a great kid with great heart and great effort. And it kind of backed me up as a coach for him to go out and have four out of the five special teams tackles a week ago in our opener and kind of said, hey, here's what he was talking about. This is why it happened. So there's got to be guys.

And then you know what, Philip (Welch) has done a better job of placing the ball, kicking the ball, and Brad did a better job of punting the ball Saturday than ever before. I thought, then you just got, you know what, it's amazing how good players make coaches look good. And a lot has been said about Chris Borland, but to have the savvy that that young man had to get down there on the goal line, catch the ball in stride, and drop it on the one-yard line, I guarantee I didn't show him how to do that. You know, we talk about the rule, the plane about breaking the end zone line, but bottom line, he went out and did it.

QUESTION #13: Bret, I know you're only two games in, but it seems like the four captains in particular, with everything Mickey (Turner) does, with the plays that (Chris) Maragos has made, with the play of O'Brien Schofield, and then Garrett Graham, you talked about him too, I mean, you can see, it seems that the leadership, the chemistry of this team is a little bit better than a year ago?

BIELEMA: I would, I'm not going to go back to 2008, Brian, but I appreciate what you're saying, and we said it after week one. Garrett Graham did some good things week one, but yesterday played, or Saturday played as good as he's played in all phases. The play when he knocked down two guys, it just, that's not coached. I mean, we don't set up a drill where we knock down one guy and knock down another guy. You just hope and pray that they continue to move forward.

O'Brien Schofield, from where he is right now, where he was a year ago, that's on O'Brien Schofield, but you know what, Charlie Partridge has done a good job with that young man, and he's a believer. And then Chris Maragos, to make two plays like that at the end of the game, and I'm sure everybody else in the stadium, when they looked up and saw the ball being thrown and knew that their guy was ahead of our guy, probably a lot of different expressions came out of people's mouths, but something put Chris Maragos in position. I thought he was just going to knock it down, and he makes a fingertip grab and wins the game.

And then you know what, I made a comment about Philip being, saying about being more nervous talking to reporters. Before he even said that, see, I do read what you guys say, I do. Philip said the game was absolutely won when Chris Maragos picked the pass, made the interception. So that shows me that Philip Welch is thinking right, which I can never tell with that guy.

I just like the way guys are going about their business and thinking. And when you do have seniors, Mickey Turner, he is invaluable in what he does. You know, Tom asked about the assessment of special teams play. David had a 40, you know, got the ball at the 43. If Mickey Turner doesn't clear number four out, he blocks L4 on kickoff return, and on the call that I had, he takes him and just displaces him five yards, which made the, you know, David only needs about 16 inches to get through, and he had a three-foot, three-yard swath just right up the middle of the field, and that's what he needed, and that was because of Mickey Turner going here and Lance Kendricks going here. That's what it was.

QUESTION #14: You alluded to the three, the two pre-snap penalties. Are those the delay of game calls you're talking about?

BIELEMA: Delay of game, and then, obviously, we had a formation where our wide receiver, Nick Toon, I don't know what I called him last time, Nick needed to be on the line of scrimmage for it to be a legal form. It was the correct call. I'm 100 pecent responsible for that. I mean, it was something that we went with and was in our game plan, and we got to move ourselves forward.

You know, and then I said something to Nick, very spirited, on the sideline that that wasn't acceptable. He goes out and makes an unbelievable catch, you know. So the response, it's not what happens, it's how you respond to what happens, and that's the part I get excited about.

QUESTION #15: Josh Oglesby has been one of the few constants in the offensive line. How has he been through two games?

BIELEMA: You know what, he, Josh battled through the elements last week. I'm not going to kid you. I was very, very proud of him. Felt the best that he had felt all week on Saturday and let him go. I think Josh, as we all know, physically is freakish. You know, when you're size that he is at the age of 14 and can do the splits, I mean, he's just kind of freaky, but that doesn't win football games. What you do on the football field determines that.

And I think something kind of snapped in Josh's mentality a little bit towards the end of last season, and then during winter conditioning you saw this evolution of where he was going, a tremendous young man. His mom is a special lady that's kind of always been hard on him, and I leaned on her a little bit. Coach Bostad doesn't need any encouraging. He's very, very demanding. And when Josh came back for the summer program, he kind of took it to another level.

I think Ben Herbert and Jamil (Walker) and probably Brian Bott noticed it first, and then what I saw during fall camp was there was a day when Josh's knee was swollen and it was sore, and he was aggravated, and he didn't miss one rep. And when he got through that day, I slapped him on the back and said, you know what, you got better today. Maybe not from a skill standpoint, but he got better up here, which, you know, hopefully helps him battle through some things in the first two weeks. He's by no means where I think he can get to, because I think he can be an exceptional player, but he's getting there.

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