Border Battle Next on Badgers' Docket

Counting down to the annual border battle, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema talks about Minnesota's outstanding wide receivers, Wisconsin's offensive linemen, the impact of the Gophers' new stadium, Gopher safety and former Badger Kim Royston and other tidbits in his Monday's news conference.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema -

full transcript

BRET BIELEMA: Thank you, Brian. Well, on Sunday we recognized our MVPs on defense. I really felt that Jay Valai and O'Brien Schofield, those two guys led the way for us and were very active in the whole game. And then on offense, not only did he garnish the MVP awards for us, but also the Big Ten Conference in Scott Tolzien, but I think Scotty would be the first one to give credit. I thought we had some great plays out there offensively, especially guys like Garrett Graham catching three touchdown passes and Nick Toon being able to come up with a nice catch in the red zone, as well as Isaac Anderson, a big play to kind of break open the third quarter.

You know, just up front, I thought a couple guys really, it was nice to have John Moffitt back in there, but a guy that jumped out to me, Josh Oglesby, I kind of rode him all week that we needed him to be big in pass protection and doing certain things better, and he really responded and probably played as good as he has all fall. So it's a positive, bunch of positives going on.

Special teams, we gave it to Philip Welch, but there were several guys who did good things as well. Chris Borland continues to impress me on special teams, and got more roles in our defensive game plan as well. And then our scout MVPs, two guys really jumped out, both Wisconsin products. Ryan Groy from right here in Middleton is just, I think, going to be a very, very good football player here in a short fashion. And then also Shelby Harris from Homestead, a young man that is going to be a defensive end if he continues to grow, might be a defensive tackle. And just the way those two compete every day and go against our skill or seventy-man roster unit has been, I thought last week probably the reason we had a lot of success on Saturday was because of the way our scouts prepared us all week, and that was a key thing for us in our preparation.

So that game is behind us. We made a jump on Minnesota yesterday, got some film work in them before we went out and took the field, got some practice on them in the afternoon, and had good developmental work in the evening last night. We take today off, and we'll move forward to our first road game of the year and a great opportunity to start off Big Ten play in a new stadium, not something that everybody gets to do in their, I believe I heard the other day that it was the first new stadium in the Big Ten since maybe 1960, so it's something that not everybody that plays in this conference can say they're able to do, so we're excited about the opportunity.

QUESTION #1: Bret, in talking to Dave Doeren yesterday, we talked about the job you guys did against Blair White from Michigan State, limiting him, this week Eric Decker. What types of different problems does he present?

BIELEMA: Well, first off, Eric is an extremely talented football player, much the same as Blair White a week ago. What I see on film, and I know I've heard Tim (Brewster) comment on this, and you can see it as you see the game unfold, they do a really good job of trying to get him the ball. I believe I heard Tim say that they try to script ten plays that they have designed on cue that they can go to at any point during the course of each game that are designed specifically to get No. 7 the ball, and they're never necessarily the same plays in a row.

If you watch them from game one to where we are today, he's done everything from catching the ball to throwing a ball to reversing the ball to being a decoy. It's just amazing how much they have in that offense for him, and it's paying off for them.

QUESTION #2: You mentioned about the new stadium that they have up there. And before, in the past, you'd have to prepare for the atmosphere of playing at a dome and crowd noise and all that. Is there anything you anticipate in the atmosphere being different or changed now, or is it just like any other Big Ten road game?

BIELEMA: Well, I think you hit a little bit there, Rob, on the statement that, you know, I really use the entire conference. I would be very shocked if other schools don't do this. You obviously cater to your school in the recruiting process, but when you're recruiting nationally, you talk about the Big Ten and the venues you're going to play in, the Horseshoe in Ohio State. You talk about the Big House in Michigan and, you know, the venue at Penn State. I played and grew up in the Iowa state, and we know how special that is. So this is just another element of the Big Ten that hopefully enhances our whole conference.

I know Tim's been, you know, crusading for this since before he took the job, and has been talking about it. And on film it looks to be an unbelievable facility. You know, it's not quite to the numbers of what, you know, we have or maybe Michigan, Ohio State, but I know they have ideas of expanding it if they continue to go forward. So it was electric in the Cal game, you could see that, and their players respond to it. And any time you have something like that as a program, you're going to stake a lot of energy in that first year, and I know we're looking for an environment that I know is going to be hostile.

And I'm guessing that, you know, I've had, since I've taken over, I have never had so many requests for tickets from Wisconsin people, people that I know and then just, you know, my whole staff. I know our front office has been getting called. I'm sure the ticket office is getting bombarded. I know I had two guys tell me, come up to me, guys I don't even know, on Saturday about the two tickets they found on eBay and how much they were, you know, willing to spend to get to that game. So I think it's something that's going to be exciting for all of college football.

QUESTION #3: I think you guys talked last week that Michigan State's front would be a challenge for you. I'm just curious what you think of Minnesota's front, in particular their two tackles, 98 and 99.

BIELEMA: Big guys, big guys inside. What I said last week was to this point, Michigan State presented the best defensive line that we would face, and I think it just gets upped again this week. I really like what I've seen. I say I like, but I don't like how good they are. They've done a good job of recruiting some big guys up front. And the thing that's probably impressive is, you know, the thing I notice right away is they have stats and they've done a good job, but those linebackers are making a lot of plays. And I think when you have to concentrate on those big guys up front and the schemes that they've had to run against, it allows those linebackers to be able to flow sideline to sideline to make plays.

QUESTION #4: A lot of times in the past when you've signed Minnesota kids, they've remarked about the Camp Randall atmosphere. Do you lose that edge in those recruiting battles with Minnesota, and what do you think will be the biggest impact to their stadium going forward for their program?

BIELEMA: Well, a lot of it probably depends on what happens in it this year. The only way you can define a stadium is by its record and their history. And you know, you've heard me say it, I'm not going to repeat it, you know our record here at Camp Randall over the last several years, and it's something that we really, you know, emphasize in recruiting and a thing to talk about. They're into their first season in a new stadium, and they'll define it as they move forward.

In recruiting, you know, we use the stadium to our advantage in the past, but now they've got an outside stadium, so that might minimize that. But a lot of times, I think stadiums play a big part of it, but it's probably the whole thing altogether that weighs. I know if you go, I just walked through the hallway, and three guys that were standing in the hall were David Gilreath, Brendan Kelly and Blake Sorensen. And each one of those guys, I think, had a different reason for coming here, and I don't think the stadium itself was any one reason why they chose here over Minnesota.

QUESTION #5: Kind of back to Decker for a little bit. Aaron Henry, obviously, I'm just curious what you thought of his play last week compared to maybe, let's say, the Fresno game?

BIELEMA: Right. I think Aaron's gotten better, especially last week. I made reference to, I think it was my radio show on Thursday night, on Wednesday I sat and watched practice and saw Aaron Henry get his hands on four balls during practice, and that was an indicator to me that he was breaking on the ball, starting to do things better. Played a little bit better in the game on Saturday against some very talented wide receivers, and I'm excited for us to move forward into this week because not only Decker, they also have Brandon Green, number one, that's a very, very good player for them and because they were able to gain some momentum in the running game, now you got to be a little bit more balanced in the way you approach things defensively.

QUESTION #6: It seemed like Sorensen got some more snaps last week. Was that because of a passing, passing situations, or how will you be using him going forward?

BIELEMA: It was, Tom. In theory, I think that there were a certain couple calls that I know Dave really felt better with Blake in there versus Culmer (St.Jean), but both of them played a pretty good football game. Jaevery (McFadden) actually played as good as he's played all year long, Culmer and Mike Taylor the week before, but I think it was more just a game situation and the personnel that they had on the field and the matches that that middle linebacker was going to have to make. But because it is the Minnesota game, I know Blake is extremely excited, and I always kid Blake.

Probably the most disappointed I've ever seen him was his freshman year, true freshman, he had played in every ballgame up to that last game of the year, and on Wednesday, I remember we always had a, he was my personal protector in punt. He came in, he was red, and he had a sore throat, and the next day they diagnosed him with mono, and he wasn't able to compete in that game. So I remember how disappointed he was two years ago, and then be able to play in his first one last year, I know he'll be extremely excited this year.

QUESTION #7: Is your offensive line to the point where you wanted it? You've had some changes there, that type of thing. Is it running at peak efficiency at this point?

BIELEMA: I think, Andy, probably with our offensive line has been a little bit of a, I wanted our offensive line to be a strength, it needs to be a strength always at Wisconsin, but didn't really envision it being the way it is right now, you know, maybe a month out from fall camp, before the injury to Billy Nagy and John Moffitt. So what I really give kudos to Bob Bostad is he was kind of able to piece guys in the right positions, you know, something that we talked a little bit about.

So we've actually moved Peter Konz to center in fall camp, especially after John got hurt. He was our next best option. He'd already played tackle and guard, so we threw him in there at center. Then ironically, he gets his shot at center because of the injury to Travis Frederick, and has just continued to move forward. So I think John Moffitt would be the first to tell you too that he did some good things on Saturday, but guard is totally different than center, and he's a work in progress.

Billy Nagy must be excited to play. I've already seen him up walking the hallway twice today before noon, so I know he feels he can give us more this week than he did last week, and to me that's an encouraging thing. And then, like I said in the beginning, for Josh Oglesby to, you know, to play his best game gives me a good indicator, and then now with Gabe Carimi, who I think has gained, ever since his injury has gained a little bit more confidence, it's going to be exciting to see where they can go.

QUESTION #8: On that same topic, I mean, there was concern about opening holes for the running backs, but you've only allowed two sacks all year. And I'm just curious what factors you think have led into that?

BIELEMA: Well, twofold. First, I'd like to think the protection is where it needs to be. Need to be firmer on a couple different things, being able to get some chip help when we have to, but then also I think the trigger man, the quarterback, understands where the ball needs to go and the timing of it.

It was interesting walking with I believe it was Nick Toon last night to dinner, and he made reference to, you know, just how comfortable he feels in the huddle with Scotty. You know, much to what was mentioned earlier, last week with 25 on their (offense) we kind of felt he made the thing go. The thing I shared with our team is, you know, you can't just key in on 89. You can't just key in on 84, because then No. 1 is going to get a hit, No. 6 is going to get a hit, 85 came up with a nice play on Saturday. So the way we've distributed the ball might have, in a way, helped our protection as much as anything because there's so many different guys that are options for Scotty to go to.

QUESTION #9: Bret, I know you wanted to avoid the situation, does it feel weird going against a former player, like (Kim) Royston?

BIELEMA: You know what happened really, I didn't give it any thought until one of our players said something yesterday in the team meeting. It was a big issue a long time ago, and I haven't. I mean, I'm happy for, you know, Kim. The part that probably gets blown out of proportion in these situations is, you know, bottom line, we thought the world of Kim (which) is why we offered him and why he was here, and you guys know the way that I feel about my players. When he was here, I would have done anything for him, and to this day, you know, other than the game against us, I would root for Kim and, because I know he's got all the right intentions.

The thing I just don't want, and it's going to happen a little bit here with the question is, to me this story needs to be about Wisconsin and Minnesota playing each other. You know, people will try to make the story about me and Brew or whatever. To me, it's always about the teams. It's about a 4-0 football team who's going on the road for the first time at a very good 3-1 football team. And I think anything that's a story outside of that just doesn't do us what we want in college football.

QUESTION #10: His father has taken a couple not so subtle shots at you in the last 18 months. Is that why you've kind of bit your lip and taken the high road?

BIELEMA: No. I've always tried to take the high road, even, if you think I am taking the high road, I might just be telling the truth, you know. I always tell parents in recruiting, you know what, you should be biased. You're his father. You're his mother. You have a vested interest for 18 years on what this young man does. Chris Royston is, I can remember to this day going and meeting him on, you know, as a head coach, you only have one opportunity to go there, and how impressed I was with Chris and, he came from a split home, but how the mother and father combined to give a lot of love to that young man and the family that he came from.

So I understand why people take shots. You know, as a head coach, you're put in those positions, and you just got to understand them and take them on full fold and know that you should be personally biased because it is your own blood and relative.

QUESTION #11: One more. You kind of led the charge to get the rules changed, as far as the Big Ten transfer rules. Can you, where did that end up, is that?

BIELEMA: Well, two years ago, the spring after that immediately happened, I actually said something to Tim beforehand, and I put it out in notes because I was the lead guy for that meeting. I was the chair for the Big Ten coaches, and I also used the example, there was an Ohio State/Michigan story. A lot of the coaches sounded off because they had been in a league, you know, a long time and had seen it happen, and we just all felt that the stronger we could make the case for interleague transfers, the better off everybody in the room would be, including, and it was a unanimous vote to try and make that a two-year suspension just to deter. It's already, you know, within our conference, you can't get a scholarship anymore, but it does happen occasionally. I just tried to find out what the rules were in other conferences, and there was varying degrees within each conference on what the stipulations were.

QUESTION #12: Coach you issued the challenge to the students to get there on time. Were you happy with the turnout you saw at kickoff?

BIELEMA: Well, again, I'd love to see it packed. I'd love to see it as full as possible. You know, we got two weeks on the road now, and then hopefully, if we're doing some good things, we'll make another plea at the time. I meant exactly what I said. I think our environment here on game day is as best there is in the country, and our students are very creative and lead the way in so many different ways. I like the fact that our campus initiative, you know, from the chancellor's office down to the Dean of Students was trying to make game day one of the best environments for everybody, and hopefully we'll move them more in that direction.

QUESTION #13: Just a follow-up on that. I know it's something that really isn't under your control, but do you think if there were fewer 11 a.m. games, you might get more students coming on time?

BIELEMA: You know, I don't know. I'm sure if you polled the students, yes. Some of you have pointed out that 11:00 curfew, or curfew, 11:00 kickoffs we have done very well during my time. So you know, if it's 11:00 or 2:00 or 7:00, I'm sure it has some effect. I would be blind not to (think) that, but I think 11:00 for us, to be on national TV last week, and to do what we did, of all of our games, you know, we've had televised games to this point. I have more responses from people that I know very well to not so well, text, e-mails, all that kind of stuff, that showed me that we were on TV for the right reasons, and we gained a lot of national exposure.

QUESTION #14: Obviously, Kevin Cosgrove's departure opened the door for you here. Do you have any thoughts over the years about him as a defensive coordinator? I mean, have you ever sent him a thank you note for this opportunity?

BIELEMA: You know what, you have to make and create your own opportunities. All I did was came and filled a job. But I think it's also important that, you know, there's a lot of history with some of their guys here at Wisconsin, but for the most part, other than really Paul Chryst, none of my guys here know any of those guys. You know, I was with Ronnie Lee. I never knew Kevin. I have a great amount of respect for Kevin for what he did here. Learned more about him … after I came here than I had ever known before, but obviously, he got the opportunity to go to Nebraska and be a part of that staff and do what he did.

I don't really know Tim Davis all that well. I remember meeting Tim Davis on a high school football field in the middle of Chicago during fall, you know, and just shooting the breeze with him. He was a great guy, a good person, a good individual. So a lot of the history is there. It has nothing to do with any of my players or coaches currently.

You know, one of the things we did during the out of season, and one of the advantages I thought we might have a little bit is Joe Rudolph was with Kevin at Nebraska, and obviously, I had all the film of when I took over and all the playbooks from Kevin. But he changed, you know, he changed a lot when he went to Nebraska, and what they're doing now is his brand of football up there right now. It's got a lot of similarities to what he did at Nebraska and some of what he did here, but, you know, we went into heavy details about what he did and got Nebraska film from back when his tenure was there, so. I have the utmost respect for all those coaches.

QUESTION #15: Bret, when you look at and see how the flu has become more of a headline for some of the other schools and how it's affected, apparently, some of the outcomes, Ole Miss comes to mind, do you have a greater appreciation, perhaps, for what your team went through and what it was able to overcome?

BIELEMA: Well, I think, you know, and you guys get tired of me saying it, it's not what happens, it's how you react to what happens. And our guys did that, and, again, with great support from within the university. I think we were smart about what we did. We held guys out and tried to get them healthy and quarantined. Ironically, I was just talking to a high school coach this morning that, a young man that we had had on an official visit, and they had had a couple of the freshmen come down with it. So they kicked everybody out of their locker room, fumigated the locker room over the weekend, kept everybody out of it, and tying to get it contained.

But I did, I was sitting in my room on Friday night before a team meeting, and I heard about Florida flying, I think, three different planes to Kentucky where they were playing, correct? Fortunately, we were at home, so it probably made it a little bit more manage(able), and we isolated our guys. And there were a number of guys earlier in the week that didn't practice. To be truthful, we probably got very lucky about being on our off day, because we wouldn't have practiced them if they were sick.

QUESTION #16: Bret, your players are always pretty even keel with whatever opponent they prepare for. In the last 48 hours, because of the history with this game, can you, is there a little extra bounce in their step, especially with the Minnesota kids?

BIELEMA: I saw them Sunday, and, you know, after the game on Saturday, I always talk about next week's opponent, so we talked about it. Because of the little interesting stories that go through this game, I did kind of warn them about text messaging, about tweeting, and, you know, you don't want to give anything out there that could be bulletin board for our opponents.

But I think this is a great rivalry game, and, you know, our guys seem to be pretty even keel, but it's amazing what kids will say when you tell them what to say. You know, I mean, there's coaching that goes on beyond football in our program, and I think our kids, I like the responses that they've given because they're buying into what we're saying and believing in it. And when they regurgitate it, it probably gets me more excited because I know they're heading in the right direction.

QUESTION #17: Bret, if you could think back, what were your expectations of Scott Tolzien when you started camp this year?

BIELEMA: You guys can check the records, you guys would always try to steer me down the Curt Phillips, Dustin Sherer, you know, and I would always thrown in Jon Budmayr and Scott Tolzien because to me it was still an open race. You know, the thing I like and appreciate, I really believe this in Scotty since the first day I met him to where we are today, is he just handles everything so well. The way he handles, you know, just obviously practice and the learning of football, but, more importantly, the process to get there, you know, the critiques, the mistakes. Scotty probably does as good a job as anybody that I've been around about learning while other people are on the field.

You know, he was the first to point out on Sunday, I'm sorry Saturday at post game that by no means did he play a perfect, clean game. And I think as long as he carries that forward, which every indication he's given me is that's exactly what's going to happen, you're going to see him continue to improve.

QUESTION #18: When you were the defensive coordinator here, you had defenses I guess you could describe as dominant. They are bend but don't break type defenses or opportunistic. How would you describe, characterize this defensive unit and their style?

BIELEMA: Well, I think key word there, Rob, was that they're very opportunistic. They, anybody that's had, you know, through four games, they've got 12 takeaways and, you know, I've learned a little bit about the stats, because I know we're tied for first in the Big Ten in turnover margin, at +5 with Iowa. I know the Mike Taylor onside that went through his hands, that counts as a fumble. When Scotty Tolzien had the snap bounce off his leg, that's a fumble, and I know John Clay's three fumbles are a fumble. To me there's five right there, we'd be +10 right now, which would be unbelievable. But we got to play the cards as they're dealt.

I looked at Saturday, and I always go through on Sunday and talk to our coaches about positives and negatives. You know, the positives were three turnovers. The negative was we had one land right on our lap with Devin, and he couldn't capitalize on it. For the most part, the plays that are there, our guys have made, and that's been a huge, huge change. This group is not a bend don't break. I don't think I was either. But these guys, what I liked on Saturday was we got pressure with just some four-man rushes, and no one had really been pressuring their quarterbacks, no matter which one was in there, very much to this point, and that's what gets me excited about Saturday.

QUESTION #19: You had mentioned the Florida/Kentucky game. In that game, (Tim) Tebow took a brutal hit, I think, with a big lead in the third quarter. I know you guys had Scott in with a comfortable lead later in the fourth quarter. When you see a guy like Tebow go down, and given how valuable Scott is, does it give you pause how long you leave Scott in a game, if you're in control?

BIELEMA: Well, you know, judging by the end of the score, I don't know if there ever was an in control situation. But what I kind of wanted to make sure is just the simple snap operation and, to me, Scotty's got to go through some of those things. He made, you know, a critical error on one of those plays, you know, that he, if he wasn't in there, he never would have made. He never would have grown from it.

From where we're at, we like the development of our quarterbacks. There's a lot of opinions on when a quarterback should come in and come out going into this game. Before he was named the Big Ten Player of the Week, I know there was still talk about should Curt Phillips be in on the third series or whatever. And just sit back, relax, enjoy the game, and watch us win. And I think that's the part that we enjoy as coaches. As long as we're moving forward, whether it comes in the, you know, how many wins or losses, as long as we're moving forward, making steps, we're going to have success.

QUESTION #20: When Minnesota brings MarQueis Gray in, I don't know if they call it their wildcat but can you talk about what they do out of that, and are they doing some pretty creative things offensively?

BIELEMA: They are, Tom. He's No. 5, and he's a lot bigger than I remember watching him on high school film. And then obviously, with him not playing last year, didn't see it, but, and hadn't really saw a lot of them this year on film. So yesterday was my first chance. You know, they've done, he's lined up at wide receiver, you know, they've got a third down play where Brewer is back in the shutter, in the shotgun, he's coming across, and all the sudden he snaps under center, he runs a quarterback sneak. I've never seen that before. So they're very creative with what they're doing. He's thrown a pass. He's caught a, actually, he hasn't thrown a pass. He's caught a pass, and, you know, run some different formations that I think were trying to be decoys.

So we're going to have to be solid up front. We're going to have to contain the football. We're going to have to have contain, and we're going to have to play pass defense and be able to stop the run.

QUESTION #21: As far as their base goes, how dramatically have they changed with a new coordinator?

BIELEMA: Not as much as I thought they were going to change. You know, I know there was a big push when Mike Dunbar left. You know, Mike, who's a spread them out guy, I've gone against and competed against Mike at three different institutions now and got a tremendous amount of respect for what he did, and now with the change that they had, I thought they were going to go more to pro style type offense, and that's apparent. That's there. But they still spread it all over, you know, got one back. They got empty they got, you know, trio, they got three by two sets, four by one, or three by ones. So it's a very diverse, and they probably set a record for trick plays in the Cal game from special teams and offense that's unprecedented.

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