Undefeated Badgers Head to Columbus

Talking about the maturation of O'Brien Schofield during his career and John Clay over the last three weeks, the talent of Ohio State's defensive line and quarterback and how his team is simply going about his business, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema addresses the media Monday afternoon.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema -

full transcript

BRET BIELEMA: Thank you, Brian. As we sat back and had an opportunity to view the film on Sunday, award our MVPs, not only did John Clay get it within our program, but also obviously the Big Ten, which is great recognition for him. Two weeks in a row, that's what I kind of liked. I mean, obviously, you look at every game, but when he had the game that he did three weeks ago, to respond the last weeks have been very, very positive and really took over the game in the fourth quarter. Because of some unfortunate circumstances, it got a little bit closer than it needed to be, but he was the guy that really put that game in the situation. I felt comfortable going into the final minutes.

And then also, you know, on defense, to have O'Brien Schofield get recognized by not only us but also by the league, I can't say enough about him as a senior captain. The way he's playing just speaks volumes about the way he's being coached up. Coach (Charlie) Partridge has done a great job with him the last two years being with him, and to be doing what he's doing now from a defensive point of view is special. And then also we recognized Blake Sorensen who, from the state of Minnesota, just, he was very amped up and to have the big plays that he had and just play every down the way he did was special, because I know he was going through a lot going back to his home state, and really the first time he had had an opportunity to do that.

Also of note, on defense, I thought Patrick Butrym probably played his best game to this point, really did a good job. And then a couple scout team MVPs, Jon Budmayr and Jacob Pedersen on offense did a great job for us simulating their receivers. Pedersen actually simulated (Eric) Decker, and then Budmayr obviously their quarterback. And then Chukwuma Offor on defense did a great job two weeks in a row.

So we're into our Ohio State preparation. One of the things we did on Sunday is we went through the corrections in the Minnesota game and took an opportunity to get a little bit of extended film work on Ohio State. As we get deeper into the season, you have more quality film out there for us to take a look at, not only get tendencies and things from a pure numbers standpoint, but to kind of see conceptually what they're trying to do in all three phases.

Our guys take today off and we'll roll into tomorrow. Should be relatively healthy. I don't think anybody as of right now is ruled out for Saturday. There's a couple guys that might be iffy for tomorrow, but feel pretty good about, and I've already saw those guys this morning. Looks like they're good to go, so we'll take it on.

QUESTION #1: Bret, you've talked about Schofield before, but when you first recruited him, and I know he was a linebacker, what did you guys think he had?

BIELEMA: Well, I thought he was a big body. I know Coach (Barry) Alvarez told me that we could have five linebacker scholarships and, you know, to see guys that not only projected linebacker, but also could possibly project otherwise. And we did, at least in my mind, I thought he could be an outside linebacker, maybe grow into a possibility of a defensive end. Very raw.

The one thing I loved about working with OB, we had him in camp, and we had made a decision once we got him in camp and saw where he was at to make a final offer and try to squeeze him a little bit. And, A, he worked his tail off. He was great with eyes and ears, you know, when you're working with him. He saw that it was very important to him, and then probably the thing that I've seen and witnessed, you know, of those five linebackers, DeAndre Levy, Jonathan Casillas, Travis Beckum, Elijah Hodge, and O'Brien Schofield, those were my five guys. Those other four had a lot of success early on. OB had none. And for him to persevere, and he had some troubles, you know, in a variety of different ways those first couple years.

And it was interesting, I remember in a meeting, at one point, we had basically said, you know, he's got to either sink or swim. It's either he's going to be with us or he's not going to be with us at all. Coach (Paul) Chryst brought that to my attention last night when we were sitting having dinner. So to see the growth and development of him is just exceptional.

QUESTION #2: Have you seen something different in John Clay since the Wofford game, and is this the kid of back you envisioned week in, week out?

BIELEMA: Have I seen something different? I've seen the numbers better on Saturday. You know, I do think you can tell by him on the way he handles his work week. I don't know, John Settle felt good about him last week, just the way he prepared Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, made reference to the look in his eye on Saturday. Bottom line, he went out and did it, you know. You can definitely tell by his body reaction when he's tired too. He came off in that fourth quarter, and he needed to be spelled, and that's the big thing we're trying to, you know, get a hold of right now is who needs to be that guy and how do we need to use him when John Clay isn't going.

QUESTION #3: What are the factors that go into Charlie's defensive line rotation? Is it more than just getting fresh legs in there? Are there other things that he has to juggle?

BIELEMA: Well, I think Charlie does a good job of thinking out before we play what guys are better suited for what situations. But also, I think he's probably gotten a better feel as he's gotten to know his players better about who's playing well, who's not, and maybe who's struggling with the game plan and who's not. You know, the other thing, I think he's kind of, you know, basically decided going into this year was we have to play more people. We can't just stick with the four, the two inside and the two outside. We got to rotate some guys through there.

I got to admit, you know, especially early on, we're rolling some of those guys in there, and I'm holding my breath. But you know, in the fourth quarter, there was no stronger statement than the way those guys were teeing off and getting after the passer and being able to come out with a victory.

QUESTION #4: Coach, where is Zach Brown's confidence at now?

BIELEMA: You know, it would be a good question for Zach. He, you know, did things better during the course of the week. He prepared the same way John did the week prior and then lost the one on the pitch last week, or two weeks ago and then, obviously, the play down the stretch here. So you know, I grabbed him after the game. Some of the ploys that I used during the Wofford game will be in effect for him this week. He'll have a little ball with him the whole time, and I'm interested to see where he goes. But I've also kind of reference to him, well, you know, as coaches, you've made us look for other options, look for other venues for us to go to. Until he shows us more consistency in just handling the football and being able to produce, we're going to continue to look for other reasons.

QUESTION #5: How much of an impact, do you think, the return of John Moffitt has had? And also, a guy like (Kevin) Zeitler, who I think (Bob) Bostad basically said he's still a redshirt freshmen by experience, Zeitler's development has helped with that line the last two weeks.

BIELEMA: Yeah. I know Moffitt has helped you guys out quite a bit. I see him get quoted all the time. You know, and the reason that is is because he's got personality, and that personality that he brings to a press conference is the same thing that he brings to the field. I think the thing John probably has figured out more this year than a year ago, you don't always have to be the funny guy. You don't always have to be the class clown. I don't want to take away his personality, but I was very strong with him from last January to where we are today that I need to have football player. And he's taken steps in that regard.

Guard, you know, you think it's not that much different just moving from center to guard. It's totally different. A guard's pass pro, a guard's reach block is totally different than a center, and he's steadily gotten better at that. I think the best is yet to come, but he's a big body that can run, looks effective in the pullers.

Kevin Zeitler has made progress every play. Nobody wants to have more success than Kevin. He's very hard on himself. So I think now having John opposite and watching John do things is probably helping Kevin as much as any. And then with that being said, I do think Billy Nagy may join us this week more so than ever before. It's kind of been hoping, hoping, hoping. Now it seems to be real. Plus he's going back to his home state, and I know that's important to him.

QUESTION #6: Do you think the Big Ten cracking down on helmet first hits has had any impact on Jay Valai and the way he's playing?

BIELEMA: Well, you know, Tom, it's something we stressed going back to last spring when we first found out about the rule. I walked up to Jay and said, hey, buddy, you know, I can pull out five plays right now that I know of that would be a questionable hit by you a year ago, and you just got to be smart about the way you're playing. And my hat goes off to him just because, you know, we haven't had an issue to this point, and he's still been involved the big breakup. You know, his best play of the year so far was that bootleg pass breakup on Saturday. He just, you know, recognized, reacted, and went, and went with a legal hit.

So I am proud of him, but, on the same account, there's probably nothing more real and, you know, I learned this as a head coach, you really want to curb someone's behavior in a certain way, playing time is the way to do it. Guys that truly want to compete, and I know Jay doesn't want to miss one snap of football.

QUESTION #7: You mentioned the other guys at running back. Do you see Montee Ball and Erik Smith getting more in the mix, and how comfortable are you with them?

BIELEMA: Yeah, Montee in particular because, you know, he's new to the scene, really wanted to get him involved in the first two games. Just by the way those two things panned out, we weren't able to do it. The third game and the fourth game were kind of taken out of his hands by outside reasons. And you know, like I shared with you last, I don't know when it was last week, we sat him down and said, do you want to play, and he absolutely wanted to do that. We thought, we explained to him that he could help us in a role with the football team. So he jumped at it.

Erik Smith still has, you know, some plays that are really good for him on outside perimeter stuff, and Erik Smith is doing a phenomenal job for us on special teams and role play. So I like what those two have done, and really, that's the extent of it. Bradie Ewing could also give us some things on first down and second down, and then especially on third down for pass protection reasons.

QUESTION #8: Bret, you've joked a couple times about making things more difficult than they need to be, but both against Michigan State and Minnesota, there were some breakdowns in the secondary that I know you guys can't accept. Are you concerned at some point that those might come back too?

BIELEMA: Absolutely. You know, to give up the amount of yardage and, Michigan State is a little bit different. I could go into details of it, but it was an unfortunate deal. But you know, last week in Minnesota, two plays were misalignments bust in the secondary. And I know Coach (Kerry) Cooks has been very, very strong about, you know, lining up and playing every play, and those were fundamental things at the end of the game that can't happen.

You know, it isn't just one guy. It's been spread out amongst the crew. So I know that, and I made a special point of it on Sunday that, you know, there's certain things that we've done that we were allowed to get away with it in the Minnesota game. We were allowed to get away with it at home against Michigan State, but, you know, you go to Ohio State and play the caliber of athletes they're going to have on the field and the playmakers that they have, that can break down.

QUESTION #9: Coach, you said in years past that after the first road game, you always learn a little bit something different about your team that you didn't know. Did you learn anything really different about your team after this weekend?

BIELEMA: Well, kind of the same things that we've been learning all during the course of the year. I think it was just different from the standpoint of we're on the road, but they just handle their business. I was probably, you know, I'm proud to get the W, I'm proud to get the axe and all that goes with it, but an official came up to me during the course of the game and made reference to how well our players were handling the business that was going on around the plays.

You know, and I was well aware of friends playing against friends with Kim Royston, and there's inter-state recruiting battles here. You know, there's things that were happening near their sidelines. Blake was getting taunted pretty good on a kickoff return. He had to stand over there for 15 seconds, and he just stood over there and nodded his head and went about his business.

So I liked the demeanor that our guys displayed when having the opportunity to maybe react, and they chose the right reaction. And you know, the benefit for us was they had a critical unsportsmanlike conduct and we moved the chains. The last thing you'd want to have happen is for the official to throw that and then have our guy react and the second man gets called, offsetting penalties, and we don't go anywhere. So I think our guys, you know, and the level of maturity, understanding of the big picture, took a huge step forward.

QUESTION #10: Bret, going back to signing day in 2007, you knew you were getting Aaron Henry out of Immokalee. How hopeful were you that you were going to get Brian Rolle too, and what did you like about him?

BIELEMA: I actually, you know, don't hurt Aaron's feelings, but I offered Brian first. Brian was a sophomore linebacker. I watched him go through drills, and he was incredible, just the way he moved his feet and the way he did things. I walked up to his head coach, Coach Weber, who's a good friend of ours, and said, hey, just tell that little linebacker over there he's got a scholarship waiting for him at Wisconsin as a linebacker, no questions asked.

You know, very magnetic personality, much like Aaron in certain regards. I'll be quite honest. We actually sent him scholarship papers. It's not illegal. We knew he was committed to Ohio State, but we kept working him. I don't know how much Coach (Jim) Tressel and that staff knew that, but we weren't letting up, because I just thought he's that kind of a player that we want to stay alive on him, and him and Aaron were extremely close, you know. The things you see on film right now of Brian Rolle are why we went after him. I wouldn't trade in No. 7 though. I like our guy too.

QUESTION #11: Bret, how do you define excessive celebrations to your players?

BIELEMA: Well, anything that draws attention to yourself. You know, anything that is probably predetermined, anything that is not a natural reaction. That's the way we kind of say it. You know, when you do a certain movement, it tells me you've thought about it a little bit. You jump up, you high knee, you're looking for your teammates, to me that's natural, you know. I remember being a young man growing up and saw Mark Gastineau do the sack man dance and all that goes into it.

And things have dramatically changed, but I was actually driving back on Saturday from the airport when the flag was thrown in the Georgia, was it Georgia/LSU, or whoever the, LSU game, and I saw that later that night. And then it was brought to my attention what, you know, Mr. Decker, who I think the world of, did with the axe motion, you know, after the play.

To me, when we're doing certain things, I jumped all over my players. There was a couple guys that had long plays, and all the sudden the ball was rolling on the ground. We don't have a place for that. Our ball goes to the official. And fortunately for us, we've been able to avoid those situations, and will continue to do so. But I know that it's kind of a judgment call, but it's also, it's been a huge emphasis by the league. Bill Carollo has been very strong about what we need to do before and after every play. You know, and it's something I'll talk to our players about before the game.

You know, there was a situation in the Ohio State/Illinois game where things happened before the game. There's no place for that. We've been there, done that, and there's just no reason to get into that situation.

QUESTION #12: You always talk about players learning from mistakes. What did the coaches learn from the communication breakdown at the end of the Ohio State game last year?

BIELEMA: You know, well, twofold. First off, you know, if we're ever in a situation that they can see something from the sideline, and we have a timeout to get it out there, to make me be aware of it and get it out there. And then also, our guys, just based, you know, I've made the reference in here and really believe that, you know, and everybody's got to touch that hot stove once. You got to get burnt once. The only way you do it is to do it. I think our players are a lot more aware, and we've used that in spring ball as well as fall camp, remember the play against Ohio State. We weren't all set, our communication wasn't all in line, and the result was, you know, a play that resulted in a touchdown and ultimately a defeat.

QUESTION #13: Do you think this team likes flying under the radar nationally, not ranked in the AP, the Michigan game gets the Saturday night game?

BIELEMA: You know what, that Saturday night game is determined way before any of this ever goes down. You know, the night games that you're seeing now were determined back in January, February, March. As far as, you know, where our team likes, I think our team likes to work. I think our team is a team that likes to gain respect rather than lose respect. And because of that, they really don't care what comes their way.

I'll be the first to tell you, I came into that Saturday post-game press conference, and I think Mr. Mulhern asked me if we were title contenders, and that kind of took me back, you know, because we just won a game. We beat the, you know, won the axe, and I can totally understand why you would ask that question. I knew what I was going to say, but I hadn't prepped my players on what to say or given them, I like to give them ideas. I don't send out media notes on what to say or not say, but I like to install a way of thinking, and I was very pleased to read what I read and hear what I saw on Saturday night and Sunday morning in reflection of every player just saying we're just going to work. We're going to show up, we're going to do what we do, and move forward.

You know, I'll share with you this. On Sunday, one of the things I love to do is carry a Big Ten packet and statistically show where we are in the conference in every phase of the game, offensively, defensively, and special teams. I'll highlight that with Wisconsin, and then I'll highlight the opponent we're playing. Well, in the front of the page is the Big Ten standings, and at the top is Wisconsin, and it jumped out to me. I put it down, I put it on an overhead, and I showed our players.

I said, I am not going to ignore the fact that that's where you're at. But I said, why are we here? And I asked my four captains why we are here, and every one of them had a different answer, but a same common theme about working together, playing for each other, doing what we need to do, finding a way to win games. If we continue to do that, we'll move forward.

QUESTION #14: Bret, when you studied Ohio State's defensive front, what are some of the things that jump out at you about that group?

BIELEMA: Big, fast, physical, smart, well coached. They are a very physical unit that, you know, is, I said it last week that that was the best, you know, biggest set of defensive tackles that we faced. This will be the biggest defensive line from end to end, most talented defensive line. We're just going to show up, see what happens.

QUESTION #15: You know, Chris Borland gets pretty excited to play any game, but what do you think about him going back to Ohio?

BIELEMA: You know, I said something to him Sunday. I actually called his high school coach this morning just to talk about recruiting and to thank them once again. You know, you like to think that you knew how special he was, and I did, but the intangibles that Chris Borland have are second to none. When you meet his mom and dad and you see the bigger picture of the way he was raised and the program he comes from, it makes a lot of sense. I can't tell you how many people, I've never had a player where I've had so many people say to me, I just watch 44. Wherever 44 is, you know, especially people that don't know football, I think they're even watching him on the sidelines just to see what he's doing over there. So he's gifted, but he's so hungry and nowhere even close to being as good a football player as he'll be here.

QUESTION #16: Bret, now personnel wise, Ohio State offensively seems to have changed. Are they relying more on (Terrelle) Pryor to make plays?

BIELEMA: He is. He's a playmaker. As he gains more experience and more knowledge, you can see the coaches give him more and more. You know, I think they really play to his strengths more so than any of the other players. They got a covey of guys at running back that do a good job. They got wide receivers that are talented. Their tight ends are good. Their offensive line is good. We're just going to show up and see what happens.

QUESTION #17: Bret, Minnesota had some success on kickoff returns Saturday. Were there some breakdowns, guys getting out of their . . .

BIELEMA: Yeah. We rotated personnel a little bit, you know, and they gassed us the first time. And after that first one, I think guys really started playing reactionary, started worrying about, I was all over them about cross-facing, finding fundamental looks about what they were doing. And you know, what was very upsetting to me was we had done a fairly decent job. And you know, speaking of those Big Ten statistics, you know, we're at fourth in kickoff return after that game. I mean, we were up there and doing so well.

The thing that was really aggravating was the last one. The last one was the same call I had made on three prior occasions, but bottom line, there were five guys that never stopped running, and those five guys all ended up with the ball. Part of kickoff coverage is you have to have a belief in running as fast as you can, having no fear to run into someone else that's running as fast as they can, and know that you're going to, you know, you're going to have a high impact collision, but the chance of it and an opportunity to make a big play are huge. And if you begin to slow down one step, and that other guy is still running, it's a no-win situation. And we got to instill that, ingrain that, and, believe me, that will be a point of emphasis all week.

QUESTION #18: What did you see specifically from Butrym that you liked on Saturday?

BIELEMA: You know what, the way he moved, Tom. You know, Patrick Butrym, I want to say, when we offered him, might have weighed maybe 225, maybe 230 pounds and projected him as a defensive tackle, and that's something you can't always do. I believe when I first met him, I met his brother, who was like 24, 25 and, at that time, had put on a lot of weight, and I got excited. Mom was a little lady, but then I met dad, and he's, you know, seven foot tall, and then you get excited again.

And he's just progressed, had been a little bit hampered. Hadn't talked about it a lot, but he had, he's be the first to tell you he was playing through a pain the first two, three, four weeks of the season. I'm talking about during fall camp. Not only with his feet, but with his knees, and he's finally getting that healthy and rectified, and the difference was his ability, you know, to make plays. I told the team on Sunday, if anybody would have told me that Patrick Butrym was going to get an interception to make a huge momentum swing in the game, I wouldn't have taken many odds on that.

QUESTION #19: Last few years you guys have had Ohio State on the ropes, then third quarter they've been able to come back. Besides maybe the play last year, has there been a trend in what's made them able to come back on you guys?

BIELEMA: You know what, a variety of different reasons, but I know this, Ohio State is the only team in this league that I haven't beaten as a head coach. On the same account, I believe that we're the only team in the league that Coach Tressel has one of the worst records against in our league. So this is 2009. I'm the head coach. One of the things that was very impressive to me when I came here, you don't know what you don't know before you come into a situation with Coach Alvarez's track record and history against Ohio State.

But Coach, being the way he is, one of the first to clue me into the history of this program against Ohio State, going back to years when traditionally Wisconsin maybe wasn't that good and what they were able to do playing against Ohio State. So that will be brought to our players' attention. But you know what, we're not playing, Eddie George, I saw, is calling the radio, he's not playing. You know, Cris Carter is going to be watching the game, but he's not going to be playing in this game. You know, all the players of the past are alumni, and Archie Griffin, and so much folklore has gone into what Ohio State is. We've got some decent history here too.

Our guys are probably the way they've played to this point and, on the same account, they know they haven't even come close to playing a four-quarter game, players, coaches, and everybody involved, so we're excited.

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