Homecoming Week Welcomes Iowa

Looking to bounce back against a tough Iowa team for Wisconsin's Homecoming game, Head Coach Bret Bielema talks about some breakdowns against Ohio State, the success of Iowa's defense, O'Brien Schofield playing on an All-Big Ten level and many other topics in his weekly press conference.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema -

full transcript

BRET BIELEMA: Sunday (I) had an opportunity to sit down and evaluate the film and, obviously, there's a few things that we need to correct on both sides of the ball and in special teams. Brought the team in and really tried to explain to them that, you know, the best thing that happened on Saturday was some of the things that they had to go through personally and how it can affect the game. And the only way you can do those things or the only way you can experience those things is to go through it.

So it was very painful film to watch. I know our guys had big ears, big eyes, and took it all in, and changed up a little bit. Brought them in after that and we focused on all film, all preparation towards Iowa. Didn't take them on the field that much. We'll have them today stay off the field as well, and then we'll hit the ground running tomorrow and go into a game week that presents a very special challenge to play the University of Iowa, an undefeated team, not only in our league but overall, highly ranked, and a trophy game, a border battle, and also homecoming on top of it.

So a lot of things to play for this weekend. I know our guys are very excited to get involved in the game plan and move forward. So with that, I'll open it up for any questions.

QUESTION #1: Bret, you mentioned after the game that you got to look on the TV monitor, the kickoff return for a touchdown. And when you studied it more thoroughly, what exactly did you see that led to that breakdown?

BIELEMA: Well, they kicked out three guys. They had a, it's actually the exact same return they ran the opening kickoff that went to the 21 or 22-yard line. We had the exact same call, just a different, we actually had different personnel. Lance Kendricks, who had actually made the play on the first kickoff was out. He was having some cramping issues, so he didn't run down that one. And they kicked out to our right. The four guys to the immediate left of the kickout blocks got pinned to our left, didn't cross face back across to the right, created the seam, and then the eventual score.

QUESTION #2: On some of the defensive touchdowns the last couple of weeks, what have you seen in the inability to tackle them and get them down? Do you think personnel grouping on the field, a lot of tight ends, you know, may not be the fastest guys, is there anything with that possibly?

BIELEMA: Yeah. You know, and I don't agree with that. Some of our tight ends are faster than our wide receivers. That's part of the reason that they're out there to begin with. But you know, bottom line, they've gotten two, you know, those two scores in that game were huge, and one of them was a really long return. So it's something that you talk about, you emphasize. Obviously, the offensive players don't go through as many tackling drills as the defensive guys, but we weren't able to, you know, even get a hand on him on the one return, and he did a good job of setting a wall and getting it to the nearest sideline.

QUESTION #3: I know that was a very good defensive front you just faced, and they're deep and versatile, but what disappointed you most about the inability to protect Scott (Tolzien)?

BIELEMA: Probably just that. You know, it wasn't just one guy. It was, you know, a lot of guys in different situations that weren't able to hold up. And you know, give credit where credit is due is Ohio State is a very good football team. Up front, that defensive line is very gifted, and they were able to roll through a lot of players. But you know, just being able to be strong up front and be able to maintain our blocks and give the quarterback an opportunity to make the reads and make the right progression, and to make him throw. Scotty really, he was sacked six times, probably saved us another two or three just because of his ability to get away and, you know, battle through the one play where he came out from underneath with an amazing play and effort by him, and then just being able to get the ball away a couple times.

QUESTION #4: Bret, you'd know about this. Why is Iowa's defensive line always so good? And you know, you could lose two kids like (Mitch) King and (Matt) Kroul and yet they come back . . .

BIELEMA: I think it was because I was such a good player there. They've been able to say you could be the next Bret Bielema. Walk on at 190 pounds and grow into a defensive lineman. But I think, you know, one of the first hires Kirk (Ferentz) made, I distinctly remember this, one of the first people Kirk talked to me about when he retained me was a guy by the name of Ron Aiken. Ron Aiken now is the defensive line coach for the Arizona Cardinals.

As long as I've been, you know, obviously playing the position and then also being around the defensive side of the ball my entire coaching career, is probably one of the most efficient, good coaches, defensive line coaches I've ever been around. So he was the foundation up until I believe they made Ron, Ron might have left three or four years ago. I think these guys that are seniors now may have been his last recruiting class. And then just, you know what they do, they do a great job of developing those guys and have been able to, a lot of times we compete against the same type of players, not just at the defensive line, but overall. And then, you know, they've had great success, and anytime you have success at one position at a certain school, you can continually try to recruit to that.

QUESTION #5: Does this look like a typical Iowa defensive line?

BIELEMA: It does, unfortunately, yes. They are strong, they're gifted, kind of a mix, you know, of guys. There's guys from Iowa, there's guys from Minnesota, there's, I believe, a Texas player in there, and just, you know, there's guys from all over the country, but in their uniforms they look all the same.

QUESTION #6: They've done a really good job of forcing turnovers this year. I think it's 19, including 12 picks. But how much of that has been related to the pressure that that front has been able to generate?

BIELEMA: Well, I think, you know, they themselves, the defensive line has created a few, but, you know, there's a certain amount to be said, those quarterbacks, when they're getting rattled, all the sudden they start running around and they throw, their safeties have made a lot of nice picks, just overthrown balls and balls that are erratic. And you know, you'd like to think that those quarterbacks are starting for a reason. They're probably accurate passers, but now they're getting harassed and they got people in their face, it makes it difficult, it makes those throws just a little bit more difficult.

And the other, I saw, I believe it was Arkansas State, you know, there was a play where they ran a fake punt, and the guy was running around to the right edge, and the guy just made a routine tackle. But when he was coming around, he hit the ball from the back side, ball flopped on the ground, and that's the kind of stuff they've been able to fall into.

QUESTION #7: Last year, after the loss at home to Ohio State, it appeared maybe the team suffered in a bit of a funk. What gives you confidence that this team has what it takes to bounce back from a tough loss like this one?

BIELEMA: Everything, that's probably a good question, Rob. I think everything I've learned about this team from the first day of camp to where we are today is that they're a very resilient group. You know, the season itself is kind of like a game in the sense that, you know, every game could be compared to a series or an opportunity to go out and show your worth. And if offensively or defensively we don't go out and have success on one series, you got to expect the next series we're going to.

And we didn't have success in this game, we didn't get a win, but there are plenty of positives out there, a lot of individuals did some very, very good things, and just the overall demeanor of this team shows me that they're going to be able to bounce back and play a great game on Saturday. What that means is going to happen Saturday will be determined on Saturday. I doubt very much that this group would ever be in the situation they found themselves in last year.

QUESTION #8: Bret, I see you have John Clay listed as a starter again. I know you said he likes to come off the bench. Is this just you overruling him?

BIELEMA: No. It's just Brian (Lucas) comes down and wants a two-deep for you guys by like 3:00, and I got to write things down. Zach Brown literally hasn't, if we practice today, he wouldn't practice. So I don't know if Zach's going to play. So you know, I started thinking about, well, maybe we'll just run nakeds with Scotty in there, not even put a back in there, and just run an extra blocker out front to start the play.

But he, you know, John made a big, in my mind, took a huge step forward Saturday. I know statistically he wasn't where we needed him to be. That was a very good defense we were going against. But you know, John had to do a lot to get himself ready to play last week, and he did it, and the look in his eye and the way he approached things shows me that he might be ready to take a big step forward as a player.

QUESTION #9: Kind of on Zach, I assume, there's some physical issues with Zach.

BIELEMA: Oh, yeah. I thought I talked about that after the game. He had a concussion during the game, and hope to have him back by this weekend.

QUESTION #10: And then, kind of on that, Montee Ball, did he show you some things that encourage you for the role?

BIELEMA: Yeah. Montee probably was a little bit more comfortable, amazingly, at Ohio State than he was in Minnesota, and I think just because he had been there, done that now. He's been on the road. He's going to be comfortable here back in Madison. He kind of did what we thought he would do. He's a strong runner. He's efficient. He knows what he's doing. Made a nice catch. You know, and he's got some ability to catch the football. I remember after the first week of fall camp, our coaches kind of made reference that he might be the most efficient in catching the ball of all our guys.

QUESTION #11: Bret, is your team as physical as you'd like them to be?

BIELEMA: I would say that they believe they're physical, and they try to play a physical game. I'm always going to want more, you know. As physical as one guy is, I think you can always be more physical, especially at certain positions. But you know, a lot of it is just a mentality thing, and this is going to be a tough four physical quarters of football this coming Saturday, as they pretty much all are in the Big Ten.

I always tell our staff, you know, we'll get together in many meetings in the spring and, you know, might be Ron Zook will come up to me from Illinois and go, Bret, that was the most physical game of the year. Somebody else will come up to me, Bret, our game was the most physical game of the year. Somebody else will come up, I mean, literally that's, I remember going into my first year after the season, we went into those spring meetings, and I swear seven of the ten other coaches, came up to me and talked about how physical our ballgame was with them.

I know a lot of people have made comments to me that, you know, the team after we play them is always a good team to look at on their success because they just don't usually play the same the week after us.

QUESTION #12: You had 89 offensive snaps and one play longer than 19 yards. Are you making things too hard on yourself, and does efficiency only take you so far offensively?

BIELEMA: You know what, it's taken us to five wins and one loss and that's not where we want to be. We want to be at six wins and zero losses, but it worked pretty well in the first five, and it's gotten just what we do. We had three drives of over 14 plays on Saturday. It didn't result in anything except for three points. You know, we'd like to be able to make the field goals and be able to convert on fourth down or get in the end zone, but it's something we believe in. And you know, everybody loves big plays, but, for us to have success, we got to control the clock, we got to be able to move down the field, and the biggest story on Saturday was to give up 21 points without our defense on the field. We can't allow that to happen, otherwise the ballgame goes in a different direction.

QUESTION #13: Bret, you're halfway through the regular season schedule. Aside from resiliency, what has surprised you about this team, and also is there any areas where it hasn't really measured up to what you thought or hoped for?

BIELEMA: You know, the areas that I've been most pleased in, you know, defensively, is third down efficiency. I believe we were six of nine drives on Saturday were three downs and out, which, and then the seventh was an interception by Culmer St. Jean. So I think the defense, defensive emphasis on third down turnovers and getting turnovers has been very, very clear to me.

Offensively, I like the fact, you know, that we're distributing the ball around in a passing game. I think we're hard to defend in that regard. We had ten guys catch balls on Saturday. In numerous games this year it's been, you know, several players getting their hands on the ball. And when one player, maybe in theory, isn't getting the normal plays that he has, then another guy kind of rises up. And then also what we've done in the red zone offensively has been very, very positive.

Special teams play, you know, I talked all last about on special teams, you know, we got to be able to score once. And the idea was get that fake field goal in there in the end zone, and that happened, but obviously the plan was not to give up a long touchdown on the kickoff return. So I made a special point to show our players on Sunday, all the special teams guys were in a room. The first three kickoffs went, I believe the first one was a 20-yard return out to the 22. The next one was like a 19 to the 20 or 21. The next one was a 9-yard return to the 12. Those three same calls were all on the same line as the fourth call, but you can't bat 75 percent, you got to be 100 percent, and the ultimate seal was that last play.

So I guess the consistency by all phases at all times would be the only thing that I'm going to continue to strive to get.

QUESTION #14: Similar to you guys, Iowa does a good job with their tight ends. I mean, and they got (Tony) Moeaki back this week, or last week against Michigan, he had a big impact. How important is he to their offense, in particular what they like to do with their play action?

BIELEMA: Well, they got a lot of tight ends, similar to what we do. I mentioned earlier about recruiting. Whenever we're recruiting a tight end, I'll guarantee you it's us and Iowa in there quite a bit, especially dealing with the Midwest. But you know, it's a unique preparation. You know, when Moeaki got back in, you could see how their offense changed last week, really since the Arkansas State game. Their offense has really picked it up and have been a little bit more productive in being able to be more efficient and do certain things, not only out in the normal, but they really like to go to those tight ends in clutch situations, and that's the key part.

QUESTION #15: What's this homecoming game mean for you and for these players? Is there more motivation and that kind of thing?

BIELEMA: Homecoming games in college are dramatically different from high school. You know, high school you got all the little silly things during the course of the week, maybe you dress up one day or build a float at night. You know, our guys have got enough on their plate with the academics and in just preparation, so homecoming has probably a huge influence on the crowd, the alumni. And as players, I know our players have already talked about it, we talked about it on Sunday, and we're glad to be coming home this weekend after two weekends on the road to play Iowa, in front of a national audience, against a highly ranked football team. You know, that's what our guys are going to be probably keyed into.

QUESTION #16: I think Garrett (Graham) had three penalties on Saturday. Did you see anything different out of him to explain that or just one of those days?

BIELEMA: There were a couple plays that were there, but the great thing about Saturday's game is everybody can take it and learn from it. So I think Garrett will learn from it big time. And you know, I don't know if he'll really change too much of what he's doing, except for he's just got to be cleaner on a few issues. But Garrett has given us so many great plays over the years, and I know that he personally was very frustrated about what happened on Saturday. Every indication he's showed me from the beginning of fall camp to where we are right now, he'll come back twice as big.

He'll take it as a challenge this week to have Moeaki on the field. I know those guys were talking at Big Ten meetings in fall and at the media day meetings and having an opportunity to share some time with each other, so I know he'll take it as a personal challenge this week as well.

QUESTION #17: Bret, Maurice Moore was returning a couple kickoffs in the Ohio State game. Is that something we can expect to see moving forward?

BIELEMA: Well, you know, he's been on the verge a couple weeks in a row. You know, we've gone with David (Gilreath) primarily over the last couple years, and just wanted to see if a change of pace would be good for that unit. And we actually did a really good job of fielding the first kick, you know, it was after the penalty. They kind of squibbed one over there hard to the left. He got over there and got in front of it and got some good return yardage out of that.

And then, you know, right before the, I guess it was after they scored on the kickoff return or I can't remember if it was after that touchdown when we put Mo back in there. You know, I really gassed him up. Hey, we're going to run this return. There was a nice crease on the last one. Described about where it was going to be. I want you to hit it and get it, soon as you catch that ball, you take off sprinting. Well, the problem was it was about four yards deep, and we instruct Chris Borland, and you could see him, he's running back with his arms pressed out to communicate to him to put on the brakes.

He's his eyes and ears. You know, when you're a returner, you really don't have an understanding of how far back in the end zone you might be. And we use the bottom of the letters as a rule. If he's deeper than that with good hang time, we're not going to bring it out. And Chris is giving him the double brakes, and he tried to come out, stepped across the line, and then, obviously, was put in a difficult situation.

So Mo's been good during practice. If he continues to practice well this week, on Saturday you may see Mo in there as a punt returner or kick returner.

QUESTION #18: We've talked about Iowa's defensive front, and you mentioned their secondary with the picks, but what's your assessment of that linebacker corps that they have?

BIELEMA: Very active. Pat Angerer is a young man out of Bettendorf (,Iowa) that we had on campus here. We really liked him. I know I was very impressed with him as a high school football player. They've had a couple other guys now. And guys, you know, I always go through the statistics, and I believe all three of their linebackers are in the top 20 in tackles. They do a great job. Norm (Parker) and that crew do a good job of making guys play sound fundamentals. They don't do a lot. They basically run one front, one coverage with few variations, and they're able to be very productive.

You know, one guy that I, we don't give out MVPs after a loss, but a guy that would have been deserving of that is O'Brien Schofield. He's leading the nation in tackles for loss. He's leading the Big Ten in tackles for loss. I don't know where he ranks as far as sacks. But he really jumped out on film on Sunday as a guy that looked like he belonged. He took down, I know he was really gassed up to play against (Terrelle) Pryor, and I know he put a little added emphasis on some of those tackles and just looked like a pretty phenomenal football player.

QUESTION #19: Bret, going back to O'Brien, he's just a different guy this year. Can you explain that?

BIELEMA: He's buying in. You know, I think if you ask OB what's probably changed with him over the last two seasons, more than anything, is he just didn't resist. He just accepted. And you know, I can't tell you how many times this year I've felt, as a head coach, I might have had to, need to address the players in a certain regard or say something about maybe what's happening at practice or about a locker room or an approach to a practice. And before I can even formulate it, OB will be calling them up and saying exactly what we as coaches want to say and do. I think that's the part that, you know, as coaches, we really observe that, and I give all the credit in the world to Charlie Partridge and his influence on him.

But that would be a great question for OB. You know, he's a guy, he might be the only, if he keeps doing what he's doing, he'll be an All-Big Ten performer, and he might be the only. I was thinking about this the other day, I said it to him, you might be the only All-Big Ten performer that never started a spring game going into his senior year, because he was late for that meeting, and I benched him and put him with the twos. You know, he didn't like it that day, but the results from that point forward have been unbelievable.

QUESTION #20: You talked about the strides Josh Oglesby has made in the last couple weeks. Was that just a tough matchup for him in that fourth quarter?

BIELEMA: You know what, Tom, I'm going to refrain from calling out one guy. I think our offensive line overall, they really do believe they play as one. You know, that's a group that mentality-wise they're always sitting together, they're always eating together, they're always walking together. Not saying anything bad, they always go shower at the same time. They just, you know, they always stick together.

And that group did not play well. I've read their comments and heard what they said, and my guess is you'll see a really focused group this week during the course of the week. They've got a very tough defensive line coming in with the University of Iowa, and I know Bob Bostad will take it personally, and those guys will respond in the right way. I think it was a tough matchup for a lot of guys up front.

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