Thank you, Brian. On Sunday, we recognized some MVPs. On offense, Nick Toon probably played his most complete game since becoming a Badger and really did some good things for us, especially, obviously, the big play at the end of the game that solidified that last drive, and then Montee Ball for his performance, being able to step in there and do what he did.
And then defensively, Chris Borland, we gave him the MVP, continues to make impressive strides each week as a football player, and then played his most complete game as a linebacker. And then special teams-wise it was Philip Welch. And it was very, it didn't kind of dawn on me until the next day that two of those guys are redshirt sophomores and the other two are true freshmen. Last week we recognized a couple guys that were freshmen as well.
So it's interesting to see these guys come along and play good football down the stretch. I think our guys knew on Sunday that they had to watch a game that they weren't real clean at, didn't do all the things that we had been doing during the course of the season to have success. I thought they had the right attitude, and we'll see when they come back to practice tomorrow.
This is a very interesting opponent with Michigan. You can see every game do a lot of things, especially offensively. They score a lot of points, get a lot of yards, have a variety of different players that they go to defensively, have given up some points, but have got very good football players. Brandon Graham, their defensive end, is probably one of the best players in our conference and a guy that you got to make sure he's accounted for on every play.
So we're excited about the opportunity and to honor these seniors. These guys have given us tremendous leadership since last January to get to where we are today, and I know it will be a special week of preparation and a special game on Saturday for them. With that, I'll open it up for any questions.
QUESTION #1: Just can you address the health status of John (Clay) and Josh (Oglesby) and also the Maurice Moore situation, where does that stand?
BIELEMA: John Clay should be able to practice tomorrow. He basically got a little bit, I don't know if it was a for sure concussion, but he felt and was a little bit out of it in the first half. He also had a little, he was sick to his stomach, and then at halftime, everybody said he was good to go, and when we were walking out, he wasn't in a good situation to go out there. If we had to, he probably could have played the second half. I know he wanted to, but they kept him out. So he should be back full go. We didn't practice, I didn't take them out on the field yesterday, so he should be all right.
Josh is getting some further tests done today on the knee that he injured Saturday, so we'll know a little bit more about him later in the day. But all indications are, and he assured me he's going to play. So unless something pops up on those tests later today.
And then with Maurice Moore, Mo, I'm sure a lot of you has remembered, was suspended for the last year's bowl game. And at different times, he and I have had discussions. I made him very aware that every day was going to be monitored from here on out, and obviously after Saturday's incident, he's indefinitely suspended. He won't be with us. And you know, right now, actually, I haven't had a chance, and Mo is still in the hospital. Everything's checking out, but they're keeping him there for some supervision. Should be out of there later today, and then we'll have an opportunity to sit down and talk. We'll give him all the support we can academically and in anything else that he needs to make sure he can have success. Right now it looks like he could possibly graduate by the end of this summer, so he might have an option further down the road with one year of eligibility left.
QUESTION #2: Bret, in general, how important is it for a senior or a group of seniors to leave a legacy, a lasting or positive legacy?
BIELEMA: Well, in coaching, I've said it in here, it's a cliché, but it does mean a lot. Tradition never graduates, only seniors do. And these guys are going to graduate and move out of our program. A lot of guys have already got their work done academically and will be on pace to graduate not only this December, but then the rest of them, the majority of them after the conclusion of this spring semester.
For them, one of the team goals this year was to re-establish Wisconsin football. And I know it was a senior that said that, and they've had a lot of pride in that. This fifth year senior class is a little bit unusual from the standpoint when these guys came in, I was on staff, but I didn't know, and they didn't know, that I was going to be the head coach. And so they were brought in with the idea of playing for Coach (Barry) Alvarez.
And the guys that have survived and made it through have been unbelievable with, Garrett Graham, the guys that fall into that category are Garrett and OB (O'Brien Schofield), because both of them are fifth year redshirt seniors that have battled all the way through this thing, and I can't say enough great things about them. Dustin Sherer too. You know, Dustin is a guy that has been a starter in this program, and because of what he's done it's probably put us in a position to be where we are today.
QUESTION #3: Did you say that re-establishing Wisconsin football notion came from the players?
BIELEMA: Yeah. Yeah, well, I should say this . . .
QUESTION #3: Who did it come from, I guess?
BIELEMA: You know, I can't tell you that. I think it was Mick(ey Turner). But one thing I liked when I came here, I've been in several, not several, I've been with three head coaches at two different programs before coming here to Wisconsin, and something that jumped out to me with Coach Alvarez was before the season starts, we as coaches set up spring goals, fall goals, summer goals, but he lets the team, he would allow the team to kind of brainstorm and get the season goals about two weeks out from the season.
And I carried that tradition forward, and we narrowed it down to five this year, and that was one of them, and it was something that, it was mainly the seniors that were talking. I think it was either Mickey that said that. It could have been actually Dan Moore, but one of those two did.
QUESTION #4: Sometimes fifth year seniors who don't contribute a lot don't make it back for whatever reason. Could you just talk about Dan Cascone? Did you always want him back and the contributions he's made this season?
BIELEMA: Did I always want him back?
QUESTION #4: Was there ever any doubt that he would be back, I guess?
BIELEMA: I think two years ago, maybe it might have been three years ago, he just didn't put forth the effort, what I thought (he) would need for him to come here and be a football player. And to his credit, he changed his body, he changed his attitude, and he hasn't played as much on the field, but he's been great in the classroom and he's been a great chemistry guy. And sometimes those guys just don't pan out on the field as much as you'd like.
He's another guy I believe he came to camp, Coach (Alvarez) might actually know the answer, but I believe he came to camp, and J.P. (John Palermo) felt comfortable enough to offer him, and so we made an offer, and he has been good for us. He's probably one of my favorite guys to jazz around with and have fun with. He's great, great chemistry. He's going to get a lot out of this university. It may not be the playing time, but he's going to get a great degree and a great, obviously a great college football career from just wins and losses.
QUESTION #5: You mentioned Brandon Graham real briefly. Do you still remember all the damage he caused against you guys last year and what do you have to do against him to keep, prevent him from doing that again?
BIELEMA: I remember it, and I've had to watch it here the last 48 hours. You go back and watch last year's film for preparation for this year's game, obviously. He's a good football player that, obviously he's going to be in one-on-one situations at times, but you want to try to give people help as much as you can. And then to understand what he's trying to get done and to try to make him play a little bit left-handed as well.
QUESTION #6: Coach, after the game on Saturday, O'Brien Schofield said the game against Michigan coming up has sort of been on his radar now for a year, understandably so. Is that sort of what you've seen out of the players too?
BIELEMA: Yeah. I mean, this year is this year, but you take and draw from experiences. And I know just from a pure scheme standpoint, offensively they're similar to what they did a year ago or were trying to do at times, even though it's a different quarterback, so you got to go back and watch the film. But yeah, to be in the situation we were at half and to finish that game out the way it did, leaves a very bad taste, and then we all know what happened after that. We've battled our tails off to get to where we are right now, and Michigan is the next opportunity. And to have them here for senior day, I'm sure it is special for OB.
QUESTION #7: Bret, how frustrating is it that you have kind of another moped incident come up, especially after what happened with Bill Nagy in the summer and just how he's really struggled with his injury to kind of get back to 100 percent?
BIELEMA: Maurice had a car. But, you want to rephrase the question or? Yeah, you know what, after Billy's, it was an unfortunate situation. I've talked to the guys repeatedly about being safe on their scooters and being conscientious because when it's you against a concrete sidewalk, car, you're not going to win that battle. They've got to drive and be aware of what's going on around them, but it's part of the reality here on campus.
QUESTION #8: What is your message to players this week in regards to last year's game?
BIELEMA: Well, we got to be, I think because of the way we've handled every game up to this time, it's kind of the same mode. I go in and say this is where we're at. But every game that we've played this year, where we've played from a, like the Indiana game a year ago, the way that game unfolded in the first half was very similar to the way the whole game was this past Saturday. So I talk about the opportunities that you have in front of you and we have two Big Ten games, but this is our next step to get to where we want to be, and Michigan is that team that we have to face and to focus in on that. But you do have to be and remind them that, hey, you know, last year is last year, but, we got to learn from last year's mistakes and move forward, which we have.
QUESTION #9: Dave Doeren said recently that he thought this team likes tight situations, tight games. You know, I know teams vary from year to year, but what goes into having a bunch of guys who actually flourish in those situations versus . . .
BIELEMA: I think the heat you put on them during the out of season, during the winter conditioning, during the spring. We went through a, in my opinion, we really ratcheted up the level of intensity that you needed to be at every time we got together and practiced. And the way that we kind of just handled with a sense of urgency, and we would remind guys at times that that doesn't work, this is what we need to do, and the good thing is we've had good results, and that's carried forward.
And then I think everybody likes to pride themselves on being someone that can come through under pressure. You don't want to be that guy that, if you're playing a basketball game, they call a timeout, and everything is designed not to get you the ball. I mean, you want to be the guy that's getting the ball. You want to be the guy that should be put on point and be able to come through in the most difficult of times.
QUESTION #10: Bret, in regards to Nick Toon, other than his getting better at pass catching and route running, where has been his biggest strides the past year?
BIELEMA: Probably maturity. And I'm not, don't tell Nick I said he's immature. I just think he's really, you know, he's a redshirt sophomore. He's big. He's athletic. He's impressive. Mom and dad, because of the way that they've brought him into this world and taught him that hard work is going to pay off, you can't get by on just what's been given to you, I think Nick's beginning to see that.
I had Nick down in my office yesterday, and I congratulated him. I said, hey, that's a heck of a game. When you're watching it, up on the sidelines, I didn't see how well he played. His first play from the line of scrimmage, he just takes the DB and cuts him right in half and makes a great play. Now that DB is thinking that whole game, is this coming at me the whole day? And I think Nick, what I loved was his response to me. He goes, Coach, I should have been doing that all along. Now I'm going to remind him of that. Now he's got to do that. This is what we see on film. This is reality. This is what you can provide for us every week. And if that begins to happen, then we've got a pretty good situation.
QUESTION #11: Did you guys approach Aaron Henry about a potential move, or did he come to you and say, hey, is there any way I can help?
BIELEMA: I'll be honest with you. That was a, I've been trying to get that, as a head coach, I always try to, I think when you're an assistant coach, I used to be this way too, is you get so locked into your players, you can't think outside the box. And as I got older, as I became a defensive coordinator, I think I first said this to the defensive staff probably maybe after the second or third game, said can't we, I think he needs a new fresh outlook on life.
Aaron Henry, as you guys know, has got one of the most beautiful minds, personalities, strength, and wisdom that we have. He's in a little bump in the road and he needed some help. So I suggested it. As the head coach, I'll make suggestions. And then finally I said, this is what we're going to do. And he had a very good week of practice last week, and we'll see where it goes this week.
QUESTION #12: Coach with what transpired on Saturday in the conference as a whole, I mean, a lot of tight battles, big upsets. Does it just kind of emphasize the competition in this conference is just, you know, pretty incredible overall?
BIELEMA: Competition and who can stay healthy. A couple of our games that we didn't come out on the great end, we didn't stay healthy during the course of the game, and had a huge impact on it. I'm not making excuses. It's reality. It's a four-quarter game every game you're in, but, it's an eight-week schedule of Big Ten play that you got to survive. And those that can win and move on do, and those that don't will fall by the wayside. It's unfortunate that we weren't able to have those two victories in the Iowa, Ohio State game, but on the same account, our guys learned some lessons, and hopefully those younger players will have that in their mind moving forward. But it is a tough schedule.
Brian (Lucas) pointed out, everybody wants to talk strength of schedule. Everybody wants, Coach B doesn't play these teams … Well, we have the, we have by the NCAA, and I love that Web site, because it computes your strength of schedule as it's real. It computes what teams have played, what their records are, and it moves forward, and I've been watching it all season. And now today we're 14th in the country, and we have the toughest schedule in the Big Ten conference to date, and that, to me, says something about what we've been able to accomplish and hopefully move forward.
QUESTION #13: You often say that each spread is unique. What makes the Rich Rodriguez spread unique or challenging?
BIELEMA: Skilled athletes all over the place. If you look at their receptions, they've had a variety of guys make big plays. This guy past Saturday comes in and makes ten catches. They're able to distribute the ball. Tate Forcier, he came to our camp. I remember him being out there. He came with his father. When I watched him, I was like this kid has got some ability. He can run on the ball. I remember there was a play, he was kind of running off to the side and threw it underhand in like a shot. So I mean, he's very gifted. I think he can make plays both with his feet, with his arm, and then all just mentally he's one of those kind of guys.
QUESTION #14: How has Michigan changed defensively in their approach since last year, since Rich Rodriguez came in?
BIELEMA: Well, they had a change in coordinators last year, so they're, some of the basic concepts, because he had a lot of his defensive coaches from West Virginia come with him. But conceptually they've changed a little bit. They bring their fair share of pressures, but, again, their personnel is, it's Michigan. You know, Michigan is Michigan. They're going to be able to recruit. Their guys look good. They have all the right bumps in all the right places. They run, they are physical at contact. They're going to play well.