Following Wisconsin’s fourth-quarter collapse at Michigan State Saturday, head football coach Bret Bielema had many questions to answer at his weekly Monday press conference.
In the 25-24 loss, the Badgers — players and coaches alike — beat themselves with penalties, a recurring theme that has haunted the team for weeks. Bielema was charged with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that led to a Michigan State touchdown, sparking the Spartans’ late comeback.
“That wasn’t the most strenuous or vigorous comment that I ever made to an official, but the timing was against me,” Bielema said. “It’s not what happens in the course of a game, it’s how you react to what happens, and my reaction to that play was a poor example to [the team]. On the same account, they understand the big picture — that it’s not one play in particular, it’s not one penalty; it’s a cumulative effect of 12.”
The Badgers cost themselves 121 yards on 12 penalties, eight of which occurred in the fourth quarter, making them the most penalized team in the Big Ten this year.
“If you’re a football team that’s struggling to find a way to win, if you grant them automatic first downs, you’re never going to be able to get on top,” Bielema said.
Despite Wisconsin’s current 4-5 record, less experienced players continue to follow the learning curve during their increased amounts of playing time, including junior quarterback Dustin Sherer and redshirt freshman John Clay. According to his coach, Sherer played well Saturday, but his inexperience could have cost the Badgers valuable points and time.
“He knew at halftime there were some things left out there he felt he could’ve capitalized on,” Bielema said.
Sherer also may have been able to take more time off the clock during the Badgers’ final drive, allowing the play clock to count down further to shave off valuable seconds. Bielema, however, was quick to defend his signal caller.
“I remember (former UW quarterback) John Stocco being able to milk [the play clock] down to one second, two seconds, but he learned that through time,” Bielema said.
Clay also had a productive game, rushing for a career-high 111 yards, but Bielema also mentioned the freshman’s lack of confidence.
“When we call our No. 1 offense out there, P.J. (Hill) is definitely the guy eager to jump out there and John just wants to wait,” Bielema said. “He does a better job after the initial first carries. … It’s just a comfort-level thing.
“You don’t want to put a player, especially a younger player, in that isn’t totally, totally comfortable with where he’s at.”
Still, Bielema, of course, was quick to defend his players.
“I really liked the way [Sherer] responded in the second half,” he said. “He wants to be coached-up and wants to move forward.”
Kendricks out for year
A week after losing All-American tight end Travis Beckum to a broken leg, the Badgers will also likely lose tight end Lance Kendricks for the rest of the year, as he’ll be out 4-6 weeks.
“Lance broke his fibula as well. Kind of a freak play, where he basically collided leg-to-leg with a Michigan State player,” Bielema said. “I couldn’t say more about the way he prepared last week and got himself ready. He was anxious to get out there and play a football game, and it’s difficult for him to sit through it. He has a lot of eligibility ahead of him.”