The past few weeks have been physically and emotionally draining for the Wisconsin Football team.
But coming off the bye week, and some much-needed rest, the players seem rejuvenated and full of energy at practice, according to head coach Bret Bielema.
“On Tuesday when I came into that meeting room I could really just feel the energy,” Bielema said.
The players had a daunting task in front of them with games against Ohio State and Iowa, but UW got the job done and used the bye week to rest up for the final four games of the regular season.
Getting healthy, ready for Purdue
Looking to come out strong from the bye week should be made easier with the return of a few key players. Wide Receiver Nick Toon is one of many injured Badgers expected to return to the playing field against Purdue.
“He has been at practice and looks good to go,” Bielema said.
Also, it appears as though Lance Kendricks, Peter Konz, and Mike Taylor will all be back in action this Saturday as all three have shown signs of improvement.
Running Back James White, who suffered a knee sprain early on against Iowa, has seen a faster than expected recovery. Bielema attributes the reason for such rapid improvement being a result of White receiving assurance of only minimal amount of damage to his knee. The coaches are going to be careful with White’s injury but the hope is that he can contribute Saturday against the Boilermakers.
“I saw [White] run around on Sunday and he won’t be in full speed on Tuesday but hopefully he will by the end of the week,” Bielema said.
The Badger offense will be looking for continued success after piling up 31 points on a stingy Iowa defense in their last outing. Saturday provides a different challenge in West Lafayette, but for Bielema and the Badgers the plan remains the same.
“For us to have success this weekend, we are going to have to stick to our formula, and the formula doesn’t change, only the tactics,” Bielema said.
Purdue is coming off of two difficult back to back road loses against Ohio State and Illinois, however the Boilermakers played well in their last home game against Minnesota.
The Badgers understand the challenge any road environment presents, but after a week off and plenty of rest, Bielema expects his team to head to Purdue with a lot of energy.
“We have to embrace the challenge again of going on the road,” he said. “Our kids are going to be excited to play.”
Resilience under center
An important aspect to the Badgers’ offensive efficient has been quarterback Scott Tolzien’s durability and resilience, both physically and mentally.
Tolzien has proven he overcomes adversity and comes back strong. According to Coach Bielema, one of Tolzien’s idols is Brett Favre, for his perseverance and toughness to find a way to get back out there. Tolzien has some of that same fire to find a way to get on the field, not only in the game but in practice as well.
“If I cut practice, I am going to have to answer to Scott. If I cut plays out or 5-10 minutes, he is going to want to know why,” Bielema said. “That’s what makes him who he is.”
Focused on the task at hand
With Iowa defeating Michigan State this past weekend, the Badgers are in a great position right now to be serious contenders in the Big Ten title race, which could land them in a BCS bowl game.
The speculation and bowl projections are fun for fans to look at, but now more than ever, Bielema needs his team to embrace the 1-0 mentality.
“If you don’t take care of business this week, then it is all for nothing,” Bielema said. “I think this group of guys probably gets that better than years past. The reason they are in the position they are in is they take it one week at a time.”