The Wisconsin Badgers football team put together another impressive performance Saturday, but their mindset is already directed toward Michigan. The game plan hasn’t changed for head coach Bret Bielema and the Badgers as they turn their focus to the opponent at hand.
“We have the same plan as the last three weeks,” Bret Bielema said at his Monday press conference.
Bielema feels the upcoming contest with Michigan is an opportunity for Wisconsin to go to a tough road environment and play with the same strength and adversity the Badgers have experienced all season.
“It is a great challenge and it’s a way I think our guys can block out all the other stuff that’s going to be thrown at them and just focus on playing at a great environment in college football,” Bielema said.
The Badgers continue to impress Coach Bielema and monopolize on game day opportunities.
“The part that jumped out was in the second half the guys we had play; we had a lot of guys get in there and get valuable game experience,” Bielama said. “The most gratifying thing to me Saturday was when the two’s (second string players) went in and did what they did; when your fifth string quarterback went in there and had success – it’s not just a one string thing, it’s a program thing.”
Assistant coach and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst has done an extraordinary job of planning and coaching, not just for game days, but 365 days a year, according to Bielema.
“What you’re seeing on Saturdays is what I see everyday. It’s not by chance that this offense clicks,” Bielema said.
Since coming to Wisconsin, Bielema has chosen to practice on Fridays, a decision he attributes to the dynamic and hardworking attitude of the team, and a possible reason for its success.
“I remember there was a time last year, when I wanted to cut down Friday’s practice a little bit and Scott Tolzien went bananas and wanted to stay out there and throw the ball 20 more times,” Bielema said. “So you have to play to the personality of your players, and for our guys they are perfectionists and I think that is why they want those reps.”
Clay, Konz still recovering
Two big parts of the UW offense may not be able to play this Saturday against Michigan.
Junior running back John Clay and sophomore center Pete Konz, both of whom did not play against Indiana, are still recovering from their respective injuries.
“Clay is still kind of yet to be determined,” Bielema said. “Yesterday he was moving as good as he has. I don’t know if we’ll have him for Tuesday, but do expect him to get a limited amount of work this week.”
“Pete felt a lot better. We really didn’t use him at all last week, just let him rest. So if he can go, right now it would probably be more of a reserve, still kind of just go forward with Bill [Nagy] at center, unless Pete really comes on.”
Learning from the past
The Badgers faced adversity early on in their season, losing on the road in the Big Ten opener to Michigan State, and since then UW has taken note and learned from their mistakes.
“I think it is kind of what we have drawn from the past, it’s part of our history, you have to embrace the negative and positive experiences that you have and go forward,” Bielema said.
Bielema further states the Badgers have embraced their only loss of the season, and have used it as a learning tool to move forward and to make the negative experiences count towards something.
“The best thing is that this team embraces is that Michigan State game happened for a reason, whatever it was, we had to learn from that day. If we left everything in East Lansing, we would never be where we are today, we learned form that experience and grew.”
Defense capitalizing on turnovers
The Badger’s defense has done an excellent job of playing strong and making the most of their opponent’s offensive mistakes – something Bielema continues to stress during practice.
“I made a big point of it on Saturday’s game, about ball security and taking care of the football, and the exchanges, the snaps,” Bielema Said. “Bottom line, on Saturday, Indiana had some turnovers, and our guys didn’t; I think it was a point of emphasis that our guys carried forward to the game”
With the upcoming road game against Michigan, Bielema feels being able to capitalize on the turnovers defensively, and protect the ball offensively is key to success.
“To be able to withstand momentum swings in Big Ten road games, is huge,” Bielema said.