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October 20, 2012

Bret Bielema


COACH BIELEMA:  Really excited to keep the axe.  Obviously a rivalry game and to play Minnesota and close the game out the way we did, I thought it did a lot of good to our players.  I think our coaches, our players, everybody's gained a little bit of confidence week by week.  A lot of guys playing good football.  I'd also like to say thanks to the crowd.  11:00 kick off, I thought they were great from the get‑go.  When we got things rolling there pretty good, really need to be great next week, 2:30 kickoff, Michigan State, big game.  We've been looking forward to. 
As far as injury‑wise, I don't know where Ricky (Wagner) is at.  If we'll have him back next week but he's making progress.  Really came out of the game clean.  Montee put himself back, after he got clearance, put himself back in there.  I'm not really concerned about that.  Couple of our special teams players got a little dinged up but give a lot of credit to Minnesota. 
I think they're making good progress.  Coach does a good job.  And one of the things I love about our guys, we may not be the sexiest, prettiest things alive but we do know how to play four‑quarter football games.  And for me personally it's fun to coach this group. 
I know we don't have the record maybe we want to at this point.  But we did became Bowl eligible, 6‑2 football team getting better every week.  So I'm excited about that.  So with that open up for questions. 

Q.  You mentioned playing a four‑quarter game.  You got stronger in the second half.  Did you guys need to start taking advantage in the first, the chance there? 
COACH BIELEMA:  I think so.  Obviously in the first half we'd like to get some points out of those red zone opportunities.  We took three huge sacks.  Again Joel's just learning how to be a quarterback.  Some of those things he's got to get rid of the football. 
But you coach well on Sundays for a guy like that.  And we'll point those things out for him.  We don't want him to mishandle the game because he obviously played really good for the rest of the game.  But it's part of a learning process. 
The good news is he's a freshman.  And I think our guys are getting better.  We also debuted James White as a quarterback.  It was something he did in high school at St. Thomas Aquinas.  During fall camp we've been working with that for a while.  Fun to see that come through and it's difficult formation for them to line up to and obviously had a little bit of success.

Q.  What was the decision to use that?
COACH BIELEMA:  At Wisconsin we have a lot of big people.  And that got quite a few of them out there.  I believe there's if I'm not mistaken seven linemen on the field, six, seven linemen with two tight ends and two tailbacks, cut out the pretty guys, no wide receivers or quarterbacks.  We didn't even put our fullback out there.  Watt's probably mad.  But again there's so many gaps.  When I first saw the formation, you got little people and then they sub big people in there as well, got people lining up in an unusual spot get James trying to find a hole and obviously there's a play of Montee coming around as well.

Q.  What's it meant to your offense to have White and Ball going at the same time?
COACH BIELEMA:  To get those guys playing, you see them running a little differently.  Obviously they're breaking tackles making people miss, getting something out of nothing.  Also again and I can't emphasize this enough.  The reason Montee and James are having success they're doing a lot of great things individually but the people in front of them are playing well.  Our offensive line is getting a hat on a hat.  We're not quite there yet.  But the guys are straining to have Ricky Wagner probably our best offensive lineman out of there; to be able to do those things we knew it wasn't going to be easy.  We wore them down.  Not just the "O" line but our fullbacks tight ends, wide receivers are blocking extremely well down field.  Coach Azzani, most excited I've seen a wide receiver coach get, when I think Jordan Fredrick knocked one of their better DBs off the ground.  You can see that energy carry forward to our players.

Q.  Left tackle, rotated two series at a time in the first half, looked like Burge got more, was that the plan?
COACH BIELEMA:  (Robert) Burge, thought we'd have to use all those guys in there.  I think there was a play where Robby's shoe came off, too.  We've got to educate him on that.  Because we were kind of caught shorthanded there.  But I think (Kyle) Costigan, (Robert) Burge, Zac (Matthias), all those guys would be rolling through, and Tyler Marz popped in there in the big package.  Good to get those guys reps and game time.

Q.  Have a name for that package?
COACH BIELEMA:  Barge.  Barge.  Very big piece of people moving down the field together in unison.  I didn't come up with that.  That's all Coach Canada.  So it was fun to see that come through.  I know the kids really enjoy it.  Everybody gets a kick out of that when we play it in practice.
(Question off microphone)
COACH BIELEMA:  We had and then we really got hurt with a couple of linemen.  And we've probably practiced it for at least the last three or four weeks, and it's just the beginning of what that package can do.  James can throw the ball.

Q.  Obviously (inaudible) has been so good with play action.  Do you feel you need to get more consistent?
COACH BIELEMA:  Like I mentioned earlier getting rid of the ball in pressure.  There's one thing to try to create a play or try to stay alive.  But when you're outnumbered, when they're bringing more than one we have to protect, the guys are covered up, get rid of the football.  Live to play another day.  Great teaching.  Two real good football opportunities where you're taking points off the board; we just can't go backwards.

Q.  Keeping the axe, can you talk about the excitement of the guys to still be able to embrace it?
COACH BIELEMA:  I think we take a lot of pride in that.  I learned that when I first came here.  I'm a guy from Illinois.  Played at Iowa.  I don't know what's going on.  I hear these guys talking about the axe during the off‑season and our players probably get more engrained to it.  Guys that are out of state really come in start buying into this whole thing.  We know the guys at Wisconsin and Minnesota it means a lot.  But it's a representation of a victory.  But it's a representation of a victory for an entire year.  That thing sits in our trophy case.  I always get a kick‑‑ I remember last spring we were‑‑ I don't know if we were in Oshkosh or somewhere in Wisconsin and myself and Coach Alvarez and Ron Dane and I think Bo Ryan was there, and we had a few people in our line people stacked up 20 deep to take a picture with the axe.  Lets you have a perspective on how popular you are.
But I think for our entire state and fan base it's a big, big deal.

Q.  Are there areas you'd like to see Joel come along, you said he's young?
COACH BIELEMA:  I think he's a guy that really takes coaching.  He understands the situation.  Right when there's never any‑‑ if he's uncertain, he tells you exactly where he's at.  So I think he can handle that.  I think that there are some things as he gets a little more confidence on third down we like to see him better at.  Again, that just takes a little bit of time.  We have to be smart what we do with him.

Q.  You mentioned Devin Smith's solid play today.  Address what he did on that pick to‑‑
COACH BIELEMA:  Devin Smith or Ethan Armstrong.

Q.  Address his play. 
COACH BIELEMA:  Devin's played pretty well.  I have to hand it to him.  From coming back from that foot injury a year ago to come back to his senior year and play as aggressive as he is and what he's doing is he's setting himself up for an NFL opportunity.  He's a guy that's got a lot of speed.  A lot of ability.  Things are very important to him and he's restructured his life I think in a positive way that hopefully we truly benefit from it now, and he can see the dividends down the road.

Q.  How would you assess your defense especially with maybe the uncertainty?
COACH BIELEMA:  You know, we didn't have Rob have any idea who was going to play quarterback.  You could see I was watching MarQueis (Gray) and I saw he didn't take any reps as quarterback in pregame.  We thought it was going to be down to Max and No. 9 (Philip Nelson).
The one thing our defense we don't do a lot of stuff.  We kind of line up and play.  Somebody put a quote in my box the other day and said I'd rather be a person that reps the same thing 100,000 times rather than somebody who tries to rep something different 100,000 times, and that's the way our defense is built.  We just get really good at what we're doing.  We don't do a lot.  It allows us to play fast, physical. 
I think our defensive coaches do a tremendous job, when a play hurts us they do a nice job of dissecting why it broke down and what we need to do to fix it.  Classic case being that Ethan Armstrong pick.  That was a sideline adjustment that they saw from the field.  And Chris and Coach Buh got it together and it's a pick.  It changes the game. 

Q.  (Question off microphone)
COACH BIELEMA:  He was a good athlete.  We evaluated him.  And obviously it's in Minnesota's system because of what they were doing.  Even No. 11 when they were the last couple of games they started using him more in the quarterback run game.  So I know they got a good group of coaches there.  And they weren't going to reinvent the wheel.  A lot of new plays a lot of stuff we haven't seen out there before.  Again give credit to our defensive guys.

Q.  (Question off microphone)
COACH BIELEMA:  You know what, I think the wind was coming across the field.  When it happened, I didn't grab him.  Kickers, you tend to like to give them couple minutes to gather themselves.  They usually get a little sideways.  I went over and talked to him.  And I think he just kind of overthought himself a little bit.  But Kyle's been hitting the ball extremely well.  That first one he drove in the end zone.  That was into a pretty stiff wind.  So the good news is we had one more kick, I almost actually gave Jack that last one because he had been doing pretty well, but just really wanted to ride the wave of Kyle making nice hits.

Q.  (Question off microphone)
COACH BIELEMA:  Actually, right at that, it was right about there.  In pregame they told me 58 one way and 54 the other way is what, which I automatically subtract 15.  But it was right on the cusp of that.  But he's been hitting the ball really, really well.

Q.  (Question off microphone)
COACH BIELEMA:  It's a lot of fun.  I told our guys today, when I first last met with them before we broke for pregame meal that this is a group that is a lot of fun to be around, a lot of characters, a lot of personalities.  They work.  They really, I think, enjoy the game, been playing well.  And when people were beating us up or saying whatever, I think our guys just look straight ahead and worked, and have gotten better.  I'm really happy with my staff.  I like the growth that they've had.  Especially offensively, to go through what they went through, and to put up the numbers and account for some of the points that they're putting out there is pretty special.  And I think our kids really have bought into it as well.

Q.  (Question off microphone)
COACH BIELEMA:  We recruited him.  His dad played here obviously.  And Coach Chryst, at that time he was a pretty spot‑on guy when we got after quarterbacks.  And I had heard about him for a number of years and obviously put up some productions and then just obviously didn't go in that direction when it came but a very good football player.

Q.  (Question off microphone)
COACH BIELEMA:  I came up to him.  I let him have it pretty good.  The one thing he said to me; he said:  Coach, when I launched, when I left my feet the ball was in his hands.  But obviously I think in that situation they're really trying to protect the quarterback.  I've been emphasizing that, I'll send in plays.  So definitely told him one more of those and he might be sitting next to me for a while. 

Q.  Would it be easy for players to snap in this week?
COACH BIELEMA:  Absolutely.  A lot of respect for Michigan State.  Obviously a team we've got a great storied history with.  And it will be nice to get them here in Camp Randall.  Last couple of trips, two at East Lansing and one in Indianapolis.  It will be nice to have one at Camp Randall.

Q.  (Question off microphone)
COACH BIELEMA:  It's good football.  I really respect Mark and his staff.  Obviously defensively they play really, really solid defense.  I think there's a lot of‑‑ we recruit against Michigan State quite a bit.  Go after the same type of kids in certain regards.  So it's just I think a game of respect.  Really a hard‑fought thing of respect. 
The "D" line coach there Ted Gill I played for in college.  A lot of ties to a staff we have a lot of respect for.

Q.  What about Derek Watt.  (Inaudible)?
COACH BIELEMA:  He reminds you a lot of the other 34.  It's fun to have Brady and Chris Maragos was our guest captain.  We had tremendous people around us this weekend.  It was fun because I was talking to Brady the last couple of weeks I want you to tell me what you think about No. 34.  That was classic.
Brady I think came up with three surprise on‑sides during his career and Derek's doing that.  The great thing about Derek, he's a freshman, nowhere close to as physically as big as he'll get over the next two or three years.  I know people are talking about his older brother doing all these great things, but I'm happy with what I've got.  I wouldn't mind taking the other brother back either. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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