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January 1, 2024

Luke Fickell

Tampa, Florida, USA

Raymond James Stadium

Wisconsin Badgers

Postgame Press Conference

LSU 35, Wisconsin 31

LUKE FICKELL: This hurts. I think we had every opportunity. Our guys did everything they could to put us in a position. This is what we wanted. We wanted an opportunity to get this thing to the fourth quarter and find a way to finish. That's been our Achilles' heel all year. Starting fast was one of those things we hadn't done well all year. Finishing is the other one.

I'm proud of these guys. They got us to a position where we had an opportunity to finish. We just didn't get it done. We got to do a better job as a whole. I put it on myself. We had some situations where, whether it's go for it, kick the field goal, we knew field goals were not going to win this ballgame as the thing started to continue to roll.

I look back at myself and say should be a little bit more aggressive in all that we're doing to put ourself in better position. If you don't get an opportunity to obviously know what it is that you need.

We just didn't get it done today. Probably the last drive defensively, had the ball at the two yard line. They go 98 yards to go ahead. Then we battle back, put ourself in a position to have a chance to win the football game. We didn't find a way to finish so...

We wanted nothing more than, those guys in that locker room wanted nothing more than to send these seniors that stuck it out with us, these seniors that have done everything they possibly could for these guys, they want nothing more than to make sure they finish this thing the right way. This is not the right way.

But I tell you what, I'm damn proud of those guys and the way that they continue to lead and battle through all the different things that are going on obviously in everybody's program. But most importantly ours, so...

Q. Despite the loss, what are the encouraging things to take from the game?

LUKE FICKELL: There's a lot of encouraging things. We know darn well that we got the guys that we need. We just got to get everybody on the same path. We got to get everybody going the same direction.

That's on the coach. That starts with me. I thought we did a much better job of that in our preparation. I think in particular offensively just getting ourselves on the right path, going about things the right way. I think it showed.

But you're still finding ways to overcome what we need to be able to overcome, finding ultimately ways of finishing ballgames. There's definitely lots of things we can build upon. Ultimately it comes down finding ways to finish. Said that a year ago when I walked in the door here, that was going to be the emphasis. Obviously we didn't do a good enough job. I didn't do a good enough job at making sure us as a program, us as a team can find ways to finish, whatever we needed to do.

Q. What is the message for your team this off-season?

LUKE FICKELL: I mean, it doesn't just happen because you say it's going to happen, right? We're going to tackle better, we're going to do this, we're going to do that. In reality, it's a lot of hot air. It's why I don't like to make statements up here. I don't like to say things that we're going to do moving forward because ultimately you are what you put on film, whether it's your culture, whether it's the things that you want to do.

We know darn well last year we didn't finish well. This year we didn't finish well. We didn't start well. There's a lot of things. It gives us a hell of a lot of things that we got to start working on here January 14th when our guys get back.

Q. On the teams aggressiveness and what is the process on the sidelines. Were timeouts used to discuss strategy?

LUKE FICKELL: No, there wasn't any timeouts used to talk about it. There was timeouts used basically we were trying to draw them off-sides maybe. We already had the idea of what is it we're going to do based on that situation.

Yeah, sometimes there's a collaboration. Usually it's known ahead of time as to what the situation needs to be, what it is that we want to be able to do. Sometimes you do have to change your minds.

We do what it is we want to do. I put it on myself to say, Okay, now that you look back at it, maybe on that three yard line, two and a half yard line, knowing darn well field goals aren't going to be what wins this ballgame. If I look back I say maybe more times to be aggressive at it and take some shots at it.

Q. On the play of Quarterback Tanner Mordecai

LUKE FICKELL: I don't think you can say enough about that kid (tearing up). Everyone's programs, in this time, it's tough. To have guys that stick things out, guys that somebody says comes in a place and rents it. There was no rent in this guy. There was never a hesitation at what he wanted to do and what he was going to do.

He's a guy that played on a broken hand after three and a half weeks or four weeks. Couldn't clap for four weeks out there. I mean, and there was never a hesitation as to whether he was going to play in this game or not.

For him to go out and not just play the way he did, but practice the way he did, lead the way he did, to help us move our program forward, kind of set an example of what things can look like when you really dive all in. For a guy that did that in one year, bottle the thing up, mold it. It's the way to go about your business.

He's going to play for a long time. He's going to play for a long time. I'm going to call my buddy and make sure he better get him on his team because the guy's a winner. I know he didn't win today, but he left it all out there. I'm not one of those guys for sixth or seventh years, if there was a way, I would do everything I could to get him back.

Q. Quarterback has a career day. Running back has a career day. The offense was really rolling, wasn't it?

LUKE FICKELL: They did a really good job. They played well. They were aggressive. They made plays. They did some things that we didn't do I think much of the year. I just mean that in getting us into rhythm. At times the defense played well.

I mean, you got to give them a lot of credit. We haven't seen that much skill the whole year. It was difficult on us. We tried to make some adjustments. I give them credit. Our guys continued to battle. But they made some big plays. They made some big plays down the field.

I think really, if I would say anything about it, we couldn't pressure the quarterback. They did a really good job up front protecting him, buying him time, really letting him throw the ball. That's where that complementary on both sides...

You can look at it as you didn't play well in the back end, they threw balls on you. There's a balance to that. If you can't get to the quarterback, you can't put pressure, you can't make him throw under duress, it's really hard.

Q. Do you have a word to describe the season?

LUKE FICKELL: Man, I think the last few weeks, we've had reflections and things about that. The word is 'roller coaster'. I'm not saying that a lot of seasons aren't that way, but you're talking about the ups, the downs, the twists and the turns that I think make it the most difficult thing.

I've said it: this has probably been the most difficult stretch of two and a half, three months that I've had in coaching. There's just a lot of things. I probably forget about that being year one is how much you have to go through.

I just think, more than anything, it's a roller coaster. It's not just the ups and the downs. There's a lot of twists and turns in there that make you find out a lot about yourself and the people that are around you.

That's why I'm so proud of those guys in that room right there. That's what I told them, the guys that stuck this thing out, the guys that are in that room need to be really proud. They gave it everything they had. Those seniors in particular.

Q. Lack of pass-rush today. Moving forward, is that the one thing you want to see better?

LUKE FICKELL: There's a lot of things we want to see better. I'm not going to point a finger at one thing. They did a good job. There's max protections where you're not going to get there. There's other opportunities where you got to get there. You got to win some of those one-on-ones. You got to win those two-on-ones. That's what it comes down to.

You got to give 'em credit. They did a heck of a job up front. But, yeah, we do. We need to find more ways. Sometimes that's blitzing. We did a fair share of that. But when it comes down to it, as they throw the ball around, it's hard with the guys you're trying to cover back there to think you're going to send five and six every other time.

What it comes down to is we just got to execute better. The guys played their butts off. They played as hard as they possibly could. They worked at it. They practiced at it. We got to do a better job at execution.

Q. On Trech Kekahuna's play as a receiver and kick returner

LUKE FICKELL: Got twisted up in the last kickoff. He didn't only do a great job offensively. Kick return guy, one of those opportunities that we talked about, about guys that are just fearless. Maybe you haven't seen enough of 'em. Had an opportunity today, the way they performed. That's what some of these situations are really great for, is to see those guys that didn't have those opportunities. We look at ourselves as coaches and say, Probably should have had him in there a lot earlier in some of those situations.

The reality is that you find guys, when the lights come on, they play at a higher level. I think he's one of those guys.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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