B1G Championship: Wisconsin Coach/Player Press Conference
Dec. 2, 2012
WISCONSIN'S COACH BIELEMA, CHRIS BORLAND, MONTEE BALL, JAMES WHITE
THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement, and then questions for all four of the fellas up here.
COACH BIELEMA: First, give credit to Nebraska, a very good football team that earned the right to be here as well as us. Knew our guys were up for the challenge last Sunday. To be through what we've gone through as a group of men, the way they kind of responded on Sunday.
Tuesday's practice, I knew we had a chance. Wednesday and Thursday I knew we had a really good chance. And after that first quarter, first half today, I knew we had an excellent chance. That's because of these guys, these three guys here. 71 other guys we brought with us. We left 40 back in Madison. I got a group of men that only know one thing, and that's how to work, how to have faith. Their determination to get here and the resiliency of this group gave us the championship. So thank you very much, and open it up for questions.
Q. Montee, last year you were playing in this game. You couldn't have foreseen all the off the field struggles and some of the early struggles this season on the field. Could you talk a little bit about what it means to you to get back here and get another shot at the Rose Bowl, and just in the context of all the struggles that you've gone through?
MONTEE BALL: Yeah, I've been through a lot. But I just make sure to keep focusing and keep playing with my teammates. I read something that Coach B. said, make sure not to show it throughout this team. I didn't want to be a distraction or anything like that. So I just stuck with the formula. I believe we all did. I'm just really glad and fortunate to be on this team.
Q. Three Rose Bowls now, is this one any sweeter?
CHRIS BORLAND: I think in a way it is. We've been through a lot this year. Had five really tough losses. We felt we could have won, and this kind of validated everything we went through this season. Overcame some obstacles, to come out on top in the end means a lot to us.
JAMES WHITE: Yeah, for sure, with all the adversity we've faced this season, it's a culmination of what we've been through. It's great to win the Big Ten and get another shot at the Rose Bowl.
MONTEE BALL: Yeah, we had our backs against the wall, and we knew it as a team. We needed to focus on our plan, block everyone out and keep fighting.
COACH BIELEMA: To have three Big Ten Championships says it all. It makes this one very special.
Q. It seemed you went into your bag of tricks. Where did those plays come from?
COACH BIELEMA: It was a mixed bag. Matt [Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada] kept talking about having an indoor game, being able to execute certain things. There were probably a couple we haven't used yet either that will remain a little secret. James really wanted to be recruited as a quarterback all year long and finally had that opportunity to show up out there today and just a lot of different things.
But our kids have a little bit of fun with it, but it was still the meat and potatoes that got us where we were.
Q. Coach, Bo Pelini said you guys didn't do a lot different tonight than you did in the first meeting, and Curt [Phillips] was telling the Big Ten Network the same thing. Was it really that similar of a game plan, and kind of second, where was this Wisconsin team all year?
COACH BIELEMA: I think offensively it didn't change with Curt, but the run game for sure. Weren't a lot of different things. We hit some rounds and different gadgets that were new. But we stuck to the success of what makes us good. We don't deviate. We've got a plan that we stick to. We talked about working together as a group, offense, defense, special teams. Where we've been all year, we've been on the cusp of it. We played a four quarter game, just didn't have it.
I knew we had a chance this week. We were healthy for the first time in a long time at all positions, and that was a big part of the game.
Q. Coach, Melvin [Gordon] had 216 yards on nine carries. Can you talk about his performance today?
COACH BIELEMA: I think Melvin would be the first to tell you he might be the player that's grown the most in our program from game one to where we are today. I was going through yardage totals at the end of the game. And number 28 here said just don't go past me. I don't know what Montee ended up with, but he's on the verge of breaking Montee's record. But it speaks volumes about it.
These guys compete on a daily basis. Montee's great. James is great, and Melvin's getting the hang of things, and it's really fun to think about the future.
Q. For Montee and James, did it feel like you were playing for a different team tonight the way the offense was producing? Second, what do you think allowed the offense to be so incredibly effective tonight?
MONTEE BALL: Honestly, it's just the energy, the energy that we had in the locker room going out on to the field and the sideline. We missed the second half last time we met with this team. We made sure to focus on building this game into a four quarter game, and I believe we did. That was the difference right there. Just everyone was focused on the plan and kept the energy up.
JAMES WHITE: Just like Montee said, you never know which play is going to matter. Every play is a big play. Everybody pushed through each play and helped us push us through this game.
Q. Coach, can you talk about Montee's perseverance throughout the season and culminating in what you were able to accomplish tonight?
COACH BIELEMA: I think it speaks volumes about who he is individually. But as a collective group, I think when Montee made the decision to come back and spoke up last year in the Rose Bowl locker room, we all knew we wanted to get back to Pasadena. He expressed a desire to stay for his senior year and make that happen. When he did that, I think it spoke volumes to all the people around him. I don't want to steal words from James and all the other running backs and offensive linemen, they wanted to see Montee have success. Hopefully this performance propels him to the top of the Doak Walker, because he's a guy that deserves it in every way. I think it's a true indicator of what kind of man we have. We all know he's a good player, but he's an incredible human being.
Q. It's going to get lost in the offensive fireworks tonight, but can you touch on the way your defense played in the first half, especially except for the Juan Martinez run, but Cro's [Marcus Cromartie] interception and all the other big plays they made?
COACH BIELEMA: Yeah, I think our defensive coaches have been unbelievable all year with the game plan. We don't make a lot of calls. We just stick to a plan. We had a third-down plan, but on first and second down we had something that we wanted to execute and play well. Coach Partridge had two new defensive coaches out of four -- for us to play the way we did. Also, just personnel-wise - Darius Hillary goes out, Devin Smith goes. We have Peniel Jean in there, and a number of guys playing in different positions that hadn't practiced that way all week. We were very deep upfront. That makes us play well. And Chris and the linebacker corps is as good as I've been around in coaching, and they're getting coached very, very well, which leads to great plays.
Q. Chris, is that something you used as motivation going into this?
CHRIS BORLAND: We were very candid about that. Our five losses, as far as being third in our division, it's important to play by the rules off the field too. We ran a clean program and I'm proud of that too. We took it as motivation. We're better than a five-loss team, and today we showed it.
Q. Montee, I know you felt like you had unfinished business after losing the Rose Bowl last year. How important will this game be for you?
MONTEE BALL: Well, for me, that was one of the main factors coming back. I felt like there was a lot of unfinished business I can prove and also for this team. Speaking for the entire team, we have something to prove. We'll take these weeks serious, as always. Really focus on all the small things and play a full four-quarter game against a great team in Pasadena.
Q. Coach, all the things that this team has gone through was there ever a point in the season where you were worried you were getting to the point where it was just too much to handle? Was there a point you felt they weren't going to be able to endure it?
COACH BIELEMA: I know you're going to think I'm crazy. But after some of those games Saturday night you're sitting on the plane ride home, somewhere on the road, and then I come in on Sunday and just see the guys that we have the great fortune of coaching and see the look in their eyes, the passion. They hurt when you're supposed to hurt.
But they also know the one element we all share in this world is time. If we spent one day worrying about ourselves or what's happened, we'd never have a chance to move forward. Our guys are pretty quick to move on. I can't tell you how excited I was on Sunday and Monday, a lot of guys up watching film. They were excited, energetic. They knew what we could do. And in this locker room today was off the charts.
I get it. I understand. I don't have a normal locker room. I've got a group of men that is uncommon in the way they go about their business.
Q. What do you think of Melvin and the way he played?
MONTEE BALL: I was waiting for the day he was going to excel and show what he was capable of doing. And I'm sure the coaches are extremely excited for the future because this player is going to be very, very good. Like I said, it's really pleasing to me to see him grow and watch him really do some great things out there. So it's all good.
Q. Coach, did Nebraska surprise you at all that it wasn't a little bit more competitive?
COACH BIELEMA: I think they're competitive. I'd like to give credit to their defense. They really kept the ball. Obviously, the Martinez play early on showed how special he is. We thought we had a sack for loss there, and he's able to make a few people miss.
Give credit to them. They were a very good team, but we executed and played well today. I know it's easy to say that when you're looking at the score. But defensively and offensively and on special teams, we just played extremely well today.
Q. This is for Ball. Just what was Nebraska doing or not doing that just allowed you to get loose and really run?
MONTEE BALL: Well, just like Coach B. said, let's give credit to them because they earned the spot to be here as much as we did. But really it was what we were doing. We focused on what we were doing and made sure to execute the game plan. The offensive linemen did a great job of creating some big, huge holes for us. They made it very easy for us, and we didn't want to let them down. So we hit it full speed, and had to make plays in the back end, and I believe we did.
Q. Chris, you've missed two games, but you came back facing a zone read team led by Taylor Martinez. How important was the preparation this week and how impressed were you with your defense staying disciplined? It seemed like after the big runs, he never felt comfortable in the pocket again?
CHRIS BORLAND: I think it goes without saying, preparation is the most important part. The week leading up to this game, I thought we had one of the best weeks of preparation on defense. And they've got a lot of weapons. Obviously, Taylor showed it on that run two other times, and they got it to their backs.
Really proud of the defensive effort from the D-line, to the linebackers, to the secondary. It's one of our best we've put forth all year in the first half, especially.
THE MODERATOR: Chris, James, Montee, you can go back to the locker room. Anything left for Coach Bielema?
Q. I know Matt Canada has been criticized this year, but how much credit does he deserve for what happened tonight?
COACH BIELEMA: He obviously came up with a game plan. The reason I hired him, I've been impressed with his creativity ever since I've known him. You've got to understand now I lost six coaches out of nine, four on offense. To put that room together and to grind it out the way we have all year in unwavering faith, it's a group of guys that take a lot of pride in how they work and how they coach our players.
I think our players needed to know -- I lost some coaches that our players really liked. Any time you have that when you're dealing with a young man as great as the kids are, there is always apprehension that's as good as the guy before you. I've done that in my coaching career when I've gone on to different jobs and replaced coaches that are very popular and win our kids over. Guys have had to feel comfortable. I give a lot of credit to Matt Canada, but all of my offensive coaches overall.
Q. Coming into this game, you guys were the underdogs. You came out and beat this Nebraska team by 39 points. So what's it mean for your team to relish that underdog role?
COACH BIELEMA: It does -- make no bones about it, we love when people say you can't. We heard it from a lot of different people. Lot of talking heads. Lot of people when you're bumping into them in all the interview things, you just quietly store it away. Kind of walk softly and carry a big stick. When you have a chance to take a swing, take it hard. I knew our kids were going to come out and prove some things very, very well today.
Q. I'm not sure if you play favorites and the season is not over. But where's this team rank of all the teams you've ever had?
COACH BIELEMA: I told them this last night. I've had teams that have been ranked higher, won more games. I don't know if I've enjoyed coaching a team as much as these guys because we've gone through some pretty high