MADISON - After practicing outside all week, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema couldn’t emphasize how excited he and his players were to play the next game on its schedule.
“I think our kids have felt it all week,” Bielema said Thursday.
It’s been a bitter pill to swallow for No.12 Wisconsin, coming back from 14 points in the fourth quarter only to lose on a last second Hail Mary to Michigan State, but the motivation Bielema has seen this week has him encouraged that his team will respond positively, much like they did last season after losing in East Lansing by winning their final seven games to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl.
“I think the way they responded in the fourth quarter when there was adversity shows me that they know how to respond,” Bielema said. “This week, I said it a couple times to our staff, when I was looking at our locker room Saturday after the game (last year), I remember a lot of sad faces, a lot of emotions. This year, I kind of saw a lot of angry people. Guys that were frustrated, angry and want to get back out there and play the game like they know how.”
One of those players is junior running back Montee Ball, who rushed for 115 yards, had 139 all-purpose yards and two scored against the Spartans.
Through seven games, Ball leads the nation with 19 TDs. That is eight more than any other Big Ten player. Only two players in school history have scored more than 19 touchdowns in a season. Ron Dayne scored 21 in 1996 and 20 in 1999. Brian Calhoun holds the school record with 24 TDs in 2005.
Bielema silently acknowledged when a reporter said the offense seemed to dip when Ball was knocked to the sideline with a head injury and said the Badgers are sticking with the hot hand despite the capabilities of sophomore James White.
“I think the Nebraska game, he kind of separated himself,” Bielema said. “James still comes in and does a nice change of pace for us. Montee when he’s feeling it, I don’t think there’s any doubt.”
Dehn Leaves the Program
After playing in 17 games the last two seasons, including his first career start at right tackle against Austin Peay last season, redshirt sophomore Casey Dehn has decided to call it quits.
“I could see it kind of coming," Bielema said. “During spring last year, during the summer, there were a couple of things (where) I just didn't think he wanted to keep going. He came in Tuesday morning and fell out of love with the game. We're going to give him all the support we can.”
Dehn, a native of Owatonna, Minnesota, was listed as the No. 2 left tackle behind Ricky Wagner, meaning either Ryan Groy or Robert Burge will back up the junior left tackle.
Bielema added that Dehn didn’t want to play football elsewhere else and that he wanted to stay at Wisconsin and do track.
"It's sad to see, but it's one of those things," Bielema said.
Dehn was a four-year letterwinner in track and field and a state champion in the shot put and discus as a junior. Dean’s brother Robert competes for UW in the javelin and his sister Samantha competed for UW women's track and field team from 2006-10.
From the Infirmary
Wide receiver Fred Willis (ankle) and defensive tackle David Gilbert are out this weekend, but Bielema expects both players to return within the next two week.
“He had an x-ray Monday and said everything was moving along good,” Bielema said of Gilbert. “He thinks he’ll be back next week. I won’t hold my breath. Maybe the week after … Tuesday I expect (Willis) to be at 100 percent.”
Both strong safeties Dezmen Southward (stinger) and Shelton Johnson (calf) practiced all week, although Southward worked in a green no-contact jersey.
“Shelton really has looked good,” Bielema said. “He started played pretty good in the second half last week. He’s in full stride.”
True freshman Melvin Gordon is off crutches, but probably won’t have any activity for at least two more weeks.
Needing to Be Special
The last time Wisconsin traveled to Columbus, the Badgers doubled Ohio State’s offensive production, but had two intereceptions returned for touchdowns and a kickoff returned for a touchdown, giving the Buckeyes 21 points in a 31-13 victory.
A week after special teams cost Wisconsin 10 points and a year after David Gilreath’s return of the opening kickoff set the tone for Wisconsin’s upset over the top-ranked Buckeyes, Bielema hasn’t seen the need to put extra emphasis on the importance of special teams.
“One the thing Ohio State has is a lot of really good athletes,” Bielema said. “I think they just naturally by their roster have an advantage. It's always kind of funny when we go through our special teams charts. All these guys that are running down on kickoff we're like, 'Oh yeah, we wanted him and we recruited him.”
More Scholarship Money?
On Thursday, the Division I Board of Directors approved reforms to the athletic scholarship process that gives conferences the option to add $2,000 in "full cost-of-attendance" money to scholarship offers and the opportunity to award multiple-year scholarships.
“It was one of the most aggressive and fullest agendas the board has ever faced," NCAA president Mark Emmert told reporters after. “They moved with dispatch on it, and I think they're taking positive steps for schools and student-athletes.”
Big Ten commission Jim Delany was one of the first people to speak out about this issue this past summer, saying the cost of college living had risen over the years while the scholarship cost had stayed the same. Delany said at Big Ten’s basketball media day that the average athlete pays roughly $3,000 to $4,000 each year out of his or her own pocket in college costs.
"I would think that one would get shot down,” said Bielema, referring to the multiple-year scholarships. “I think paying $2,000 would make a lot of sense, but unless there is some specific wording in the way they do things. If you had a multi-year scholarship, what's the situation if (somebody) doesn't want to play anymore? We can’t obviously be obligated. If they go to that it would have to be very specific on how a scholarship is terminated I would think. It's scary. The one-year thing protects the school and the athlete I would think.”
The Board of Directors also implemented stronger academic rules, saying schools that fail to meet the Academic Progress Rate cutline will be ineligible for postseason play, including bowl games and that eligibility requirements increased from a 2.0 GPA to 2.3 for incoming freshman and 2.5 for junior college transfers.