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MADISON - Throughout his 20 minute press conference, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema kept signaling out players he thought were going to ‘make a big jump’ following the Badgers’ week one victory over Northern Iowa, a game that was far from pretty and, at times, tough to watch.
From offense to defense, Wisconsin is hoping a bad week of preparation will be a thing of the past.
“I wasn’t happy with (the preparation),” Bielema said. “But on the same account you’re kind of living in the moment and you’re as positive as you can be going into Saturday. The uncertainty of playing UNI, not being able to have a full grasp of what they’re going to come out in with a new quarterback and what he was going to bring to the table.
“Some of the stuff we were preparing for was chasing windmills a little bit. Bottom line is we got out of there with a ‘W’ and that’s a positive.”
Wisconsin (1-0) also survived with plenty of quality teaching points. According to Bielema, all three of Northern Iowa’s touchdowns could have been avoided but happened due to simple personnel breakdowns. All the problems were easily correctable on Sunday with the Badgers going through a 10-minute corrections period.
“There's about 10 to 12 plays in every game we've got to be able to do better and that makes you better for the next week,” said Bielema.
One of the biggest positives was the play of right guard Zac Matthias, who came on late in camp to earn the starting job. In this week’s depth chart leading up to Wisconsin’s trip to Oregon State (0-0), the right guard position no longer had a slash— using indicating players who considered co-starters or equals — after Matthias got 57 snaps while redshirt sophomore Kyle Costigan received the other 13.
“We obviously just felt good with where it was. I was very impressed with Zac. I grabbed him Sunday night at dinner and said, ‘For a first start I thought you did a nice job, especially in pass protection,’” said Bielema. “Costigan just needs to keep coming on.”
While Wisconsin has found its starting right guard, the Badgers are still trying to bolster a pass rush that yielded five quarterback hurries but only one sack in the opener. Along with many other areas, Bielema is hopeful that pressure with improve moving forward, especially with Gilbert having played his first game since last September last weekend.
“One of the areas we thought he might be exceptional at is pass rush,” said Bielema. “He'll get a lot better in a short amount of time. The one thing I love about David, he came into my office last night, grabbed a gumball, and I said, ‘What do you think?’ He goes, ‘I think I'm about ready to get a lot better in a hurry’. And that's him.”
Corvallis Curve Balls
The first road trip of the season always brings about different bumps in the road, but Wisconsin’s first nonconference road game since the 2010 opener at Las Vegas appears to have more than the usual.
For starters, Wisconsin is leaving earlier than normal on Friday morning to balance out the four-hour plane flight, making for a long day of travel. Wisconsin is also staying an hour outside Corvallis, Oregon, making it a long than usual bus ride the day of the game.
“That's going to be a different environment for us,” said Bielema.
And then there’s the little matter of Oregon State not playing last week. Originally scheduled to host Nicholls State at home, the game was postponed when Nicholls State, located in Louisiana, could not get out of the city due to weather from Hurricane Isaac. So instead of the usual exchange of film between both programs, Wisconsin informed the Beavers that no film would be sent their way.
“I had to go through a little bit of a process there just to secure our film,” said Bielema. “I remember when I was a GA, we used to have to run to the airport and wait for a delivery, you get the VHS. Now it's literally by the push of a button, you can send your entire season. So we had to go through some things just to guard from anybody hopefully sending our film to them.
“There's no way you can guarantee it. I think in today's world, but I've been assured by the Big Ten office that that wasn't going to happen.”
You mentioned after the game that you wished you could have got Melvin Gordon involved a little bit. Do you approach that the same way this week, let the score of the game dictate how you can get him into the game?
“We had a plan -- the first time we were going to try to get Melvin to touch the football was on the kickoff return. We tried to have that happen twice. And to his credit he made two really good fielding decisions to not catch those two balls and let them go in the end zone for touchbacks. One was very close to being out of bounds.
“As far as that was, I don't think -- you can ask Melvin himself, I know he was disappointed in getting in the game, but he also understood why. Montee (Ball) got a lot of work. So probably try to trim that off a little bit, but we just -- I think Thomas (Hammock) and the offensive coach had a great plan because Montee had not been through a full scrimmage yet. We wanted to get him extra amount of work.”
Extra Points: Wisconsin did not give out any MVP awards following the opener, a rarity following a victory … No changes were made to the depth chart following week one, as Wisconsin came out of the game injury free … Dallas Lewallen is listed as a co-backup at left guard with Ray Ball. Lewallen is coming back from left knee surgery.