Bret Bielema is now the 3rd longest-tenured coach in the Big Ten after Joe Paterno was fired Wednesday evening.
MADISON, Wis. - With a rivalry game on the horizon, Bret Bielema started his post-practice meeting with the media by talking about how his team has fared in practice. But with a scandal rocking the Big Ten, the questions about Penn State and Joe Paterno were bound to pop up eventually. It was a valiant effort, at least.
"I thought our guys all week have bought into the game plan," Bielema said. "Minnesota, obviously the way they've played the last two weeks, [have] shown they're a much improved football team.
"We've really been stressing the importance of practice and playing over to Saturday, and being able to go on the road and something we haven't been able to do this year."
And then the questions started to come out. After Paterno's firing Wednesday evening by the Penn State Board of Trustees, many more media members attended to get Bielema's take on the situation. As expected, Bielema wouldn't say much about the scandal - other than that he feels bad for the families involved - but he did talk about how it affects everyone involved in college football.
"I think in the world of college football, anytime something bad happens, obviously Penn State is the topic of the day, [but] it affects all of us," Bielema said. "It's a profession that we're all very engaged in, and anytime anything happens in the world of college football, it's bad for everybody."
Bielema was asked if programs can become "too big" for itself, but he didn't seem worried about the Badgers becoming too big to manage.
"I think we're pretty humbled here at Wisconsin, so that's the perspective we'll always have."
-- Senior safety Aaron Henry practiced Thursday, and is ready to go for Saturday. Henry suffered an ankle injury in the first half against Purdue, and was limited in practice earlier in the week.
-- David Gilbert has been gradually working his way back into playing shape after breaking his foot before the Nebraska game, but if he's not ready soon the staff might have to move forward with redshirting him.
"We kind of had targeted this as ‘If he wasn't going by this game, we'd probably go forward with a redshirt,'" Bielema said. "I know it's a frustrating thing for him, but I know he's giving it his all."
News and Notes
-- Bielema said they've made changes on the special teams units, but don't expect any starters to see the field on kickoff coverage.
-- The Badgers had a special guest speaker this week in Ben Strickland, a former Wisconsin defensive back and special teams player who now works as a defensive graduate assistant.
"I wanted him to speak because he was actually on a team that lost [the Axe]," Bielema said. "When you lose a trophy game, there's just something that you learn through that process that you never really erase or forget."
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