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Wisconsin football: Head coach Paul Chryst discusses offensive struggles, injury updates, facing Nebraska

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Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst met with the media during his weekly Monday afternoon press conference in the Camp Randall media room. A couple of days past Saturday's disheartening 10-6 loss to rival Iowa, the Badgers are looking ahead to next Saturday's match-up with the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a must-win situation to keep pace in the Big Ten West division.

Among the topics discussed in this week's press conference involve confirming the injury statuses of wide receiver Alex Erickson and tight end Austin Traylor, talking about overcoming offensive struggles, and facing our friend and Nebraska head coach, Mike Riley.

Here's the full video and transcript from Chryst's talk with reporters:

CHRYST: We've got a great challenge ahead of us going down to a classic football venue. Ever since the end of the game, just the more and more I'm around this team and these guys, I enjoy and appreciate them. We have a lot of guys who are on the offense yesterday that were excited to get back to practice and get on the field, and I just like the way the guys are right now. You're always thankful as a coach, especially when you go through tough times, you find out a lot about yourself, each other; and I really appreciate this group.

So, excited to get going. I know everyone had the release about Joe Schobert and his award, and the one thing that I've been asked a lot about him, and the thing that amazes me, is not just his stat line but how he does it in big moments and how he goes about it day-in and day-out; and yet he's also the first one that knows that there's 10 other guys each defensive snap. I love what he's doing for us on special teams.

But he's not just an effort guy. He's got some real talent, and it's been fun to see. But this is a good group, and we've just got to have a great week, and like I said, get to go play a good Nebraska team in a great atmosphere.

QUESTION: Joel (Stave) was talking to us earlier and said that you and he sat down and looked over the tape of the game, and I think you mentioned after the game, too, it's never just the quarterback or one player, 11 guys have to own it; what were some of the things that you saw when you studied the tape, whether it's breakdowns, missed assignments, that prevented the offense from putting more points on the board, being more efficient?

CHRYST: Yeah, certainly we didn't finish, didn't finish drives. You know, I thought that we put some drives -- we had an early three-and-out -- but we put some drives together. But whether it's not getting the third-down conversion or just missing on some plays, you know, I think there's a handful that could be big, big plays, and it changes.

And that's the one thing that we talk to our players about, and the game is a great game. It teaches you a ton. We always talk about how you've got to play each play, and you don't know which play will be the one that you look back and say, ‘That made a difference.'

There's also the emotional part of it that when things aren't going well, how you've just got to keep playing ... you've got to get momentum back on your side, and the way you do that is playing within yourself, but you've got to make plays.

All the time we talk about giving yourself a chance to have a chance. But once you have that chance, you've got to take advantage of that opportunity, and we just missed out on it, whether it's quarterback-receiver, whether it's just missing a run-through linebacker or safety and getting around the edge.

Another thing I love about the game of football is everyone has to own it. And I as a coach, and we've got to do a better job of continuing to help coach our guys and help them grow. And we get that opportunity this week, and that's what's fun -- and with a group that wants to get better, a group that wants to be coached. And that is something that I appreciate from this team.

QUESTION: You mentioned Joe's performance. He and Vince (Biegel) led the team in tackles. What in your opinion makes them a special combination at outside linebacker, and have you noticed that their personalities are pretty different? Are they pretty different people off the field?

CHRYST: I never recognized that at all about their personalities. I'll look for that, though. (Laughter.) You know, I think they're good players, and I think they love playing the game. I think they've got enough skill and talent, and I then I think they're smart football players, and then I think they love playing.

I think their difference in personalities -- they're both who they are, and that's what you love about them. I like that they're truly both who they are, and I've loved getting to know them.

QUESTION: Going back to when you were a coordinator here, you coached some of the best offensive linemen ever as far as the groups were concerned. Whatever made those groups special, does this group of offensive linemen have those attributes that you think will allow them to play up to that level of those groups from the past?

CHRYST: Yeah, I think we've got some guys that can be really good football players, and I think the attributes that -- many of those that you're referring to -- they love the game, they worked and they drove each other to get better. I see that in a number of our young offensive linemen. You know, it takes time, and some of these guys are getting some great experience, and then what they do with those experiences and how they learn from them, what that does to fuel them to continue to go, that'll be the -- that's our job to help them.

As a coach all you want to do is you want guys to maximize their potential. I think it's unfair to try to label them any other way, and I think that the beautiful thing about this place -- I think what helps is when you play with guys and you see that they're -- it's just a guy, you know? It's hard to say Joe Thomas is just a guy, right? Or Travis Fredrick. Or Gabe (Carimi). But they are. I mean, they're going to make mistakes. I think that also gives you confidence.

I think we've got some guys that want to be good, and they're working towards it, and our job is to find ways to help them to continue to be the best they can be. I don't know yet, right? Time will tell.

QUESTION: Is it tough to coach against a good friend like Mike Riley or can you separate all that?

CHRYST: I think for me personally with Mike -- and I think that, probably, I don't know if I learned it or it was reinforced to me by being with Mike -- the game is not about us. It would be hard to coach against players you've coached. I thought what Daronte' (Jones) went through the other week would be harder because I'm proud to be a coach, and I learned a ton from Mike, but I think one of the things that we both have in common is the game is -- we respect the game and truly respect those that play it, and our job is to help them play it.

So I don't feel like it's me against Mike. It's not -- I don't think it will be.

QUESTION: To kind of piggyback off that question, he's gotten off to a tough start at Nebraska. Just from what you know about Mike, how do you think he is handling or will handle a spot like that where Nebraska fans are obviously pretty passionate about their program there?

CHRYST: They are, and we've got passionate fans, and you love that. That's what makes college football great.

But no one is going to put more pressure on themselves -- the most pressure I feel is from me. I think the most pressure -- I don't want to speak for Mike, but I know, I've been around him, and it's just that we're doing our job, and our job is to coach the players we have and help them grow and develop.

Mike is at his best when people might think that it's hard times.

QUESTION: I noticed Austin Traylor is not on the depth chart this week. How long do you expect him to be out?

CHRYST: We'll find out. He's getting a procedure done today, so we'll find out more today. The thing that is disappointing to me is that Austin was really playing good football, I think his best, and Joel actually mentioned it to me the other day, how he's having fun. He'll be out this week, and we'll find out how much more, if any, but those are opportunities you don't get back. But we'll find out more, what I'm told, is after the procedure.

QUESTION: You're pretty thin at that position as it was; does that limit, handcuff you at all, knowing how much you like to utilize tight ends? Does that handcuff you at all?

CHRYST: I think it's helped that Steff (Eric Steffes) was injured, or Fum (Troy Fumagalli) was injured, Steff was injured earlier. If all three had been healthy at one time, you start building everyone around that, I think it would be harder than -- Steff was hurt early, then Fum, now Austin -- so I think that we'll be fine. I'm not going to say we're not going to miss Austin. He's a guy you like having on your team and playing, but we don't have all those three-tight end sets in.

QUESTION: The defense was able to get contributions from like 20-plus guys in a game that was contested to the very end. How much does that contribute, the ability to trust them, and for them to be fresh to the success the defense is having?

CHRYST: I think it has something to do with it. I think that, you know, you see that across the board defensively in the D-line, for instance. I think all the guys know that they can go hard and there's other guys that will be coming in, so you can put it out there. Even, you know, Jack Cichy is playing -- we talked about Schobs earlier -- so Schobs can get a little bit of a breather. I also think it's not all bad sometimes to be able to step back and see the game just for a little bit.

But guys earned the opportunity to be on the field and play, and that you like. I think you're always better if you have more. I think you start to build some depth then with it. It's been good, I think.

QUESTION: Andrew Endicott did not kick last week. Is he available for kickoffs this week, or what's his status?

CHRYST: I think he will be. We'll see how this week goes for him. But that was part of the thought was can he -- would some time off hopefully help? And so we believe that he will.

QUESTION: When one side of the ball has success, is there a certain degree of competitiveness where if the defense is playing really well, the offensive guys are motivated by that and saying, ‘Man, we'd better pick up the slack' and vice versa?

CHRYST: What drives that, when one is having success or not, I think it's really the -- what you feel about your team, and I think that there's moments that I've been on teams, the good teams I've been on, where if one is struggling then you step up your own game because that's what the team needs.

That's why I like this group right now, is that they're all trying to -- they want what's best for the team, and you know, I didn't get any sense of finger-pointing. I didn't get any sense other than ‘What do we got to do to go win and play and give ourselves a chance,' and so I don't think it's a -- guys know that. They don't need to have success or something on the other end and not try to do their best. These guys put so much time into this, and they care and they want to be held responsible and they want to be positive producers to this team.

I don't know if I'm answering your question. I don't think I am. I'm not trying to be like Bo (Ryan). (Laughter.) I am trying to be him in a lot of ways, but not in that.

QUESTION: Nebraska has been averaging over 30 points per game. What did Illinois do last week to shut them down for the most part?

CHRYST: I think they made some plays, and Nebraska just missed on some opportunities, and so they're certainly capable. You can see it. And they're capable, I think. They've got a lot of different weapons. But I think you've got to make plays when they're presented, and I think that they will be the first to say that they had some opportunities and they just missed at them.

QUESTION: How often do you and Geep (Chryst) touch base during the season? I'm just curious after a weekend like this where obviously things don't go the way -- if you make a point to reach out to one another.

CHRYST: This weekend we're not reaching out on too many things. You know, it's been harder since he's been on the West Coast, and so we message more than we do talk. We'll find times, and usually it's late at night, but then they had the -- their schedule has been off, so we haven't found that rhythm yet. But we'll definitely always message each other, and I don't think either one of us can help each other right now -- you're into your world. And I know that he's supporting me and he knows that from me, and that's about it. I had the game on the radio but I didn't see any of it.

QUESTION: Do you have an update on Alex Erickson and where he is in the concussion protocol?

CHRYST: He is in the concussion protocol. Talking to him yesterday, he feels better, so we'll find out. But that's -- that's exactly it.

QUESTION: Did you contact the Big Ten office about the play on Fumagalli for a clarification on the possible targeting call? Did you get any feedback?

CHRYST: We're clear on the -- I know we can coach our guys on that, and so no. Why would you ask? (Laughter.) You're that guy.

QUESTION: To follow that up, obviously you spent a lot of time breaking down tape, working on game plans, but as a coaching staff and especially as the head coach, what extra means to you take to work on clock management, to come down at the end of halves, end of games, where you and the other coaches have to make decisions on what to do?

CHRYST: It's one of the reasons I like watching games with the film. You always make sure you go through it because there's so many different scenarios that can come up, and even one little thing can change the whole dynamic of it. Nut in those situations where you're thinking one thing and then, all of a sudden, an injury, so you're forced to use a timeout, or you know, like yesterday there was one -- I just caught the tail-end of it on -- it was the Saints-Cowboys game, and they had an injury and the guy comes off and there's seven guys on, and there's always different scenarios. I was just doing some scripting so I had it on in the background and just some different dynamics when Jason (Garrett) was using his timeouts.

I think you're always trying to inform yourself and go through -- that was one thing that was helpful to me early in my coaching career when I was up in Canada, was I was in charge of special teams, and there's so many different ... it was impressed upon me early that you always have to go through situations. You talk it. It's one of the things I like doing with the quarterbacks and Joel, just always talk in situations, because it's a lot of help when your quarterback, or someone ther,e has an idea of what you can do. And it's also refreshing to see how much thought our players put into it. So we'll always try to talk it and hope that you're as prepared and your players are well-prepared for those end-of-the-game situations, end of the half, whatever those situations may be.