The Wisconsin Badgers (8-3, 5-2) have started to move on from their heartbreaking 13-7 loss to the Northwestern Wildcats (9-2, 5-2) last Saturday in preparation for their big rivalry game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Stadium this week.
It is Axe Week, and head coach Paul Chryst spoke with the media on Monday regarding the history of the rivalry between the Badgers and the Gophers, injury updates to cornerback Derrick Tindal and guard Walker Williams, as well as the clarification he received from the Big Ten about the ruling on Jazz Peavy's reception/non-reception.
A couple of quick highlights from his weekly press conference:
- Chryst spoke to Big Ten director of officials Bill Carollo, and the league confirmed the referees call. Chryst later mentions they said it was along the lines of the "Dez Bryant" ruling.
- Hasn't spoken with junior running back Corey Clement regarding his NFL future
- Regarding injuries, they'll see how Tindal and Williams are feeling this week
- Chryst has fond memories of watching the rivalry between the two schools when his dad would take him to the games
- He feels Minnesota's 5-6 record doesn't matter during this game considering they've played teams close. "Well they absolutely have done that and, really, records don't matter when you're getting ready to play someone," Chryst said. "What matters is the tape."
Here's the full transcript:
Paul Chryst Weekly News Conference
Nov. 23, 2015
CHRYST: Obviously it was a tough finish to Saturday's game, and yet give our players a lot of credit for giving us a chance. I thought defensively we played really well, just didn't find a way to finish it.
But the great thing about sports, and what we can do with this team, is turn the page, learn from -- what we talked about with the staff -- not just the lessons from the Northwestern game, but all the prior lessons and apply them for this week.
We've got an opportunity to finish out the regular season in a tremendous rivalry game and looking forward to 1:30 when we've got our team meeting and start the week of prep.
Kids are good, I've seen them yesterday and today, and I thought they had the proper response afterwards, and I believe they will have the proper response this week.
QUESTION: Paul, I know you're probably walking a line between wanting to go revisit the Northwestern game and --
CHRYST: Not really "walking" it.
QUESTION: I heard you on the radio this morning talking about talking to the Big Ten office. Can you share --
CHRYST: I thought Bill Carollo has been great, and I've always been able to talk to him. He told me what the call was and where it was at, and (now we) get to move on.
QUESTION: Coach, when you look at the struggles you guys have had in the running game this year, is there something you can pinpoint as the main reason for that or just a lot of different things?
CHRYST: Just a combination. You could say there was -- certainly the last game, there was one play where I thought the back could have maybe done something different, another play... Really a lot of it was we were in some bad situations.
That's the great thing about this game, when it's going well -- like our defense right now, there's some guys playing at a high level, but it takes all 11, and the same thing in the offense, special teams. So there are areas where I think each position group can own and get better at. Put all that together and we can, and I think we will, be better.
QUESTION: How much does this (rivalry) game help to define the season at Wisconsin?
CHRYST: One of the great things about college football is the traditions. We get to be a part of the longest continuous rivalry game in college football. It's a trophy game. That trophy symbolizes your success that year. When you put it in the context of defining a season, I think that it's a culmination of all your work, and at the end of the season, you can write the story.
So it's a part of it, but it doesn't make or break, one game. It's an important game, it's a big game, and not just because it's our next game. Rivalry games mean something, mean something to a lot of people. That's what's cool about it.
But how a team is remembered, how a player is remembered, it's not until it's over that you can write the story.
QUESTION: Were you satisfied with the explanation Bill Carollo gave you on Jazz's catch or non-catch?
CHRYST: I understood what he was saying, and therefore I'm satisfied that we've got to move forward. He was clear with it, and I get that, but -- he was clear.
QUESTION: Can you share with us why he said that was not a catch?
CHRYST: He shared with me the ‘Dez Bryant rule.'
QUESTION: So is it a rule that's applied properly and we need to look at the rule?
CHRYST: I just called Bill. It really didn't matter, once it was called. It is what it is and, you know, we still had opportunities. We still had opportunities, and we didn't execute it.
QUESTION: Was the rule applied properly in your mind?
CHRYST: That had nothing to do with it. And I understand what he was saying. I haven't seen all the different angles, to be indisputable, but I do think that everyone tries to get it right, I really do.
So we put ourselves in a position, and we didn't finish it. That's where we can be better.
QUESTION: Paul, what has made your defense so consistently good this year, in your estimation?
CHRYST: I think what's made our defense special is, it's got a lot of the necessary components. I think Dave does a great job of coordinating and designing it.
I think that our defensive staff, especially in a short time, has come together and they work really well with each other. That's just one component. Then, I think, the key is getting our players to understand what we're trying to do. Now you put on top of that, I think we've got some really good players doing it. So I think anytime you've got a good scheme, good players, you've got a chance. And I think now they're playing with an edge, and we're going to be tested again this week, but there's a confidence. I think they're working on the right balance of being confident but not assuming it's going to happen, or just thinking that we're going to show up and we're going to stop 'em.
I think they enjoy playing with each other and playing off of each other and trusting each other. Each of those are important on its own, but when you put it together, that's what's allowing them to have success. And I know this from being around good units: Then there's the pressure of doing it again, and I think they kind of relish that and know that, if they just think it's going to happen, it doesn't. I think they've got the right makeup. It's the right people involved and the right makeup, chemistry. I think that's what gives them a chance to be good.
QUESTION: You said you had a couple of chances obviously after the catch/non-catch by Jazz, and after the game, I asked you about that sack by Joel the second time, and you said if it's muddy --
QUESTION: -- have you reviewed that play, and is there anything they could have done better to avoid the sack?
CHRYST: There's a split-second opportunity to make the throw or give us an open chance, and we didn't do that.
QUESTION: (No microphone.)
CHRYST: It's where he's looking. I mean, it wasn't wide open. We were looking at it, we thought -- he saw it, when we did it, and, you know what? You know, I'm watching it, and I had my feet up on my desk, and I've got the clicker. I've got a ton of respect for the -- and I said this about Alex, you know, these guys put themselves out there.
There's a risk of reward and there is a risk of failing, and I have a lot of admiration for that. They're going to do the best they can. It's a teachable moment for me, as well as Joel and everyone else.
And you guys all know this, there's a lot of focus on three, four, five plays in a game, and rightfully so, but there is a lot of football that puts you in that position, either to have that chance or to knock you out of it. So one of the things I love about this team is they're resilient, and they own what they do, good and bad. And we've got a great opportunity this week to play one more game, regular season, and I'm looking forward to that.
QUESTION: Even before the season began Jerry Kill was talking about the importance of winning this particular game, and Tracy Claeys has kind of continued that. I know you're on the Wisconsin side, but do you have an idea what this means to them, given that they haven't won 11 in a row? Can you imagine the rivalry being that one-sided for that long?
CHRYST: Haven't gone there at all. I'm glad to be on this side, and I appreciate and respect the game and certainly Minnesota; I'm not saying any of that. But really, for me to spend anytime about what someone else is thinking is a waste of time.
I keep busy enough focusing on what matters to us and our team and our guys. That's good.
QUESTION: Corey, after the game, said that -- made a comment saying that next year he didn't want the game at Camp Randall Stadium to be a loss. What kind of discussions have you had with him recently about his future and do you expect him back next year?
CHRYST: I haven't had any recent discussions with Corey, other than this week and this year. So there will be a time, and I'm sure we'll talk about it, but I haven't had any recent discussions.
QUESTION: Can you give us an update on Derrick Tindal and Walker Williams?
CHRYST: Derrick is -- we'll kind of see how he's feeling, and same thing with Walker, so nothing definitive as far as this game.
QUESTION: Twice in the last month now Joel has obviously gone down and gotten up and was disoriented. Given everything that's come out recently with concussions and long-term effects, what's your level of concern when a player suffers two head injuries in such a short amount of time?
CHRYST: I think with all the injuries, and certainly we're talking about with concussions, there is degrees to it and how they respond and when they're cleared. Where I feel really fortunate here is that we've got a heck of a training staff and doctors, and I'm going to trust and rely on their professional opinions, and that's why we've got the protocols, so I'm one to trust in what the professionals are saying.
QUESTION: Paul, is there one memory for you, either as a player or as a coach, that sticks out for you here during the "Axe" game?
CHRYST: I've been fortunate to be a part of a lot of them. As a kid, I would go with my dad and go to the games, so as someone in the stands -- and I've certainly got very fond memories of that. And then was able to be a coach's kid during it. And then was able to play in it, and then coaching in it.
I think there is a ton of them, and to be able to pick one or 10 would be hard. I think if I pin down to my top three, it's just the thought of me and my dad going to the game, and then it's all the different moments that I enjoyed coaching and seeing others experience it. Not one, a lot of great memories.
QUESTION: Through the years, former players have come and addressed the team. How do you educate your team this week?
CHRYST: I was fortunate enough to work with Jimmy Hueber here, and Huebs has been on both sides of it. Then those of you who know Huebs, you know, he's the ‘Cliff Clavin' of many things (Laughter) and, like he used to always tell me, ‘a font of useless information,' which I kind of found fascinating.
So seeing Huebs go through it, and I think there is -- so we're just going to just talk it and try to educate. I'm not going to try to mimic Huebs. Huebs had perfected it, but they need to know it's not just the Axe and the Slab of Bacon. Even later on, I was able to find out, I think Huebs kind of doctored some of the stories, but it made it pretty good.
But I think just talking it and making sure guys -- I think it's a way they can appreciate -- if they understand some history, then they can appreciate. We just say it's the longest continuous rivalry, they can follow that statement, but when they hear some stories, I think it brings it to life a little bit.
QUESTION: Would you call Minnesota's record misleading in regards to how tough they actually are? Seems like they've taken some highly-ranked teams down to the wire?
CHRYST: Well they absolutely have done that and, really, records don't matter when you're getting ready to play someone. What matters is the tape. You throw the tape on and you know where and why they're a good team and you know the challenges that they present to you, whether it's individual matchups or offense and defense and special teams.
Our players know. They've played against these guys and they've certainly played -- a lot of them have played against Minnesota. We know what a good team they are, and I don't think anyone starts with the record. We've all been in this enough that the record doesn't mean anything anyways. It's who is going to be the best team in that stadium on that day. You don't have to fabricate and make it up. Our players know when they see the tape and they know it's going to be a heck of a challenge.
QUESTION: Paul, what's the plan for the players for Thanksgiving?
CHRYST: It's Thursday's practice. Very thankful for that. (Laughter.)