Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst spoke with the media during his weekly presser on Monday following the team’s 17-14 loss to the Washington State Cougars.
Penalties were a crucial part of the Badgers’ demise, hence why that was a topic of heavy interest to begin Monday’s press conference.
When asked about his takeaways from the significant amount of penalties, Chryst stressed the importance of going back to the fundamentals to correct the mistakes.
“We had a couple early [penalties] that we had some mistakes of not doing something that they’ve done a ton. That’s not giving yourself a chance. One thing I know about this group is they will do everything they can. Some [of the penalties] are definitely avoidable. You have a hands-to-the-face [penalty]. Can’t do that,” Chryst said. “That’s why you go back and you got to rely on your fundamentals. The penalties, there [were] some on the offensive line. Tight ends across the board, you got to play clean. They’re working on [the fundamentals] and they value them.”
However, Chryst believes that the team’s penalty issues are correctable while focusing on the reasons those problems occurred.
“I think [the penalties] are correctable. [On the] last drive, we jump offsides. I’m not saying it won’t ever happen again, but that’s correctable. You gotta continue to look: what’s causing those things? Is there some form of indecision? Is there communication? On that one, there wasn’t, but you can’t assume anything. Take the delay out of the injury timeout. You got to address that and make sure that everyone has the awareness and the urgency there,” Christ said. “I do feel, turnovers wise, [that they’re] absolutely correctable… I’m not discouraged that we can’t clean that up.”
One of the bigger changes from the offseason was offensive line coach Bob Bolstad moving back to his old position from the defensive side. As a result, Bolstad now has that coaching versatility on both sides, which Chryst covets in a coach.
However, Chryst believes that several coaches could impact the game at different positions because of their intelligence.
“I think we’ve got a number of coaches on this staff that you can put them into any room and just the way that they see the game and approach it: what does that player need to be able to do to be successful at it, and how do you drill that, and how do you get him to understand it? I think that’s one thing that [Bob Bolstad] does well and he’s relentless on the fundamentals.”
Junior quarterback Graham Mertz surprised spectators with his willingness to attempt deeper passes this past week, even connecting with transfer wideout Keontez Lewis for a big gain.
Chryst believes that while Mertz has sometimes looked to try and make plays, he’s also utilized opportunities that have presented themselves.
“Like all competitors, you can’t try to make a play, [but instead], you gotta let plays come and when they come, you got to be ready to seize it. In each game, there’s been a couple of those where I thought he’s tried to make a play, and there’s been a number of them where I’ve liked where it’s presented itself,” Chryst said. “I like the way that he’s started [on third downs].”
Graham Mertz to Clay Cundiff for the 10 yard TD! #Wisconsin pic.twitter.com/763v8Oyfad— @ (@FTBeard7) September 10, 2022
Additionally, Chryst liked Mertz’s confidence, as he believed that his quarterback played with more conviction, while not having questions about his decisions.
“I thought there was a couple of times [where] I thought it was a good decision and there was a couple where I thought he might’ve been forcing it. But, a lot of plays, you’ve got the ability to do it, and then it comes down to plans. Do you trust it? Then, go with it,” Chryst said. “The thing that I liked about what he did is that I don’t think he had any question in his mind. You go back and look at it and talk through it with him and there’s some that you just got to assess and play each play. The thing he’s playing with more [conviction] now.”
Speaking about his failed fourth down decision that changed the momentum of the game early, Chryst lamented the decision, but also expressed his confidence in both his offense and defense.
“The result, and therefore the play you ran, you don’t like it. But, I feel it’s good to put the game in players hands. You try to have the balance. I think it’s important. I do have confidence in our defense and I also have confidence in our offense. To win games, you got to take advantage and make those opportunities work for you. The whole game is a risk and when it doesn’t go your way, you got to help each other,” Chryst said. “The game of football is those momentum swings. [It’s about] how do we all play together and off it. If you knew the result [of that fourth down], you would never do it again. But I also know there’s time when you do go for it and empower your players. So, how do you go forward with it? [You think]: what is the best play for this one? [Then], having your guys understand it and go execute.”
The Badgers will look to bounce back from their first loss of the 2022 campaign when they host their third straight home game on Saturday against New Mexico State.