A season opener against Alabama is never an easy task. Wisconsin learned that lesson on Saturday, losing to the SEC power 35-17. Coach Paul Chryst talked about the game yesterday in his press conference:
COACH CHRYST: Well, kind of watching the tape yesterday, it confirmed a lot of what I felt Saturday night in that there was — I thought our players played with great effort and there was some things that we can build on, I think really in all three phases, offensively, defensively and special teams. And clearly there’s some areas we need to clean up and improve upon.
One thing as I continue to get to know this group, I was — I liked the response after the game. There was disappointment. Some guys were angry. It was all the emotions that you want with guys that put it out there. And this group, has guys that have won a lot of games. When they go out and play, they expect to win. And certainly we played a good Alabama team. But I think there’s — we had a chance to be a good team ourselves, if we build on and improve in certain areas.
I thought that defensively, you know, Joe Schobert stood out to me, and made a lot of plays. I thought Vince impacted the game and created some problems. I was glad to see Sojourn was tested and I thought did a nice job responding.
You know, T.J. Edwards made a lot of plays, and I think you look at the tape and he’ll be able to see areas that he can get better at, and D’Cota Dixon jumped in and played a lot of snaps and can get better and learn from that.
I think offensively, I thought as a unit, I thought they handled the — there was enough crowd noise, and what they were doing, I think they handled the noise. We didn’t have any pre-snap penalties and I thought the communication was good that way. I thought Joel did some good things, and you had some areas where he can build on. We’ve got the ball to a number of different guys.
Obviously we did not run the ball very well. The good thing is I think every guy on offense can take part of making that better and then that needs to be corrected. I think there’s things in the passing game that the details of it, we’ve got to fix and clean up for us to be as good as we can be there.
Defensively, we’ve got to do a better job of leveraging the football. Some of the big plays are guys getting out of a gap and just got to be able to feel comfortable and confident in doing their job and that others will do theirs, as well. You know, special teams, I thought some guys stood out in the coverage units, but we’ve got areas that we’ve got to clean up and to be more opportunistic.
So looking forward to this week, I really am, and I think the guys have a good mind-set about them and so today we’ll start preparing for Miami of Ohio. Yesterday the coaches did, and excited to get going this week.
Q. I know it’s early in the week but do you have an idea what you can get this week out of Clement, whether Michael Caputo will play and is Ray Ball close to being able to come back and practice?
COACH CHRYST: Yeah, we’ll find out. Mike is going through the protocol. And Corey, I think he could have gone a little bit more possibly, but wasn’t sure of it. I think I was surprised to look and see, Taiwan had the exact same number of snaps, or maybe one off from Corey.
And Dare I thought stepped in, and we were expecting to play Dare in a lot of different — thought he would play certainly but maybe not quite as much as he did. Ray, we don’t know on yet. We’ll find out during the week I think.
Q. You mentioned there are areas you wanted to see cleaned up. What areas would you like to see cleaned up with the offensive line and in some respects, was it tough having three new starters against Alabama?
COACH CHRYST: Yeah, I think that, you know, with all — I think everyone in the run game, quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, fullbacks, the line, we’ve got to be on target more. The footwork, the pad level, I thought Michael Deiter did some good things in his first start, and I think that certainly there’s some areas that we’ve got to be a little bit better at.
I think it goes back to the — the great thing about the game I think is it goes back to the basics, and we’ve got to play with better pad level and we’ve got to get more movement. And in pass protection, I thought there was times where we were real good in it, but we’ve got to know where our help is; and if we are giving help and just playing together better.
I think it’s a group that takes pride in what they do, so I feel good about that. But we’ve got areas where we’ve got to get better and they need to do that this week.
Q. How is Tanner doing health wise and does the uncertainty with Caputo affect how you use him this week, McVoy.
COACH CHRYST: I think they are two separate. Tanner said he felt pretty good after the game. We tried to get him going on a few things that didn’t go his way. Would like to have him certainly get more touches; he didn’t get any. We targeted a couple times and tried to call a couple others, and I think Joel was right in some of the times not going to him.
But he’s feeling better and so I think we’ll be able to — but I think Tanner’s situation is not connected with necessarily Mike or Moose or Rob or anything like that.
Q. What do you think the biggest problem or problems were on defense?
COACH CHRYST: I think the obvious is at the end of it, we gave up too many big plays. That would be one of the starting points. And when you look at the situations, that’s what makes it even a little bit more frustrating in situations where you think you’ve got the upper hand.
There was a couple — that’s one of the first things you look at. There’s a couple times where we didn’t leverage the football so we didn’t contain it. There was a couple times where we’ve got a guy in the gap and then he thinks it’s going back out, so he slides out of it and now you’re short a gap. And any time we had a number of missed tackles — I think we were at 17 missed tackles, and be it missed tackles or gaps, you have to give the opponent some credit, as well.
But I think you look at that film and you say, this is where we can get better. If you’ve got to contain the ball, you’ve got to contain the ball. If you’ve got to be in the A gap, the B gap, the C gap, you’ve got to be in that gap. And teams and offenses are going to make some plays; you’ve got to tackle it. That was one, the leveraging the football, the gap control I think we can get better at. It shows up on film. Need to get better at it.
You know, the tackling, that’s — never been around a game where there’s been no missed tackles, but, we certainly had too many of those. And so I think those are the starting points that we’ve got.
A couple things were communication that we’ve got to make sure we address and clean up. We’ve got some — you could say, you know, Mike wasn’t in there for, but you know what, that can’t be an acceptable excuse for us.
And the great thing, I love the group, the players, they own it. They are not trying to duck from it. They want to get better. They see it and like I said, they were disappointed after the game. So I think it’s a group that wants to take advantage of this opportunity to get better this week.
Q. Do you see getting Tanner the ball on Saturday being one of the priorities this week knowing that he didn’t get any touches, and just how good this offense could potentially be with the ball in his hands?
COACH CHRYST: I think we want to get all our guys the ball. I like that we spread it out. I don’t think that you ever should go into the next game because you didn’t do something the week before. Because I think the quarterback can’t think that way, and certain teams will give you some plays and take away others.
We obviously think that Tanner is a good player and can help us in a lot of ways. Therefore, we want him to have those opportunities to impact the game. But I don’t think it’s just because he didn’t get something one week. You’ve got to make up for it. I think they are their own weeks or their own entity.
Q. Can you give us an update on Leon and his chances of being 100 percent on Saturday?
COACH CHRYST: I think he obviously was hobbling around a little bit. It wasn’t what kept him out in fall camp, and talking to him after the game; and then yesterday, it’s certainly getting better, and he told me he feels good. He said, I’ll be practicing all week. And talking to Mike and our training staff, I think it’s one of those things that he takes care of and we anticipate him being able to go.
Q. Did you like what you got out of throwing the ball to your backs, because I know that was a major point of emphasis this spring in camp.
COACH CHRYST: I thought we had — it helped us at times. I thought we missed on a couple other opportunities. But I think that we need — I think for us to be the best throwing team that we can be, we’ve got to use all the position groups, and I think we — Derrick was involved.
I’ve liked being around Derrick and I think he’s got a good feel for the game. I think all three of the backs had a catch, and you know, tight ends, Austin I think had a couple catches. Fuma I think we only threw to once. He played kind of limited. But I think we’ve got to be able to use everyone, and obviously the receivers.
Q. It’s great to play at home but are there advantages to playing home in a number of consecutive weeks, not just for game days, but for the whole week, to have a home stand?
COACH CHRYST: I know you feel really lucky when you can call Camp Randall home. I know just in talking to a couple of the players, Joel yesterday, it kind of dawned on me, he’s only got seven more of those opportunities. And our players really do get excited playing here and it’s a special place to play at.
I don’t know, you know, I think you just take one week at. Because it’s on our schedule, yeah, it’s great that way. But if you went home, away, home, you just find a way to make it be that it’s the best ever.
We love playing here. I can say that because I’ve been around games here. It is a special place and our kids know that. I think it also puts — when you play at home, it puts a little bit of kind of a welcome pressure on you, because you want to play well in front of what had we, biased opinion think, are great fans. I’m excited we get that opportunity this week and what we do with those opportunities at home, that’s on us.
Q. Do you know Chuck Martin well at all, and what do you see, challenges that Miami of Ohio will present this week?
COACH CHRYST: I really don’t — I know of him, and he’s certainly a really well-respected coach in our profession. As we are starting to study him right now, defensively, it presents some — any time you spread it out, you’ve got to be great on communication and you’ve got to be great in open space, tackling, some of those same things we talked about, really, in recapping the Alabama game. Right now we’ve got to clean those up. We’ll be tested on it.
Defensively, I think they do a good job of kind of changing up what they do and they will be able to have the ability to load up the box. And so, you know, if we are going to run the football, we’ve got — everyone’s going to be involved in the run game. Quarterbacks, receivers, everyone there. And so it’s good, you see them on tape and it’s a team that our guys got to study and learn.
And yet I think just about every game, you have to know your opponent and the challenges they can present to you. But really it’s about every game is what we do and how we approach the things that we can control.
Q. How important is it for both you and for the guys to be able to have the chance to bounce back this week and really work on those positive things from the weekend?
COACH CHRYST: I think it’s the essence of a season; that you always — whether it went your way or didn’t go your way, it’s what you learned from it and how do you move on and hope that we are always a team that’s growing and a team that’s getting better.
There’s the old adage that you get better from your first game to your second game. I hope that that’s true in a big way this week but I hope we are always getting better. I think it’s for everyone involved in the program, from the coaches to the players, yesterday we talked about things we can do on the road for the trip around it, how can we get better. If we are going to ask our players to get better every day, every week, we’d better expect the same of ourselves.
Q. This injury that Corey has, is there fear that it could linger for a while, or is it something that you think he can get taken care of?
COACH CHRYST: I think he can get it taken care of.
Q. What do you envision this first home game for you as head coach is going to be like for you, that first time out of the tunnel for you as a head coach here?
COACH CHRYST: Every day I walk on to this field for practice, and when I’m around this group, I feel appreciative of it. I don’t know. I’ve been lucky to be at games here. And so that part is not I don’t think going to be any different, because I’ve always appreciated what I’ve been — the opportunities that I’ve had here.
Q. You guys had nine months to look forward to the game against Alabama and now it’s, what, five, six days before Miami of Ohio. Is there any concern of any letdown knowing that the team was disappointed, having so much time to look forward to that one game?
COACH CHRYST: I think that we had nine months to look forward to this season. And we knew who we were opening up with and who we were going to play for our last game and we knew everyone in between.
Rightfully so, there was a lot of build up to our first game, but guys have been pointing to a lot more than just that game. And I’m glad; it stung me; it stung the players. Any time you go out there and put yourself out there and compete, it’s going to — but also, our kids didn’t just point to one game and that was going to be it.
That’s what I like about this group. There’s a ton of substance in this group, and now we’re into where this is the routine of the season and we’re into that. Our guys will be excited to play, I know that.
Q. You mentioned the first game, the second game adage before —
COACH CHRYST: I just came up with that one myself. (Laughter).
Q. Has it been your experience that there’s some truth in that?
COACH CHRYST: I hope so. Yeah, you look at Michael Deiter, D’Cota Dixon, T.J. Edwards, Jazz — Alex came to me on the sideline and goes, “That was Jazz’s first catch.” Glad I knew after than before. All those guys hadn’t played. So now they know what it’s like to be out there in those situations.
So I think that group can get better. I think there’s a chance for — Joel’s played in a lot of games. First time that we were really interacting and doing what we did, and his week of preparation with us and how we do it, even all the players, this is how Monday practice goes. We did it in camp and tried to show up.
There are a lot of things that I think — you can build and draw on what you did, and I don’t — I agree with that. Like I said, I hope you’re always getting better. It’s not just limited to — if not, we’d better have a great week this week, but you hope you’re always getting better.
Q. How did you manage to keep Caputo on the sideline during that game?
COACH CHRYST: It was interesting, and it just shows you, you talk about a guy that truly cares about this team, and the players on the team. And it didn’t matter what — I noticed him during special teams; I him noticed in offensive series; I noticed him on defense; he had the grease board out. I mean, he will do anything for this team.
And the thing I feel, as much as I would have loved to had him play, and Corey, and then we had others that didn’t really play because — you feel bad for those kids that miss that opportunity. I mean, if there’s a football game, Mike Caputo wants to be in it. It could be down at Wingra (ph), it could be anywhere. He wants to be a part of that game, and then his teammates you put in — that’s when you feel bad. These guys only have so many opportunities and they want to be able to take advantage of them. That’s what was hard for me to see more than anything. But he has got a lot of character and depth to him. It’s pretty cool.
Q. If he’s cleared to play, he’s going to go; you’re not going to hold him out if he’s been cleared?
COACH CHRYST: That’s what I like about the policies and the protocol. As a coach, you don’t have to worry about making a decision that puts someone at risk because you’ve got guys, a ton of people, that know a lot more than I do. So when Mike is cleared, really when any of our guys are cleared, as long as they are ready to go — and each position is a little bit different or their experience level is different.
But Mike’s a guy that I think when he’s cleared, kind of what Tom alluded to, I’m not going to get in the way of putting him in. He’s going to go on the field. So we don’t want 12 on there so we’re going to make sure we’ve got an open spot for him.