Guts lead to glory

first_imgView Gallery (4 Photos)IOWA CITY, Iowa – Decisions, decisions.For a head coach on the road in a tight game, the outcome isoften decided by a few nerve-wracking play calls. Do you take risks or play it conservative?Saturday in Iowa City, UW head coach Bret Bielema rolled thedice and as a result he walked off the field with his team carrying theHeartland Trophy.To earn that 31-30 victory over Iowa, Bielema trusted hisplayers to execute with pressure bearing down on them and the first of those pressure-packed, game-defining decisions came with UW down 13-10 in the third quarter.After forcing Iowa to go three-and-out on the openingpossession of the second half, UW drove down to the 2-yard line and the Badgerswere faced with a fourth-and-one. Initially, it looked as though Phillip Welchand the kicking unit was coming onto the field, as a field goal would have tied the game at 13. But Bielema held them back andstuck with John Clay and the running game.With the sold-out crowd in Kinnick Stadium on their feet,the Badgers ran left, and Clay pounded his way into the end zone for the momentumswinging score.“We as players, appreciate that, when the coaches are confident to make those risky calls,” quarterback Scott Tolzien said.Two players in particular along the UW offensive line putBielema’s mind at ease when making the decision to go for it.“I can not say enough about Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt onmy left side as a head coach to be able to go to them,” Bielema said. “Itwasn’t by chance we ran left.”But the hallmark, gutsy play call of the day came with undereight minutes left in the game. The Badgers were down six after giving up atouchdown. At his own 26-yard line on fourth down with four yards to go,Bielema saw the potential for a fake punt.He instructed his punt unit, and lineman Ryan Groy to makethe call at the line if Iowa came out with a certain look.The Hawkeyes presented the formation UW was hoping for andGroy called for the fake.“That was a deep breath,” Bielema said. “We just made thecall once I saw them put the punt return unit out there. We gave them the calland Ryan Groy, a second-string offensive guard is making that decision – a goodMiddleton kid with a good GPA – we trusted him and he went out there and madethe call. [Punter] Brad Nortman did the mechanics and took off running.”Nortman took off all right and he picked up 17 yards and acrucial first down as he sprinted down the middle of the field untouched on adesigned run.“Back there I was excited, I was nervous, I was all the abovebut I was going to do everything I could to get those yards,” Nortman said. “Mycoverage guys sold it perfectly and all I had to do is run.”“That was awesome,” said senior linebacker Blake Sorensen.“Luckily it worked, [Bielema] looks like a genius now and that was agreat call.”After Nortman’s first down run, the Badgers sill needed atouchdown to take the lead with time winding down. UW was playing withoutstarting tight end Lance Kendricks and starting wide receiver Nick Toon but theBadgers decided to utilize the shotgun formation with five receivers during thecritical drive.Bielema and the Badgers went with an empty backfield and putthe game in the hands of quarterback Scott Tolzien despite the injuries to hisplaymakers.“Scott has really showed me how well he responded toadversity,” Bielema said. “Who would have though we would be going empty asmuch as we did”?For a team that prides itself on running the football, itwas a shock to see such a drastic change in philosophy late in the game.But once again, the unconventional plan worked.Tolzien connected with three different receivers on thatgame-winning drive, including sophomore running back Montee Ball, who caught a7-yard reception on fourth and four at the Iowa 34-yard line.Another surprising decision came when Ball was asked tofinish the dramatic drive. Clay was a spectator as Ball remained in the gameand reeled off a punishing 8-yard, game-winning touchdown run to put theBadgers ahead by a point with just over a minute remaining.There were a lot of guts shown by Bielema and the BadgersSaturday. And at the end of the day there was plenty of glory to go along withit.“Whether we won this football game or not there were goingto be a couple critical decisions that had to be made,” Bielema said.“The guys justhad a tremendous amount of faith and executed.”last_img read more