Wisconsin faces first adversity under Bielema Print
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Thursday, 23 October 2008 21:14
NCAAF Headline News

 MADISON, Wis. (AP) -Bret Bielema had a priest, the Rev. Mike Burke, give him a ride home after losing to Iowa. Too bad the third-year coach isn't Catholic.
``He felt he needed to console me,'' Bielema said. ``I'm the only non-Catholic head coach that has a priest that's worried about me.''
There's a lot of worry in Madison these days. Wisconsin has lost four straight in the Big Ten for the first time in 12 years.
The Badgers (3-4, 0-4) no longer have a weekly 100-yard rusher, can't rely on the pass despite the return of playmaking tight end Travis Beckum for his senior season, and have created only four sacks and four interceptions in the past four weeks.
It's led Badgers fans to question Bielema, who grew up in Illinois and has deep ties to the Hawkeyes. Even the red windbreaker he wears on game day is suddenly suspect.
t) year when I was told by the merchandising people that they couldn't keep enough windbreakers in stock,'' Bielema said. ``It goes to show when you're winning, everybody agrees with what you're doing. When you're losing, everybody's got all the answers, because the right answer isn't out there.''
Bielema is the hand-picked successor to Barry Alvarez, who took the program from the ashes and led the Badgers to three Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles during 16 seasons.
Alvarez, who remains the athletic director, has yet to talk about Bielema's struggles - although he watches nearly all the coach's press conferences from the back of the room.
``I have conversations with Coach Alvarez on a daily basis,'' Bielema said. ``There's a reason I call him Coach Alvarez. He had a lot of success obviously coaching defensive football, first as a coordinator, as a head coach, about the things that make this program go the way they have.''
Alvarez declined an interview request from The Associated Press this week. But he surely has an opinion, even if he won't express it publicly.
tied in with mine and vice versa.''
Has Alvarez been stern or sympathetic toward Bielema's plight?
``I don't know if I got a formula on how much is stern versus sympathetic,'' Bielema said. ``I don't think Coach is a very sympathetic guy in any situation.''
And Wisconsin's situation just seems to get worse.
Alvarez left after a 10-3 season in 2005, and Bielema's first season was a rousing success. The team went 12-1 and missed the BCS only because Ohio State and Michigan got invites instead.
But John Stocco, a three-year starter at quarterback who went 29-7 in his career, exhausted his eligibility after a 17-14 win over Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, 2007. And while fifth-year senior Tyler Donovan helped Wisconsin rise to No. 5 last year, back-to-back losses to Illinois and Penn State knocked the Badgers to a 9-4 finish.
This season, Allan Evridge, another senior, was yanked from the starter's role after three straight losses, beginning when the then-No. 9 Badgers squandered a 19-0 lead at Michigan. Then came a 20-17 loss to Ohio State and a 41-point rout by Penn State.
Junior Dustin Sherer looked overwhelmed Saturday, throwing two interceptions in a 38-16 loss to the Hawkeyes. Still, he earned another chance this week against Illinois.
it show. Guard Andy Kemp said the staff's approach has remained consistent.
``Nothing's really changed, all we're trying to do is focus on the little things and make those corrections that have been hurting us,'' Kemp said. ``The big thing is just to stick together. We're all a family, coaches included. Stay close and just get through this.''
Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said Beckum hasn't hung his head at his decision to skip the NFL for his senior year, but no one expected the Badgers to be in the Big Ten's cellar with Purdue and Indiana.
Bielema said that's the hardest part of his job right now.
``The part that I always deal with and struggle with is just the disappointment that I see,'' he said. ``This is what I chose to do. So I kind of built the path that I walk upon, I know that. But, you know, these guys that are seniors, it's their last go-around.''

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