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October 19, 2011

Discipline key against MSU

MADISON - If Bret Bielema were a college professor instead of a highly successful division one football coach, he'd likely teach something along the lines of disciplinary studies.

Being mentally on cue, being sharp and level-headed and accountability would be the only prerequisites.

"We recruit discipline," Bielema said during his weekly Monday press conference.

When the No. 4 ranked Wisconsin Badgers (No. 6 in the BCS) play their first true road game of the season at No. 13 Michigan State this Saturday night, there's no question unequivocally bridled discipline will be one of the true stalwarts needed to provide victory.

Through six games, that's something this Badger squad has proven - - UW averages just just over five penalties a game - - and it's something that will need to be on high alert against the Spartans.

"I want guys to have the reaction that they need to have on Saturday," Bielema said. "Unfortunately the only way you do that is to practice it and rep it."

So the sixth-year head coach has given his defensive scouts the green light to play a bit out of their element. He's told them to ruffle some feathers with UW's offensive players. Hit them hard, call them names, make fun of them and get after them every single play.

It's a practice that's worked well in the past.

When the Badgers were gearing up for Arizona State a season ago Bielema gave his defensive scouts the same type of liberty. The Sun Devils were coming to Madison fresh off a game where they had double-digit penalties so the Badgers simply had no other choice but to mock that type of behavioral antics.

"Marcus Trotter piped off (to John Moffitt) and said something about his ancestry," Bielema explained. "Moffitt snapped and went over to him, bent him over and was ready to beat the snot out of him.

"We were like, 'Hey, hey, we told him to do this."

Things might not get that extreme in practice this week, but judging by the rate Michigan State gets flagged - - MSU averages just south of eight penalties per game - - it will certainly be part of the agenda.

Even more obvious than the abundance of penalties is the fact MSU attempts to get under the skin of its opponents.

Sophomore defensive end William Gholston has received copious amounts of criticism following two blatant personal fouls against Michigan. It's obvious the Spartans have been instructed to play between the whistles and beyond.

They try to bait opponents into fighting back with the hopes they'll get flagged for 15 yards.

"Even in that little short, reactionary second of time when something happens," Bielema said. "Our guys have to be aware. It's not what happens it's how you react to what happens. I thought Michigan wasn't overly reactive.

"You can kind of channel that."

Aside from keeping a level head, Wisconsin will need to stay away from preventable problems that could derail a series, a drive or a scoring opportunity. Winning on the road in the Big Ten is not an easy thing to do.

If a team shoots itself in the foot its nearly impossible to return home with a win if one's playing a quality opponent away from home.

"When we're talking about discipline I'm talking about no pre-snap penalties," Bielema said. "I'm talking about no unforced errors, keeping the ball secure is going to be very, very important. We've been great with that. It needs to continue on the road.

"Defensively, if we've got a chance to get our hands on the football we've got to come up with it."


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