November 9, 2009

Notes: Toon making major strides

MADISON - Wisconsin sophomore Nick Toon has his best overall game as a Badger last Saturday against Indiana and it wasn't until his head coach re-watched the film before that fact sunk in with Bret Bielema.

"I had Nick come into my office yesterday (Sunday)," Bielema said. "I congratulated him and said, 'Hey, that's a heck of a game.' When you're watching it from the sidelines, I didn't see how well he played. His first play from the line of scrimmage, he just takes the defensive back and cuts him right in half and makes a great play.

"Now that DB is thinking the whole game, 'Is this coming at me the whole day?'

If that first play was any indication, then Toon will become even more of an offensive threat because he is beginning to understand what it takes to become a premier player as a wide receiver.

"What I loved was his response to me," Bielema said. "He goes, 'Coach, I should have been doing that all along.' I'm going to remind him of that. Now he's got to do that. This is what we see on film. This is reality and this is what you can provide for us every week.

"If that begins to happen then we've got a pretty good situation."

Toon has always been regarded as a prospect with great upside since he entered the UW program. He comes from a family rich with athletic prowess and has all the necessary tools to become a great player. And with more games like his most recent one (five catches, 123 yards), he may get there sooner rather than later.

"He's a redshirt sophomore," Bielema said. "He's big, he's athletic he's impressive. Mom and Dad…brought him into this world and taught him that hard work is going to pay off and that you can't get by on just what's been given to you.

"I think Nick is beginning to see that."

Game MVP's:

-It shouldn't come as a surprise that Bielema honored Toon as one of the offensive MVP's for his big plays and clutch catches.

Bielema also honored true freshman Montee Ball as an offensive MVP after he rushed for a career high 117 yards on 27 carries.

"Montee Ball," Bielema said. "For his performance and being able to step in there and doing what he did."

-Defensively, Chris Borland, who logged nine tackles and an interception, was given the award.

"We gave him the MVP," Bielema said. "He continues to make impressive strides each week as a football player. He played his most complete game as a linebacker."

-On special teams, kicker Philip Welch got the nod.

"It kind of dawned on me the next day," Bielema said. "That two of those guys are redshirt sophomores and the other are true freshmen. It's interesting to see these guys come along and play good football down the stretch."

Injury report:

-John Clay rushed for over 100 yards and scored a touchdown during the first half of Saturday's win. But he was unable to return to action in the second half after suffering a minor concussion.

"John Clay should be able to practice tomorrow," Bielema said. "I don't know if it was a for sure concussion, but he definitely felt and was a little bit out of it in the first half. He was sick to his stomach. At halftime, everyone said he was good to go and then we were walking out and he wasn't in a good situation to go out there.

"If we had to, he probably could have played the second half. I know he wanted to, but they kept him out. He should be back full go."

-Josh Oglesby, who has been somewhat banged up most of the year, is undergoing further tests Monday afternoon on his right knee. Bielema believes the tests are only precautionary and that Oglesby should be okay.

"All indications are that he assured me he's going to play," Bielema said. "Unless something pops up on those tests later today (Monday)."

More on the Henry move:

During warm-ups of Saturday's game, it was reported that sophomore cornerback Aaron Henry was warming up at free safety. On Monday, Bielema acknowledged it was an idea he came up with in a way to get Henry on the field.

"I think when you're an assistant coach, I used to be this way too, you get so locked into your players that you can't think outside of the box," Bielema said. "I think I first said this to the defensive staff maybe after the second or third game. I said, I think he (Henry) needs to start fresh and a new outlook on life."

That was no knock on Henry whatsoever, it was just an honest attempt to shake the cobwebs that have plagued the third-year sophomore as he tries to get back to his true freshman form prior to his knee injury.

"Aaron Henry, as you guys know, has got one of the most beautiful minds, personalities, strength and wisdom that we have," Bielema said. "He's in a bump in the road and he needed some help. So I suggested it. As a head coach I'll make suggestions and then finally I said this is what we're going to do.

"He had a very good week of practice last week and we'll see where it goes this week."

Competition in the conference:

As many saw on Saturday, an Iowa team with national title aspirations was beat by a Northwestern team trying to solidify bowl eligibility. That has been the case over the entire course of the season.

It seems every week there are tight games and surprise outcomes across the conference. While the Big Ten doesn't get much respect nationally, it is still proving a difficult conference to win and one that presents completely different challenges on a weekly basis.

"It's competition and who can stay healthy," Bielema said. "A couple of our games that we didn't come out on the right end we didn't stay healthy in. That had a huge impact on it. I'm not making excuses it's reality. It's a four-quarter game every game you're in, but it's an eight-week schedule in Big Ten play that you've got to survive.

"Those that can win and move on, do. Those that don't will fall by the wayside. It's unfortunate that we weren't able to have those two victories in the Iowa and Ohio State games, but our guys learned some lessons."

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