Bielema wouldn’t change his strategy
“If anybody has seen my history,” he said Monday, “there isn’t any doubt.”
The topic du jour, of course, was Bielema’s decision to use his timeouts in the final 79 seconds against Michigan State.
Bielema was playing to get the ball back for his offense, but the Spartans foiled that strategy by driving 78 yards for the winning touchdown, a 44-yard Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game.
“I thought if they were trying to go into overtime in any way, shape or form,” he said Monday, “that I wanted to get the ball back.
“We have the No. 1 offense in the country. We’ve got a quarterback who I’ve seen in four, maybe even five of our first (six) games, score at the end of a half.
“Phil Welch had hit a 50-plus yarder going that direction in pregame warm-ups. So if there was any way I could get the ball back, I wanted to do that.”
The first timeout was called with 42 seconds left, after quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked for a 10-yard loss on first down. That left the Spartans facing second and 20 from their 24.
“I called one immediately because I knew we’d probably get ourselves into a third-down situation,” Bielema said. “Didn’t know if they were going to run or throw it.”
Bielema used the second timeout after Cousins hit B.J. Cunningham for a 12-yard gain to set up a third-and-8 play. Thirty seconds remained.
The gamble backfired when Cousins and Keshawn Martin combined for an
11-yard gain and a first down at the Spartans’ 47. Michigan State responded by calling a timeout with 10 seconds left and two plays later burned UW for the touchdown. UW had called its final timeout to set its defense before the last play.
“They did a good job there,” Bielema said of the third-down play. “They converted. If they didn’t convert we were probably going to go with a field return with Abby or a block that we had gotten very close with.”
Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis had returned a punt 33 yards to the Michigan State 43 to set up UW’s first touchdown of the final quarter. UW nearly blocked Mike Sadler’s next punt.
Bielema, who on Monday appeared on a radio show hosted by ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, noted he is aware his decision-making has been criticized, mostly close to home.
“He made reference he couldn’t believe people are questioning it,” Bielema said, referring to Herbstreit. “He saw where we were going with it. It’s really the local stuff more than anything, because you care.
“You hated to lose. Anytime you lose you want to blame somebody, and I should be the blame. I’m the head coach.”
-- Junior defensive end David Gilbert was scheduled to undergo X-rays Monday on his broken foot. Gilbert, who suffered the injury in practice before the Big Ten opener against Nebraska, hopes to return to the lineup Saturday at Ohio State.
Bielema called that optimistic and said the Nov. 5 game against Purdue was a more realistic target date.
-- UW’s game at 7 p.m. Saturday at Ohio State will be televised by ESPN.
-- UW’s Nov. 5 home game against Purdue will start at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised by ABC.