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Notebook: Big Ten coaches respond to weekend of losses

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | SEPTEMBER 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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Wisconsin ran for only 35 yards in the Badgers’ 10-7 loss to Oregon State. Only 35 yards on 23 carries — that’s 1.5 yards per attempt.

So what does head coach Bret Bielema do? He fires offensive-line coach Mike Markuson, only two games into Markuson’s first season on the job.

Bielema said his decision was based solely on his need to see more progress from his team, to see the Badgers “moving forward.”

“One of the things I decided early on in my career was that if I didn’t like the direction someone was going … I wasn’t going to wait until the end just because that’s how it’s normally done,” Bielema said.
But the head coach said his players’ response — although they were surprised — was entirely positive.

Bart Miller, the former offensive quality-control coordinator, has stepped up to fill the role as interim offensive-line coach. Although Miller is young — he graduated from New Mexico State in 2007 — he has a long history in athletics, including working with his alma mater’s offensive line and working in the front office of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Bielema isn’t afraid to throw his support in Miller’s direction, who he believes will bring a “new dynamic” and fresh energy to the stagnant offensive line.

“Age is just a number,” Bielema said. “All that good coaches need are opportunities, and I wanted to supply them with that.”

Huskers hurt without Rex

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini is one of the most confident coaches in Division I football, but he sounded despondent during the Big Ten teleconference on Tuesday.

The Cornhuskers, then ranked No. 16 nationally, lost to unranked UCLA, 36-30. And now Nebraska is off the list while the Bruins cracked in at No. 22.

“We took our turns in that game the other night,” Pelini said. “As far as our consistency is concerned, it’s not where we need to be, and our level of execution is not where we need to be yet.”

There is hope ahead for the Huskers. Nebraska has had to go without senior running back Rex Burkhead, who injured his knee in the first half of his squad’s game against Southern Miss on Sept. 1. Burkhead missed the entire UCLA game.

Burkhead rushed for nearly 1,500 yards last season as a starter, averaging 104.4 yards per contest. He accounted for 46 percent of all the Huskers rushing attempts last season.

The running back is still on a day-to-day basis, Pelini said, but Tuesday was his best day of rehab. The head coach said he wants to ensure that Burkhead is “100 percent ready” before he sees the field again.

Big Ten coaches not worried

Six Big Ten teams lost during week two. Five of them — Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State, Illinois, and Iowa — lost to previously unranked nonconference opponents.

But the Big Ten leaders said there’s no need for alarm. Not yet, anyway.

“I don’t make too much of it; it’s early in the year,” Pelini said. “There’s a lot of football left to be played … I don’t think you can make snap judgments until the end of year and see how it plays out.”
Furthermore, the Big Ten coaches seem to blame themselves for playing poorly.

“When we lose, we lose as a team,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said. “We didn’t play right, really, on any side of the ball.”


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