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October 11, 2010MADISON - Had he known the type of backlash and fervor his questionable decision to go for a two-point conversion up 41-16 midway through the fourth quarter would unleash, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema would surely rethink his decision, right?
"I'm not changing what I said because I spoke the truth on Saturday," Bielema, who following the 41-23 win said he followed the instructions from a card, said Monday afternoon. "I saw their offense score very, very fast on two different occasions in that game. That's all that was driving my mind.
"I went with the card and I'll go with it one million times over."
Immediately following the game, it was obvious Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster was not thrilled with Bielema's decision. When shaking hands with Bielema, Brewster seemed to be hurling a few choice words in his direction.
"I probably shouldn't say," Bielema said when asked what Brewster told him after the game. "I don't think he was very happy. We weren't talking car dealers, I know that."
Bielema made it clear that he was playing the percentages set aside by a card he carries around and consults in the fourth quarter of every game. At that juncture, up 25 points with just more that six minutes to play, the card said to go for two points.
Brewster, who said that was a "poor excuse" was miffed at the idea of trying to tack on extra points when Wisconsin had the game well in hand.
"I was very upset and I made sure he knew," Brewster said after the game. "I thought it was wrong. There was no excuse for it, period. I thought it was a very poor decision by a head football coach and he'll have to live with that. It was wrong. Everybody in here knows it and everybody in college football knows it.
"It was wrong."
UW senior quarterback Scott Tolzien's pass fell incomplete to Lance Kendricks on the play so the conversion went for naught. Still, to spice up a rivalry game that looked anything but one, commentators and analysts alike have teamed up on Bielema and his decision.
Among those doubters was Big Ten analyst Gerry DiNardo, who said obvious tensions between Brewster and Bielema ultimately led Bielema into rolling the dice. He is but one small example of the backlash stemming from what otherwise was a pretty innocuous game on a beautiful fall Saturday in Madison.
Bielema insists he would expect the same if the positions were flipped.
"I would expect it on me," Bielema said. "If I was in the exact same situation on the other side of the field, down the same situation and knowing the history of the game, I wouldn't expect anything different."
Bielema acknowledged how the game of football can go through so many twists and turns in very fast fashion as having an effect on the decision. He talked about UW's trip to Minneapolis in 2009 when the Badgers seemingly had the game in control until Zach Brown fumbled inside the Gopher 20 yard line.
Minnesota scooped the fumble and ran it back for a touchdown that cut a 10-point lead down to three with a good amount of time left in the fourth quarter.
"I flashed back during the course of the week last week to several times that we've had experiences in the fourth quarter," Bielema said. "I've seen those leads swing so quickly."
While Brewster voiced his displeasure with the decision, Bielema was somewhat surprised by the amount of exposure the tiff received on both local and national television.
"Probably the most shocking was that it got the level of play that it did," Bielema said. "I don't know if it was a shortened media day or what, but I answered on Saturday the same way I answered today and the same way I'll answer a year from now."
In the end, Bielema's decision was in the cards.