October 18, 2010

Clay, Bielema focused on O-line before OSU

MADISON -- Standing behind John Clay with his helmet off Saturday, you'd see the following numbers in his head: 68, 74, 66, 70 and 58. Lining up in the Wisconsin backfield, Clay sees the same set of numbers every time he takes the ball.

It took Clay about 20 minutes of work in the barbershop to show his appreciation for what his teammates do. Within the game's first five minutes, Clay was thanking them again.

Clay burst through a big hole created by the Wisconsin offensive line and rushed 14 yards for the touchdown. Less than 12 minutes of game time later, Clay found the end zone again. As the Badgers led 21-0 over the No. 1 team in the nation, hard work by Clay and the offensive line paid off in a big way.

"He practiced as hard as I've ever seen him practice and really executed ball security, and he gave the tribute to the five offensive linemen, shaving their numbers in his head," UW head coach Bret Bielema said of Clay. "It was a way of John saying, 'I respect what you guys have done.' His success is a lot about what they do, so again, just a good example of team chemistry."

Wisconsin's offensive line guided Clay to 104 yards rushing on 21 carries, as well as those two first half touchdowns.

Afterward, as he does after every game, Clay credited his success to the hard work up front by Peter Konz, John Moffitt, Gabe Carimi, Kevin Zeitler and Ricky Wagner.

"I just told them they've been working hard for me all week and this whole year, so I told them I'd do something special when the big game came," Clay said. "It worked out in a good way."

With the Badgers facing one of the toughest defensive lines in the country in Ohio State, Clay was not the only one focused on the offensive line this week.

Knowing the battle in the trenches could very easily determine the outcome of the game against the top-ranked Buckeyes, the head coach looked to give his front five a little added motivation.

"I did challenge them," Bielema said. "I don't do that very often as a head coach. I don't want to set kids up for failure. If I do something like that, it's usually that I have a really strong belief that it's going to come through.

"Everybody made a big deal about the 29 games that Ohio State had played without a 100-yard rusher. I threw it in those guys' faces all week. I threw it at our running backs, but it all starts up front for us. For us to have success, we have to play well at the offensive line."

Konz, Moffitt, Carimi, Zeitler and Wagner answered the challenge in a big way. Not only did they pave the way for Clay to become the first opposing player in 30 games to rush for 100 yards or more against OSU, they also kept their quarterback upright.

Attempting 16 passes on the day, Scott Tolzien was not sacked a single time. But did the offensive line need to challenged?

"I don't know. I mean, that's a good question," Moffitt answered. "We play our game and we always try to play our game. Obviously, when the head coach calls you out, you just have to raise the bar, and I think that's what we did.

"It feels great. We did the right things and we won the game."

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