October 5, 2010

Tolzien critical of his play following loss

MADISON - Scott Tolzien knows what comes with being the quarterback at a Big Ten school.

He knows there will be pressures to succeed, pressures to be a spokesman for the team and most of all, pressures to take responsibility when things go wayward.

Through five games the senior signal caller has been through it all. He spent the entirety of fall camp talking about this team's drive to meet lofty expectations, whether they were, or still are, realistic or not.

He has always been a saint with the media. That doesn't mean he's rambunctious or off-the-wall, it simply means he's willing to meet with reporters until every single one has the quote or information they were looking for.

Knowing that, when the final seconds of Saturday's Big Ten opening loss to Michigan State ticked off the Spartan Stadium clock, it was Tolzien that placed the loss on his shoulder.

"I can't put my finger on one particular thing," Tolzien told reporters following UW's loss. "Myself, I need to do a better job of finding the open man. I know that's a general statement, but plain and simple I've got to find the open man and get him the ball."

It's not like Tolzien was horrendous against Michigan State.

His numbers (11-of-25 for 127 yards and a touchdown) suggested it was an off day for the usually reliable and efficient quarterback, but there were a number of drops from his receivers. For the most part, those balls were delivered in a manner that granted his receivers an opportunity to make the catch.

But when things were said and done and the stands emptied, the truth remained that Tolzien's completion percentage was below 50 percent. After he entered the game near the top of the league with a 76 percent completion clip, his lower-than-expected efficiency was somewhat alarming.

"There were some throws that he probably could have had or maybe took in a different direction," UW head coach Bret Bielema said following the game. "I can't say I'm ready to assess the quarterback right afterwards, but I like his response. I know he put us in some plays in the second half that were double calls or plays he continued to make good decisions.

"But it's got to be a whole-hearted effort."

Meaning it takes two to complete a pass and catch.

Tolzien wasn't perfect during the loss, but neither were his intended targets. If this UW offense is going to function at a level many believe it's capable of, focus has to be entirely there to score points and win ball games.

When things turn sour, the quarterback has to bear the brunt of the burden. And thankfully for UW, its quarterback is more than willing to do so.

"As coaches you want to believe that you know and understand your players," Bielema said during his Monday press conference. "The more I'm around him (Tolzien) I knew that was going to be his reaction."

But for a team that still has plenty to play for, it's important for the quarterback to set the tone and leave an example for others to follow throughout the remainder of the season.

The Badgers have Minnesota coming to town for what should be an energetic homecoming contest and that could be a time for UW to right the themes that have been hampering it throughout the first month of the season.

Having Tolzien at the helm, a player that takes the brunt of all the criticism that surrounds a loss in stride, whether warranted or not, will do nothing but help this Badger squad pick their heads up and recapture their winning ways.

You can almost guarantee he will take it upon himself to lead the team to victory.

"One thing we tried to assure everybody in Sunday's meeting was that it wasn't one person at fault and it wasn't one phase of the game," Bielema said. "It was a collective effort on all our parts.

"Nobody likes the way that they felt after the game."

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