Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema gives an inspiring speech to his kick off coverage unit after a Badger touchdown Saturday.[/media-credit]Following a 26-carry day that produced 151 rushing yards and a touchdown against Michigan, Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema pointed out the finer points in the maturation of redshirt sophomore running back John Clay.“I really thought John Clay probably would be our premier back,” Bielema said. “I really like what he’s begun to do, preparation-wise. Everyone wants to pay attention to his statistics, (but) he had a couple really nice blitz pick-ups Saturday on some play-action passes.“Sunday … I went to my coaches about All-Big Ten nominees … you know, offensive player of the year — John Clay has just as good [of] a right to say that he has that as anybody.”Clay has 12 touchdowns on the season and 1,124 rushing yards. He’s averaging just over five yards per carry in a strong second-year campaign.Michigan looked vulnerable against the run Saturday, allowing two touchdowns on 229 net rushing yards.“At Wisconsin, we really believe we should be able to run the football,” Bielema said. “It’s one of the keys to our success.”Badgers Facing Former CoachSaturday marks the first time UW faces former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz. Hankwitz served on the Badger coaching staff during the 2006 and 2007 seasons before being let go. He signed with Northwestern in January 2008.“We knew this day was coming,” Bielema said. “It’s something I addressed to the players … it’s definitely something I know is being brought up down there and is up here as well.”Northwestern’s defense has improved since the addition of Hankwitz. They went from allowing 31 points per game in 2007 to just 20.15 last year, ranking fourth in the Big Ten and 27th in the nation.While at Wisconsin, Hankwitz led the Badgers in 2006 to remarkable numbers. Wisconsin ranked second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just above 12 points a game, and fifth in total defensive yards, yielding 253.1.The following year, however, the Badgers saw marked increases in both numbers. Opponents scored 23.2 points and gained 356.6 yards per game.“Whenever you decide to make a change like that, it’s a very difficult situation,” Bielema said. “Business is business and personal is personal. I really felt at the time I needed to make a change … but I’m sure I’m not very popular in the Hankwitz household.”Bielema Praises Bscherer/Oglesby Will Need SurgeryRedshirt junior Jake Bscherer got the start against Michigan Saturday at right tackle, filling in for the still-ailing redshirt sophomore starter Josh Oglesby. Bscherer started the season at left guard but lost his spot when Big Ten play started. He returned to starting when Oglesby went down the week before at Indiana with a left knee injury.Bielema asserted that Bscherer was set to start Saturday because the team doctor advised against playing Oglesby.“If Josh looked really good, (we would have played him),” Bielema said. “But [Bscherer] did enough positive things in a tough match-up and, actually, did the week before when he was called into action. I wasn’t at that point ready to take [Bscherer] out of that role.”Bielema also said that Oglesby will need surgery following the season, on both the left knee he injured at Indiana, and the right that had been nagging him going into that game.“I give [Oglesby] credit,” Bielema said. “He’s a guy who’s going to need surgery at the end of the year … but he’s a guy who’s really sucked it up.”Bscherer and the rest of the offensive line held their own against Michigan, opening up the running game and keeping the opposing front to just two sacks.Chris Borland — Freshman of the Year?Bielema praised freshman starting linebacker Chris Borland for his play this year, naming him as his choice for Big Ten freshman of the year.“Chris Borland, if there is a freshman in the league that has had more of an effect on a team, I would be surprised,” Bielema said. “He’s been a defensive MVP of the league, special teams MVP of the league, he’s one of two or three players in the entire world of college football that has three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, in addition to a blocked punt and a kickoff return. Probably to seal the deal, I should probably let him kick a field goal.“If there’s a freshman in this league that has had more of an effect on a team that’s in the upper half of its division, then I’d be surprised.”Borland led the Badgers with 11 tackles Saturday, with seven solo tackles. He also had half a sack.
ESPN “College GameDay” analyst Kirk Herbstreit’s comments on ESPN radio Thursday night paint a picture nobody wants to see. “I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall,” Herbstreit said, via TMZ Sports. “If we have college football, I’ll be so surprised if that happens.” MORE: Six things we learned from Steph Curry’s chat with Dr. FauciHerbstreit’s comments might be jarring, but they should be taken seriously. As of Friday morning, there were more than 85,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Spring football was mostly wiped out across the FBS, and most media days take place in early July. The NFL Draft is still scheduled for April 23-25, but public events associated with the draft have been canceled. Before the NCAA basketball tournament was canceled, the conference tournaments attempted to have games that were not open to the public. That is one of the potential hurdles that will need to be addressed with football. “You’re 12 to 18 months from a vaccine,” Herbstreit said. “I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.” The NFL regular season is set to begin Sept. 10. The college football season is scheduled to start Aug. 29 — with a season-opening game between Notre Dame and Navy in Dublin, Ireland. That is yet another layer that needs discussed given the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe. These dates are not as far off as they seem. “As much as I hate to say it, I think we’re scratching the surface of where this thing is going to go,” Herbstreit said. The spread of COVID-19 in the United States has put the sports world on hold. The NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS seasons are on hold, and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament was canceled.Will football be next?
Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, left, laughs along side teammate Michael Robinson as the participate in a media availability Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in Jersey City, N.J. (AP Photo)JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Down at the end of a hotel hallway, about 50 people gathered along with a dozen television cameras to record the thoughts of a running back who doesn’t much like the idea of sharing his thoughts.Marshawn Lynch was in true Beast Mode, though he surely couldn’t appreciate the irony he was actually helping fuel the insatiable beast that is the media surrounding the Super Bowl at a time the game was in need of another good story line.“I’m here, man,” Lynch said. “So, I don’t have to pay the fine, boss.”Lynch likely succeeded in that mission, escaping the wrath of the NFL for not speaking with the media. But the image of him glaring out from beneath a hat and hoodie, gold headphones on top of his head, may be one that sticks this week with the Seattle Seahawks, just as sure as Richard Sherman’s postgame rant did the week before.They’re the designated bad guys in this Super Bowl. And they seem to be enjoying the role.“What is there to get?” asked receiver Doug Baldwin. “He doesn’t like talking to the media.”Worse crimes have been committed, of course, and there are more than enough other players on the Seahawks to fill the void. Sherman himself has emerged as a loquacious spokesman for the team, showing a great depth of thought while answering all questions that have come his way.But a team built behind a ferocious defense by a coach who left the college ranks under a cloud has some rough edges around it. Chief among them is the suspension of seven Seattle players for substance-abuse or performance-enhancing drugs violations by the NFL since 2011.Matched up against Peyton Manning’s great season and his quest for a second Super Bowl ring late in his career, and it’s easy enough to paint the Seahawks in the role of villain.“We don’t worry about reputations and things like that,” said Sherman, who himself was suspended by the league last season for PEDs before winning an appeal. “We worry about football and we have a tremendous football team that goes out there and executes week in and week out. At the end of the day this is the NFL and that’s all that matters.”At the end of the day, the Seahawks are in the Super Bowl, too, which is all that matters to any NFL team. They’ve also got a bit of a different take on the teammates they spend most waking hours with than the media that gets a glimpse just here and there of their varied personalities.That showed with their spirited defense of Sherman in the wake of his tirade against Michael Crabtree following the spectacular play that beat the San Francisco 49ers and put the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. And they were more than happy to line up in support of Lynch’s right to do whatever he wants leading up to the big game.“He’s a misunderstood person, a great guy off the field,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “He’s been through a lot in his life and sometimes the media puts words in your mouth and makes a guy mad. He’s not the person you want to make mad.”Still, it was telling that the first two questions to coach Pete Carroll at his Wednesday press conference weren’t about how to defend Manning or stop the touchdown scoring machine that is the Denver Broncos. Instead, they were about Lynch’s refusal to talk and the perception that the vaunted Seattle defense was built on the backs of players taking banned PEDs.Carroll’s answers often meander on any topic, and this one was no different. He talked about how his team is young but is learning from its mistakes and that he doesn’t mind allowing them to be individuals as long as they stay within the team concept.He said the coaching staff has constantly preached the message of having to play clean, despite the suspension as recently as last month by cornerback Brandon Browner for substance abuse and cornerback Walter Thurmond in late November for the same thing.“I’m not concerned about the message,” Carroll said. “We would like to do right and get better, so we’re trying to improve and learn from everything that comes along.”What comes along next is the biggest game any of the Seahawks have ever played. Much has been made of the fact it’s the first Super Bowl any of them will play in, and they’ve made much of their intention to play it as physical as any game they’ve ever played.Odds are they’ll deliver on that promise, though that’s no guarantee of success against Manning and Denver’s precision offense. Seattle isn’t likely to win a shootout, but most handicappers like the Seahawks to win their first Super Bowl trophy if the defense plays like it has all season and Lynch runs the ball effectively.If that happens, all the talk about bad behavior will suddenly go away.And chances are Lynch might even have something to say about that.____Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
Telecom Italia’s wholesale TV deal with Sky is due to go live in April, allowing Telecom Italia customers to gain access the full Sky television offer through its high-speed broadband network.Speaking on Telecom Italia’s fourth quarter earnings call, company CEO Marco Patuano said that Sky will provide a set-top box for the internet TV offering and that the non-exclusive deal means “we will have the same content that Sky will have.”The deal, which was first announced in April 2014, will see the companies co-operate on a revenue sharing basis, with the agreement allowing Sky to reach potential pay TV subscribers who are unable to install a satellite dish.Speaking more broadly about the pay TV opportunity in Italy, Patuano said that this market was still “under-penetrated” with just 25% of homes subscribing to pay TV, compared to between 50% and 60% in the UK and France.He said there was opportunity to target broadband subscribers with “some form of premium content television or premium content entertainment.”However, Patuano added that “we have no space for making huge discounts, in order to move customers to convergence, even if the effect on the churn rate is positive.”