University of Wisconsin senior linebacker Mike Taylor was asked after practice earlier this week to describe his mood going into Saturday's game at Oregon State.
"Kind of angry," he said.
"The defense didn't play very well. We all want to play better."
Although he finished with a team-best 13 tackles, Taylor would certainly be near the top of the list of the defensive players wanting to atone for mistakes in last week's 26-21 victory over Northern Iowa.
He was involved in the second of two long fourth-quarter touchdown passes on identical "wheel" routes to running back David Johnson. Taylor blitzed on the first one, so he wasn't responsible for the mistake that left Johnson uncovered down the right sideline — or free safety Dezmen Southward's missed tackle — on the 55-yard completion.
On the second one, a 31-yard play, Taylor was a split-second late in getting to Johnson.
"I hesitated and he got too far in front of me and he scored a touchdown," was Taylor's succinct breakdown of the play.
Taylor didn't speak to reporters after the game — apparently due to a breakdown in communication, which seems fitting given the defense's recurring problems. He wasn't aware he had been requested for interviews, according to a team spokesman.
A prideful player who hates letting his teammates down, Taylor has gone about his business this week, doing everything in his power to prevent it from happening again.
"He's been focused," junior linebacker Chris Borland said. "He's razor sharp. He's a good leader. He took ownership of the mistake he made. He has rectified it. He's working hard."
Taylor showed up on Sunday, ready to take his medicine. It's a process that is repeated every week: Watch the video from the previous game, get the mistakes worked out during a 10-minute session on the field at practice, then move on to the next game.
"You know the mistakes you've made," Taylor said. "To say you don't want to watch (the video), you know what you did, you know what you put on film. You might as well watch it and see what you did and how you can get better."
Taylor's hesitation was caused when he briefly took his eyes off the running back, to glance at a receiver crossing in front of him.
"Whenever you get a wheel route (and) you get a close split with a receiver like that, you always want to check and see if he's trying to pick you," Taylor said. "I just stayed on him too long and the (back) got out in front."
While Taylor is normally one of the most reliable players on defense, he missed about two weeks of preseason camp with a tender hamstring.
"Not to make excuses, or anything like that, (but) Mike missed a lot of training camp, really didn't get back into the flow of things until almost game week," defensive coordinator Chris Ash said. "So, he's a little bit rusty.
"But he'll be just fine. He's proven that he's a big-time playmaker for us. We've just got to get him back to that point."
Taylor, who wanted to practice but was held out as a precaution by the coaches, didn't buy the theory his mistake was a result of missed practice time.
"I wouldn't say that's the reason why," he said. "I've missed time before and been fine. Like I said, I pride myself on not making mistakes. I know the calls, I knew what to do. ...
"It was just a mental lapse where I just kind of hesitated and it ended up being a big play."
When Bielema walked through the football offices prior to his Monday news conference, there was Taylor, diligently watching video on the players' day off.
"He's up there volunteering, putting in his own overtime, trying to get himself more prepared for this game," Bielema said. "And my guess is you'll see a nice comeback from him."
It's not like Taylor was the only defensive player to make a mistake in the opener. But it was easy to assess blame, as opposed to the blown coverage on the previous touchdown. The coaches have stayed quiet on who left the back uncovered.
Taylor admitted he has always had to work a little harder when it comes to pass protection.
"Going back to high school (at Ashwaubenon), I always wanted to go up to the line and tackle the run," he said. "Passing plays, you've got to be disciplined, you've got to have your eyes on the right keys."
Taylor approaches any of his deficiencies with relentless work and a conviction to get things right. That's what he's been doing this week, which is a good example for the defense going forward.
"I'm definitely getting better in my drops, my pass coverage, seeing keys and reading plays," he said. "So far, I've been getting better this week."