Oregon Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas Wisconsin Badgers Russell Wilson mashup file photo

Oregon Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas and Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Russell Wilson.

When Bret Bielema was starting out as coach of the University of Wisconsin football team in 2006, he was known to work the officials pretty good during games, developing something of a reputation for yapping at them.

It didn't help after his second bowl game as a coach of the University of Wisconsin football team, a 21-17 loss to Tennessee in the 2008 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

Bielema complained bitterly about the officiating after the game, mistakenly identifying the crew as being from the Western Athletic Conference, when it was actually from the Mountain West Conference.

Bielema showed how far he has come this week when discussing the officials and the potential impact they could have on the Rose Bowl against Oregon on Jan. 2.

It wasn't an accident when Bielema mentioned during his Monday news conference that an Atlantic Coast Conference crew would be officiating the game.

"You've got an ACC crew, which, to me, might be one of the biggest story lines of the whole game," Bielema said.

"Obviously, (an ACC crew) is not well-versed in officiating Oregon. So it's going to be a very neat challenge for them.''

Naturally, that led to follow-up questions from the media. At one point, Bielema smiled and said, "I thought you might bite on that story line."

The issue with officials who haven't worked Oregon games is the fast pace of the Ducks' no-huddle offense.

"You'll see clips where basically the umpire stands over the ball and he waits for the official to give him a signal that we're ready for play," Bielema said. "Then he has to turn and sprint out of there. The Oregon center will snap the ball immediately.

"There are so many plays where the umpire has his back to the ball — and the ball is snapped. So he's looking at the safeties. He's not even looking where he's supposed to be, I mean, (the line of scrimmage) is his area."

That leads to another issue.

"You could have the possibility of false starts by us or them that will never be seen, holding that will never be seen," Bielema said. "Again, penalties by us that will never be seen because (the officials) aren't physically in a position to see the game."

It's clear from his comments that Bielema wants to bring attention to the issue. In addition to that, he has also brought his concerns up with Bill Carollo, the Big Ten Conference's supervisor of officials.

"All I can do is (go) through Bill Carollo," Bielema said. "Then he makes communications with (the ACC crew). He's done an outstanding job of that already.

"He really was positive about the crew that we are going to be getting. He knew (the referee), he knew him personally and says he's an excellent official. What I have done is I've proactively sent clips that I've seen on film, (asking) 'Hey, this concerns me. How is this going to be explained and interpreted?' "

Another thing Bielema has mentioned is the rule that if an offense substitutes, the defense must also be given time to substitute. That can be tricky because Oregon snaps the ball so quickly on offense.

"If they sub (on offense), the official has to stand over the ball and give you an opportunity to sub," UW defensive coordinator Chris Ash said.

Bielema's low point with officials came in UW's 25-24 loss to Michigan State in 2008, when he took a costly unsportsmanlike penalty for a comment he made to an official. The penalty helped swing momentum in the fourth quarter.

Since then, Bielema's sideline demeanor has improved greatly, and he has succeeded in getting his players to cut down drastically on penalties.

UW was the least-penalized team in the nation last season, averaging 3.15 per game (and 30.7 yards). But it didn't pay off in the 21-19 loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers were penalized six times for 41 yards, while TCU had four for 20.

This year, UW ranks No. 32 in penalties at 4.92, an average of 40.38 yards. Oregon is No. 103 at 7.23, an average of 65.69 yards.


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