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November 3, 2011MADISON - Having covered Montee Ball for the entirety of his Wisconsin playing career, it's fair to say he's not a player that shows much emotion during media interviews.
He's always succinct and to the point. It's not as though he won't crack a smile here or there, but for the most part he's all business. So knowing him, and knowing how much he craves competition, it's a little out of the ordinary that he would make a drastic change to his appearance.
"Did you see him with his haircut," UW head coach Bret Bielema asked during his normal Thursday meeting with the press. "He's bald now. I didn't even know who was standing there the other day. I had to ask 'Who's that?' and they told me it's Montee.
"Oh my goodness."
Ball, fresh off a somewhat strugglesome 85-yard performance at Ohio State, is always looking to improve his ability on the field. The same drive and determination that helped him drop 15-20 pounds in the offseason is forcing him to readjust everything he does now that UW is mired in a two-game slump.
Apparently that edge includes cutting his hair.
"I asked our guys to have an edge," Bielema said. "To respond with the right mechanisms and do things the right way.
"He's got a bald head. He said it was a razor accident."
More crowd noise:
Each of the past two weeks the Wisconsin football team has practiced with crowd noise blaring throughout the stadium. The effort was to simulate what the squad would encounter away from Camp Randall, in hostile territory.
Though they team is returning home for the first time in three Saturday's, the crowd noise is still just a prevalent in practice as it had been the past two weeks.
"It was more for the defense," Bielema said. "At times Purdue goes fast tempo. Of course our fans, when we're on defense, want to be loud. We kind of just do it for communication.
"We usually just do it for a period or two during defensive prep every time we have a home game."
Considering communication breakdowns are to blame for last week's loss at Ohio State, particularly on the Buckeye's final 40-yard touchdown pitch and catch, it's apparent the coaching staff is covering all its bases this week in practice.
Though they're attempting to exorcise the demons that have plagued it each of the past two weeks, Bielema is still somewhat weary of the fact his team could come out sluggish against Purdue.
It has happened in the past.
"We all know about the Purdue game last year," Bielema said. "We went over there and we were down at half. Purdue has really good skill. They've got gimmicks and they've got tricks. They try to have a couple of those things early on.
"I think with our guys, just like they responded in the fourth quarter (last week) is how they'll respond for this game."
-Louis Nzegwu was dinged up a week ago at Ohio State. According to Bielema he is ready to go for Saturday's game.
-The only injury that has lingered throughout the week has to do with Ethan Armstrong and his recovery from hand surgery. Armstrong originally suffered the injury during the Indiana game a few weeks back.
He opted to play through the pain each of the past two weeks at Michigan State and at Ohio State. Following those games, though, the sophomore linebacker opted for surgery to fix whatever ligament issue he had.
"He had surgery Monday morning," Bielema said. "Tuesday he was a little bit limited, but he was fine yesterday and today (Thursday). It's actually the same club he's been wearing. It was a ligament that got attached. It didn't have to be done right then.
"He wanted to wait until after those two games to get it done."
-Senior linebacker Kevin Claxton was limited throughout the week but he will play Saturday.
-Bielema on the expectations he has for his punt team this week:
"Just like the offense, defense and special teams, any miscues we've had over the past two weeks hopefully we've corrected and moved forward. I know we're going to get attacked and stressed in that same area so we've been really repping it."
Bielma on the way his offensive line has bounced back this week in practice:
"I think that particular group in general takes a lot of pride in how they play. When they turned on that film last Sunday they probably weren't happy with what they saw. The fortunate thing is we get a chance to go out there this week and rectify it."