Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Flu forced Wisconsin to shuffle schedule
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Wisconsin's double-overtime win against Fresno State last Saturday should qualify as one of the nation's most impressive victories, considering the circumstances.
The flu worked its way through the Badgers' locker room last week, and more than 40 players had symptoms at one point or another. The rash of illness forced Badgers head coach Bret Bielema to shorten practices and adjust players' weightlifting schedules during the week.
"The two things that they said would help us come back faster than anything would be proper hydration and food, and getting as much rest as possible," Bielema said. "So we did as much as we could to let our kids sleep in. Even on Thursday morning, we normally have some pretty early lifts, like 6 o'clock or 7:30 [a.m.]. We went ahead and canceled those and had those right before practice, in hopes that the kids would sleep in a little bit longer and get some rest before they went to class.
"I just had my strength coach in here and I said, 'Hey, we pulled out a double-overtime win. We obviously needed every ounce of energy we had. Maybe that difference was letting them sleep in on that Thursday morning.'"
Few college students would turn down extra sleep, and the Badgers found enough fight to rally past Fresno State. Bielema and his assistants didn't know who would be available from one day to the next, so they adopted a next-man-in philosophy that paid off.
The team's health has significantly improved, though two reserve players who had no symptoms last week got sick on Monday. Wisconsin will follow a similar plan this week as far as lifts, though Bielema expects to put players through full-length practices again.
"It was challenging," Bielema said of the ordeal, "and that's why it made that win that much more rewarding."