Bret Bielema has instilled a contagious attitude in his team this year: work hard, be proud and play with class. Against its biggest rival, and playing for the coveted axe, Wisconsin displayed all three of those attitudes.
Bielema said that, following the hard-fought Minnesota contest, one of the game's referees even made the effort to let the coach know how impressed he was with the way Wisconsin players handled themselves.
In a rivalry that extends past the players on the field, and into the populations of both states, the Badgers maintained their composure against the Gophers, despite the continuous taunting from both Minnesota players and fans.
""I liked the demeanor our guys had... Maturity took a huge step forward [this week],"" Bielema said.
One of the most noted and replayed scenes of the game was that of Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker's touchdown celebration early in the game, in which he imitated holding an axe and taking a chop with it.
Wisconsin, however, took the high road in this game, waiting until they had actually won the axe to take its swings at the goal post.
Additionally, Wisconsin has kept its composure and humility despite its improving resume.
For the second week in a row, a Wisconsin player captured the award for the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, and this week, a Badger took home the defensive honor as well. Senior defensive end O'Brien Schofield captured the defensive award for his impressive display against Minnesota, while sophomore running back John Clay took home the offensive award.
Clay rushed 32 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns. He has averaged 116.4 yards per game while scoring seven times this season and leading a running attack that has averaged 217.2 yards per game. He also contributes to a Wisconsin offense averaging 35 points per contest. All four statistics lead the Big Ten.
The play of Clay has especially impressed Bielema, because of how the running back has rebounded since his dismal performance against Wofford, and his continued consistency and improvement since.
""Two weeks in a row, that's what I like,"" Bielema said.
This poise and class must continue for the Badgers as they head into Ohio State this weekend. The Badgers have only won seven times in Columbus, however, they have taken three of the last four contests at Ohio State.
Additionally, the Buckeyes are the only team in the Big Ten Bielema has never beaten, however, this personal pride will not interfere with his team's work ethic. The Badgers will hold their heads high as they march into Columbus, looking to win the respect of the rest of the country.
""I think our team likes to gain respect, not lose respect... Our guys are proud of the way they've played to this point,"" Bielema said.