Clay responds to Wofford game with 32 carries; many students still miss kickoff

first_imgSophomore running back John Clay led the team in carries despite starting the game on the bench.[/media-credit]Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema likes to say it’s not the mistakes you make, but how you respond that’s important.After fumbling three times against FCS opponent Wofford in his first game as a starter last Saturday, running back John Clay certainly had his share of miscues to atone for.Unfortunately for Michigan State, the sophomore’s response thundered loud and clear throughout Camp Randall.“Just no flinch,” Bielema said of Clay during practice last week. “And John knew he had to get it right and he knew the only person that was going to do that was him. So he went through it and didn’t put the ball on the ground during practice all week.”Clay finished the game with 32 carries for 142 yards — a workmanlike 4.4 yards per carry — and one touchdown. Just as importantly though, Clay kept the ball off the ground despite a career high in touches.“I think I said it in my Monday presser, through 15 games he fumbled the ball four times,” Bielema said. “It wasn’t like a thing that was a big issue in the past. I thought he just handled the week and you can see, when he gets those knees driving and those forearms on the ball, coaches really like to see that.”“I just had to make sure that I had the ball high and tight,” Clay added. “You know, keeping it tight and not being loose with it and being relaxed with it.”Although he didn’t start the game, Clay received the majority of the carries after starter Zach Brown lost a fumble in the beginning of the second half. Brown finished the game with 11 touches for a mere 18 yards and the use of Clay as the primary back was a departure from the strategy of the first three games.“I felt good and it didn’t feel like I had 30 carries out there,” Clay said. “My offensive line was doing a great job pushing guys out of the way, and it seemed like I was getting five yards a pop. We saw the defense was wearing down and that is when we took advantage of it.”Although Clay was the feature back Saturday, it remains unclear who will start this week against Minnesota. Of course, with Clay producing the way he has off the bench for two seasons, the running back on the field for the first play of the game may not matter much.“If it’s because he doesn’t have to start then he can come off the bench,” Bielema said of Clay’s success. “He can go in the second play as far as I’m concerned. He has grown as a person, and he’s into only his second year of playing.”Clay answered the question about starting with the usual athlete response.“It really doesn’t matter to me,” Clay said. “The coaches are going to do whatever they want to and when I get in there I just have to make the most of my opportunities and convert as much as I can.”Student section still not filledIn preparation for Big Ten play, Bielema e-mailed the student body last week requesting they pack the stands before kickoff.Despite Bielema’s attempts to have the student section full by kickoff, sections ‘J’ through ‘P’ were at typical half capacity at kickoff, with the entire north end zone not filling in until the second quarter. When asked about the student section, Bielema remained upbeat and hopeful for future games.“I put a special plea out there at the end before entering Big Ten play to get the fans excited, to get the kids excited and to get the student section. I know it wasn’t full, but hopefully we can keep making steps in the right direction.”last_img