Inside the Locker Room: Tennessee Tech

Following No.21 Wisconsin's 48-0 win over Tennessee Tech Saturday, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen and selected players addressed the media.

Wisconsin Football

Chris Borland -

Melvin Gordon -

Darius Hillary -

Conor O'Neill -

Dezmen Southward -

Joel Stave -

Gary Andersen transcript

ANDERSEN: As always, it's great to win. Never going to stop saying it. Football games are hard to win, and I'm proud of the kids. They were prepared. They were ready to play again. Their preparation was good this week. Especially when you talk about the start of school, there's some possible distractions.

And I also want to say I think our scout teams have done a tremendous job. There's another 35, 40 plus young men that are out there on the sidelines with us on those days, but their game days are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and they're putting their heart and soul into it. So I'm proud of those kids. It's obviously making us better and giving us a chance to execute at a high level. Those kids never get noticed.

Overall, positives, defense ran to the ball. We were worried coming into this game and getting speed in the space with an athletic quarterback. They had some athletic kids. I thought we tackled well. We ate up the grass when we needed to and gave us an opportunity to swarm the football.

The first play kind of set the tone with the big hit on the reception and picked up the fumble. That was a positive. I thought the defense overall was solid all day long.

Offensively, the highlight that comes to me and we've got to see more of it is the two minute drill. That was huge for us to be backed up, get out from being backed up, number one, and number two, then continue down the field and execute at a high level on the two minute drill. That's difficult to do. We were able to get that done.

So on the flip side of that, we ran the ball extremely well, and, again, we showed that we can we have three very good backs, very good offensive linemen. Nine of those kids got to play today. Our tight ends blocked well. And our ability to pitch it and catch it, not very good stuff. We have to improve in the throwing game. If we don't, it's going to bite us here pretty quick.

Special teams, kickoff team drastically improved. You saw some new faces. They seemed to have a little identity about themselves today and an excitement to play.

I thought the kickoff return team, limited opportunity, was kind of a nonfactor. Punt was kind of a nonfactor. Punt return, had some nice returns, got ourselves moving down the field. Had a couple penalties that we've got to take a long, hard look at and make sure that we're putting the kids in the right position, coaching it right.

I can't see to see if I look at the call, just educate our kids on those are big plays and we've got to try to stop that, the hold on the sidelines and obviously the push in the back on the punt return. So fairly clean overall. But we got plenty to work on, trust me. And our kicking needs to improve.

QUESTION: Gary, you weren't born the last time this program had back to back shutouts (1958). What did you learn about this defense today that maybe you didn't know about it going into the game?

ANDERSEN: Gee, it was only 30 years ago that happened then?

No, it was they prepared great both times. Again, it's going to get tougher, we all know that. All you can do is play the people that are in front of you.

I thought Tennessee Tech gave us a bunch of different looks and different things we needed to be prepared for. We handled it, and so did UMass. The bottom line is we handled it both times.

It's a great opportunity. It's hard to shut people out. Proud of the kids. They should be excited about that because, again, that's hard to do. It's very difficult to get that done.

QUESTION: Gary, you mentioned the kickers. Has Kyle French put himself in a precarious situation with not seeing the ball as well as he used to?

ANDERSEN: Yeah, we're just I kind of feel the same way I felt about the kickoff team, I would say, a week ago. It's just not crisp. We've got to continue to improve. It all starts with me. I'm not pointing fingers at any kid. I'm not pointing a finger at any assistant coaches. I've got to find a way to help him and get him where he needs to be, and sometimes the best way to help people is to create competition.

So that's what we'll do. There will be a competitive effort to see where it goes through the week, and we'll continue to work with both young men. We just need to progress. We've got to get better. We're going to get in a position where we're going to have to make those kicks.

A lot of PATs today and the field goal try, but most of the PATs, it's just not that clean sound of the kick and everything that comes with it to me. So we're going to work at it.

QUESTION: There was a stretch where Joel completed 13 straight passes after he threw the interception. Do you feel like you have to live with some of those ups and downs with a young quarterback?

ANDERSEN: No question. There's going to be any young player, you're going to live with ups and downs. It's just magnified when you're at the quarterback position. Joel is coming around.

I will say this. There were times where the leadership appeared to be even better today than it has been throughout camp and last game. I was proud to see that.

He made a mistake and threw the ball in the wrong spot. It's the ones where they're wide open. We've got to get some of those cleaned up.

He's moving in the right direction. We've got a good crew of quarterbacks over there that work well together, and I think the passing game will continue to expand as we move forward.

QUESTION: What have you learned about this team in two games, and how do you factor it or weigh it against the competition level?

ANDERSEN: Well, yeah, like I said, where we've challenged them to get better, I believe we have for the most part. That's always a good sign. They appear to like to play the game of football, and I would almost say love to play the game of football for the most part, which is great to see.

Young kids are obviously paying attention when you see an opportunity for them to walk out and play on a Saturday first reps, and they can execute and actually communicate and make plays and do some good things on the offense and defensive side.

So I know it's a very powerful senior class. It means a lot to these kids. Wisconsin football, Badger nation means a lot to that senior class and the rest of the kids on the team.

They are a powerful group of young men, and I think we're all bought in as a family at this point. It's never perfect. But we prepare like crazy, and I think we're all on the same we're all in the same boat right now, which is great to see.

QUESTION: Gary, you touched on it briefly, but the two minute drive that you guys had before the first half, can you just talk about what it meant for you guys to have that kind of drive, execute the way you did. I know you spent a lot of time on that during fall camp.

ANDERSEN: Yeah, our defense throws a lot of different looks at you during the two minute drill. We did it a couple times again this last week. Again, I would just say that was a big step for our offense, for the confidence of the kids in the huddle, for the quarterback, for the coordinator, for myself. When you can go down and execute that, it's great to see.

There was a lot of people involved in that two minute drive too, which was nice. There wasn't panic on the sidelines. We had three time outs left, which always helps when you're in those situations, because you kind of can play at a little different pace when you know you have those in your pocket.

But there was a calming feel in the two minute drill, which is nice to see as an offense.

QUESTION: You mentioned Joel, leadership, but is it tough to gauge his game management considering the opponent and how you guys have blown out two teams in the last two games?

ANDERSEN: Well, I think early, it's not. When the game is in balance, you try to really critique that harder than anything, and the way he adjusts in the game and makes some adjustments. He seems very calm on the headsets. Curt gives him good, valuable information. Obviously, Coach Ludwig has given him a lot of good, valuable information.

I think he's grown in two games, but we're really not going to know how much he's grown until we continue to move forward. I'm proud of the progress. I'm not a patient guy, and maybe that's why I was a lineman, and maybe that's why I was a defensive guy. I have a hard time being patient sometimes. So I need to take a step back, and I tell myself to zip my lip sometimes and just let the quarterback coach and the offensive coordinator handle it.

QUESTION: The opportunity in the last two games to see a lot of your defense, see a lot of personnel. Have you seen a lot of drop off? Is there a great deal of drop off from your ones to your twos? One would think with two shutouts that you've had an opportunity to gauge that.

ANDERSEN: By position on the front seven, the defensive line to two outside linebackers, the D line is very solid two deep, and you can see that because they're "or" on the two deep, and those kids are all going to play. I feel very good about that.

It was good to see the outside linebackers get out there, to see Joe (Schobert) and (Vince) Biegel get out and play today. We'll have to evaluate that. Are they playing like Ethan (Armstrong) and B.K. (Brendan Kelly)? No. But I think they've pushed the level of play up.

Chris Borland is one of a kind. I've said that a million times, and I always take the opportunity to say he's the best linebacker in the country, in my opinion. So there's a major drop off if he's not in there.

But Ethan had the opportunity to – (Derek) Landisch, in his situation, Ethan came back in, learns the defense. The back end of the defense with the young corners, three or four corners I feel good about. After that, there's a drop off.

And the safeties have battled like crazy. The third and fourth safety is up in the air. There were some kids that came in there today and got their first reps at safety, and they're fighting for special teams spots to get on the plane to go to Arizona State, with that youth at that safety position.

QUESTION: Melvin Gordon scored on a 37 yard touchdown. I don't know if you think it's easy or not, but you guys switched every position except for center. Is that easy to do, to pull off, or how do you play?

ANDERSEN: No, not easy to do at all. Again, that's the identity that I hope these kids are getting is we only need the guys we got because that's all we've got. They've done a great job of doing that.

To be able to flip flop that fast they practice like that. It's not like we don't take five minutes to practice and work on moving in and out of who's going to be in the game. They know who's going to be up next, and it was a simple, clean, easy procedure and away they went.

I don't know if he blew a shoe or didn't tie it right or what it was. I was glad to see the play went away from him instead of coming at him without a shoe on. That was a good job by the O line.

QUESTION: When you made the quarterback change in the fourth quarter, another situation where Curt (Phillips) let Bart (Houston) fill in?

ANDERSEN: No, there was no conversation at all between Curt and I on that, and I don't think there really needed to be. I have no question in my mind that Curt is game ready. He'll come in when we need him, which at some point, I'm sure it's going to happen. We'll get us to a spot where he'll walk in there and be ready to play.

Those reps are just valuable for Bart. I think he threw a couple passes, one or two, and it's great for him to do that. And just get all the run checks. Our run game is so much checked at the line of scrimmage, those are valuable reps for him.

QUESTION: Coach, considering the outcome, are the red helmets going to make another appearance again this season?

ANDERSEN: Yeah, absolutely. We'll let the kids be involved in that and break them out on the road, I'm sure, at some point and wear them a couple more times. I'm excited about that. I thought it was a good look today.

QUESTION: What stood out about Derek Straus today?

ANDERSEN: What stood out is, I guess, what kind of didn't stand out. He did a good job. It was he obviously was doing his job at run game. He was moving around very well.

They were very aggressive on the way they were attacking us early in the run game with the all the backs going low and doing some things, which is that's fine. That's football. But I thought he was solid.

The one time I think he wanted the ball on the 1, and ended up throwing it to Abby (Jared Abbrederis). So it was a good opportunity for him, and it's another example of a young man that had prepared himself throughout camp and worked hard to get in the moment and took advantage of it.

QUESTION: Gary, you mentioned the three backs, but Gordon was out for a long time. Is he a little bit dinged? Did you have to hold him out?

ANDERSEN: No. There was nothing for me to believe that Melvin had anything wrong with him. He was ready to go. I think that James (White) has been here for so long, that substitution going through there it is his senior year.

I told Corey (Clement) on the 1, if it gets within the 5 yard line and you've been in there for a couple of snaps and the game is still in the balance, you can bet that Coach Hammock is probably going to put James back in there and let him get his touchdown. He's probably had that happen to him a few times in his career. They seemed all happy and healthy in the locker room.

QUESTION: Gary, what is the ceiling for this backfield?

ANDERSEN: Who knows? I hope greatness. They played very well for two games. If we can stay healthy up front and the tight ends can continue to do what they're doing, they all have vision. They are different. They complement each other. So we'll see as it moves forward.

I'm just proud of the way they've handled it. We won two games now. There's a lot of football out there to be played. We'll see how we're talking in a few weeks. They take a lot of pride in running the football, so does the whole offense.

QUESTION: Gary, you talked a couple times last week about how the offense has to clean certain things up moving forward to probably get to where they need to be against better competition. How do you evaluate the defense that way based on what you've seen and where you think they can go?

ANDERSEN: I think one thing is we're going to get stressed down the field. The ball is going to be downfield the next game for sure, and that's going to be something we haven't seen a lot of. So we've reacted well when it's happened, and our coverage today down the field was pretty good.

Even when they caught the ball, I thought we were rallying and tackling physically, and there wasn't a lot of yards after the catch. So that's still a young secondary that's going to be challenged as we move forward. So that was one thing that we could try our best to create at practice.

That's why we split practice and go to the indoor so we can throw the ball down the field as far as we need to. That's going to be a big question as we move forward with the defense.

QUESTION: Gary, your team hasn't faced much adversity the first two games. Does that concern you heading into a tough road game?

ANDERSEN: No. I'd prefer to win going away every single time and deal with adversity when it comes our way. We talk about adversity all the time. It's something we believe we're prepared for. How we're going to handle it when it comes our way, we'll see.

But there will be there's always going to be adversity. I think the key is to understand that there will be, and it doesn't matter what happens to us. We talk about it all the time, just being steady. No matter how good it is, no matter how bad it is, no matter what happens, you just got to stay steady.

This is a competitive, tough, hard nosed game that you are going to be faced with adversity, and how you react in those moments will probably be the telltale sign of everybody's season in college football.

QUESTION: Gary, Clement had a long touchdown run. Did you see A.J. (Jordan)?

ANDERSEN: Unbelievable effort.

QUESTION: I was going to say are you going to highlight that?

ANDERSEN: Absolutely. I told him that already. That will be a highlight. When you see kids play with that intensity and that want to go help a teammate especially.

A.J. has battled. A.J. was involved with special teams today. I saw him on a couple of those special teams. He was involved in that moment there. It's good to see him do some things in a positive way because he's worked hard.

QUESTION: You used Jared Abbrederis on punt returns. You used him once today. What's your feeling going forward with that? Are you going to let him continue to return punts, or is that Kenzel's (Doe) job?

ANDERSEN: Jared is really the guy that will go in during safe situations. I feel very good about them both catching, but Jared had caught so few that we wanted to at least get him a little bit in a game situation. But that was a safe situation.

I wish he'd have raised his hand in the air and just dealt with it at that point, but he's so competitive, he wants to use every opportunity to get a yard if he can. But I feel very good about both of them catching punts wherever they are.

QUESTION: Coach, has Conor O'Neill been one of those guys who's seizing opportunities? He hasn't gotten many snaps. He's been mainly a special teams guy for a lot of years.

ANDERSEN: Yeah, Conor is. He did that in spring. He did that at camp. He wrapped his arms around a new scheme. He's a smart young man. It's really good for us because, with Landisch and O'Neill, it gives you three inside linebackers, and then Trotter being the fourth. And then Ethan kind of being the fourth/fifth. So that's where we're at.

But to have him come in today and play the way he did, he's waited a long time for that opportunity, and he took advantage of it.

QUESTION: Has there been any update on Derek Landisch as far as his injury and when he'll be back maybe?

ANDERSEN: I would suspect sooner than later, but it's kind of day by day. I would think since Thursday, when we walked off the practice field, until Monday, he'll have some big improvements. But it's still a ways away.

QUESTION: Just one last thing on Stave. When you look back on this game, what will be more notable, the interception or the way he responded to it with the 13 streak?

ANDERSEN: I would say definitely the way he responded to it, without question, because he did respond. At quarterback, you're going to throw a pick. You're going to make a bad decision. It's going to happen. It's part of the process.

I think the challenge is that you just can't use the youth card. You can't just say, well, he's young, so that's okay because it's not. It's not okay for anybody to make mistakes.

But for him to bounce back and kind of let it roll off his back, it's kind of like a corner. They catch a ball, catch a fade ball on you or a touchdown, whatever it may be, you've got to go on and play again.

For him to be able to stand up and do that and for his teammates to look him in the eye and say, okay, let's go, let's get this thing done, it's a big moment, and I hope it plays out that way to be a big moment as we go through the rest of the season.

QUESTION: Coach, I know this fall was a little colder probably than you might have liked heading into Arizona next week. What did you think of the guys' conditioning in sort of hot weather situations?

ANDERSEN: We've had limited game reps in some certain spots, especially with the defensive linemen. The offensive linemen have not really had limited game reps. I feel good about them and the offense moving in because they've had some long drives and ground people out, so I feel good about that. The defense has had a few more subs on the front. Corners seem to be in good shape. Safeties, the same.

I suspect it's going to be 95 degrees or so, and the sun's going to be down. I don't expect the heat to be a factor.

QUESTION: Gary, was it your perception that Tech was going to provide greater challenges to your defense than your first game?

ANDERSEN: We just worry so much about the spread. They have some talented kids. If you watched that game last week, they have some bursts of speed that were really scary. I suspect you're going to see that as they move through the season.

So our ability to get off blocks and replace the blocks and kind of eat up the grass was the difference in kind of their option game and the read zone.

So, yeah, I was surprised in a good way with the way we ran the football and tackled as good as we did.

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