Audio: Badgers Back on the Road for Primetime

Back in the national polls after beating then-No.19 Northwestern, 35-6, on Saturday, No.25 Wisconsin prepares for its third primetime road game of the season this weekend at Illinois. Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen addresses the media on Monday.

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Wisconsin Football

Gary Andersen 1 -

Gary Andersen 2 -

Gary Andersen 3 -


ANDERSEN: Back to Saturday, it was a tremendous victory, a team victory for the kids. All three phases, offense, defense, special teams played a significant role. The effort was awesome. We were able to feed off a tremendous crowd, and it did make a big difference in the game without question.

Unbelievable Homecoming environment. So I'm proud of the kids. It was a great victory for us. We need to move on and get into the Illinois prep.

Watching film on (Illinois) initially, it's an offense that gives you a lot of looks and causes you some problems with matchups. Obviously, it's a want to on the offensive staff to try to create mismatches, matchup issues for you pre snap, and they do a good job with that.

Lots of personnel groups. My guess is there's probably five to seven personnel groups as you go through each game and look at it to see different kids on the field, and they have a lot of different offense, very talented quarterback (Nathan Scheelhaase), who, by the way, is a tremendous young man. I had an opportunity to spend a little time with him during the media days. He's a great kid. He's a good person.

Defensively, they've got some new guys over there. Haven't watched so much film on them yet, but obviously the offensive staff is studying and breaking down that film and see where that goes off. Get a little bit more of a report on that as we move forward.

The challenge for us is to take care of us, which it is always on Mondays. Get this film learned, get it behind us, and continue preparations with a short practice today and then move onward tomorrow.

We're looking forward to it. It's a night game. So we'll use every minute to recover and get ready to go play again.

QUESTION: Gary, I think their offensive staff made a concerted effort to tell their quarterback you don't have to run as much. Looks like they don't have as many designed runs for Scheelhaase as they have in the past. Can he still hurt you scrambling if the play breaks down?

ANDERSEN: I think he absolutely can. He's got good feet and appears to have good speed. In the past, he's done a very good job with that, and he's broken out a few times this year. I agree with you.

They want him to control the offense a little bit more and stay in there and do what he does, but he's a very athletic kid, and he has the ability to hurt you with his feet, no question.

QUESTION: You know, the guys all last week, the defensive guys, talked about how they were excited about the defensive game plan and that they thought that Dave (Aranda) was comfortable doing more things with them. It looked like Andy (Ludwig), coming off, had some new wrinkles or things he hadn't used as much before. Is that a question or just an issue of him getting more comfortable with his personnel now, like throwing to (Melvin) Gordon out on the flat and then you had a screen where you faked left and threw back right to (Corey) Clement? Has he just been able to do more things?

ANDERSEN: I just think the playbook is able to grow a little bit. The challenge every single year, my belief, and it's important for the coordinators to continually understand that and I know it's their belief also is to use the best 11 kids. That doesn't necessarily mean just on that side of the football. It's by package.

And then you build from there the play selection that you have to put the ball in the kids' hands or do what you do best, whether it's through the run game or the throw game or use your best kids.

The third part of that is the playbook is ever growing. It is year one. You've got to have a foundation and a base offense before you continue to build on that, and I know they build on it every single week where you've got the wildcat stuff in now. We'll be seeing a little bit more on that.

Obviously, we weren't prepared to run it correctly with what took place. So we'll have to hone in on that a little bit more, but I think that will be something that will definitely help us as we move forward.

Saw a little bit of pace out of the offense. (It's) the coaches doing a good job and coaching the kids the right way. We'll continue to hopefully move in that direction with a few of them.

QUESTION: After getting a chance to review the game on Saturday, how good was the defensive effort, and how good do you think they can be based on what you saw?

ANDERSEN: I'll tell you this, sit back, I always look at effort. This defense had great effort all year long. There was some extra effort plays in that game that just jump out at you.

There was (Vince) Biegel's sack and the effort on that play, and it's impressive. It's not like he's not blocked. I mean, he picks up an offensive lineman and walks it back into the quarterback and sacks the quarterback.

There were three or four of those plays from an effort standpoint that were unusual efforts is what I would call them, and those are special to see.

It's a very good defense. They handled themselves well. I think they're adjusting to the amount of packages and really understand that there's not 11 starters on this defense. There's up to really 15 or 16 starters, if you will, and those kids need to understand that.

They are important to the defensive scheme just because they're not playing 70 reps or whatever it may be. They may be playing 10. But they are a starter in a certain package. I think they can be very good. It's week by week. It's opponent by opponent. Matchup on matchup.

But they've been solid. They've been steady. I thought they tackled well in this last game. Their expectations appear to be rising. They're practicing well. So we'll see how good they can be.

I don't know, but I hope they can keep playing like that, like they did last week because they were overwhelming, against what I still think is a very talented offense.

QUESTION: The Illini haven't had much success in the Big Ten recently, haven't won a conference game in the last couple of years. Do you feel that's something you need to address with your guys, or are you confident you're not reading into that at all?

ANDERSEN: I would sure hope not. We talk about it all the time, respecting our opponents and understanding it's the next team on the schedule is exactly where we're at. I don't feel that at all. I've seen the kids walk around the facility today. Again, I don't see them on Sunday. But I did see quite a few of them this morning in the morning meetings with the coaches. The kids seem to be focused and moving in the right direction.

So, again, it's all about you, especially early in the week, as far as reloading, getting ourselves back physically, getting ourselves mentally refocused. We'll respect our opponent. In this case, it's definitely Illinois, who I know I have great respect for them, and I'm sure our kids will, too.

QUESTION: Big Ten road night game, are you okay with that? Do you have any say over it?

ANDERSEN: No, no say at all. I think it's just gauged off of TV and maybe some places as far as they schedule a night game. I don't really know that. The games fall where they fall, just like the byes fall where they fall, and we just line up and play them.

It doesn't really bother me. I'm used to the abnormal schedules. That's kind of what I grew up in for the last 15 years. You might play on Tuesday. You might play on Thursday. You might play on this and that.

The traditional Saturday mid-afternoon kickoff is wonderful. I love that. Trust me, I do, but I think we can adjust easily. It's a night game. I'm sure it will be a fun setting. We'll get out of here a little bit later.

It does allow our kids to be able to go to school on Friday morning. I like that part of it because we can leave later in the day. It's a simple flight over there. Go to school, do all our stuff before we leave, get on the plane, and have a good evening together and have a long Saturday and then go play. It is what it is.

QUESTION: Gary, after the Ohio State loss, you talk about how their punter had done a nice job pinning you guys down. Saturday wasn't a one possession game, but did Drew Meyer give you what you might need in a tight game at some point?

ANDERSEN: That's a great view on that game. It was big. He flopped the field position, and it wasn't quite as dramatic as it was on the negative side for us at Ohio State, but it sure was a big factor.

They started at their 11, the 9, I think the 5 or 6 one time, and inside the 20 numerous times and did a great job of getting the ball up. I thought we covered down well on those two. He was definitely a weapon.

That's what we've got to get out of that kicking game is to have those kids execute at the moment and consistently execute. That's exactly what Drew did. He did a nice job. It was a big part of the football game.

QUESTION: Coach, speaking of the kicking game, is it a competition this week at kicker? Or is Jack your guy going into Illinois?

ANDERSEN: Jack (Russell) will kick at the beginning going into Illinois. We'll see. We'll have some other kids kicking out there and see what the situation is.

It's a tough part of the deal. It's a hard situation. We just need to make the best of it for the football team and make sure that we deal with all the kids that are involved in the scenario.

As all changes in positions, we're not going to put up a billboard and say this is the guy that's doing this or this is the guy that's doing that. I just don't believe in that.

We have a new left guard this week. We're not going to make a big deal of that either. We'll kick it, but Jack deserves an opportunity. We'll see how he handles it during practice, and we'll go from there.

QUESTION: After the game, you sounded hopeful that Jared (Abbrederis) would be able to return and play this week. Do you still have that optimism? What did you like in the receivers the way they handled that situation?

ANDERSEN: I am hopeful, and I feel good about that. We'll know more in the next 48 hours. If Jared has the opportunity, he'll go. So I feel good.

The receivers, we moved the pressure off of Jared. It was we'll make good plays because you've got to do it now. I was happy, not just in that two hour time frame, but the way they've progressed the last few weeks and the way they're moving forward.

I think they understand the scheme and they've improved in all areas route running, their ability to catch the contested ball, the tough ball. Their blocking has always been tremendous. I think that Coach (Chris) Beatty, Coach Lud (Ludwig), all those working in unison with the receivers have really made improvements. I'm proud of that crew of kids.

It's definitely important to them, which it's great to see. There's been enough said about them. There's Jared and then the rest of them. Now I feel they deserve to get the recognition in a very positive way, and it's moving in their direction. Now they've just got to keep it up. Good crew. I'm glad I can say that.

QUESTION: Gary, obviously, Northwestern had a really good defensive lineman in Tyler Scott, who was pretty quiet in the game. What did you see out of the matchup with Rob Havenstein? He really moved around a lot. How do you think Havenstein has played overall?

ANDERSEN: I think he's played really well, consistent. That's what I would say about his play every single week, and I'd say that in practice, I'd say that in the weight room, and I'd say that in the meeting room.

I walk through here on Sunday, and there they are sitting there watching tape, that crew of offensive linemen by themselves, and they're just in there evaluating the tape.

I think Rob's done a great job. He's been physical in the run game. He's been technically working on continually becoming the pass setter that he wants. He wants to be a tremendous player in the run game and in the pass game. The way he's been consistent is very, very impressive.

So I like where he's at. He's a big part of that offensive crew.

QUESTION: Gary, you knew coming in here that you were going to have a couple of pretty good running backs as the future of this offense. Have Melvin (Gordon) and James (White) and Corey (Clement) and rest of those guys, have they met your expectations to this point in the season, or have they exceeded them?

ANDERSEN: To this point in the season, I thought they were very special players. And as a trio, I would say they're better than advertised in my mind, which I expected them to be. They're very, very good. Now we just need that to carry on.

If there's three kids you can probably say that about them and they won't let it go to their head, it's those three. I'll expect them to keep playing at a very high level because that's what they expect out of themselves.

QUESTION: Gary, two part question. Have you ever had a ballot for the coaches' poll, and is there any angst for you looking at the coaches' poll and not seeing Wisconsin in the top 25?

ANDERSEN: I don't look at the coaches' poll. I just don't do that stuff. I try to stay away from all that stuff I can. I couldn't tell you if we were in or out of it.

Does that bother me? No. We just need to worry about ourselves. We fall where we fall.

As far as have I been on that? Yeah, twice I was. It is what it is. I was hopeful this year I wouldn't have to be on it, especially the first year, and I was given the opportunity to not be on it this year. It was good for me.

It does take a lot of time. You put the time into it that you need to after a game to make it be right, it takes a lot of time.

But it is what it is. I don't really care where we're at in the polls. It's nice to be ranked for the kids and for the university, but does it change the way I look at the day? No.

QUESTION: I know you've been asked about Tanner McEvoy a lot, but it is a pretty remarkable story. If you look back to when you moved him to safety, would you have ever thought you would get this much out of him at that time, or what did you think you could get out of him?

ANDERSEN: I really didn't know, but I just didn't want to get a wasted year. When I say ‘I,' I don't really mean that. I mean us as a football program. We just didn't want to waste a year with a broken hand if we didn't have to at the quarterback position. It was impossible.

You get him back four games left in the season, and even if he was going to be a quarterback, what's he going to do? It's just going to be wasted time. You talk about, well, maybe some wildcat stuff or whatever, but it's still just a waste of time for him.

Receiver was moving along, making strides, and obviously, it's hard to catch with a cast on. The move was really the last opportunity for him to have some success. The key was Tanner accepting it. That's what it's all about.

That's why, in my mind, it is such a great story. I agree with you. It is a tremendous story. It's another story on this football team of unselfishness and care factor and want to for the kids on the team and University of Wisconsin because that's what Tanner has. He could have easily gone into a shell, and said ‘Woe is me,' and ‘Why has this happened to me,' and everything else that could come with it that you see a lot in sports, period. He had none of it.

He's a smart kid. That's not an easy position to play. Mentally, to go over there and grasp it as quick as he has and be able to get into a game like Northwestern with all that offense to be able to deal with is a true credit to the kid and a true credit to his position coach, Bill Busch, for getting him ready.

The care factor of both of them is really high, just like when I talk about the improvement that the wide receivers have made, the care factor of the wide receivers and the care factor of Coach (Chris) Beatty and that position crew is high. That's why they're getting better.

QUESTION: Sticking with Tanner, does him getting more reps at safety kind of change what you can do with Mike Caputo? What is his role moving forward?

ANDERSEN: Mike (Caputo) has moved in to play the F linebacker position. You saw that moving forward a couple weeks ago. It's just an attempt to get more skill on the field and be able to run better as a defense, which we need and we're going to need it again this week.

Certain packages, you'll see him possibly get back to more safety stuff this week as Illinois has those packages we talked about earlier.

Michael coming down against the spread team puts another a better athlete into the field as a whatever you want to call him, a down safety or an outside linebacker.

It gives the ability for B.K. (Brendan Kelly), Ethan Armstrong, those kids to go in and be move involved in the box in the pass rushing and then be protected by the boundary in their pass drops, which takes a third of the field that they're covering now instead of having to cover two thirds of the field if they're matched up into the field all the time.

QUESTION: Because he's from the part of the state that I cover, can you comment on Sam Arneson and his role within the tight end crew right now.

ANDERSEN: Sam's done a very good job. I think his skills at catching, we all know, are tremendous. His ability to be involved in the offense in a blocking area has really improved. So he's done a nice job.

He's a big part of us. All those tight ends, as you guys see, are a vital part of this offense. There's more to come. I think the next chapter of the tight ends moving forward in this offense in the next six regular season games is going to be more big plays than there has been, I believe, as we move forward. He'll be a big part of that.

QUESTION: Going into the fall camp, you had some questions about the offensive line, the depth of it, the health of it. How has their play, especially lately, changed that, eased your concerns? They're all giving you confidence in there.

ANDERSEN: It's nice to sit there right now. We still say we've got seven solid kids and potentially an eighth guy, as we walk through there, that we feel pretty good about. I think the progress of those kids has been good.

They're a tightly knit group. Again, I say I walk by on Sunday, and they're sitting there watching film. They don't have to do that. But their care factor, their want to, they're bought into it, it's important to them. They're very physical. They play four quarters the right way. They're far from perfect, which each and every one of us are.

But they have stayed healthy, and I think they're practicing well. I think they're taking care of their bodies. I see them doing things prehab wise. Rehab wise, some of those offensive linemen, sometimes we do a recovery deal now. We started it three weeks ago. Coach (Evan) Simon implemented it. It's a great idea. We do it on Fridays now.

As an O-lineman I would have been like, ‘Whatever, that's for skill guys, I'm going to go over and do whatever, eat another steak.' But those kids don't do that. They buy into it. They're excited about it. They're taking care of their bodies, which in turn is keeping them on the field.

And practicing smart, that's again, I put that right on me to practice the right way every single day. I think I'm doing a decent job in that area, but the coaches are also splitting up the reps.

QUESTION: Coach, considering how those two road games have unfolded this year, do you get a sense there's an extra motivation amongst your guys this week to get that first road win?

ANDERSEN: I hope so. There is in myself, and I know the coaches, as we get around these kids more, I'm sure it's going to be there. To be a good team and have any chance at all to talk to yourself at the end of the year about being a great team, you have to win on the road, and you've got to be able to find a way to get that done. It hasn't happened yet.

We have one still in overtime. We had one we lost. We'll go see if we can get a victory this time on the road against a quality opponent. It will be a great challenge. We need to win on the road.

QUESTION: You mentioned after the game playing two true freshmen cornerbacks in some of your secondary packages. Does that cause a coach any sleepless nights?

ANDERSEN: It's interesting, sure. Jakarrie (Washington) is really coming around on special teams. If you watch him, the way he's running on special teams right now, he's starting to catch a second wind.

I'm extremely comfortable with Sojourn (Shelton) out there. He still has an issue every once in a while. He'll learn from it. Fortunately, the one in the last game didn't cost us. It looks so simple and easy on the board. It's not. We've got to coach him better and give him an opportunity.

But it's great when I look forward into the future, and when we start looking at our recruiting board and we see some of the kids that potentially we could bring in. I think it helps us in recruiting, letting young men know, hey, you can play as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin.

I feel good about those two kids. I feel good – Darius (Hillary) has done a nice job, and now we've got another sophomore back there in Tanner. So crazy, but two freshmen are contributing and getting a lot of reps. I'm proud of those kids.

To handle it mentally, their God-given ability is obviously very, very good, and they're very talented. For them to handle the day-in, day-out, meetings, school, study hall, weight room, travel, all that, it just shows maturity for freshmen to be able to get that down.

QUESTION: You mentioned (Jeff) Duckworth after the game not getting a lot of work in practice but having really focused mentally. I know (Kyle) Costigan got some time off as well. What's the difference between a guy who can do that in practice and still perform where he doesn't get as many reps as he needs in practice and a guy who can't make that transition?

ANDERSEN: I think it's just it's kind of how they're built. I can go in there – Ethan (Hemer), B.K. (Brendan Kelly), really Chris (Borland), there's a number of those kids that are in that exact same situation. You have to teach them how to practice that way as far as you can't go a snap without playing the rep in your own mind.

It's interesting, when I talked to Chris Spielman this last week when he was here, and he was telling me how he used to study film and he was doing an article on Borland or talking about Borland, but the way he used to prepare for film, he'd show it up on the wall, and then he'd get in and out of it. And in watching, he actually played the game kind of on the film.

That's kind of what I asked our kids to do. It's not film, but it's their guy who's right there in front of them. Play that rep, understand that rep, really wrap your arms around it, be in position to see it the right way, and help be a coach on the field and get yourself ready.

Those kids do a nice job with that. It's easier said than done, and it's also hard for them to say I'm not now I've got to go jog for a half hour, run some sprints in the whirlpool, spend extra time when the other kids may be headed home because of the conditioning that has to take place to keep them in shape.

Like I said many times, I've never been around anything like it. It's unique. It's important, as coaches, we communicate with them. They handle it. If we can handle it, it makes us better. I think it really showed the last couple of weeks.

QUESTION: Has the field goal kicking situation impacted the way you make decisions in a game now?

ANDERSEN: Yes, not it has, without question. It will impact us. The opportunity to us as we go forward in certain areas.

I think the way Drew (Meyer) punts the ball also helps us there because, if he can kick it down there and get it inside the 10 yard line consistently like he's done, it allows you to have second thoughts about a long field goal or maybe not going for it as much, and given the defense, if they're playing well, asking somebody to go 90 yards if the defense is playing well is very tough.

So it all plays into it, but to answer your question, yes, definitely, it's going to change how we look at things as we move forward.

QUESTION: Does a performance like Saturday's give you the notion this team is really hitting its stride and could go on a sustained run of some pretty good football here?

ANDERSEN: I will always try to keep any of those thoughts, in a negative way or a positive way, on how they played last week moving into next week. I don't believe in that.

I thought it was a great performance. It was a great venue. Big time crowd, quality opponent, to say the least, and they performed in the moment for that three hours and however many minutes it was.

Now it's a brand-new challenge, but I like where they're at. I like where their eyes are. I like where their faces are when I see them. They seem to be still enjoying football. I like where they're at.

But we'll look at each week separately. Expectation, as I think we all expect that are involved with this team, we expect them to play well, and they expect themselves to play well. We'll see how we move forward.

QUESTION: Gary, along the lines of play calling with the kicking situation, do you consider yourself aggressive or conservative? Do I go for it on fourth and one? Do I punt? Do I try a field goal here?

ANDERSEN: I would say not if it's just those two, I would say aggressive. I think that's a little defense coming out of me and liking to play man coverage or blitz, and I like to think the kids can get a yard when they need it. I would definitely be on the aggressive side of that. Not crazy aggressive, but aggressive.

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