MADISON - Although he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able a say a team is where he completed expected to be this early in the season, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen likes the direction his program is moving after a seven-point road loss to LSU and a 34-point home win over Western Illinois.
Andersen pointed to the adversity the team faced in the first two games (blowing a 17-point lead to the Tigers and only leading 9-3 at halftime against the Leathernecks) and says the Badgers are learning to deal with the problems that arise on any given game.
“To see them kind of just keep on fighting when things weren't great, they kept on battling,” said Andersen, referring to last Saturday’s 37-3 win over Western Illinois. “They didn't start pointing fingers. Things started to fall in place a little bit, and we were able to make some plays to win the football game.”
With such a young roster comprised of players contributing in key roles for the first time, Andersen understands that development doesn’t come overnight, especially until players start getting game repetitions.
“But I like the progression,” said Andersen. “We're doing some things on defense. We're making some plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage, which is a positive. We talked about having to be able to do that because that was the type of defense we were going to be. That's starting to show up a little bit more.
“Our ability to throw the ball this last game was a little bit of a positive. That's a three-hour stint we've done some of these things and a six-hour stint on defense in two football games. I see the direction, I like what I see in spots, but we have got a long ways to go. Consistency is going to be the key for us, but I love the way we're handling adversity.”
Liking where the first bye week fell on the schedule, Andersen said the young players on the team went through some invaluable scrimmage work. The players will be off Friday through Sunday while the coaching staff will be out recruiting.
While Wisconsin – which dropped one spot to No.19 in the Associated Press - took the weekend off, the Badgers’ next opponent – Bowling Green – broke a 10 game losing streak against power five conference teams with a 45-42 home victory over Indiana.
“I don’t think it’s a tremendous advantage,” said Andersen. “We use (the bye week), try to make it be an advantage, but I’ve never walk off and say, ‘Man, just because we had a bye week we sure played well or didn’t play well.’”
While he remains, junior quarterback Joel Stave continues to work through a mental block that has prevented him from throwing the football up to his level of expectations. According to Andersen, Stave is still approaching the challenge with a positive attitude and went through some team drills on Thursday.
“He’s working through it,” said Andersen. “I personally see progress. I think Joel sees progress, and that’s a great thing to see.”
“I think we’ll all have an idea of when he feels comfortable,” added Andersen. “Bottom line is it’ll show in practice. Joel has communicated to me that he knows he has to be able to practice the right way…He’s working like crazy to get to there.”
Extra Points: After not playing in the first two games of the year, Michael Deiter is a prime candidate to be a redshirt this season, if Andersen and his staff can make it happen … Despite muffing a punt Saturday, a problem that showed up last year, Kenzel Doe is still the team’s starting punt return, according to Andersen. Alex Erickson is the team’s No.2 returner.