UW Prepares for High-Speed Bowling Green

Returning from the bye week to face a Bowling Green program picked to win the MAC, No.19 Wisconsin will have to tough test on its hands Saturday, which is what Badgers coach Gary Andersen reiterated during his Monday press conference.

Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen Opening Statement

ANDERSEN: Quick review of the bye week. I thought it was an excellent opportunity for the youth of the program, not just the ones that are traveling and playing right now, but our numbers are up and for our young kids to be able to have scrimmages with those young guys late in the week, which was great to see, those young defensive lineman playing in kind of a real game, not just being a prep squad guy throughout the season is always a huge positive. We had one scrimmage with them and then two heavy thud scenarios. Good to see the development, some individual, with their coaches.

Used the rest of the week to get some guys healthy. Used the rest of the week to continue the development of the young kids in the program. So it was a good week. I think we got a lot done mentally, and hopefully physically we are right back where we need to be.

Moving on to Bowling Green, very, very good offensive team. The numbers would speak that after three weeks. Ran 121 or 122 plays last week, scoring 40 some odd points a game. Very good at the wide receiver position. Very good at the running back position. And they are very efficient on the offensive side of the football. Punted once this last game. They’re rolling on that side of the ball, the back is playing well, and not much dropoff, if any dropoff, from the first quarterback to the young man that's playing now. It will be a big challenge for us. Defensively, we have to be on our toes and take care of our business.

Offensively, we need to do what we need to do. We need get back to playing solid, consistent offense, and we expect to play that way against a defense that's going to be aggressive. Their defensive structure in the last two games has become much more aggressive, and we expect a lot of blitzes and at all different times on the field. And that's kind of been growing within the defensive system the last couple weeks, and we expect it to continue to grow against us.

So a team that was a championship team a year ago, playing with a lot of confidence and excited about the opportunity to start preparing for Bowling Green. They are a good team and we'll use every day we can to get prepared for them.

QUESTION: You mentioned the 113 plays Bowling Green ran this weekend. Is this about as fast an offense as you've seen? I know you've played against a lot of different offenses here, but what is the biggest challenge of how quick they try to go?

ANDERSEN: It is really fast. If you break it down, take the Indiana game and put all three games, I believe it’s like 85 snaps a game that they snap it. So that's a good number. It's not a hundred plays consistently a game. That game just kind of fed into them over a hundred plays, which is a lot.

But they do run, they do move quickly. They are up on the ball. It is always a challenge. One of the best ways to put a hindrance onto a no huddle offense and the way they want to go fast is we have a home crowd and they are pretty powerful. So hopefully they can get involved, which I'm sure they will, and they’ll do their part.

And then we've got to get lined up and be able to communicate when our fans are loud, we have to be able to communicate and handle as a defense and hopefully on offense they will have a little bit of struggle with that. We've practiced against pace and we'll continue to, and we can't allow their pace to affect the game in a positive way. It will cause us some issues, but we have to be prepared for it.

QUESTION: You mentioned their aggressive play defensively. Do they blitz more to stop runs or do they try to get after the quarterback? </p> ANDERSEN: A mixed bag last week. They were blitzing Indiana when they would get into first and 10, middle of the field with different personnel groups. They would play zero coverage behind that and bring the house and basically plus-one you. It was in the run game and it was in the throw game both, but more so last week than the week before.

QUESTION: Is this offense an example of why you felt the need to diversify your defense and get faster and quicker?

ANDERSEN: Yeah, it is. They have some very skillful kids. There are four or five kids that can really run. The tailback is a converted wide receiver and he's a proven very good tailback, but he's fast, also.

So you've got to be able to be able to in my opinion, in today's day and age of football, the way it's changed -- you have to be able to get into a package where you can get three corners on the field or four corners on the field, or even have a safety come down and play linebacker. Just depends on what direction you want to head with your scheme.

But you'll be hard pressed in today's college football to find a defense that doesn't at least get to three corners or some types of subs past the bigger groups, when people are playing bigger offense and getting smaller as they go down.

QUESTION: I think you were asked last week on the Big Ten teleconference about Melvin and you said he's in a good place, and even though he may be selfless he's acknowledged before he gets frustrated if he's not playing up to his level. What do you or Thomas (Brown) have to do to remind him, if he doesn't put up big numbers, to kind of relax and be patient and fight through it?

ANDERSEN: The big thing with Melvin is I'm on guard for that for any player when they may be in a position to have expectations that they have put on themselves or that they think have been put on them.

I see zero signs of that and when I talked to Melvin about it, he's like, ‘Coach, I'm good, I'm ready to go.’ I believe him when he says that to me. I don't think he's just casually saying that to move me along the way and just end the conversation. I honestly believe he's saying ‘Coach, I know I'm going to have my opportunity to get mine.’ And I'm looking forward to that happening hopefully this week.

QUESTION: Along those same lines, you kind of talked about last week potentially moving Dare (Ogunbowale) over to tailback. How is that kind of coming along?

ANDERSEN: That's a continued work in progress a little bit. Dare (Ogunbowale) had the other colored jersey on the other day, so I have not gone down to the offensive side to spend a lot of time. But he's a very flexible young man. He's unselfish and he'll do whatever he needs to be able to get done.

Hasn’t played a lot of tailback scenario but he is in our drills, when we tackle what we call speed and space drill, it’s just offense versus defense, you use it a lot in camp and early in spring ball -- he was very difficult to tackle with the ball in his hands and that was kind of the reason for moving him there. We'll see as we go through this week how much we are going to need him. Hopefully start to get one or two of those backs back here in the next 10 to 12 days.

QUESTION: Do you feel like the running game needed work in the bye week after the performance against Western Illinois?

ANDERSEN: We want to run the ball better. That's all of us. That's everybody involved in the run game, including myself. We want to run the ball better than we did against Western. Again, give them a lot of credit.

But do we work on it? Absolutely. Do we expect to run the ball better this week than we did in Week 2? Yes, we do. And I'm sure Bowling Green is going to load up the box and challenge us to run the ball effectively.

QUESTION: Does how fast they run their offense impact your substitution patterns? I know Dave (Aranda) likes to use a whole bunch of different packages. Does that impact you and do you have to maybe cut those down a little bit?

ANDERSEN: We'll still carry our packages. We don't go I wouldn't say we are over the top with the number of packages we carry defensively. It's usually three and I guess if you put in a red zone package for goal line scenarios it may be four. We'll carry those packages with us.

Does it cause issues with the timing? Yes, it does. And even more so, the substitutions of we like to rotate defensive linemen in, and you're strategic with how you rotate those players and get them in the game. This crew, Bowling Green, will change groups in the middle of drives and oftentimes they’ll run the whole drive down the field and stay in the same personnel group, which in turn, doesn't give you a great chance to be able to sub very often. Like I said earlier, it does cause us issues but it won't change the amount of packages we carry.

QUESTION: Talking about a third tailback given the situation now, even though Austin (Ramesh) is now your No. 1 fullback, can he carry the ball in a single back set?

ANDERSEN: Yeah, he could do that in a game. That would probably at this point, not probably, it would require tight end to become a fullback, or we'll run our 12 personnel run game. But that definitely would be a step that we would look to take if we had to.

QUESTION: How vital is Alex Erickson's development into the wide receiver corps, and is what he did in Week 2 better than what you had hoped he could bring? What are your impressions?

ANDERSEN: You look at him, and the way he competes, the way he prepares, I'm not surprised. The drive he had to get back off that injury -- and it took some time to get back off that injury -- but he's just so detailed. He's so smart and he's so competitive and, a lot of times, that's a vicious combination. And he runs great routes. He's got good hands. He knows how to leverage in and out of routes, and I think he takes coaching well.

His success is a ton of credit to him from the day he was a walk on till the day he got on scholarship and he moved himself forward from there. I really think his expectations for him is to be a great receiver, not a good receiver. And he took some good steps to that on game two.

He's a focal point of this offense, and the coaches on the offensive side of the ball have really felt like that for quite some time, that he was going to rise up and be a very good wide receiver, and that's not coaches that just have coached a year or two. That’s Andy Ludwig and Chris Beatty and when they say that, that’s a pretty good compliment to a young man.

QUESTION: With all due respect to Western Illinois, why were you not able to run the ball no matter how many people they put in the box?

ANDERSEN: Well, I think they did a nice job I don’t think, I know -- they did a nice job of taking our combination blocks away from us, and when I say that, the linebackers were playing very close to the line of scrimmage, so there was not and they slanted.

They went from A gap, B gap alignment to one gap movement, which we're used to seeing. But we just had a difficult time getting those creases inside. I really do think those two inside linebackers are good football players and we had some trouble with their quickness and them getting downhill and to the gap.

So when you're running the zone schemes and your ideas are somehow, some way between the A gap and B gap, if it goes over -- again, without getting too technical on you -- your goal is to split the defense in half, and we weren’t able to do that until late in the third quarter and a few of those runs in the fourth quarter.

It was a good scheme. They obviously wanted to play the run, and if it's plus-one, plus-two, sometimes in the box; at that point, you'd better find a way to loosen them up. If you can't throw it, it's going to be tough sledding against anybody when they’re that ganged up on you, and we were able to fortunately throw the ball, and hopefully we continue to do that and that will back some people off.

QUESTION: I'm sure you've seen some of the success in the Mid-American Conference has had against the Big Ten so far, and this is the defending champion of the league. What sort of challenge are you expecting out of Bowling Green?

ANDERSEN: First of all, I have great respect for MAC. I've played them in a couple bowl games in the past, and you watch them through those games and they’re tough kids. They’re very well coached. I think the coaches in that league do a tremendous job of recruiting.

I apologize for not knowing No. 1's name (Roger Lewis) but he's a true freshman wide receiver and he's as good a true freshman wide receiver I've seen out there this year playing. He's a very, very talented young man, so it’s just a credit to the way they recruit.

So they will walk in here, and again, they are a championship team. They expect to win. They expect to play at a high level, and I would expect nothing else out of them. They’re well coached.

This will be a tremendous challenge. As you see, the world of college football is getting closer and closer from the bottom to the top in a lot of different areas and we need to make sure we do all we can because we'll be challenged in this football game.

QUESTION: Where would you say your biggest depth concern is on this team, and to what degree has the depth been impacted by people who have left and by how many injuries you have on your list right now?

ANDERSEN: I would say if we just look at the injuries, that's what we talk about as a staff and I evaluated this over the bye week, and it's a great question right now for us. When we came in, we had an issue with the number of offensive linemen. We had some kids that were signed and didn’t end up making it and got put on medical. We all know the stories behind those kids. Our numbers were way down and that had gone on for a year or two and we got those numbers back up.

Last year we looked at ourselves and said, oh, the defensive backfield is going to be in that scenario and in that setting. So, fortunately, Sojourn (Shelton) came along and did what he did; and this year Derrick Tindal has come around and, obviously, Lubern (Figaro) being in the safety position has really helped us with youth. So we feel better about that spot.

Defensive line, feel the same way. We are very young, but a couple young men stepped up as redshirt freshmen to hop in and play for us right away and are doing a good job. So I would say on this team right now, running back would be one that was not really foreseen. Obviously with the injuries, there's four injuries there, and we didn't expect to have four injuries in that spot. So that's an issue.

After that, I would say the continued building of the depth and the skill set that we need at the wide receiver position to compete at the highest level, because at the end, that's what we are all trying to get to.

QUESTION: Robert Wheelwright obviously fell behind with the injury in camp, have you seen signs that he's working his way back to where he was before the injury?

ANDERSEN: I think Robert is working hard. It's just he's kind of in a let's take the next step position. Robert is growing and it's a maturing process on and off the field, and I see signs of improvement, and we are all excited to see those reflected in the practice and on game day, and no one is more excited about that than Robert. So we hope that takes place here real quick.

QUESTION: Obviously as a coach, you want to see every player improve in every possible way. But when you watch Tanner (McEvoy) play, what is the one part of his game that you see, and say, if he improves at that, he'll be a pretty good quarterback for us for awhile?

ANDERSEN: I would say the poise in the pocket. Just making sure that he uses the opportunities to use his legs effectively when he needs to, and that's when an athletic quarterback gets back there, he has a tendency to try to make everything happen for himself -- let the offense come to him when it's there; and when it's not, let's go make a decision and let's let our legs work.

If he can do that and become, not a pocket passer, I'm going to ask him to do that no on this offense will ask him to do that -- but that we want him to hang in there and let the offensive line do their work and throw down the field when the opportunity is given.

QUESTION: On the depth chart, this week compared to last week, (Leon) Jacobs is now back behind (Joe) Schobert better at outside and D'Cota Dixon is where Jacobs was last week. What's the rationale behind the moves and what do you expect to be able to get out of those guys?

ANDERSEN: Well, D'Cota is continually fighting to be consistently on the field with the shoulder injury, so hopefully he can keep going. With Leon, we just feel like, at the outside linebacker position, we have Vince (Biegel), we have Joe Schobert and we have Jesse Hayes.

That being said, the more we move into this odd package and the kids are familiar with the terminology and the concepts of the defense, those three that I named have an opportunity to be able to play the F and the B linebacker. We've moved to letting us all be in the room together, which helps us learn what the F's and the B’s and the safeties are all meeting together, and that's a positive thing, the direction that we're headed.

In turn, that gives Leon, there he sits as either the third or fourth linebacker, and that doesn’t even put (Jack) Cichy in the mix as maybe the fourth guy at the outside linebacker spot. So Leon's opportunity to get on the field, and best for him and for our defense, is to put him back in there and let him have a chance. You're going to see him both spots.

QUESTION: Is this the first year you have the F's, the B's and the safeties meeting together, and why did you decide to do that? What did you hope to get out of that?

ANDERSEN: We went with the F's and the F's went with Coach (Bill) Busch and last year the F's and B's met together and I took over the B's, and he took the F's, which there's a lot of similarities between a down safety and an F linebacker.

So they are meeting together. And now just with Coach Busch and I, being together for so long, I think we speak the same language and we can move through a meeting without a coaching ego, trying to out coach each other, like sometimes young coaches want to take over the room.

Coach Busch and I can get in the room and communicate with the three different position groups there and handle it in a way where those kids, I think they can see the whole picture of the defense, which they need to to be able to continually grow.

QUESTION: I think the stat was following the last game, six of your 15 games that you've coached, the defense has not allowed a touchdown. Do you think the unit you have is a dominant defense or the potential this season to become a dominant defense?

ANDERSEN: I think the defense has a ways to go, but they’re hungry to get there, and they want to be a very, very good defense. It's fun to watch. Again, the older kids and the younger kids kind of mix within this defense and understand the expectation levels of how we want to play defensively and consistently play defensively.

So the pieces to the puzzle, I believe, are there. They are not all in the exact spots, but they’ve got the attitude and the want-to to get there. They’ve tackled well, which is good to see. This will be a tremendous challenge this week tackling. We'll sit here a week from now and, if we tackle very good in this game, I will say we have a good opportunity to be where we need to be.

But there's probably 15 to 18 missed tackles in the last game. Those kids make you miss and we've got to tackle well. I'm not going to say we can't have any missed tackles, but we have to tackle well, and if we can do that, this defense can move forward to become a very solid defense.

QUESTION: You said you were going to watch a lot of football on Saturday. How many games did you get in and what were your thoughts on Bowling Green's final drive against Indiana?

ANDERSEN: I watched almost all I recorded that game, so I kind of watched that and then rewatched it again. Other than that, like I said, I would probably be bouncing back on a million different channels, which I was. The next day, I didn't know half the teams that won because I was bouncing all over the place. But it was a competitive day. It was a good day of college football.

The final drive was very impressive. They found a way to get down and score and they took advantage of some opportunistic scenarios that were put in front of them and they threw a great fade ball at the end and isolated the kid and he made a great play as, again, as a true freshman to make that play is fantastic.

So the two minute drill was successful and they won the game. They deserved to win the game when you go down the field, what, 90 some odd yards in a minute and whatever time was left.


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