Wisconsin Wraps up Nonconference with USF

Fresh off its 68-17 win over Bowling Green, No.19 Wisconsin closes out a three game home stand by hosting South Florida Saturday morning. Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen addressed the media on Monday about the matchup.

Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen opening statement

That was a great game, tons of good things to talk about, and I think it's important that we really do focus on that in our team meeting today. A couple areas that there was tremendous examples as I talked about after the game of playing as a team, offense, defense, special teams, and that was important for us to be able to take that step, so that'll be pointed out to those young men today. I hope they understand that's what it takes. There was some adversity we fought through again.

The individual performances were very impressive, Derek Landisch was unbelievably good in that game. He was blitzing, he was very good. Playing against the run he was very good. It shows up on film, his communication and allowing the kids to get into position for success, pre snap awareness was great. And then Melvin was unbelievable. Some of those runs, breaking two, three, four tackles, outrunning people, physical. He was very, very dynamic, so it was great to see.

Very positive game, proud of the kids the way they handled it. It was a good team victory. Now it's important that we can build on that and continue to move on. We have lots to work on, things I emphasized at halftime to them. I still truly believe we had a lot of opportunities to be in a hole at halftime, let alone have a comfortable lead if the ball just bounces a different way a couple times, so we have got to be able to understand what we did well and what we need to do better as we move forward.

South Florida, huddle up team, have plenty of time in between snaps this week, whether they have the ball or we have the ball, so that'll be a big difference from a week ago. I think that they're a physical run team. They want to establish the run, play action pass. They will get into different personnel groups on the offensive side of the football and have some fly sweeps and try to get the ball to the perimeter with their wide receivers.

Defensively they're coached very well. Their defensive front, I haven't watched a bunch of that film yet on that side of the ball, but what I did watch in one short game I was very impressed with the stoutness and the technique and fundamentals that their front seven plays with on defense. I have not studied much of them on the back end. The other coaches obviously on offense have.

Excited about the opportunity to be home again. Crowd last week was fantastic, was a big help, as it always is in Camp Randall, but there was definitely some momentum that we gained at a critical point in that football game, and the crowd and Camp Randall had a lot to do with that.

QUESTION: After the game Melvin mentioned that he kind of heard the haters, so to speak, talking, after his game against Western Illinois. What are your thoughts of players using sort of bulletin board material as motivation?

ANDERSEN: You know, I think if something motivates you in a positive way and maybe you see it as a negative or others may see it as a negative, as long as it's something that you in your own mind can flip it I use bulletin board material all the time. I think we're all driven by the successes that we want to have and potentially what we didn't think was a success, if somebody else deems that as a non success, I don't know who he was talking to or why he would listen, but if it made him run like that last week, I hope those same group of people want to talk to him so he has that same feeling that he had last week as he has this week because he played unbelievably well. I'm proud of him.

QUESTION: You mentioned Landisch's blitzing. Not everybody can blitz effectively. For a linebacker what are some of the things when you coach them that they have to be able to do in order to be productive in a blitz?

ANDERSEN: Well, I've always thought this about great pass rushers: They're born, they're not taught. They've got to have just a unique athletic ability to be able to get I think it's imperative you get hip to hip with somebody, and it's I'll leave him right here and I'm going to be gone, and there's just a natural instinct that young men have the ability to do that. But he does take coaching very well. You can see he's developed the moves that are important to him. He's not the tallest guy in the world, so his pass rush moves are within his own confines of what he's comfortable doing, and he sets people up very well. Where you think he's going is probably not where he's going to be going in the next couple steps.

And then his overall knowledge of the defense is impressive. He gets protections now, and he kind of can see things before they happen a little bit sometimes, and that's helped him, also.

QUESTION: You mentioned South Florida earlier. It looks like they rely on awful lot on their freshman tailback Marlon Mack. I don't know how much film you've seen on him, but what stands out about him and how they like to use him?

ANDERSEN: Well, I know the running back coach very, very well. Telly Lockette actually played for us way back a long time ago when we were at Idaho State, and Telly recruited a bunch of kids when he was a high school coach, and Telly coaches the running backs and really likes this guy, so that tells me he's a very good player. And film would back that up.

He's a talented young man from what you see on film, but because of the fact of what Telly Lockette says, the young man is a good player. He has some good backs. That was way back to summer when we talked about this game. I believe he has some very talented players.

QUESTION: Obviously you guys ran the ball effectively and Tanner (McEvoy) has given you that threat that you're looking for with his feet, as well. If there's one thing that you wanted to add to this offense, is it still the ability to stretch people vertically because I don't think you guys have hit a really big one, especially to a wide receiver yet this year. How big of a priority is that to start adding that to the offense?

ANDERSEN: Definitely a priority, without question. We've got to when we get it down there and we throw it the right way, we've got to catch it the right way, and it takes us all, and we've had a few of those shots. But our ability to take those deep shots, when you want to be who we are and run the ball, which has not changed, and your inability to be able to really throw it down there a few times a game and take the top off the coverage has to if you don't have that, it definitely is going to cause your offense to not be as effective as it could be.

It's definitely a spot that we're going to work hard on as we continue to move forward, and we hope that we see signs of it as early as this next week down the field.

QUESTION: You talked about how Derek (Landisch) has been so knowledgeable or is so knowledgeable of the defense. How valuable will that have been having so many young guys around him?

ANDERSEN: Invaluable I would say. Really it has. Not just on the football games, not just the football practice, but the study habits, the ability for those kids to understand what it takes because Derek is a very talented young man, but he's also a self made guy as far as the way he's built himself up and grown and developed just in the short time that we've all been here, and I'm sure he was doing that before we got here.

But he's in a comfort zone being a leader now, whereas as year ago there was Chris (Borland), there was so many of those dynamic leaders a year ago, he didn't need to do that, but he's accepted that role and he's accepted that responsibility.

QUESTION: How much stock do you put into your third-down conversion rate, and do you think it's reasonable that you can win with a conversion rate under 40 percent?

ANDERSEN: Well, it's going to be definitely a point of emphasis. We didn't get into a lot of third downs last game, and we want to convert when we get into third down. That's an obvious statement. But can you win and be effectively Andy (Ludwig) has his own goals and his mindset of where we would like to be, and we would like to get better at third downs, and I believe we're getting close to getting better at third downs. We are protecting the quarterback better, and they've done that week in and week out. I think the flexibility in the offense and the ability to do a few more things on third downs and not just have to drop back pass all the time will continue to allow us to improve. Now, we'll be tested this week because I'm sure more of those will come up this week in this game, and we'll have to convert to keep drives away.

QUESTION: Back to the stretching the field vertically, as a defensive coach if you went into a game plan and you knew the other team had not had a lot of success doing that, how much flexibility does that give you as a defensive coach and maybe some things you could use against them?

ANDERSEN: Well, if I was a coordinator, the first thing I would look at is are they not doing it or maybe they cannot do it, and there's a big difference there. If I ever felt like the guy has the arm to get the ball down the field and can throw it 40 yards, which all of our quarterbacks can, and one, two, three step it and throw a ball down the field where it needs to be, some kids struggle getting the ball down the field that far.

That would be the difference to me. I wouldn't sit up there if I'm getting ready to play the Badgers right now and I'm the defensive coordinator -- I would not sit there and say they can't throw the ball deep nor will they throw the ball deep. I would be thinking when are they going to start to throw the ball deep? That's in my own little paranoid world that I would live in as a D coordinator.

QUESTION: Right now Alex Erickson is the only wide receiver that has more than one catch this season. You talked some about stretching the field, but how do you try and get some of the other receivers more involved even if it means some short throws to Lance and things like that?

ANDERSEN: Yeah, it's a work in progress. It is a little bit frustrating. You've got George (Rushing) in there a little bit. Jordan will continue to grow. I think he can blossom. The tight ends are getting to get their balls, but if we just talk specifically about wide receivers, it's an issue, and it's going to become more of an issue as we move farther down the road here. We've got to get some kids some balls.

But they also have to earn the right to get them. You've got to get open. You've got to fit within the scheme to be able to have those opportunities to have the ball thrown to you.

We've dropped a couple, two or three that we had one in this last game late in the game that one of our young freshman had an opportunity to put his hands on, and we didn't catch it. It's a concern. It's an issue. It's being addressed by the kids. The care factor is there. I think the coaches are coaching it the right way, but it's not showing up yet, and it needs to.

QUESTION: Is that the offensive line you thought you were going to see, the one you saw out there Saturday, and what happened?

ANDERSEN: You know, a lot of I believe this, and I think this offensive line, and they took a lot of responsibility, and trust me, nobody wants to run the ball more effectively and takes more pride in running the ball effectively than those five kids do.

I don't think they played bad when we didn't run the ball well at Western (Illinois). There's things they could have done better. There's things that they could have opened up some creases, and I've said it before, they want to play better and they could have.

The difference for me in this game was our ability to be able to be so much cleaner at the tight end and the fullback spot. I really believe that. All the problems weren't on the fullback and the tight ends against Western Illinois. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that the ability for Austin (Ramesh), if you watch him get on guys, move his feet, physicality, sticking on guys from that game to the Western Illinois game, it's a big difference, and I'd feel the same way about Austin Traylor, Troy Fumagalli at times showed me that in this last game, and Sam Arneson was awesome blocking in this last game. I mean, he was tough, physical, stayed on guys, and that allowed a lot of those holes to open up, and Melvin's (Gordon) vision was fantastic, and so was Corey's (Clement) and so was Dare's (Ogunbowale) at times.

I know Big Rob came out and said, we take full responsibility, but there's some responsibility from all of us, including myself. Now, we'll let them have all the credit. The credit goes to those kids, and they got themselves so much improved, and it speaks volumes for what they did in that last game.

QUESTION: Getting back to pushing the ball down the field, since week one you've seen some of the throws have been off the mark, others have been intercepted, others haven't been caught. What do you think has been the most important factor in kind of the inability to hit the big play?

ANDERSEN: Well, I think we've hit enough big plays within the run game to loosen people up. Again, if we specifically talk the throw game, it's a mixture it's a mixed bag, I think. You probably said it best. There's some that are dropped, there's some that aren't thrown the way we want them to be thrown, and Tanner would take that back, but every quarterback in the country is going to have some throws he'd like to get back. He's going to have a wide receiver that's going to drop a ball for him. We've just got to be a little bit more consistent, and I think we'll get there. There's some nice balls being thrown, some nice balls being caught, but we're not as consistent as we need to be, and we've made some great strides in that area, I think.

If we look at where we are compared to where we were in camp, I think we're in a better spot. But do we throw the ball perfectly right now? No, never will, but we want to throw it better.

QUESTION: In your opening statement you mentioned about this team handling adversity last week. Each of your three games it seems like there's been a different sort of adversity they've faced with different results. What have you learned three games about this team and the ability especially to handle adversity?

ANDERSEN: That part of it has been impressive, and you're right, it's come in different ways. It hasn't always gone that way, and it never will, but I'm proud of the way they've handled it. I didn't expect maybe to feel this much this early with different types of adversity, but just like I said at Western Illinois, they never panicked. At LSU I never felt the panic after the loss at LSU. They didn't come out of there pointing fingers, which was great to see this last game. Just that transition that took place when we the ball was it's where we've got to go and what great teams can do is turn over, three and out, big punt return, next big play, touchdown to Sam Arneson. That turnaround is gigantic for a team to be able to do, and some people call it momentum, some people may call it coincidence, luck. I call it teamwork and offense, defense, special teams working together.

The adversity that they've had has been there, but we need to make sure as coaches that we point out that's facing adversity and looking at it and staring it right in the face and saying let's make something good out of something that could have really been bad. And I think these kids like each other. They like to be around each other, and they like to play, which is fun for the coaches. It's youthful; it's exciting. Like I said, something is going to happen, and last Saturday a lot of good things happened, so hopefully that trend continues.

QUESTION: Generally linebackers have led this team in tackles. Right now (Michael) Caputo is up there. Are there many safeties as versatile as him that you've been around?

ANDERSEN: Usually when a safety is leading you, people raise their eyebrows and say that's a bad thing, but not in the style of defense we're playing right now. That does not concern me at all. When we were probably at our best at Utah, Eric Weddle led us in tackles every single year. Because (Caputo) is so involved at the line of scrimmage in so many of the packages, and he will continue to be he's a great player right now. I think he played man coverage last week, he played in the post, he played in the box, he blitzed. I mean, you name it, that kid was all over that field last week, and he is in every package and he's doing different things and still continuing to get a freshman lined up in some spots. He's having a special year, and it's great to see. He's a special kid.

But he can handle it all because mentally he's so sharp.

QUESTION: Revisiting the third down conversion rate, what's gone into the issues that you've had? Obviously you want to have better production on first and second down to put you in manageable third downs, but what other elements have created issues for you in that regard?

ANDERSEN: Well, I think there's a couple of them the last game, just the fact that if you notice the last game we went completely off the play script, and we're going to do what we're going to do to let that game go. I think the second half in that game was a little bit skewed with the third downs and can throw that off. But with the third downs in the first half of that game and some of the other games, it is a concern.

It's just a development within the offense. You get your identity again, you look and see what is your identity on offense, it's continually growing, and I think our third down conversion rate will continue to grow in a positive number as we move forward in the season.

But we've got to be able to throw the ball to three or four people, not one or two, which is what we're doing right now, a tight end and a wide receiver. We've got to get it to some other people, back every once in a while, I guess.

QUESTION: South Florida's punter is pretty good. I don't know about the rest of their special teams, but as far as your special teams, I think you're averaging about 35 net yards a punt. Kick coverage, 18 yards, pretty good. Punt return you've got 10 yards. What would you say overall about your special teams through three?

ANDERSEN: This was the first time that I'll give the special teams a championship effort and an effort to fit the plan to win. To play great special teams, I think they did that overall as a crew this last game, which was good to see. We need to punt the ball better, and Drew (Meyer) is working on it, Coach (Jeff) Genyk is working on it, we're working on the snaps. We need to get at that done. It was a great one there at the end, 4 yard line, that was a tremendous punt, and those kind of skew your numbers. But it's good that he hit that punt.

But we need to get that thing knocked out of there and get some 40 , 45 yarders with four second hang is what we're looking for.

QUESTION: Two guys coming into the season, I think there was some question about both for different reasons. One would be Tanner, and I'm curious to see first of all if you're beginning to see him do the things why you made him the starting quarterback, and the other one would be Arneson. This is his first year being the guy after being in a complementary role. I'm curious what he has given you. You mentioned the blocking but as a receiver, as well.

ANDERSEN: Yeah. First of all with Tanner, he's got a long ways to go as a quarterback. I think Tanner knows that. I think Andy (Ludwig) has communicated that with Tanner as they move forward. But he's very productive right now and fitting in the role within the offense. I like the direction that Tanner is headed. Again, I'm not a quarterback guru, never will be, but I like what he brings to the offense right now.

If I'm up there sitting in South Florida's defensive room getting ready for this offense, there's a lot of offense to get ready for right now. There's two or three different schemes that are run very effectively. Your mind is going to ask you, okay, now what's next because there's a lot of what's nexts that can come your way with a couple more schemes that really don't change anything we do but change a lot of things for defenses. We can run the ball effectively and the power and the zone game is there and all the play actions that were there for us a year ago.

I like where Tanner has gone. I like his direction. I like his demeanor, and by no means is he satisfied, which is great to see.

Sam Arneson, he's a big-play guy right now. He'll go up and get it across the middle. He's shown that, what, two or three times. He's gone up high and got himself exposed in the middle of the field and caught the ball, and it doesn't faze him. He's been an excellent blocker. He's good in the protections. He's a good practice player. He's bringing the young players along on the team like so many of those 15 freshman that we have are or seniors we have are. I'm proud of how he's developing. In my mind he's a big time Big Ten tight end right now.

QUESTION: Now that you've watched the games back, what did Melvin do differently against Bowling Green that he maybe didn't do against Western Illinois that gave him so much success?

ANDERSEN: I think Melvin just got the creases. I saw the creases in the LSU game, and they were tight at the LSU game. You see the one that he broke and a couple of those other ones early in the game, he was there, he was hitting the holes. Just those creases just didn't really show up at Western Illinois until we got the pass game going and then they kind of broke out there in the third and really in the fourth quarter.

But in this game he was just as deliberate on attacking the hole. The holes were there, and when he got to the second level, which he didn't get much opportunity to get to the second level at Western, made people miss, I mean, time and time and time again.

I've loved the way Melvin has run the ball all year long. I didn't see him not hitting it downhill or not running effectively. This was his time, and it opened up for him. It does my heart good that that kid had that opportunity to have that game because if you could have seen his eyes and the smile on his face as he was coming off the field, he was like, that's why I came back for my junior year. It's great to see.

QUESTION: I'm not sure if this question needs to be addressed, but now that your second year of (Toyota) commercials have hit the airwaves, I wonder if you've gotten any feedback from players, coaches, fans about your acting ability?

ANDERSEN: No, no, not really, which is good, because last year I got all kinds of feedback. Not much coming at me this year, but it was fun. It was a bad day for me. I had the flu. I did all right, though, didn't I? Yeah, I guess. He'll tell me if it was bad. Not much coming out down those lines.


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