Wisconsin Readies for Another First

After dismantling Maryland in the first meeting between the two schools, Wisconsin heads to the East Coast to take on Rutgers in another first meeting in program history. Badgers coach Gary Andersen previews the matchup Monday.

Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen

As always, thanks for being here, appreciate it. Excited to get started, move on. Great game last week, kids did a nice job. We talked about all that, we will get'em together and review the film. We are proud of the improvement and proud of the effort that the kids worked into having a successful Homecoming game. Moving on to Maryland excuse me, moving on to Rutgers, my fault. Past Maryland now I suppose. Rutgers is an offense much like ours. They want to run the football, they have a fullback, couple tight ends, they're a power run team. They do a nice job with an experienced coordinator of mixing up the run and the pass within their offensive scheme.

Defensive side of the ball, to be very honest with you at this point, I have not spent a bunch of time watching them. I've been more on the other side. Ton of respect for the quarterback. I know there is a possibility of him not playing but I did watch the other young man come in and play last week and he moved the football team down the field pretty well. I think they will be in good hands in that position wherever they go.

I'm sure Coach (Andy) Ludwig and those guys can tell you more about the offense as I will be able to, too, as we move through the week. Tough minded team, great coaches we have great respect for and our challenge is for us to start getting prepared today.

QUESTION: Gary, just in general, if they have to go to their back up, that Laviano kid, I'm sure you don't have a lot of tape on him. Where did you go to find out when he might do differently even though it doesn't appear that their offense will change dramatically?

ANDERSEN: I don't know where we would go to find anything that would make us think that the offense is going to change drastically. It did not in that setting. The offensive coaches do a nice job of mixing up week by week, not really by quarterback but by the scheme of the deficiencies or the potential deficiencies are on the grease board prior to the game. They do a nice job of scheming up an offense to give you an opportunity in your base defense that you may run for that week. But I don't think they'll change their offense, if any, very little, for this game. Regardless of the quarterback.

QUESTION: Appreciating the fact that you addressed this twice after the game, before the Maryland game a Big Ten network person said that you guys would be deciding on a quarterback, isolating a quarterback after the Maryland game. Was that the plan? If so, did it change by the results?

ANDERSEN: No, I don't know where that would have come from. That's never been the plan and I don't expect it at present to be the plan, so we will move forward as planned, like we talked about after the game.

I may have said something in my sleep, who knows!

QUESTION: I know you talked about your linebacker play after the game but (Derek) Landisch in particular made a couple of plays one was a screen to the opposite side where he was able to get underneath the block and the fourth down play where he avoided the block and stuffed the guy in the hole. What were the skills that allowed him to make those plays.

ANDERSEN: Derek I remember those plays, the screen had an opportunity to be a big play for Maryland if Derek doesn't get out there and defeat a block and he defeated a block on both those plays you're talking about. His ability to have a line or at least funnel down the amount of plays that could be coming his way has really helped him. Dave (Aranda) does a great job of teaching kids what to expect and what truly comes from this situation that we're looking at right now presnap and Derek does a nice job of reading that. He's quick to move. If you watch him, whenever that ball is snapped, he's got a key on whatever he's supposed to be keyed in on, whether it be a tailback, a tight end that's offset on the line of scrimmage. He's not just setting there looking at seven guys and `periffing' the ball is what we talk about, and once he gets there, he's athletic kid and good tackler.

QUESTION: Gary, if you had to put a face on your defense, who's would it be? What would it look like?

ANDERSEN: Michael Caputo's right now, I would say. You look back at the game that he played right there, the toughness that he brings, the effort that he plays with, there's some unbelievable learning clips from him and really the first defense that was out there from this game. We're going to take a few of those clips today and learn from them and show exactly the effort that you're supposed to play with. No one can control your effort but you. We're also going to share some of those clips on the last drive and show the young men that that's not the way that Michael Caputo plays in every snap and we're going to get better. Michael would be a great face, and (Derek) Landisch and (Darius) Hillary would be great, too, for how they have played week in and week out all season long.

QUESTION: To get out of the way to the beginning of November before your second true road game of the season. How unusual of that suspect an experience for you to go through and are there any draw backs?

ANDERSEN: It is unusual to think we're going to get on the airplane for a second time, it's crazy to think that is the case walking this late into the season.

No real difference. The key for us is to have the ability to prepare correctly. I think we prepared very well for the road games before. I felt like we were ready to play. We just haven't won on the road so that's a big thing for us to be able to get on it and win a football game. It's an 11 o'clock kickoff, we're used to that, we will get there almost exactly the same time that we would eat dinner here with our kids, just a different room we're setting in and a different bed we're sleeping in.

QUESTION: Gary when you and Andy (Ludwig) decided to move ahead with the two-quarterback system after the Northwestern game did you look anywhere to see how other teams had handled that, did you base it on past success? I know Andy had done that in the past, and what did you think were the biggest issues that could arise out of that? Was it just the quarterback buy in, which I know you said after the game happened?

ANDERSEN: I didn't look anywhere. Andy felt comfortable with it. I looked to him. He is the general manager and the boss of that offense and he felt good about it, and I felt good about it.

When you worry about is just exactly what you said. The ability for the team to, you know, not become divided because of a quarterback, and the quarterbacks not to become divided. These kids have handled that unbelievably well. We're in the moment. That's the key. The future is the future and that's like with every position I tell kids that all the time. We chose to be in the position we're in right now and let's bond together and fight like crazy to get through the season and get through this next week and then the next week and the next week and so on. Then the future may be what the future is, but I love both those kids and I'm proud of the way they've handle it had and the way the football team has handled it and the way the coaches quite frankly have handled it. It's really not a topic of discussion, it's never even really brought up, it's not looked at in practice, we just do what we do.

QUESTION: At this point in the season, some of the things that you encounter early in the year, stuff you try and instill or teach, are you seeing now where players are more reacting than having to hesitate and think about they're supposed to be?

ANDERSEN: I would sure hope so, that would always be the plan as a coach, to get your schemes installed and a little but into year two a positive thing is the terminology of your base offense and base defense has been there now for, what I would say is a long time, season now and a half, that's quite a bit amount of time.

So your ability to adjust and make adjustments something simple as a halftime adjustment. You speak the same language now and that language is not foreign anymore, it should be a language you feel comfortable sharing with coaches and a language that you feel comfortable sharing with the players and they're going to understand the concepts and what's coming out of the coach's mouth.

Past that, it gives you the flexibility to move ahead a little bit, such as today on Monday -- whereas you're not worried as much about your base offense, defense, some of the tweaks you may see as a coach early on -- opportunity to look at on Monday, because we use Monday as a practice day, it's not a jog around and lift day, we use it to practice and get an advantage on our opponents and I would say I agree with that and I hope the trend continues because that was the case Saturday.

QUESTION: Coach you guys are one of the top teams nationally in terms of fewest sacks allowed again this year. Can you talk about what's made that offensive line so good at that? And do you think it helps when you have a mobile quarterback like Tanner (McEvoy) in there in that regard?

ANDERSEN: I think both quarterbacks have done a great job of stepping up in the pocket and avoiding situations and not being overly risky. You saw Joel on that one play, where the ball ends up it's not looked at or discussed very much but the ball came out hot and got bobbled and Joel (Stave) could have made a bad decision down there but he decided to move on the next rep and it's a sack which no one likes, but was a smart play. I know he escaped on the one play on the third down, but his vision was good. I think we're pass protecting better, that's a big part of it. Our ability to take shots down the field is imperative to this offense as we continue to move forward much like it was last year. It showed itself this year to be very much the same and our running backs, Melvin (Gordon) had a couple of tremendous blocks in this game where he lined up with the backs and did a nice job and it's good to see. The tight ends are back on their own sometimes and on the backside of one on one blocks so a combination of all of those things that I mentioned, I believe, would be a lot of the reasons or the major reasons why we're protecting the quarterback better.

QUESTION: Couple days removed from the game now. Do you anticipate both (Warren) Herring and (Derek) Watt, based on what they were able to give you Saturday, their work load will increase this week? Did Warren play on the outside at all or just on the inside when you had three down linemen?

ANDERSEN: I think you're right, on the inside, I couldn't say for sure but I don't remember seeing him on the defensive end, increased reps would be a yes, sir, for him; and Derek would call in the same. If I look at the grade sheet in my mind right now, yesterday I believe 16 or so was the reps for Derek and it's a good first number to start with, and we can continue to move forward with more reps out of him this next game.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about High Point Solutions Stadium and how to get your kids ready for a venue they've never played in?

ANDERSEN: We're not going to the stadium because of the timing of the charters and the plane and everything that's there. We will talk to them about it, and it's going to be a nice locker room and it will be fine to get dressed in. We really don't change much, unless it's a venue where we think maybe if we're going to play on grass instead of sports grass. It's going to be a sports grass field I'm sure it's a nice stadium, I was there many, many years ago in the offseason to visit Rutgers but that was a long time ago.

It's a nice town, a nice setting, a nice field and I'm sure they're going to have a great crowd with Wisconsin coming into play Rutgers for the first time. It will be fun to see.

We don't really change a thing especially, it's a routine and our routine for an 11 a.m. kickoff, as we all know has been dealt with many, many times so we will get up and go play. The stadium the good thing is the travel from the seems like a little thing to most people but the fact is if we're at the Inntowner, where our hotel is, I've been told that the bus ride from the hotel to the stadium is identical to the Inntowner, which is good, it's like 30 minutes. It's an obstacle you want to discuss and we don't have that this time.

QUESTION: You mentioned effort today. Do you look at what Havenstein did when it was 45 zip to recover this fumble, do you say this is a senior in a 45 zip game, that's what we need?

ANDERSEN: Yes. Many of those would be pointed out. Coach Ludwig and Coach Aranda do a great job of pointing those extra effort plays out and it goes a long, long ways. I would say the long run with Tanner, the three receivers that got down there there was a couple of young guys in that mix for in a game setting to show that effort in that moment was impressive and like I said, there's a bunch of clips from that game against the option where you've got a defense that is 11 strong running the ball even from the backside corner and Rob's effort was tremendous. Those are those settings and situations where we talk about if you're going to have a special year there is a lot of times 10 or 12 plays out there, there are going to give you an opportunity to have a good year or a bad year or a good year or a great year.

There were examples that we can learn from and examples that are on tape that kids can see from their peers in the case of Rob and it's better than a coach sitting there talking about it.

QUESTION: You have a couple kids on your roster from New Jersey New Jersey, Wisconsin has recruited that area and had some good players out of there. I would assume playing Rutgers for the first time and then again over the years is going to help?

ANDERSEN: Yeah, it's good. We want to get ours in that area and recruiting and it's been good to us. In the last couple of years we've been able to get into some homes there and we haven't won every battle there, it's an intense recruiting area but we've got our share fair of kids from out there, I know back a few years ago, it was a big recruiting area, talking to Coach (Henry) Mason, they had a lot of kids from that area and we're up there recruiting and it will be great for the kids to know, they will be back home to play every other year if they're from that area so it's a positive.

QUESTION: When it comes to guys catching the ball, Alex (Erickson) dominated that sheet but you had eight other guys get involved in the passing game. Are you good with what you're seeing production-wise, guys getting involved and what do you expect down the stretch here?

ANDERSEN: Yeah, that game was good in a lot of ways but it was good to see those kids catch the ball. Alex caught a couple of contested balls which was great to see and there were some other contested balls caught in that game and that is the key to the throw game. It's one thing to throw the ball there but it's not going to be wide open, many times you're throwing it into coverages where good DBs break on the ball and you're going to have a contested situation. I see more of that in practice and in turn I see more of it in games. That's been a huge positive and it showed itself on Saturday just as it had for the last couple weeks in practice. Kids are prideful, they want to continue to get better and they're working at it and it's great to see it take place. Different kids getting a chance to catch the ball and catch it and make a play after they do catch it.

QUESTION: Guys talked about how beneficial the bye was comparing for a team you never played for did you spend anytime in that bye we can getting ready for Rutgers at all?

ANDERSEN: No, it was Maryland; that's no disrespect to Rutgers in any way, shape or form but that was the game on the schedule and that's how we handle bye weeks. We don't look past our I guess our `prep' if you want to call it -- prior to the season with the teams we haven't played was Rutgers and Maryland and LSU, we can go on, all the teams we hadn't seen before, we always do that but that's offseason study, not during the season.

QUESTION: You mentioned after the game you practiced special teams, unique plays you ran during the game. Once they were called, was one or the other a cause for you to hold your breath and how big of a boost is it to the team's psyche?

ANDERSEN: It gets kids involved, if you want to be aggressive on special teams, if you want to be aggressive on offense, if you want to be aggressive on defense, and you have those types of plays, I think it's important to call them, when the opportunity presents itself. We always have fakes, but sometimes you don't get the look or the situation. This last week it showed up in the game. That's the exact position on the field there is a 15 yard window where we would say he we want to run that and it has to be placed on the right spot on the field and it was. It's important to run those plays when you get the opportunity. Calling trick plays doesn't bother me. I don't mind taking chances and you're as educated as you can be in those scenarios. I realize when ultimately we decided to do that, it's going to be, you know, `Nice job, Coach,' or `You're an idiot, Coach,' and that's the way it goes.

Our kids are excited about it when it works and I think they also understand when it doesn't work, which it's not always going to work, if we put ourselves in a little bit of a bind you've got to step up and get yourself out of that bind on offense or against or however they got to that point.

QUESTION: Joel (Stave) has had his fair share of setbacks, the injury in the bowl game last year and personal issues the beginning of the year, seems like you guys have been patient waiting for him to get back to where he was. At this point does he compare to the Joel that was at his highest point of last season? Is he close?

ANDERSEN: I think Joel looks great. I don't know if being patient with Joel is the right term, I've been waiting and wanting for Joel to get back and it makes me happy that he is. I'm fired up for that young man and I knew that no one wants to be out there more than Joel, I promise you. And to have the success that he's having and really handling that whole situation, again, I go back to, there are so many life experiences that these kids can learn and these kids on our team that watched that scenario go through, they can learn a lot from Joel Stave and his mental toughness and his care factor and his want-to for his team, and I would say he looks great, confident, he elbows in where he is and, again, he's handled this moment, last week, moving forward and all the way through to the about very best of his ability and, you know, a lot of people are proud of him and they should be.

QUESTION: To what degree are you reestablishing yourself as a recruiting element in New Jersey?

ANDERSEN: You know, I would say the East Coast in general, not necessarily just New Jersey, is an area of importance and, with Maryland and Rutgers coming into the league, it upped that a little bit. I think we've carried a good name there in the past and the kids have stated earlier the young men that have come from there have had great success so we will go in there.

If we say the Southeast, the East Coast, to me they would be the same. It's not really a state, or a certain area. It's a region, maybe, whereas Wisconsin is Wisconsin. Those are more regions of the country that we think we need to recruit in but it is a priority.

QUESTION: Rutgers is coming off a couple of road losses against good teams. In intimidating environments, not back home. When you prepare do you tell your players it's not so much being looking at the records but when you look at the film it's how they've played, who they've played and how they play at home? You analyze those differences much more than a wins and losses?

ANDERSEN: Not necessarily how they play at home. I've watched a couple, three games on Rutgers and I don't see a team that plays any different, they play with great effort and they're well coached at home and away. They do a nice job. But we do look back and see what watch the film, not necessarily the record and, you said it best, doesn't matter what the record is, this team has won a lot of football games. I don't care who it is, if it's the last game of the year and they have won (one) game, you're going to put everything you've got into it by the way the kids are playing on type and the schemes they have and how the coaches are coaching them.

To be honest with you, if you asked me right now to go `What's the record of six of the teams in the Big Ten?' I don't think I would get it. I would get one for sure, but after that it might be a problem for me. I don't know how many games they've played, seven or eight, and I don't think our kids know that, either. They respect their opponents week in and week out, regardless of the record.


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