Oct. 21, 2013
• Andersen News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Gary Andersen met with members of the media Monday at Camp Randall Stadium to review the Badgers' win over Illinois and discuss the team's plan for its bye week.
Video of Andersen's media session can be found above, and a complete transcript of his remarks is below.
ANDERSEN: It was a great victory for us. Obviously, to get on the road and play the way we played and get another Big Ten win was huge.
Highlights of the game, there was a lot of them. I thought the kids on offense were very consistent throughout. Jared and Joel did a nice job working combinations in the throw game and being productive for the most part in the throw game. Melvin (Gordon) and James (White) both played very, very solid in the football game.
(Derek) Watt was as good as he's played. He's the player of the game for us, from a stat standpoint, as far as the offensive side of the football. He's not flashy, which we all know, but all he does is do his job, and he does it with physicalness and takes great pride in it every single snap. He did a tremendous job.
It was also awesome to have the band there. We scored the first touchdown, and I didn't see them pregame, didn't even know they were there, and I turned around, boom, there they are, right down 50 yards away from us. I thought that was a great environment to have them be part of the environment with the kids and opportunity for them to get some energy and juice from the band, and it does matter.
It was a good environment. Kids played well defensively. We've got some areas to take care of on the back end. We did rush three a lot. Not a lot in that game, but a few more times than we have in the past.
When we play drop eight coverage, we need to play drop eight coverage better. It's hard to rush the passer with just three. We'll mix that up. We'll get it where it needs to be. I thought they came out with good tempo on both offense and defense, on both sides, and got the early lead. Came out in the third quarter and did a good job there also.
It was a good solid win against a good solid, obviously, team that's won some ball games this year.
QUESTION: Gary, I think you mentioned after the game there was some pre snap awareness issues among the players. After having looked at things and broken it down a little bit, what was the root cause there, in your opinion?
ANDERSEN: If I sit back and look at it, one of the things that is the most frustrating to me in the game is, when you get down into the red zone, the ability to understand the moment where you're at, and I look at myself always in these situations and truly put it on me with the sub situation down there in the defense.
To me, kids should be ready and in a position to be able to anticipate what's coming (their) way a little bit by what they're studying, what they're seeing on film, what they're understanding, the possibility that I'm in this spot right now and this is the substitution group. We have substitution cards that are held up during practice, just as they are in the game.
Red zone subs are hard, and kids need to be on guard, coaches need to be on guard, and obviously I need to be on more guard because it's disappointing when you have to call a timeout in the red zone, and those timeouts are so valuable. I haven't done a good enough job, obviously, to focus on practice, nor have the coaches, nor have the kids. So we've got to clean that up.
The other thing, these guys (Illinois) threw a lot at you on offense, and part of their game plan is to, obviously, frustrate you and not allow you to sub and be comfortable. The officials did a great job of allowing us to sub and be comfortable and follow the rules. They really did. They got on the ball. They gave us time. That part of our substitution was pretty good.
But then just the late communication that went across the board a couple times, just not clean enough, passing off zones, the verbal communication that we need in the back end.
It's no excuse to say, well, they're young players and they're this and that. I understand all that stuff. We need to communicate better, and we will. I'm not throwing up a big red flag. I like it to be really, really clean in the back end on defense, that's just my background, and we can be better.
QUESTION: Clarify the Kyle French situation. How long had you been thinking about Kyle French, how long had you been thinking about making this move, and how did the two of you come to agree?
ANDERSEN: How long had he been thinking about making this move or I?
QUESTION: However the situation developed.
ANDERSEN: There's really no situation other than the fact of the matter is that he's in a position to be where he wants to potentially finish his degree, which is the most important thing to me, and it's a good spot for him to play this year out.
We discussed life, just like I always do with every kid in the program. It matters to me. I want them to do what's best for them. I think he believes he's moving in the right direction for the football team, number one, for himself and football for the rest of the season, and for himself in the future as he prepares to go in the direction he's going in years to come.
He knows he's got my support. He knows I'm there for him, and I will be just as I am today and 10 years from now. He's a great kid, and he's going to be part of this team as we move forward.
So I really believe that, and we sat down and we talked about it, just like I say, with numerous kids in numerous situations. Kids' lives change every single day. It doesn't always go the way we want it to just like our lives do. He's a great kid. I'm here to support him, and he knows that. I think his teammates are here to support him also.
QUESTION: How much of the feedback that you've gotten from Wisconsin fans has been critical or negative?
ANDERSEN: None from my standpoint, but I try to I guess they’d have to walk into my office to (give) any critical comments.
It's been very positive. It's been great. Wisconsin has been awesome. That's part of the deal is, look, everybody has their opinions. That's life. Everybody has an opinion on everything. Every aspect of life that you have is going to be evaluated by someone somehow some way, whether it's a parent or whatever it may be. In this situation, it's a big part of the world we live in.
It's been awesome. The fans have been great. Trust me, I understand what this job entails at the end of the day, but it's been good. Fans are awesome.
QUESTION: Do you think your team's potential for a BCS bowl game is any more difficult not being in the initial BCS rankings that came out yesterday?
ANDERSEN: Matt (Lepay) asked me that earlier as far as does it worry me that we're not ranked in the BCS. I would have no idea what the BCS poll even was, if we were in it or we weren't in it, if he didn't bring it up to me this morning when we were talking.
Do I think it's harder? No, I don't think so. Again, I'm only going to worry about the things I can worry about and try to get the kids ready to go play every single week. I haven't really put any thought into that.
I've been to two BCS bowl games in my life, and at the end of the year, they were really good teams. If you're really good at the end of the year, you probably have a good opportunity here to go to a BCS bowl.
QUESTION: Again on Saturday, you had both offensive and defensive success in the first drives after the half, something that's been a trend all season long. How big a point of emphasis has that been, and what do you attribute to the success on both sides of the ball after the half?
ANDERSEN: We kind of talked about it this week as far as starting on the road, hopefully, starting fast on the road like we have at home in certain games, and it worked.
Again, the kids obviously made it a point of emphasis now. Why it changed, I can't really tell you that, but it's good to see. It's good to see we have the success in moving the ball down the field, and we had to solve special teams play in some areas, which was good to see.
But starting fast on the road, starting fast at home, they're both very, very important. If you can do that, it just gets kind of the flow of the game going a good direction for you. So it was a point of emphasis, and it worked out.
Not such a point of emphasis where I say, ‘Oh, man, I wish I'd have thought about doing that before, it will make us play good.’ It's just we talked about it.
QUESTION: You mentioned Joel (Stave) throwing the ball Saturday. I think there were four throws that most people could see that were not close to getting to the wide receiver and the target. Overall, how did he play, in your opinion, just from start to finish in that game?
ANDERSEN: Joel was solid. There are those glaring throws. Trust me, the first guy that wants those back is Joel, and the second guy that wants those back is Coach (Andy) Ludwig. You would like to get those throws back.
They talked about some different things and some possible adjustments that can help him as the game goes on to keep him in the moment. But I think Joel's progressed every week. He carries himself well. He seems to adjust with what defenses are doing.
Again, I go back to it this week. Again, it was very similar to past weeks where we saw some base defense early, and when the base defense didn't work out well, it became a blitz fest.
I don't know what the percentage is exactly, what it was in the second half, but the pressure was coming. Whether it was five or six or seven (rushers), however they were doing it, but I know it was high, especially listening to the offensive coaches. He adjusts to those moments in those situations and continues to impress me down those lines.
When it doesn't work out for him, he stays status quo, which is a good trait. He doesn't go too up and down. So he's progressing. I believe Coach Ludwig would tell you the same thing. I'm proud of him. We've got to keep moving in the right direction.
QUESTION: Can we get an update on Chris Borland's health. And also, will you continue to keep him in the plans for those long range field goals?
ANDERSEN: I don't know about the field goal thing, but Chris should be fine. I talked to him last night. Have not seen him today. Texted him actually last night, didn't talk to him, but he seems to be fine.
As he returned -- it’s very simple with Chris -- ‘Coach, I'll be ready for Iowa.’ That's about what he said, so that's what I know. We'll see on the field goals, who knows.
QUESTION: It seems every week Melvin Gordon has some freakish highlight reel thing happening. First of all, what makes Melvin so unique. Second, has there ever been a player that you coached in the past or observed in the past that you look at Melvin and think, he kind of reminds me of that guy?
ANDERSEN: The answer to that part of the question as far as does he remind me of another back I've been around, no, he doesn't. Obviously, I've coached on defense. Been around a lot of good running backs that have been on the teams that I've been involved with, but nobody quite as dynamic in the run game as Melvin is.
The good thing about Melvin, too, is Melvin is in a position when you start talking to him about football and what he needs to do, he understands he's got a lot to improve upon.
His natural ability is unbelievable, and he's done a great job of developing himself, but he wants to be even a better runner between the tackles. He wants to work on his protections. He knows he's got a lot to work on. You see him do that every single week in practice.
He's a unique football player. He's a special football player. He is what college football has really turned into, in my opinion, in a lot of ways, and that's every single time the young man touches the ball, somebody or some coach somewhere is taking a big deep breath and saying, ‘Watch out. Where's this going to stop?’ It could go all the way every single time he touches it, and we've seen that.
He's a special, special player. For how young he is and the way he handles the success he has, great credit to him. I know his mom is around and supportive all the time. A great credit to her as far as how he handles himself, I believe, because it could go to a kid's head real quick and it has not. Obviously, Thomas (Hammock) has a big hand in how he handles himself also.
QUESTION: Gary, kind of along those lines, James White has the potential every once in a while to make a play like that, the swing pass where he made that move, but I'm just curious, what does he do that maybe doesn't jump out on tape. The little things he's doing to contribute whether it's maybe a checkdown, maybe pick up blitzes, things like that.
ANDERSEN: James is – it’s exactly right when you say pick up blitzes, be involved in the little things. A lot of things that James does consistently snap after snap may go unnoticed to just a casual observer of football, if you will.
His ability to chip off numerous times this year and help an offensive lineman who may be having an issue in a pass protection situation. His ability to be involved in the checkdowns in the throw game, that's a big, big part of this offense now. He's done a great job.
The ability for him to pick up to go from one side and scan to the other side on protections and the guy where it doesn’t look like he's coming and doesn't come and the guy from the other side comes, and James is able to get over and block him. He does that stuff very well.
I thought he ran very good in this last game. I thought he was nifty. I thought he was quick. He was physical. He had a very good game for us against Illinois.
QUESTION: When you made the switch in the kickoff duty to (Andrew) Endicott, where in the ranking was his tackling ability?
ANDERSEN: Never seen him tackle prior to making that decision as far as letting him go ahead and kick the ball off, but he's been good. He had a nice solo, obviously, in the last game, and he was in on another assist. There's been a couple of other times he's been right down there in the mix of things.
I think that really irritates other special teams coaches to see him down there making those plays. I told him I'm going to tell him today, and I haven't told him this yet -- he'd better get his head on a swivel because they'll be accounting for him. He won't be just a free runner anymore. They'll be looking for him when he comes down there.
It's good to see him get involved. It's good to see the emotion the kids bring when he makes that tackle. First guy out, again, another example, Chris Borland always pops up, first guy off the sidelines, or one of the first guys. When Endicott makes that tackle, Chris Borland is right out there with him congratulating him. So it was good to see.
QUESTION: Did losing Borland impact your comfort level blitzing at all?
ANDERSEN: No, I don't think so. When you look back at the game, we blitzed by percentage, not a whole bunch different than we did really the week before. It's just some of them were clean, some of them weren't. They (Illinois) blocked them better than they (Northwestern) did a week ago. That's what it came down to in a lot of situations.
I don't think it changed our game plan. It's hard to lose Chris, but we expect the next guy to pop in and make plays. (Marcus) Trotter was solid, got some things to work on, some issues that showed up, but overall he came in and played extremely hard and did some good things.
QUESTION: Gary, I don't know if this violates protocol at all, but did you reach out to Chuckie Keeton, and if so, what was that conversation like?
ANDERSEN: You know, I was there when Chuckie got hurt. I left where I was sitting at that point and went down, and his parents were there. So I was able to see him right after it happened, a half hour after it happened, and talked to him. I have talked to Chuckie since then, and I've also talked to his dad to see if there's anything I can do.
I think I owe that to Chuckie, and I think I owe that to the family. I'm not just flapping my lips when I say I'm going to be there for kids for the rest of my life. It means something to me, and I think it's my responsibility to make sure maybe they don't need me, but if they do, they've got to at least know I'm there for them.
QUESTION: Obviously, bye weeks are expected, but to have two in such a short period of time, it seems to be pretty unique. Now that it's your second bye week in a short period of time, do you have to change the way you prepare this week to make sure guys are still in game mode?
ANDERSEN: No, this bye comes at a good time. Chris (Borland) is hurt. That's good for us. The next opponent we're playing, we need Chris. This is two heavyweights swinging at each other for four quarters.
It's very obvious, watching that film real fast, that we picture ourselves a team that likes to get into those physical games. You don't have to watch but 10 snaps on Iowa to know that they like it, too. They like it a lot, and we like it a lot. So we need to be firing on all cylinders.
For the rest of the kids on the team, we prepared for this. We talked about it all last week. We're going to treat it much the same. It will be a good break for us. It's a good time moving into the eighth game of the season, and it's starting to close in and get close. We'll get as many kids ready as we can.
With this crew of kids -- they go out there and play as hard as they play -- we'll use the rest to help us be fresh as we possibly can.
We've got to be real careful these last games as we go through the last part of the regular season to make sure we practice the right way, and this will just allow us to this week for sure.
QUESTION: A lot of talk about the running backs, but if you look at the offensive line and especially the questions you had coming in about depth and guys you had to replace, how would you just evaluate that group overall and what you like?
ANDERSEN: It's gone very well. We all have things we want to work on. It's never going to be perfect. But for them to manage themselves from the way that they practice I think Coach (T.J.) Woods has done a great job of dealing with the way they practice, putting in the schemes, being smart with them.
A lot of staying healthy is how you manage them, how kids manage themselves, how they handle themselves, and still it's you know, at the end of the day, it's luck of the draw. Trying to stay up in practice and fit things the right way, there's no guarantees and how we get to the games. They play as hard as they can, and we try to stay as healthy as we can, and we've been good in that area, and it's really helped us.
But when we have had an injury, the great thing is the next kid's stepped up, and he's been solid. We said going in, we had seven kids that were good and solid and possibly an eighth, and we still feel that same way. Hope that continues for the next five (games) of the regular season, and hopefully we get an opportunity to play in the postseason.
QUESTION: The success you've had to start third quarters on both sides of the ball, what is the process you go through at halftime with your coaches and players that put them in the right frame of mind to come out so well from the locker room?
ANDERSEN: When we walk in, nothing really magical. The offense and defense will break up. Special teams will spend a quick few moments, just talk about if there's a change in the scheme or something we want to flip flop on that side of the ball.
Coaches probably take about 10 minutes max to talk about what they want to talk about, and these coaches are good. There's good, experienced coaches on this staff, and the way that they get in and I've been able to watch them, both sides of the ball, work as far as what they do in a short period of time at halftime -- it's organized. It's clean. It's crisp. It's not trying to change the world and do a whole bunch of different thing. They get what they like, and they bring it back out and present it to the kids, and away they go.
Our kids are nice and peaceful in the locker room, business like, if you will. They understand that hydrating themselves is important. They understand that possibly getting something in their bodies that's going to allow them to perform at the highest level in the third and fourth quarter is important. So they're thinking about nutrition a little bit.
They take care of their business, talk and communicate. There's never been a panic. There's never been a woe is me. It's a good environment, good coaches again. And an experienced football team just expects themselves to get some information and go back out and play like crazy.
QUESTION: All coaches talk about finishing games strong in the fourth quarter, but I'm just wondering if, at the end of the first half, you guys defensively, Ohio State and Northwestern had a big pass play, and Illinois this last week. Are guys getting beat physically, or is it possible guys aren't as focused as they need to be until the end of that first half?
ANDERSEN: I don't think it has anything to do with focus. I don't think it has anything to do with missed assignments, but it does have to do with an issue that we have, and it can't go without being talked about and addressed because it's happened too many times.
So, again, I look at myself right square in the mirror, and we talked about it now as a staff. We talked about it yesterday as a defensive staff and how can we help ourselves in those situations. Are we asking too much of those kids to be able to are we putting them out on an island too much is basically what it comes down to.
As soon as you do that, the next can of worms is, okay, well, then, they dink and they dunk you down the field. We are young in the secondary, but that, again, it's no excuse. We need to get better.
The best pass defense in the whole world is a pass rush, and if we can continue to work on that and make it be more consistent, I think it will help in the back end. Those kids in the back end are going to get better.
We've got two good coaches to coach them. We're going to work hard on it this week. We all look at ourselves and don't want that to happen. We realize there has been a little bit of an issue.
Sometimes there's some great balls thrown on us, but that's what quarterbacks should do, and that's what receivers should do. They should run down the field and make plays in the big moments when the ball's on top of them.
Last week the kid from Illinois threw a couple of dimes right on top of us, and their guys made plays, and we didn't. It's concerning, and we need to work hard to get better at it.
QUESTION: You look at young guys during the byes. I'm just wondering what you thought of Bart Houston's progress. Has he made up for some of what he lost last year because he couldn't practice most of the year?
ANDERSEN: I think Bart has. Mentally he's gone through now his second year, but this year, being down there in the scouts, he's limited in the scouts because we really want him to try to get as much as he can of the game plan because he obviously goes and signals and he's part of the game and has an opportunity to get in the game.
When I observe him on the scout team, he does a nice job. Understands that role, works hard at it, accepts it, and is very good at it. But when he gets down with the offense, he always seems to be in the middle of it. It's not the easiest spot to be in, but he's developed, I think, as a thrower. He can really throw it, which we all know. He's working hard on becoming a better quarterback.
I think Coach Lud (Andy Ludwig) is happy with his progress, and I'm sure Bart thinks he's moving in the right direction.
QUESTION: Is it unusual to have as much big play balance as you have between the run and the pass. 22 on both sides of passing and running?
ANDERSEN: I don't know if that's unusual. I know it's good for us. We do have the ability to hit the big one on the run game and obviously hit the big one in the throw game. That's what's allowing our offense to be consistent week in and week out.
We're not one dimensional to the point where they can completely load up against the run game and plus-one you all the time in the box. Sometimes with our guys, plus-one is still not good enough for people to be able to get a stop. The offensive line has made some big creases.
It's great to have those big plays take place in the throw game and the run game. It's a big part of it. Credit goes to the kids that are making the plays. They're doing a nice job. It's all great to draw up those shots down the field and to draw up the plays that are scoring the touchdowns, but in the end, the young men are doing it.
If you watch the last game tape, a couple of those runs that bounced out of there, they're bottled up at two or three or four yards, and we bounce it out, and all of a sudden he outruns everybody to go make a great play. It's really good coaching when that happens. Just kidding. Talented kids.
QUESTION: Gary, just to clarify something. When you were talking about the cards, the sub cards on guys, are you also talking about guys on the sidelines should be aware if they're coming in, they should be aware of down and distance and what their role's going to be, before they even enter the game?
ANDERSEN: Absolutely. How that should work, if you're in a package and our kids have been really good at it this year -- if you're in a package, you should move along with the coordinator who's obviously on the field in Coach (Dave) Aranda and then Coach Chad (Kauha’aha’a), who signals it in, you should be moving in a pack with them regardless of whether you're on the offensive side or the defensive side of the field. Our kids do that.
They should be echoing down and distance and understand that they're in the moment where they go through there. They've got to be able to hear it. If it's going to be called out nickel, base, whatever we're going into, our different categories of defense, they've got to be ready to roll. That part of it, really we've handled well. It's a little bit different than maybe what they've been used to.
It's just a couple of getting in the moment at the right spots. It's hard. That's detailed it's mathematics. Knowing you're on the field is addition -- two plus two -- but when we start talking about situations and down and distance and critical moments in the red zone, that's more geometry stuff than it is addition, and kids have to really be into it to get that.
Most of our kids are. I just think some of the young kids can get more into that. Again, it's us, coaches, that have got to get them into those moments.