Nov. 4, 2013
• Andersen News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Gary Andersen met with members of the media Monday at Camp Randall Stadium to look ahead to Saturday's non-conference clash with BYU.
Video of Andersen's media session can be found above, and a complete transcript of his remarks is below.
ANDERSEN: It was a great game. It was a Big Ten football game as best from what I know of it and what I envisioned of it. It was a great crowd, a great place to play. Our kids were unbelievable. They faced a lot of adversity prior to the game, they faced a lot of adversity during the game, and they kept on battling and fighting and found a way to get the victory at the end, so I'm very proud of them.
Iowa played very good. It was a very good football team we played, and we were fortunate enough in the end to make the plays to win it, so it was great.
James White, I believe, had a very impressive game. Everybody wants to look at yards per carry and everything that was there, but it was tough sledding against a very good defense, and he kept pounding away the whole football game and was very, very consistent and broke the runs at the end of the game to seal the deal for us.
In my mind, he's for sure the Offensive Player of the Game for his toughness and his want-to and being able to make the plays when they came late in that game.
Defensively, we played very well. Throughout it was great to see them bow up. Without Chris (Borland) being in there, Marcus (Trotter) came in and did a good job. Tyler (Dippel) wasn't with us, so that upped the reps of Pat Muldoon and Ethan Hemer and those other defensive end-type kids, and they played very well.
Got a lot of work to do. It's a great victory to get it on the road and look forward to starting up this week. Get the kids in here today. It's going to be great to come back home. Very excited about the opportunity to come back and be in Camp Randall again. It seems like forever since we've been here. Hope everybody comes out and supports these kids. We've got three more opportunities left this month and forever for this team to come and play in Camp Randall. So they're excited about that opportunity.
I promise you, I hope you're as excited as we are as a football team to come back and fill that place up like always and make it a very intimidating place to play.
We're playing a very good team in BYU. They're on a roll. They've gotten progressively better. They've beaten very good teams this year, and it's an opponent that a lot of people on this staff know fairly well. The kids not necessarily on the team, haven't played them. But this is a good team we're playing. Quarterback-driven on the offensive side of the ball without question. He (QB Taysom Hill) has continually gotten better and better as the year goes on and from a year ago. He had an injury, but he's come back and played well. They have good weapons defensively. The (Kyle) Van Noy kid is a good linebacker. He's one of the top linebackers in the country. So we all know where the top linebacker in the country plays football, that is right here in our own backyard. But he's very talented, and you have to account for him every snap.
QUESTION: It seems every week is a non-conference game. A new challenge. Is it refreshing to play a team you have some history with that you know a little bit about? How different are they compared to what you've been used to the last couple of years?
ANDERSEN: Having BYU on the schedule was probably one of the most shocking things that I looked at when I took this job. It's amazing, they follow me all the way here. It's a great challenge to play them. How different are they from the way they've been in the past, the last couple of years? Robert Anae
has come in, their offensive coordinator has come in and done a good job adapting. It's typical BYU. They'll take their best players and put them in position to make plays. That's absolutely no surprise. The way they play, the physicality they bring to the game, the love of football. You'll see it, they love playing the game and a lot of things I stand for in coaching, and a lot of the kids play that way. Their best players will be in spots to make plays for them on Saturday.
QUESTION: I think you've been asked about Nate Hammon before but not for quite some time. I know you guys moved him to safety to get speed in there. But it looked like he was willing to stick his nose in there and get dirty on that fourth-and-1 play. How has he progressed since you guys made that move?
ANDERSEN: He's continually moving upward and probably faster than anticipated by myself. I said this before, I think Coach (Bill) Busch does a tremendous job of taking kids that are athletic and have a care factor and the want-to and the love for the game of football and putting them at safety and allowing them to grow and develop.
The bottom line is Nate's bought into that. He's really developed and continues to do that.
But you're right. His ability to go get physical when he hasn't spent his whole football career tackling people, that's impressive. It shows his toughness and care factor and his want-to, and he's made plays and had a big sack against Northwestern and he's involved in some big plays that he makes on his own. His involvement in special teams has continually gotten better and better. It's impressive. Like I always say, I'm glad he's on our team.
QUESTION: Some of us remember the BYU and LaVell Edwards’ cutting-edge passing game with Ty Detmer and Gifford Nielsen and those guys as they led the nation in passing every year. When did that change and how did that change?
ANDERSEN: I think that BYU has known all the way through Coach Edwards when there were great teams of throwing the ball. I don't know when it really flip-flopped and changed. Even back then they had some very, very good running backs, and they were pass first, but they've developed. They've been very balanced over the last few years. Back a few years ago they ran speed option and load option, and it's a credit to their program how they've evolved.
Now they have an athletic quarterback who can do a lot of things for them, and he's tough to deal with and tough to tackle. They're going to focus on him and highlight on him on the offensive side of the ball. It's always been a program that's based on the good fundamentals of football and ‘use your best kids.’ I don't know when the departure was from the throw, the complete throw to be in balance. But they seem to always be good. They get good players and they're tough-minded young men.
QUESTION: What's impressed you most about Vince Biegel and what he's doing this season? And what you think there will be some added motivation to perform given his family history with BYU?
ANDERSEN: Yeah, Pops playing there, I'm sure that's added motivation. Rocky (Biegel) was a good player there. Vince is excited about the opportunity. I'm sure I saw him this morning. He was excited. But Vince is excited. I think he's more excited like the rest of our kids to be able to come back home to Camp Randall and play regardless of the opponent.
But there may be a little extra family-added incentive there for him. He's playing well, and I think you're going to see him playing more in these last four games getting involved in the defense. He's doing a great job on special teams.
QUESTION: What are some of the challenges with their pace and tempo that they play with on offense? Does it compare to any of the other tempo teams you've faced?
ANDERSEN: I watched them a few weeks ago on the bye, they are fast, they pace you like crazy and they get up and down the field. Is it different than Arizona State? I don't think it's markedly different than Arizona State. Much similar. It comes with the same set of challenges.
The one thing I will say about BYU is they will mix up the pace, so it's not always pedal-to-the-metal every snap. It's on and off, back and forth a little bit. So we've got to practice that, we've got to be conscious of it. The key is to not get worn out. You watch the teams they play, they get physically tired and BYU does a lot of great plays. And there are a lot of missed tackles in the BYU games, especially late in drives.
When you look at pace offense, in my opinion, you need to evaluate those, get to snaps six, seven, eight, nine, 10 and so on. And that's when you see more big plays come out of the offense because you see a tired defense or defense that doesn't get aligned. Those are the challenges that come with pace.
Our crowd can do a lot. I know they can and they will do a lot to hamper BYU's opportunities to play as fast as they want because it gets loud, and it's hard for them to be able to get the communication that they normally get from the snap count, to get personnel on the field, to the communication that verbally has to take place. A loud crowd causes problems with pace. And I'm sure we'll be all jacked up to try to take him out of the game or at least give us a little bit of an advantage there at times.
QUESTION: Are you a fan of playing a non-conference opponent in the middle of the season?
ANDERSEN: You've got to take games where you can get games. I don't think there are a bunch of people in the country when they get the phone call about playing Wisconsin that they jump out of their skin and say ‘We can't wait to do that and come to Camp Randall.’
There's a lot that comes into it. If you just sit there and say the ideal spot, probably not. It is what it is. We'll take the game, we'll play it, and we know we're playing a very good opponent and it gives us an opportunity to get seven wins on the season, which would be a huge step.
QUESTION: A little removed from the Iowa game, do you have a better idea on how some of the guys that were injured, what their status is? Also, do you anticipate that (Tyler) Dippel will be back here this week, and whether he will play or where he stands right now?
ANDERSEN: Yeah, Tyler's situation is still completely up in the air. I would say, you know, unlikely at this point. Our concern is not getting Tyler back here to play in the football game, it's just being with Tyler and helping him get through the situation he's involved in. Football is a distant second in my opinion right now, and I'm sure it is and it should be in Tyler's mindset. I'm worried about Tyler as a kid and Tyler's family and Tyler secondly and making sure he finishes up school to get his degree, and then we'll worry about football. So we'll see as that moves forward.
The other kids, we'll probably need another day, day and a half to see for sure. We've made a lot of progress, some real positive progress in a number of those kids.
But I can't say anybody's going to play for sure yet. I can't say anybody's not going to play for sure yet, because I haven't seen them physically. It's been reported through the trainers.
QUESTION: Last year at Utah State, you came up on the losing end to BYU, 6-3. Is that sort of a score you'd like to see for this type of pace there?
ANDERSEN: If we win by one point, I'm all good. But dictating pace and dictating tempo, the offense is going to control how fast they want to be able to play. The only way you can dictate that on defense is to be sound in your alignments and get the calls to the kids so you don't look unorganized pre-snap or when the ball is snapped. You'll make sure you're doing your best to get the kids in position.
The officials in the Big Ten do an unbelievable job controlling pace or controlling tempo. If you sub and try to go fast, they're not going to let you. I have not seen one mistake this year with that in the Big Ten in games that we've been involved in. That's been a huge positive.
But the offense will dictate what they dictate. The one way we can dictate tempo and dictate pace is to do what we do on offense, and do it well. Run the ball, be physical up front and put points on the board when given the opportunity and then play great special teams.
So we can't get into a momentum game of ups and downs. We have to be steady Eddie just like we were last week. Whatever comes our way, just keep on fighting and deal with adversity.
I've never been more proud of a team as I was last week in dealing with adversity as a team the way they did for 48 hours before kickoff and all the way through that football game. So we've got to keep doing that.
QUESTION: This program over the last number of years has produced a number of NFL-worthy tight ends and elite tight ends in college football, and Jacob Pedersen's numbers are there with the best of them. What has impressed you about him and what he brings to the table especially with your offense?
ANDERSEN: Off the field as far as preparation and how he prepares, Jacob does a great job of being unselfish. He doesn't count his opportunities as far as, ‘Oh, I'm not getting enough reps.’ But when he gets out there, he produces. He's a good leader, he is a good practice player. When he gets an opportunity to make plays in the throw game, he's shown he can make those plays.
Is he the next-level tight end? I don't make those decisions. But in my book I believe he is. He's a tremendous tight end, he blocks, he's physical, he's smart, great hands, he'll catch the ball over the middle, and he's got good speed, so I think he causes matchup problems at any level.
QUESTION: You've mentioned the home crowd a couple times. How good do you think the home field advantage is here and has it lived up to your expectations?
ANDERSEN: It's unbelievable, and yes, it has lived up to my expectations. It's powerful. It can dictate tempo. Our kids build off of it, it helps them understand where they're at in the game; it just gives them an extra boost, if you will, to be at home. We've played against some terrific crowds on the road. To come home and have that advantage where you're not worrying about it all week in practice, just to know the other team has to be able to deal with that and deal with that adversity. Our crowd is very educated. They know when to cheer and when to get loud, and when to do everything they can to help us move in the right direction within that game.
It's an unbelievable crowd. Like I said, it takes me back two or three times every game to sit back and look at it. It's a special opportunity playing in front of those people.
QUESTION: You've drawn a lot of positives, but for the Big Ten, to have you guys sitting where you are, Michigan State and like that, how important is it for the conference as a whole to have a lot of teams now playing well and entering into the conversation?
ANDERSEN: Well, I think it's big for the Big Ten. I'll say this: I haven't gone all through a full cycle, I've done this for a few years and I don't look at myself as a guru of conferences or teams or anything else, but this is one of the best, if not the best, conference in the country. People are going to say that, and a lot of people might stick their nose up in the air when I say that or whatever, but to me it is.
You can't say until you've been in it. You don't know what it's like to walk out there and play against that Iowa defense with a good offensive line. You don't know what it's like to walk into Ohio State’s stadium and play. People don't know what it's like to come to Camp Randall and play.
This is a big-time conference. It's got great teams. They bang around on each other. They beat each other up, and that is what really good conferences do. Those conference battles. Week in and week out, and you've got to be prepared to go play these teams. I think you can see it from the teams that haven't been successful by wins and loss records, but then you go look at what they're doing out there on the field against each other -- and it might be the best team in the conference versus a team that by record is not a great team -- and what's happening, a lot of those teams are going down to the last play of the game, the last quarter, and it happens week in and week out. It's not because it's not a good conference, but because it's a great conference that people are playing that way.
The Big Ten is not recognized enough. We'll keep playing like crazy. No one in this conference is going to back down from playing anybody, and we never will.
QUESTION: If (Jared) Abbrederis, when he's ready to go, do you think about giving him a shot on punt returns given Kenzel's uneven play Saturday? Or will you do as you just said and just try to coach them up a little bit better and get them to make better decisions?
ANDERSEN: Yeah, we'll keep Kenzel (Doe) back there. He's done a great job all year long. We've had a couple get caught in the wind. I don't know how to practice that. I don't know how to help Kenzel in that situation. We had a discussion with that this morning in the meeting. We can help him with his decision-making process. But we have to help him when he has to make those decisions.
Like I said after the game, I'll look back at myself and try to create some of those situations today in practice to help the young man. He's very good at catching it. It matters to him. He cares a lot, and he'll be back there doing it for us this week.
QUESTION: As far as the BCS standings go, you guys are kind of stagnant. What do you feel your team needs to do now to get recognized to move up and be in contention?
ANDERSEN: I have no idea where we are in the BCS standings, I have no clue. This is what we talked about at the beginning of the year. We talked about starting and we talked about good teams find a way to sustain and maintain in the middle and battle like crazy. Great teams find a way to finish, and we'll see. We'll see if we have the ability and we'll look at ourselves at the end of the year and say were we a good team or a great team? We'll be a good team, but will we be great? If we're a great team, then I believe we'll be recognized for that at the end of the year.
But those next four games will tell us if we're going to be a good team or a great team. That's what we talk about all the time with the kids. Now it's finish. You've got to grind it out and dig in right now.
QUESTION: What impresses you most about (Kyle) Van Noy, and from what you know about Borland, do you think he'll be a little extra motivated to be on the field?
ANDERSEN: I wouldn't be surprised if both those kids will be a little extra motivated. I know this, I know Van Noy good enough to know that he has great respect for Chris Borland, and I know Chris Borland has great respect for Van Noy, obviously. He's a tremendous player. Very athletic, a great pass rusher, he's a great pass dropper. He plays hard. And he's done it for years and years and years. It's a credit to him that he came back to play his senior year at BYU. He would have been a highly drafted kid last year, and he wanted to come back and be a great player for BYU and finish it up with his team there.
So what I know of him, I've talked to him very little, but he just seems to be a tremendous young man. You know, he plays the game the right way. He's going to play for a long, long time. He's well rounded.
QUESTION: You've discussed in the past your health issues at a time during your coaching career, and that of Coach (Urban) Meyer's. Given that background, when you've seen in the past week two NFL coaches go down during a game or had their own health issues, what does it make you think of that and the profession that you've chosen?
ANDERSEN: I don't think it really has anything to do with the profession. I think it has to do with us doing the best we can in our own personal lives to take care of ourselves. Everybody, you guys all have jobs you've got to handle, your business, yourself, and your own personal health. I was reminded in a tough way and maybe not eat the bacon cheeseburger and go with the chicken sandwich sometimes. It helps me. I hope it helps me anyway. So far, so good.
But it's a stressful job. It's a grind sometimes. But you've got to step back and don't forget how lucky you are. I've got my mom as a great sounding board for that. She tells me all the time how lucky you are to be where you are. I do that every day. Early in my career, I didn't sit back and do that enough.
QUESTION: Getting back to the conference thing, is there a frustration that the Big Ten doesn't get acknowledged as much as it should? Because there is a perception that the conference is weak, whereas in other conferences when a team gets upset, it speaks to the depth of the conference. Is there a level of frustration that that is the perception of the Big Ten?
ANDERSEN: I haven't been in this conference long enough to be a spokesperson in any way, shape or form for the Big Ten. So when I say these words, I just speak them for myself. I had tremendous respect for the Big Ten when I walked in here. It's done nothing but grown. If I hear those things that are out there and people say this conference is, you know, it is whatever, third-, fourth-best conference or whatever you want to talk about, but I disagree. What else can I say other than that? Would that lead to frustration? Our teams have done well. They've done good in the non-conference schedule. We win some, we lose some.
I think the key is you look and say you've got to play each other week in and week out. And that's where respect is gained. And somebody who hasn't played in this conference doesn't know. If you haven't played in this conference, you have no idea how tough these kids are. How hard it is to go on the road and compete and play. You have no idea. So people shouldn't make stuff up that they don't know what they're talking about.
QUESTION: You just experienced the Iowa rivalry for the first time here. But I'm curious what your memories are going up against BYU both at Utah State and as an assistant at Utah and how long you've known Bronco (Mendenhall).
ANDERSEN: I've known Bronco very well. Bronco actually gave me a coaching job when I was in high school. I was coaching at Park City High School. I was out of college when I made the decision to, well, we don't need to get into that. I was at Park City High School coaching and Bronco called me out of the blue. We had competed against each other in junior college as players when he was at Snow College and I was at Ricks. He had called me. He was at Northern Arizona and asked me if I wanted to coach the defensive line or have the opportunity, when I had really nowhere to go. I didn't have an ‘in’ in college football at that point. I was hoping I could get back in at some point.
So I owe Bronco a lot for that phone call. We were good friends for a number of years. In the last few years it's definitely grown since my time at Utah State. We've become close coaching friends. We text back and forth quite a bit. I have great respect for him.
He gave me an opportunity. Those games at BYU, I've had many great victories and many, many tough defeats. That is the rivalry game that you play. Our goal when we went to Utah State was to try to find a way to create a rivalry game again against BYU and Utah State which had not been there forever and ever. It's been lopsided games, and we were able to be fortunate enough to win a game against them and compete at a high level for every year we were there except probably the first year, and created a rivalry again in that situation.
Our friendship has grown through that rivalry. It's a tremendous place to play. It's a great school and they've got good kids, too. They'll represent themselves well.
QUESTION: Was LaVell Edwards a guy you looked up to in your coaching career too?
ANDERSEN: Absolutely. LaVell, my second year at Utah State I had LaVell come in for fall camp and talk to the kids and spend some time with them. I will never forget the first thing LaVell told me when he walked in my office. He said, ‘You have to find a way to win at home if you're ever going to turn a program around.’ That is the first thing that stuck in my brain, and it's still in there forever. He spent a day or so with me, and also got in front of the team. He's a Utah State guy, too. He's got a lot of ties back in the day to Utah State, so he was happy to come back.
I don't think he was happy when we beat them, but he was happy that we got Utah State moving in the right direction. I've got a ton of respect for LaVell Edwards and the relationship that Coach (Ron) McBride and Coach Edwards had when they were the head coaches of Utah and BYU was a special relationship. So I grew and watched that as an assistant and young coach. You can still respect your opponents, but do it classy.
QUESTION: Can you talk more about the challenges their quarterback, (Taysom) Hill, provides you guys and maybe how he compares to some other athletic quarterbacks you've seen this year?
ANDERSEN: Well, he'll be right up there with those athletic quarterbacks. Just flip on the tape for the last six games. He's done it. He was a great high school player. I recruited him for a second, and it was Stanford and then it was going to be BYU. So I watched him for many years, since he was a junior in high school.
He's competitive. He's tough minded. But his feet are definitely a weapon, and he's big, and he's strong. He runs the ball at times like a running back.
The run game is built for him within the QB run game and the offensive line and the running backs, and Robert Anae with the offensive scheme does a good job with short yardage of allowing him to get a crease and get the short yardage that they need.
But in turn he hurts you bad with his legs in scramble situations. You can see when he gets to the edge, they sprint out and they dash, whatever you want to call it. They get the quarterback to the edge of the defense with the run/throw option. He causes people a lot of issues. He's set up some big plays. He's a smart, smart young man. You're not going to walk out there and say, hey, you're going to trick them. You're going to have to earn your right against them.
QUESTION: It looked on YouTube like you had a lot of fun at practice last week. I'm sure a lot is done to keep it loose and entertaining. Do you like where your team is mentally at this stage of the season? Do those things help keep it fresh?
ANDERSEN: Well, I believe it does. I think we have to have fun playing the game of football. If you have a chance to break it up and have some fun, I think it's important. If that means you do something that other people might think is a little crazy or what have you, that's a good thing to do. But our kids enjoy that stuff. The key thing is our coaches are involved in it, our players are involved in it. They want to stay lighthearted. It allows them to stay even keel, but, again, you said it best, having fun this time of the year is everything. I see some football teams play that football can become very hard and torturous. It's easier when you're winning, but still, these are rare moments in these kids' lives, and they're lucky to be representing whatever university they're representing.
In this case, these kids get to represent the University of Wisconsin every day. They owe a lot back to the University of Wisconsin. They better remember that. Doesn't mean they can't have fun and be lighthearted and enjoy the experience. Because these are going to be some of the best days of their lives. I try to let them enjoy it a little bit. It's important. Football matters. Winning matters a lot. But having fun and being a kid is important too.
I say that to the coaches all the time. Put a smile on your face, man. You have the best job in America. Are you kidding me? Let's go.
QUESTION: We talked a lot about home field advantage. What do you think is the biggest factor in home field advantage, whether it's noise or does your team play differently or fans maybe getting on the officials or what have you?
ANDERSEN: I just think it's the tradition and the support and knowing that you're coming out of that tunnel with 80,000 plus people screaming and cheering for you. It gives you a definite advantage. There is something calming about being at home. From the hotel, to having their parents come around and be around them to being able to spend quality time knowing their surroundings.
There are a lot of things to playing at home that I think are important. As soon as you say that, you're going to go on the flip side and say that can't be a factor when you go travel, which is true. We have the best venue in the country. You look at it, and it's awesome. A lot of people will look and say their place is the best, but it's the best I've been. Our kids love it, they're excited about it. It's a great opportunity to be able to play in Camp Randall. I think our fans are educated, though. They make it difficult on the opponent because they know how to be the fans at the right time to help our defense or to help our offense depending who has the ball.