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Notebook: Andersen to face familiar foe in Cougars

Nov. 4, 2013

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MADISON, Wis. -- While the Wisconsin and BYU football programs are not all that familiar with one another -- 33 years of separation will do that -- Badgers head coach Gary Andersen is certainly no stranger to the Cougars.

For the 10th-consecutive season and 16th time in the past 17 years, Andersen will face BYU when the No. 21-ranked Badgers (6-2) return home to Camp Randall this Saturday to host the Cougars (6-2). The game will be only the second meeting between Wisconsin and BYU -- the first coming on Sept. 20, 1980, a 28-3 win for BYU in Madison.

“Having BYU on the schedule was probably one of the most shocking things that I looked at when I took this job,” Andersen said. “They followed me all the way here.”

Andersen went 6-5 versus BYU during his two stints as an assistant at Utah and 1-3 against the Cougars in his four seasons at the helm of Utah State. In 2010, Andersen’s Aggies notched Utah State’s first win over the Cougars since 1993 with a 31-16 victory in Logan.

“I’ve had many great victories and many tough defeats (against BYU),” Andersen said. “Our goal when we went to Utah State was to try to find a way to create a rivalry game again against BYU which had not been there forever. We were able to be fortunate enough to win a game against them … and created a rivalry again.”

To be successful on Saturday against the Cougars, Andersen said the key for the Badgers will be to slow down BYU’s high-tempo pace on offense, which ranks 12th in the country at 511.1 yards per game. The Cougars are also one of only two teams in the country (Wisconsin being the other) to boast a pair of players that average at least 100 rushing yards per game in QB Taysom Hill (105.1) and RB Jamaal Williams (104.7).

“They are fast, they pace you like crazy and they get up and down the field,” Andersen said. “They will mix up the pace, though, so it’s not always pedal-to-the-metal every snap. So we’ve got to conscious of it. The key is to not get worn out.”

To counteract BYU’s tempo, the Badgers will look to do slow the game down by doing what they do best on offense: running the ball, playing physical up front and putting points on the board when given the opportunity.

“We can't get into a momentum game of ups and downs,” Andersen said. “We have to be steady-Eddie just like we were last week.  Whatever comes our way, just keep on fighting and deal with adversity.”

The focal point of BYU’s prolific offense is Hill, the sophomore signalcaller. He ranks No. 6 in the country with an average of 357.5 yards of total offense per game, including 105.1 rushing yards. It goes without saying that, for the Badgers to have success Saturday, they will have to limit Hill’s impact.

“He has continually gotten better and better as the year goes on and from a year ago,” Andersen said. “He’s an athletic quarterback who can do a lot of things for them and he’s tough to deal with and tough to tackle.”

Wisconsin has faced its fair share of athletic quarterbacks this season, which should help them in preparation for Hill and BYU, which employs a potent run-throw option attack that hinges on Hill’s ability to hurt opposing defenses with his legs.

“He runs the ball at times like a running back,” Andersen said. “His feet are definitely a weapon. He causes people a lot of issues and has set up some big plays. He’s a smart young man.”

Wisconsin will play at Camp Randall Stadium for the first time in nearly a month on Saturday, ending a break of 28 days between home games. The only longer gap between regular-season home games -- 35 days -- came in 1934.

Andersen hopes the home-field advantage will play a role in hampering BYU and its offense.

“Our crowd can do a lot,” he said. “A loud crowd causes problems with pace. I know 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 verbally has to take place.

“Our crowd is very educated,” Andersen added. “They know when to cheer, when to get loud and when to do everything they can to help us move in the right direction within that game. It’s a special opportunity playing in front of those people.”

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