Inside the Locker Room: UMass

Following Wisconsin's 45-0 win over UMass, Badgers head coach Gary Andersen and selected players addressed the media.

Wisconsin Football Post Game

Corey Clement -

Ryan Groy -

Sojourn Shelton -

Joel Stave -

James White -

Wisconsin Head Coach Gary Andersen

ANDERSEN: First of all, Division I games are hard to win. It's a tremendous victory. To get the first one of the year underneath your belt is always good.

We were able to play a bunch of kids, especially in the second half. UMass played hard. They battled from the first snap to the last snap. That's exactly what we saw on film from them last year. My hat goes off. We have a lot of respect for that team. They're going to be a good team.

Did a lot of things good today. I have a tendency to want to kind of lean to the other side on that, but I thought the offensive line was definitely worth noting in the protections and the run. Tight ends were also involved in that. Fullbacks were involved in that. The backs ran hard. They ran very, very well. We threw the ball good in the second half, which is great to see.

There was kind of a defining moment, hopefully, of this football team, I think with these kids, with six minutes left in the game. Going to put Curt (Phillips) in the game, and Curt comes up to me and says, "Coach, let Bart go take those snaps. He needs the repetition." What else do you say as a coach other than that's a tremendous kid, unselfish, and excited about being part of this team. So I couldn't leave this desk here or podium without mentioning that.

Defensively, they swarmed the ball all night long. I thought they did a nice job. Very impressed with them overall, lot to work on, especially in zone coverages, a little bit of communications. They were solid. They were physical. They're throwing the ball quick, and it's in and out.

Over on special teams, I would say we were just okay. There's definitely room for improvement in that area.

QUESTION: On whether the first play of the second half was called by offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig …

ANDERSEN: Yeah, it's 100 percent. Coach Lud's call maybe the offensive staff discussed that as they came out of halftime. If it's up in the air and it's close, Abby's (Jared Abbrederis) going to come down with it most of the time. We underthrew the first one, but it was a good call. Two great players connected, unbelievable protection on it.

Joel (Stave) wants to sit back all day and throw the ball. We wanted to emphasize it in the first half. The inconsistency in the throw game in the first half was not just Joel. It wasn't just the receivers. It wasn't just the tight ends. It was a combined effort, other than I thought he had protection, which was great to see.

We kind of amped that up in the second half, and players make plays. Players win games. No magic to it.

QUESTION: On having confidence in the passing game …

ANDERSEN: Yeah, we need to. You're not going to catch every ball, and you're not going to throw it. We did a pretty good job of that today in the short and in the deep. The middle, I'm sure we're going to have more involvement with the tight ends as we move forward.

That was a big time play. Any time you can take the pop off the defense and score touchdowns or get yourself in position to score a touchdown in the red zone is big.

QUESTION: On the importance of the defense getting a shutout …

ANDERSEN: You know, I think they showed a good amount. They weren't overly aggressive, but you could tell it means a lot. I've been in those spots, and it's hard when the head coach flips over and says, "Okay, let's unload the bench," when there's a zero on the scoreboard there.

But if you had seen (Defensive coordinator Dave) Aranda on the last stop when they got the second, third down conversion, he was pretty fired up. He wanted that zero.

Dave is the same way as I am. He wants to get that zero for the kids. That's something that's a statement to hold a team to no points. I'm sure they're proud of it as a defensive group of kids, and they should be.

QUESTION: On gaining momentum after Melvin Gordon's long TD run …

ANDERSEN: Yeah, it was going back and forth a little bit. We had opportunities, and we didn't convert. Playing good on "D," but we needed to make that play and get us going and headed in the right direction. He hit that, and it was blocked out well. I think it was Ted that made the last block on the edge.

After that, you're going to have a hard time catching Melvin. Once he gets his shoulders square, he's pretty fast. He needs to look back at the jumbotron and see where those guys are coming from behind. It's easier that way.

QUESTION: On splitting carries between James White and Melvin Gordon …

ANDERSEN: No. I love them. They're again, they have no agendas. They're not sitting there saying, "I want the ball. It's going to be my rep, my series."

To see what Corey did tonight, that's a big part of it. We're very lucky to have three men at that position who are good football players.

James and Melvin are a tandem. I believe those two kids are going to work together very, very well all season long.

QUESTION: On walking out of the team tunnel for the first time …

ANDERSEN: Yeah. It was that's a special moment. You kind of say you're not going to be emotional when you talk about it and whatever, but when you get into that moment, when you're walking down that tunnel because I walked up that tunnel, I don't know, 50 times since I've been here. There's not one time I walked up and hadn't really thought about how one day it's going to be the first game.

Today was the first game. It was special to me and will be forever.

QUESTION: On Derek Watt's injury …

ANDERSEN: He's okay. I think we'll have to see and evaluate him. I would expect him to be back. We'll know more tomorrow.

QUESTION: On taking any teaching points from the victory …

ANDERSEN: We talked about it's always a much better environment when you win and you can teach with a "W." Some guys say you can coach them harder when they win. I don't believe that statement. These kids want to win. They want to be good. They'll be studying that tape tonight on their iPads, I promise you.

QUESTION: On what he said to QB Joel Stave at halftime …

ANDERSEN: I didn't say anything to Joel. I looked at the quarterbacks and looked at the wideouts when we were walking in at halftime. I said, "Let's challenge ourselves to throw the ball and catch it because we can."

I didn't grab Joel and say anything specific to him. I just kind of challenged the offense to say, hey, "We can throw the ball. We've done it all camp. We did it during the spring. Let's throw the ball and catch it and make plays."

They did a tremendous job. All that credit goes to the kids. They figured out a way to get it done.

QUESTION: On the performance of true freshmen Sojourn Shelton and Corey Clement …

ANDERSEN: Yeah, Sojourn went up and got that pick. Ethan (Armstrong) thought it was going to be his. Sojourn went up and got it. I thought they handled the moment well, which you worry about. Corey didn't get into the game until late third quarter, fourth quarter, whatever it was, but he handled it well. He was ready, and that was a credit to him. He did a nice job of making some big runs and almost got him a couple touchdowns.

So job well done by that young man and Coach Hammock getting him into that spot. Sojourn, I thought, handled it as a starter good. Those kids on the outside for UMass, I thought, ran pretty good. They challenged them with a lot of different coverages and some different things he was doing.

He was not starry eyed. He was ready to go from the first snap. Credit goes to Sojourn and Coach Strickland for handling themselves the way they did and got him ready to go.

QUESTION: On the play of Corey Clement …

ANDERSEN: Yes. His physicalness is impressive. He's one of those guys you look and think you made a nice play on defense, and he hops up with a three, four yard gain. He's done that.

The challenge for him is going to be when you're in the position to throw the ball. You've got to protect. You've got to come up and take the next step. He's working through that, and Thomas will get him there.

QUESTION: On the punt return look …

ANDERSEN: Today it is. We might have done something with Abby (Jared Abbrederis) late in the game or in the second half if he didn't take the shot he took early. Just being a little cautious back there. We need to time that up better. At times it looked great. At other times it didn't look real good.

They did kind of catch us off guard with a whole completely new punt formation that they had never showed before. We had to do some scrambling on the sidelines to get that fixed. I thought that Coach Busch handled that pretty good.

QUESTION: On the team doing ‘Jump Around' …

ANDERSEN: Yeah, I want to have fun. I don't think there's anything wrong with having fun in the game of football. Everybody has fun in the moments. We'll see how that goes and probably depends on how you're playing a little bit sometimes. How happy are the ‘Jump Arounds?' Hopefully that can continue.

QUESTION: On the differences between James White and Melvin Gordon …

ANDERSEN: Before fall camp, I really felt like it was more James inside the tackles and Melvin on the outside. That was just from watching tape a year ago. I really thought Melvin got his pads down today well. James always runs with his pads well. And they both had the ability to break it down outside.

As much as they were different then, whatever, six, seven months ago, I think they've become more of the same. They both have good speed, good vision. They're physical guys when they need to be. I was proud of them today.

QUESTION: On scoring on four players longer than 50 yards …

ANDERSEN: Big plays are huge. If you can take them in the run game or get them in the throw, obviously, that's a big part of the offense. Our goal is to have a certain number of big plays every single game versus how many snaps you go against and how many snaps you snap the ball. Obviously, we got that down.

Big plays are big. Long drives that are grinding long drives are kind of an identity who we want to be at times and kind of wear people down, have statement drives, if you will, that allows you to be able to run time off the clock, do all the things you want to do. Those big plays are big for us.

QUESTION: On mishandling the center-quarterback exchange …

ANDERSEN: Yeah, huge negative. We haven't had one for I was I snapped the ball a lot during camp, just kind of hanging around with the kids and enjoying it and whatever. So I stopped doing it, and we haven't boffed one since then. I haven't had a ball snap bobbled in practice for a long time.

There was two of them today, and they have to go away. We'll continue to evaluate that and look at it, but ball's on the ground twice. It didn't cost us today, but if it continues, it will, and it will cost us a football game eventually if we don't get it fixed.

QUESTION: On the atmosphere of the game …

ANDERSEN: Loved it, awesome. You get in a lot of special stadiums as you go through your career. This is my first game here. During the first three quarters, you kind of get caught up in managing football game a little bit. But in the fourth quarter you look back, and you know, it's a special, special place. I'm learning that more every single day.

QUESTION: On being nervous before the game …

ANDERSEN: Absolutely. I was nervous, uneasy, whatever. I'm like that every single game. I think, as a coach, you're always in that situation to where you worked so hard and you want the kids to do so well. If that doesn't come with nervousness, I don't know how it could be.

QUESTION: Did you sleep?

ANDERSEN: I slept really good. Yeah, I did. I always sleep good, though. I sleep better in the hotel room beds because I don't have two Great Danes sleeping on top of me. It makes it simpler. I've always slept good before games.

QUESTION: On putting Bart Houston in nthe game instead of Curt Phillips …

ANDERSEN: I did not. I didn't even think about it. That was all Curt, and it's a pretty powerful thing, for me anyway. I don't know what anybody else thinks about it. I told the team right after, and I think it affected our team in a very positive way.

QUESTION: On the offensive line …

ANDERSEN: It will be good. Hopefully, the answer we come with, we still believe we have nine guys that can turn around and go play, at least eight for sure. That's where we want to go, and that's the direction we're headed.

It looked like they played pretty good. We'll evaluate the film. We kept them healthy, I hope, and we'll get to game two.

QUESTION: On getting Tanner McEvoy some reps at wide receiver …

ANDERSEN: Yeah, Tanner's situation right now is we want him to go out there and practice and continue to get him on the field and hope he makes some plays for us. And to throw in a game when the game is on the line, but it's a good start.

To even jog out there and block and do the things and run people off, it's just good to get your feet wet, and he was able to do that.

QUESTION: On the team singing ‘On Wisconsin,' after the game …

ANDERSEN: Well, we knew the words, but it's kind of hard to time it up. We need to do better. Maybe we need to get the band over here and kind of get on the same page. But it took a minute.

I would not say we were game ready on singing On Wisconsin at this point. We've got a ways to go.

QUESTION: On his belly flop during fall camp …

ANDERSEN: Yeah, I think my second one might have been better. It was interesting. So I got coaxed into that. What do you do? 100 kids yelling at you to do a belly flop, you do a belly flop. Peer pressure.

QUESTION: On preparing for next week's opponent, Tennessee Tech …

ANDERSEN: Solid week of practice, first of all. It's going to be another challenge. It's a spread team, as we worked on quickness through the summer. We'll spend a couple days evaluating.

They scored, I want to say, 50 plus points this past week. I saw a late score, and it was 40, something like that. They had a big victory.

They're going to come in, I'm sure, with tape. They're going to have us on tape, so they'll be able to evaluate.

Again, every game we prepare for is about the Badgers. It's how we get ourselves in a position to be ready on Saturdays. I thought we handled it well to this point, but we've got to be ready for another challenge tomorrow.

QUESTION: On how he celebrates a win …

ANDERSEN: I go home and hang out. That's just me. I'm low maintenance. A few people come over. We'll sit back, and believe it or not, we'll probably watch some football and not do too much. Those days go quick. It is important to enjoy them, and I will enjoy them. I got my brothers here and some family members.

We'll bring the coaches over. Hopefully, they'll all come over to the coach. We'll just enjoy it for a few hours and get right back at it tomorrow.

Thanks, you guys. Go Badgers!

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