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Excited to get started. Just a quick recap of last week. I was proud of the young men again.
Did a nice job of handling the week that we played well, made some strides in all three areas -- offense, defense, special teams. We're excited to get back to it today. Hopefully, they had a good Sunday off, and we'll evaluate the film and move on to Ohio State. Ohio State, obviously, a great team. Done tremendous things, we all know that. However many, 15-game winning streak. They're a talented crew. Had an opportunity to spend some time watching them a yesterday and watching them a little bit today.
What you see is L so ID scheme. I think they use their individuals on the team, play makers, if you will, in the right spots, which is always a sign of a quality coaching staff, in my opinion. They fit themselves in very well there.
They've got a lot of athleticism. I would say this, if you watch the tape from a year ago to now, it's obvious that they made an emphasis to recruit speed in a lot of different areas on the offensive side of the ball. They've got receivers that can run, catch, make plays. They do have a lot of speed there.
Running back position, obviously, they get their guy back. They've been very successful in running the football.
And the offense, either quarterback, it doesn't change. It doesn't really matter what quarterback. It seems to be the question that everybody wants to talk about, but either quarterback can run the offense. They've been very successful running the offense and has won a lot of football games.
Very well schooled team. They'll be aggressive on special teams, just like we like to be. That will be an interesting matchup. I think for their defense, they want to obviously stack up and block the run. It's two very different styles when you look at them presnap. Both teams want to run the ball effectively and get big plays down the field in the passing game. They have done a nice job making the big chunk plays in the throw game. They've been successful.
Q. Can you just give us whatever update you can on your walking wounded, guys who are hurt or held out.
COACH ANDERSEN: I still really don't know and won't until today. I have not seen them since after the game. So I'll see them this afternoon. Next 48 hours or so, I think we'll have an idea who's going to be out there. A couple young men probably won't participate or do much until Wednesday or Thursday. It is a factor. We're down some key guys. But the key thing is the next young man step up and go.
I don't have a great feel of that right now to understand truly where they sit.
Q. Gary, you go into this preparing for both guy ton and Braxton?
COACH ANDERSEN: I don't think it matters. Whoever's in there. One guy might do that better than the other. Here comes this guy or that guy or let's expect this offense or that offense. It's still a tough offense regardless.
Q. Any challenges for you in terms of preparing for guys off the field as well as on the field in the game plan?
COACH ANDERSEN: No, both good players. Doesn't change our approach whatsoever with whichever quarterback is playing.
Q. How significant is the coaching matchup between you and Urban, given your history?
COACH ANDERSEN: My take is that it doesn't have anything to do with it. Obviously, Urban's a good friend. I consider him a good friend. Who knows, maybe he doesn't consider me a good friend. We'll talk. We won't talk this week, I can guarantee you this much. It's about the kids, and it always will be.
I'm sure he would say the exact same thing. Much of our beliefs is always about the kids first, and he believes in putting them first, I do too. We'd like to deflect, I'm sure, any of the talk about us and our prior coaching together, our relationship, although it's an important relationship to me, but this is about the kids who are playing the football game. He's a good coach, good staff, and they've been on a roll for a long time, as far as winning games, obviously. So excited to have a chance to be able to compete against him.
Q. Since you got hired, you were probably brought up to speed on different rivalries and tradition of the program. What things have the players or Coach Alvarez taught you about the rivalry between Wisconsin and Ohio State, especially recently?
COACH ANDERSEN: No one's even really shared anything with me. I know the kids are excited to play Ohio State, just like they would be excited to play Ohio State every year, just like they were excited last week to play Purdue. I really don't get a feel of any games. These kids prepare -- I hope they'll continue to prepare the same way. The way we prepare will be no different because it's Ohio State. We believe in what we do. We'll be prepared no matter we play well or play bad or win or lose, we'll continue to prepare the same way.
That will be this game, the next game, the next year, and the next year. Minor tweaks here and there on what you do, depending on how your team's doing or how your team feels. But Ohio State is a big game. Every Big Ten game in an important game. I know our kids view it as that. I don't think they view it much past that other than it's a big game and it's a conference game.
Q. You mentioned Ohio State's speed. I know their freshman Dontre Wilson, and their kickoff return is a big threat. How difficult of a test is that going to be? And what did Endicott do on Saturday, whether it's hang time or ball placement, that you liked on kickoff?
COACH ANDERSEN: They're fast on special teams in a lot of different places. They are explosive. They're going to take advantage of the schemes that they see. So we'll have to kick the ball.
Endicott did a nice job of hanging the ball up in the air. If you just look at our hang times on our first three kicks in that game, they were like 3.3 or whatever it may have been. We got him to 3.8. So some hang time into the wind. We knew the ball wasn't going to go out of the end zone, but it landed where it did on 7 or so, and the returns were controllable.
That doesn't seem like it's a big difference, but if you take how fast these young men run down the field and you give him another .3 or .4 second, they cover a good amount of ground in that time. And the box closes up fast on them.
He's going to kick this week. He got himself on the airplane, and away he goes. Now we expect him to compete and kick at a high level. He did it last week and should be no different next week.
Q. You mentioned Ohio State wanting to stack the box considering the numbers your rushing game has put up. Is the progress of your passing game concerning at all considering what we saw on Saturday?
COACH ANDERSEN: Well, no, we're not hiding from the fact that, yes, we want to be able to throw the ball better, and it's a whole offense. It's the coaching staff. It's myself.
No one's going to sit here -- oftentimes, when you start talking about the passing game and this and that, all -- it goes right to the quarterback. Well, not so true. The fact of the matter is the pick that was thrown, we didn't run the right route and the right spacing at the right time. No one wants to talk about that. They want to talk about how the quarterback threw a pick.
There's things we miss. The offensive line, we want to run better routes, cleaner routes, crisper routes. We want to put them in position as coaches to be able to execute.
Is the passing game a concern? No. Is it alarming? I would say so, but it's a concern. If they can get the safeties to back off just a little bit, it really helps.
I'll say this, when you have great running backs -- and some of those runs we've broken off and we make them miss at the line of scrimmage on a free hitter, teams are going to start sitting there saying, we'd better hang a free safety back there a little bit because at some point these kids are going to make somebody miss, and if there's nobody else back there, it's going to go the other way.
The run game, as crazy as it sounds, may help us get another safety out of the box. People are going to eight-man box against us, nine-man box against us, that's how it is. It will be no different against Ohio State. They coverage is to build an eight-man box at least. Last year they were a quarters team. This year, without getting too technical, they're not. They're more of a cover three team, and they will have a safety in the middle of the field. I'd like to see our throwing game get better.
Q. Gary, you mentioned that your last visit to Columbus was in 1986. What was that about?
COACH ANDERSEN: Actually, it was '80 -- I was wrong when I said that. It was when I graduated from college. It would have been two years before that. I went on a recruiting trip out of junior college. So it was '84. It was one of the trips I took.
Q. As a follow, what made you decide not to go to Ohio State? Why did you end up where you did? COACH ANDERSEN: Things I've said many times. At that point in my career, I needed to go home and play because that's where my family was, that's where my dad was, and I thought it was important that he was able to see me play a couple of years at home in Utah.
Q. Gary, when you looked at the tape, what specifically did you like from Conor O'Neill in that game? There's one play I'm curious about. The PBU on the boundary, it looked like that throw was to the tight end, but he was covering the back and was able to reach to the back and get that.
COACH ANDERSEN: It was a reactionry play. He was trying to cover his responsibility. The quarterback kind of threw back behind Connor, and he was able to be a natural reactor like he is and get his hand on the ball. I thought he played well. He was physical. I thought he communicated well with the front, as well as Chris did, and getting them in positions to make sure that we gap cancelled out as well as we can be. Again, he's been a very unselfish young man. I like what he's done. It's going to be nice to have him there and then have Landisch there and Chris there this week. It's going to be a big positive to get that rotation back a little bit because we'll need it.
We'll be running a lot sideways this week and a little bit of a pace offense. He's had a very solid year, and it's fun to watch him. He's having a good time doing it too.
Q. You've been able to see in coaching style and temperament, how are you similar or different than Coach Meyer?
COACH ANDERSEN: I don't know. I spent one whole year with him coaching-wise, and I was on the defensive side, and we never lost. He probably came in the defensive room five times. So it makes it easy.
When it came to recruiting and everything else, he was always on the offensive side of the ball. I will say this. I think we both have an extreme passion. Which is probably one of the -- one of our nemesises that we both have is we're both maybe a little too passionate at times for what we do. I think we both learned that through the years. I think we both care about kids, and we both coach because we do care about kids, and it drives -- I know it drives him, and it's the number one thing that drives me.
I would also say this, that as we move through the years of coaching, that I like to think I'm a family man, and I do my best to take care of my kids. I know that Urban is no different there. He prides himself on his family and making sure that they're well taken care of and giving them the best opportunities to succeed. We're similar in that way. I'm sure there's other ways we're very different. That would be some.
Q. Gary, in Chicago, Urban talked about all his time as a coach, there's only been a handful of times where his staff had perfect harmony, and it was the staff you were on. And he talked about one of the reasons that it worked so well was because you came in with the same mindset that he had. Is that what you're referring to in a lot of the stuff that you share in that regard?
COACH ANDERSEN: I think so. You know, I would agree that it's easy to work for a guy or be involved on a staff when you have -- not everything has to be in common. I'm not saying that in any way, shape, or form, but I just think there's a belief -- a core belief in coaching that there's a lot of similarity that's we both have. It wouldn't matter if we were coaching 8-year-olds in little league or we're coaching at the highest level, which we are now, a lot of our core beliefs would not change.
That makes it easy for me as an assistant to go to work. I hope a lot of our assistants kind of feel that same way about where we are now at the University of Wisconsin.
Q. Gary, we talked a lot about the experience and depth on your front seven. How has that group done through four games?
COACH ANDERSEN: Very good. And, again, I would -- I keep using that word unselfish with this crew. It would be easier for them to be pointing the finger at themselves or at the guy that's playing next to them or at myself, if you will, because they are splitting those reps.
Again, last week, we played 60-odd -- 60 reps, I think, low 60s or right on 60, so those reps are split. So you're going to get -- some of them get 20 reps. Some of them may get 40 reps. It may be 30 and 30. They understand. They're not batting an eye on that, and they're using that as an opportunity to play extra hard. They work good together. They complement one another. I think, as you sit down and you look at it, and the four ends are the same as they are. They're a little bit different. And the two nose guards are very different in the way they play but both effective. Chris is going to play most of the snaps. We all know that. And really the F and the B with what B.K. has done and what Ethan has done has been very solid, but the backups at those positions have been pretty good. So the S and the Bs need to make sure they react or we'll have more split time there. I'm proud of the way that Vince Biegel came in and played. Did a nice job.
Q. Gary, if Peniel Jean can't play, who is next in at quarterback?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, T.J. Reynard doesn't look like he'll be ready to play. We'll see. We can do a lot of different things. With the way Michael's moved himself forward at the safety position, it makes you start to look at the safety position and say, are you going to put him more down into the box and let him be an outside linebacker type of guy? He's been so productive.
We'll always try to get the best 11 kids on the field. We're not in the business of having kids play because they've played before. They've got to produce. When I say that, it may be Des that could move down and become a nickel.
Des would like that, but, again, that will depend on the transformation of the free safety at that point and who can get back there and play and can Tanner get in a spot to be able to play free safety for us. You've got to have a kid back there that can run and cover the middle of the field and run a redirect and react. It's a good question and something we won't be able to answer probably until Wednesday.
Q. Kind of a followup on Tanner along those lines. He got some good reps Saturday at the safety spot. Do you hope to be able to get him working? What can he give you back there and maybe allow you to move some other guys depending?
COACH ANDERSEN: I think Tanner, he'll allow us to do a lot of things from an athletic profile as a true free safety. But it's got to become natural to put him out there, and he's got to -- he's accepted the role. I think he's trying. He's understanding.
But it's one thing to do it. How much time is he going to put in? What does he want to do at the end as far as getting himself out there? And then how fast is it going to come to him from an athletic standpoint. There's a lot of things that are going to be factors in there. We've got to coach him hard.
If Tanner wants to do it, he's got to put the time in when he's not around us. So he's got to make up space and time, just like he had to do at quarterback. So it's a work in progress.
Q. Gary, kind of a two-part question. When you were at Utah the year you were with Urban, did he ask if you would want to go with him to Florida?
COACH ANDERSEN: That was definitely in the equation, and it was discussed and talked about from myself, but Coach Meyer knew that I needed to stay there with Kyle, and that's what I wanted to do. So it was a very brief discussion, and I had already made that commitment to Kyle that, if he was going to take the head job, that I would stay there and stay with Kyle at Utah. So that's what I did.
Q. As a followup, how much of your coaching manual that you presented to Barry when you took the job came from Urban?
COACH ANDERSEN: There's a lot from all three of, really, the guys that I spent the most time with during my coaching career, Coach Mack and Coach Meyer and Coach witting ham. Equal amounts from them and information you get from others that you like as you go through time.
Q. Gary, how have your guys handled adversity versus how they handle success? Going beyond game types, the ebbs and flows of games.
COACH ANDERSEN: Pretty good. I think we've been steady Eddie in games. We've been through emotional moments. We've been through tightly contested games. I ask them every week, stay steady, stay right in the middle. Don't get too high or too low. React to adversity and react to the good all in the same. It's a business-like approach to a football game. If you're a football team that comes out one week and you're higher than a kite and the second quarter, you're not, and something good happens, you're higher than a kite, and something bad happens, you go in the tank. So I ask them to be nice and steady regardless of what happens and regardless of the situation. They've done that well on game day, and I think they've done that well in practice. When we go out today, it's a learning day. It's a mental day.
Tomorrow's a grinder. It's a tough day. It's not much of a day to be hopping around and have a smile on your face because it's a hard workday. They've handled it and handled game day well.
Also, we've handled adjustments on game day well, big time adjustments from what we've seen on tape, especially on the defensive side of the football -- excuse me. On the offensive side of the football. The defense,coming in that we're playing against have not drastically changed, but they have definitely changed schemes, which has forced us to kind of shake things up on the run.
The kids have taken the coaching, and the coaches have done a nice job of implementing new schemes. So that shows a team that's prepared.
Q. Gary, what have you thought of Wozniak? And after Pedersen, the next three tight ends, who provides the most in the passing game?
COACH ANDERSEN: DeCicco, I think he has to come in and play now. Woz has been good. He's been very good at the point of attack. He's been physical. He's done what we asked him to do at the run game and been very good at that. I like where he's gone. The next guy's got to step up. The fact that we do have the injury there. Hopefully, that's not the case.
Q. Much talk surrounding your defense about its aggressive nature from camp all the way through the start of the season. A year ago the Badgers had success. So kind of containing Miller and not letting him go. For you, what's key in finding that happy medium and being aggressive with the contain?
COACH ANDERSEN: That's definitely a good point. If I sit back and watch him a year ago to how I see him playing offense now to what they did a year ago -- I just watched the tape fairly quickly. They were in a lot of games last year that were highly contested, tight ball games that were low scoring, lots of them.
The Badger game a year ago was really one of them. This year has not been that way. Their quarterbacks are doing a good job of running when they see the crease and they have a really given opportunity to go get it, but they're also doing a good job of buying time, and they're keeping their eyes down the field better, I think, especially Braxton than he did a year ago, as far as trying to make some things happen for him.
So you've got to contain him. You can't let him have free rein. The quarterback game is going to be there. Who knows with the injury they've had, but who knows, it's part of the offense. You've got to contain the run game. You've got to contain the quarterback run game. But you've also got to understand they're going to get theirs. They're going to get some plays. The key is how do you react to the next play?
Q. Not that you pay attention to what the media says, but I've already seen people --
COACH ANDERSEN: I listen to everything you guys say, trust me.
Q. I've already seen people tapping this as the so-called championship game for the leaders division. Is it possible to look at this with that sort of importance in September?
COACH ANDERSEN: Nope, not from what I've seen from Northwestern and Minnesota and Indiana. I can go on and on. There's some good football teams out there that we're going to go out and we're going to play and are on our schedule. This is far from a championship game.
This game probably will not -- it will just be one game in the conference race at the end. Our goal is real simple, to play well in conference and compete every single week. We know at the end of the day, if we want to attain our goals -- again, I go back to these kids all the time, and they tell me all the time, as coach, we know we've got to do better than we did last year in conference if we want to have any opportunities to do the things we did at the end of the year last year.
We know that they had some games last year, whatever it was, 500 or whatever it was in the conference, that they can't look at one game in conference and say this is the championship when they're all going to be contested. They know that better than I because I haven't been on those fields yet.
Q. Gary, the wide receiver position, the depth chart got it worked out on Saturday. How did you like the work of the guys, besides Jared, and what you saw out of some of the kids that had to step in?
COACH ANDERSEN: You know, Erickson caught a nice ball. He's going to be more involved as we move forward and have an opportunity. His challenge is to consistently be a blocker with his site. He has to be very crafty at what he does.
Frederick's been a great blocker. He's caught some balls. He had an opportunity, and it really hurts him that he dropped that one.
Wheelwright got some reps. The made a nice play on one ball. Caught it. The play didn't work out exactly how we draw it up, but he made the play and did his job the correct way, and then he drops one. I think it's still definitely a work in progress.
We talked at the beginning, we've got to have someone take the pressure off Jared. A couple of guys working in tandem together are trying to take the pressure off of Jared, but it hasn't really happened yet.
Q. From what you watched last year and early this year, do you think Ohio State is the best team in the conference?
COACH ANDERSEN: Best team in the conference? That would be impossible for me to say. I haven't watched the tape. Haven't seen the other guys play. I haven't evaluated them from top to bottom.
If you just look at it -- same thing I said in the summertime -- Ohio State has a good opportunity to be number one, the same opportunity as anyone does. From the way they played last year, the way they won games and continue to do that.
In my opinion, they're a lot better team than they were a year ago because they're much more skilled and much faster than a year ago. It's a dramatic difference, in my opinion. The speed on the field, for them this year than they had a year ago.
Q. Gary, how is it good to have all of the offensive personnel on the field? Braxton was out. Carlos Hyde just got back. Is it difficult to fully prepare for what you're going to see because they haven't been all fully together on offense?
COACH ANDERSEN: No, I don't think so because I don't expect drastic changes. They want to run the ball first. They want to be strong in the run game. They want a run game that forces you to run sideways. You'll see some balls go out sideways to get you to run. Get the defense tired, and they'll come back at you and start running the ball and try to be physical with you. Again, that's coaching. That's good coaching. It's the way it should be done. It should be planned out in giving your kids the best opportunity to be successful. I don't see that changing with a couple guys coming back because the guys that have been doing the job have done it very, very effectively.
Q. Gary, what have you seen on some of Joel's deep balls? We all know he's capable of throwing a great deep ball. Have you seen him aiming it a little bit or maybe not cutting loose? That's some of the chatter you hear out there.
COACH ANDERSEN: Well, I'm far from a QB expert, so I can't sit back and really evaluate him or dissect him on how he's throwing the ball or really should be. If he's a three technique and you want to talk about how you're going to do the reach block, I'll talk about it for days on end. I know there's a couple of throws he'd like to get back. I've talked to Andy about it. Andy is going to coach what he can coach, and Joel will continue to make it be important. They're not as easy as you think they are to complete them down the field. There is a little bit of a touch to it.
We work on it hard in practice, and Joel is making it important. But we do. We need to take it one -- if there's a couple more pass ins that game we just completely -- even possibly two. This is Coach Ludwig's statement from last week. If there's two throws we get back and we make those throws, we're saying we threw very well. If there's a couple we miss, we threw it okay probably at best. So we'll keep working on it, and Joel will make it important, so will Coach Lud.
Q. Given the depth this program's had at running back the last three, four years, it seems the second favorite debate for fans after the quarterback controversy, who should start? Should this running back get more carries than other running backs? It seems to center on Melvin Gordon. What would you tell fans that the core of distribution you've gone through is the best for this team as opposed to making one guy a featured back?
COACH ANDERSEN: It's there now because it works so well. Same amount of carries. Melvin's had a couple of big plays in the fly sweep that have been gigantic plays and big gainers, which you guys know. If you were to take those plays out of it, yards per carry between the two, when they're running the same type of offense, would be much closer, much similar. I don't know. I don't have the numbers on that. That would be my guess if you just said, hey, we're in the tackle box. Here we are, we're playing.
And James is running that way and Melvin's running that way, I would assume the numbers would be much closer. The fly sweep is not James' forte, nor does it need to be. You see the screens. There's some different things that James has done and been very effective. They're great backs. They both have a part in the offense, and a big part in the offense, and will continue too. It's a great balance. I think it does a little bit -- throws a little bit of an offset. You saw them in there a couple of times last weekend in there together, and that's something we'll continue to do as we move forward.
Q. You mentioned with how Ohio State's impressed you putting numbers on the scoreboard and not really having a close game. Have you expecting this one to be a shootout? What are you expecting?
COACH ANDERSEN: Don't know. Our goal is to go play well and want to be right there in the fourth quarter and see what happens in a hectic environment that's going to be a great atmosphere.
I have no idea. I think this game will take on its own personality just like every game does. If you look at it, they play great defense at times. We play great defense at times. They play great offense at times. We play great offense at times.
Does that mean a shootout or 2-0 on a safety with two minutes left? I have no idea. I think it will be a good football game. One of the big keys to us is how are we going to handle the environment? That's a big part of it. We've been on the road one time, and it was loud. It was fairly hectic. But I know this. For every one person that was sitting in Sun Devils Stadium, there's two of them at Ohio State. So a lot of people are going to be screaming and yelling, and I think our kids will handle it, but we need to prepare for it.
Q. You mentioned fourth quarter. How important is it controlling the clock in the fourth quarter with the way the last two games against Ohio State have panned out?
COACH ANDERSEN: It will be key. Ball security, turnovers, fourth quarter. Your ability to sustain and maintain through the whole game, but we'll see if we're in that point. I'd like to be at a point in that game where we're hoping we could run the ball and get a couple first downs and see what happens. So if we're there, we'll expect to execute at a high level.