Wisconsin Gary Andersen Press Conference
Okay, first of all it's been a fantastic week. I’ve said many times, this is a big-time bowl. The Capital One people, all the way from top to bottom, have been fantastic. Our kids have had a tremendous opportunity to have some valuable memories and that is a key in coming to a bowl game. Being prepared is obviously important. The game is the biggest part of this but to be able to have some memories, going to places where kids get to go once in a lifetime, the Disney moment that our players had with the kids was fantastic, a lot of memories taken in a real positive way. So it's been a great week.
I appreciate everybody that's been involved. I'm excited to get into the game. The preparation has gone well. Yada, yada, well, and all that stuff. It's 15, 16 practices, let’s go play the game. And two very, very good football teams playing against each other and it should be a great venue and first-class, big-time Division 1 college football game.
It seems like in bowl games, the team that's more motivated to win is the one that kind of comes out ahead. What's the motivation for Wisconsin in this game?
Andersen: I think when we first got here six, seven days ago, the motivation for me and for the team hopefully was to embrace the moment that you're in. Every kid on the football team a life is going to change, some drastically. Some never play this game again. But none of us will be together again. And if you can't get motivated to play for three hours and in this setting, number one, national television, the care factor for Wisconsin fan base, all the things that you have in a bowl game but then just to get into the moment and understand that you're going to be with that group of people for three hours and five minutes, six minutes, whatever it takes, I don't believe you're a true competitor. Our kids have practiced well, it's important to them. They're excited about that moment and they'll be together for one more time and that's all the motivation they should need, in my opinion, and I think that's the way they feel.
Walking out with a trophy, that's pretty good motivation. It's a one game, championship.
Q: What could or would winning a game like this mean over a top-10 SEC team, especially given Wisconsin’s recent bowl record?
Andersen: Yeah. Well, you hit it on the head with all those situations. It's a one game championship. It's against the top10 opponent, which is a very worthy position for South Carolina to be in. You're in the national stage playing January 1st, very nice trophy again. But it's important for these seniors. It's important for this football team. And I talk so much about the seniors and this is their last game. But this one's about the team. Let's go out and put ourselves in a position to take a trophy back home and hopefully we can play well enough to get that done against a quality opponent. But for this senior class, these kids have been in the program for years and years. To win a bowl is important, to take that next step in this setting against great football teams.
But if you're in Wisconsin, you're going to play a great football team every year and it’s hard to win.
Q: What's the sense you get from some of the older players in the program about what it's like to be in this bowl game as opposed to Rose Bowl games the past years, if you're able to pick up on that at all?
Andersen: I don't have a feel for that so I would say that's a very good thing. I've been fortunate to be at a few bowl games, been on big stages just like this one is and its first class through and through, and I imagine that's how the Rose Bowl is. I know that's how the Capital One Bowl is and our kids have had a great time. It was important to build a schedule that they felt was friendly to them, put them in a position to compete and practice when they needed to but yet have fun. This bowl does a tremendous job of allowing for opportunities to mix business and pleasure. Look at the place you're staying in. Look at the way they handle it. It's first class. Our kids I know feel that way. But how they compare to the other ones, I couldn't answer that.
Q: What's it been like game planning for Connor Shaw? He's a guy that creates something out of nothing a lot. Against Clemson, there are a lot of long third-down conversions he made. What's that been like getting ready for him and how do you anticipate that going on game day?
Andersen: If you just look at Connor and watch him play football, it comes to my mind, coach's kid, which he is, he's competitive. He can hurt you with his arm, his legs and his mind. He has a lot of miles on him, as far as starts and he's been very productive. He's played in big-time moments and handles himself well. And I would say this: When you mix Coach Spurrier and Shaw together in that offense, it's a pretty vicious weapon and I think presnap most times they're getting what they want. They get the play call that they want. Now, you've got to execute from there. That's one of the challenges for us on defense, is to not allow them to get the play call that they want presnap. When they'd had the most success on offense, I believe that's taken place. So hopefully we can at least confuse them a little bit. And it's hard to confuse Shaw because he's such a savvy, smart kid.
Q: Coach, do you feel like there's a heightened awareness with a team that you're playing a well-established SEC opponent?
Andersen: That's the first time I've been around these kids in a bowl game situation but they're ready to go. They're excited about the opportunity to compete one more time together. But different than the rest of the season or any other games that we've played, no, I wouldn't say that. But it's nice to see that they've carried themselves in the same business-like manner the other 12 games that they've played to this point because I felt like every time we came out of the tunnel, they were well prepared. The coaches did a good job of getting them where they needed to be. Have we won them all? No. But we've played some pretty good teams and fared pretty well.
Q: Coach, when you accepted the challenge to follow Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema, what was the primary thing that you wanted to try to accomplish to try to build your own niche at the University of Wisconsin and the driving force to take that job, knowing they had a pretty good solid program in place?
Andersen: Well, first thing, I really didn't have an agenda. I’ve said it many times: there's really only one way to answer that question. In coaching, I'm always going to go where I think I'm supposed to go, and that doesn't have to do with anything else other than what I believe in and that's the way I felt. And Wisconsin was a place that I knew I was supposed to go to. And that may sound corny to people, but that's just the fact.
As far as direction we want to head, we want to compete at a national level. We want to win a bunch of football games and be recognized for the way our kids carry themselves academically, socially and athletically at the highest and elite level. So we'll continue to work down those lines and hopefully we win a bunch of football games as we move forward. But I'm lucky to coach great kids. We had 120 kids on our team this semester, and I got the grades the other day and I put an academic success rate on each one of those young men on what they have to reach to get there. And right now, 86 of those kids have done that out of 120. And I promise you that's not an easy goal to obtain. We're lucky to have the kids that we have in our program.
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