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September 6, 2014

Gary Andersen

Wisconsin ¬Ė 37
Western Illinois ¬Ė 3

THE MODERATOR:  We'll start with an opening statement from coach and then take questions.
COACH ANDERSEN:  First off, Western Illinois is a tough group of kids.  Their coach should be very proud of them.  Those kids should be very proud of themselves, the way they came in and took the run game away from us.  So it was a nice job by those kids and those coaches.  Our hat's off to them.
Overall in the football game, it was great for us to deal with the adversity we had to deal with in the first quarter and really the whole first half.  Two weeks in a row now we've had some substantial adversity hit us right in the face.  A lot of teams at this time of the year have faced zero adversity.  We've faced it twice.  In my opinion, we've looked at it right in the eye, we've dealt with it.  There were no kids pointing fingers, there was nobody placing blame.  They just kept on fighting.  At halftime, we all just challenged ourselves to execute and be tough, and they did it.  I'm very, very proud of the way they did it.
I thought Tanner came on.  Obviously he caught some mojo there, 17 in a row.  Felt at home.  Kids in the offense made some plays for him when we were really unable to run the football effectively all day long.  We did not.  We need to continue to form an identity with this team.  A couple fourth downs.  First fourth down we didn't get.  I thought it was important for this football team to convert those couple other fourth downs, not just for this game, but as we move forward, to have belief that's the kind of football we're going to play and that's the expectation level we have.
Proud of the kids.  Great victory.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH ANDERSEN:  Well, I think it's huge.  We'll see as we move forward.  But Tanner did what we thought he could do.  He did some nice things with his legs.  He had good command of the offense.  He threw the ball very, very well.  He seemed to be pretty poised.  When there wasn't something there, he got out of it, which was good to see.  Didn't seem to be pressing.
So, yeah, we'll see as we move forward.  Great to see Bart get in there and have some success also.

Q.  Do you think you found a number one wide receiver with Alex given what he showed you today?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Alex and Jordan did a great job today.  They stacked one guy more than we had in the box, a lot of times two.  It's two on two out there.  What a tremendous job by both of those kids, what they did.  Jordan may not show it in numbers as far as catches go, but his ability to block is impressive.
Alex made a lot of football plays.  He caught it over the middle very, very well.  He's fearless.  He's a competitor.  He's fast.  I think Tanner feels very comfortable, as all our quarterbacks do, throwing the ball to Alex.  It was just great to see him because he's worked so hard since the bowl game to get this moment.

Q.  You mentioned about Tanner getting his mojo.  It didn't start out that way.  After missing Sam wide open in the second quarter, the numbers say that's where it seemed to click.  Something you saw differently in him from that point forward?
COACH ANDERSEN:  No, there was nothing said.  There was no magic fairy dust sprinkled.  He just started to execute.  I'm sure he felt more comfortable.
There's a lot to say walking in and playing in front of your home crowd just as there is walking in and playing on the road for the first time in front of a hectic crowd.  He come home and you get your home crowd.
Just he started to run the offense well and played the way that we thought that he could when we recruited him.  It was great to see.

Q.  You mentioned the way Western took away the running game.  That leaves something open.  Is that what helped open up the passing game?
COACH ANDERSEN:  I would completely agree with that.  One thing we can't understate is the fact that Derek Watt was not there today.  That young man is as good a fullback as I've ever been around.  Austin came in, battled, will get better.
The loss of Derek is big for this offense.  It's unseen maybe to a lot of fans or people out there.  But for our offense, all of you that have been here a lot longer than I, this is a valuable, valuable part.
We need to get better at that spot, and we will.¬† Austin will continue to get better.¬† That is a fact.¬† If people are going to load it up, plus‑one or even more than plus‑one, you have to be able to throw the football.
I thought Tanner hit some nice, tight windows on some seam balls down the field, which is great to see.  To be able to get out in that screen game, if they're going to give you one, we talked about it, if they are going to give you layups, let's make layups, not sit there and make jump shots all day long.

Q.¬† Did you do some things to help Tanner, give him some higher‑percentage throws, things like that?
COACH ANDERSEN:  I don't think so.  Doesn't look like to me that that's a reflection the game plan.  We just took what they gave us.  I know Andy felt like, you know, the way they were loaded up in the box, they had a nice plan.  You know, we were definitely more running sideways today because of the position that we were in.
But I thought he made good throws.  I don't know if there's an easy throw out there.  There's not one for me (laughter).

Q.  Can you talk about Arneson's day, when he got those first couple catches, that began Tanner's stretch of those completions.
COACH ANDERSEN:  Very much agree.  Sam, it was great to see him have a breakout first game this year.  He is a very talented tight end, which we all know.  He has great hands.  Again, another young man that is not afraid to go across the middle and catch the ball.  You saw him make a couple of those plays today.  He's a big target.  It's great.
He had four catches for 87 something yards.  Nice day out of him.  We'll need to continue down those roads.  We need to get some of the other tight ends a little bit more involved.

Q.  How big of a boost was Caputo's interception with setting the tone for the defense the rest of the game?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Yeah, that was a gigantic play.  We've talked about it with this defense, our ability to make some big plays, wherever they come.  But they had a successful drive.  I can't remember off the top of my head where they got the ball.  But bottom line, they got themselves into definite scoring position.  We were able to make a play there.  Great to see our defensive leader, really one of our solid defensive captains, make a big play at that point in the game.

Q.¬† Chikwe was the guy that tipped the ball, and subsequent to that he blew a third‑down short yardage run.¬† How much confidence did he gain by playing well in the opener?¬† Are those two plays he's going to start to make for you?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Yes, we definitely would hope that.  There was a tremendous amount of confidence gained in game one.  I think that will continue to grow in game two.  You know, I'm just telling you, those kids, now for Alec and Chikwe to be able to play in Camp Randall, it's like a dream come true.
You know, Devin Gaulden walks off the field after two years today, we're walking in, he looks at me and he says, Coach, the whole thing was like a dream today.  He's been out for two years.  To be at home and be able to play in front of those fans was amazing.
Chikwe and Alec, they have big‑play capability and we need to continue to let that grow.

Q.¬† You mentioned the fourth downs in your opening statement.¬† You had a fourth‑and‑two early in the third quarter.¬† Kick a field goal and go up two scores.¬† You hesitate at all?¬† Talk about looking more ahead?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Well, I feel like this team is looking to get themselves in a position to have that.  We're going to be aggressive.  There's a lot of youthful kids out there.  I want to coach them aggressive because I want to them to play aggressive.  I want them to feel like we're going to keep the gas pedal down.
I think if I can't reflect that to them at certain situations in the game, that's not a good thing, because it's not who we ask them to be as coaches and quite frankly what University of Wisconsin football is.
That was the reason for kind of going for it on that one.  It worked out well at LSU.  Didn't work out so well on that one.  The other two were maybe a little bit more hesitation, yes.  Headsets were pretty quiet on that one.  Kind of just make a call and go with it sometimes.

Q.  How does that reverberate through the team when you have a guy like Jordan who is selfless and blocks on the screens, the effectiveness of the screen with Alec?
COACH ANDERSEN:  It's a direct reflection of what this football team is this year.  To this point they are a very unselfish crew.  Jordan is exactly like that.  Jordan, you know, he rehabs like crazy to be able to get out here and play on the field with the shoulder.  He battles to keep healthy every single day and practices smart.
But his ability to walk out there, he takes great pride in those blocks.  Trust me, we do too.  They will be pointed out many, many times to the youth.  We missed a couple key blocks early down in the red zone on their sidelines with a young freshman wide receiver.  We have to make those plays.
You know, if you're not tough, you can't play this game.  That's the bottom line.  You got no chance at this level.

Q.  First half, defense was good, but offense just started slow.  Do you pinpoint anything as to why you kind of couldn't get going there?
COACH ANDERSEN:  You know, I would say, again, without continually beating it up, they had a good plan and they did a nice job.  I thought they tackled very well.  You didn't see many missed tackles in that first half and they were running to the ball.
We need to be better.  We're not going to sit here and say, Hey, that was an acceptable day on the ground.  It absolutely is not.  We all know that as a coaching staff.  The whole offense understands that and knows that if we don't run the ball better, we won't have a very successful season.

Q.  On Tanner's interception, did Wheelwright cut that off?
COACH ANDERSEN:  I'll have to look at that on film.  I saw it out of the corner of my eye.  I didn't see it on replay.  Sounds like there was an issue, but I don't know what the issue was.  I'll have to look at the film.

Q.  He didn't play after that, did he, Wheelwright?
COACH ANDERSEN:  I did not see him, not to my knowledge.  I know Coach Beatty was discussing some things with him.

Q.  Given what happened last week, how is Melvin's health coming through this game?  How did he and Corey mentally deal with the frustration of being slowed down?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Right before the bye week, you're killing me (laughter).
Melvin seemed fine.  The communication, I got nothing from the trainer.  He seemed fine, so...  I think he'll reflect that to you.

Q.  The older guys are kind of taking the steam here.  Given that it was a challenging game at LSU, a challenging week with everything you and the team and the staff had to deal with, is it good to get this thing played and then come away with a nice victory going forward?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Yeah.  Yeah, there's absolutely no question.  It's great to get that victory.  It's great to see some things come together that you hope are going to come together.  The offense, the ability to make some plays down the field, some youth defend, make some plays.
But, yes, it's great to have this victory.  It will be a nice, relaxing evening at home with the dogs.  It will be fun.

Q.¬† Looked like you were able to get Zagz both at end and then nose in the 3‑3‑5 package.¬† Any surprise he was able to give you as much as he did today based on last week?
COACH ANDERSEN:  I asked him again last week, we were sitting there watching the football game.  He said he was fine.  Trainers thought he was great.  He was sitting down there playing the little game that the kids play.  I asked him to go like this, move around.  He said, I'm good, coach.
I watched him in the game.  I saw nothing that made me feel at all leery.  Obviously our trainers are the professionals.  He wanted to go.  I told him to please communicate if there's any type of an issue at all to make sure that we're doing the right thing because communication is important from a kid.  And he had none.  He felt great after the game also.

Q.  On defense, a lot of the guys make plays and then celebrate afterwards.  Seems like Biegel and Marcus Trotter are always doing that.  They're always making the big plays.  Have they stepped up in that role?
COACH ANDERSEN:  We want to play with emotion on the defensive side of the football.  Obviously we want to play within the rules.  But it does not say anywhere in the rule book, Don't have fun, don't smile.
You know, I want them to be able to have a celebration when they make a big‑time play.¬† It's hard on defense to make a big play, whether it's a sack, on and on and on.
Those two are definitely emotional leaders.  Michael and Marcus have carried themselves with so much energy whenever they play this game.  Opportunity for them.  They do it at practice.  Coach Busch tells them all the time at practice, If you make a big play in practice, get a pick for a touchdown, go spike it.  Not in the game though.
We want them to play with emotion.  It can become contagious for some of the youth, too.

Q.¬† You talked about what the loss of Derek Watt means for this team.¬† Can you give a knee‑jerk reaction to Austin?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Austin got the touchdown pass.  That's the one that caught the power pass for the touchdown.  That was great to see.  He had some nice blocks.  Talking with Coach Brown during the game, he felt like Austin was doing a solid job.
The reason we could not run the ball effectively was, trust me, not because of Austin Ramesh.  Just the fact, obviously Derek Watt is a great player, like I said earlier.
But he executed his assignments well.  I'm sure he grew up.  I'm sure he had some great plays and some that he would look at and like to have back, just like every player on the offensive side of the football.  So he's really grown and developed.
Went all through spring running so much tailback for us, lost some reps, was a little bit hampered in camp with the hamstring.  But he's back healthy and he'll grow from this leaps and bounds as he continues to go through as a starter for the next few weeks.

Q.  Have you ever started a game with a safety the way this one did?  Were you surprised you needed to call a timeout to go to the booth for a review?
COACH ANDERSEN:  No, I've never started a game like that.  I didn't have a great look at it.  I couldn't see if he got out.  The coaches were communicating with me.  I thought they would review it.  He said they're going to look at it.  They got up on the ball so fast.  We're going to snap it.  I was like, No, let's call a timeout here and we're going to review it.  It all worked out for us.  But never had that happen to me before.
THE MODERATOR:  Thanks, coach.

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