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October 25, 2014

Gary Andersen

Maryland – 7
Wisconsin – 52

GARY ANDERSEN:  Very proud of the young men in this program.  That was a big game, and walking into it, we knew two weeks ago this was going to be a big football game, and they delivered.  We had good weeks of practice.  I told them I expected them to play well, they expected themselves to play well, and they did.  It's fun to see that take place.
It's very rewarding for those young men, and it should be, because that's a good football team we just played.  A lot of individual efforts that are out there, but I think it's important with the youth on this team and everything that's out there is we talk about a team victory, and that's what this was.  We played well on offense, we played well on defense, we played well on special teams, and there was numerous, numerous players that contributed in a big way, and that's when you've got yourself moving in the right direction because we all know the quality opponents you play in the Big Ten, and Maryland is definitely one of those.

Q.  What do you think was more important or impressive, the way your special teams won the battle against a team with good special teams, or the way your defense shut down an offense that is usually pretty good?
GARY ANDERSEN:  Well, I don't know if I could even point one out.  We were looking for both, but that defense was swarming to the ball.  They tackled well.  Maryland gives you so many different options that are out there, and the key from a scheme standpoint was I thought Dave and his staff did a tremendous job of keeping familiarity with the base offense that they ran.  Still spread concepts, yes, but then you shift gears when they get those three backs in the backfield and it's a completely different world.  We handled those checks every single time.  There wasn't confusion, there wasn't panic.  They lined up and they executed at a high level, so that was impressive.  We tackled well against some very skillful players that have done tremendous things this year for Maryland.
Special teams‑wise, when you get those‑‑ the young men that are out there, the youth playing, again, it's important that you give them an opportunity to feel like they have an opportunity to change the game.  We tried to be a little bit more aggressive.  We changed some things up.  Obviously we had a fake that Drew worked to perfection on 4th and 7.  They thought he was going to run the ball, so that worked out well.
Bringing Bart in there and doing what Bart did, everybody looks at that punt and probably says, whoa, holy cow.  I'd like it to have a little more height on it for a minute, but job well done.  It's designed to roll down there and potentially bump one of their guys or cause a very talented return man not to get his hands on it.
Equal I would say; very proud of the offense, defense and special teams, and they all delivered in a big way.

Q.  How satisfying was it to land two big shots in the play action game, I think maybe the two longest pass plays of the season, and do you think this could be a turning point for the pass offense?
GARY ANDERSEN:  I hope so.  We've been looking for it.  We got the opportunity to get the ball up in the air and the kids were running under it and contest the ball.  That catch by Alex was a tremendous, tremendous catch, contested really by a safety coming over the top and the young man that was also covering him, and he went up there and got the ball a couple times.  So it's good to see.  You know, and the ball was there, the protection was there, and let's not forget, you've got to protect for a long time, and most of the time there's a running back sitting out there one‑on‑one on an edge defender and blocking in that setting.  So they held up well.

Q.  Bart had been messing around after practice punting the ball, but when was the decision made to give him a shot and what was the reasoning behind it?
GARY ANDERSEN:  Well, Bart kind of informed Coach Genyk that he had punted in high school, and I think we watched him punt, the normal punting didn't go so well in practice, it was up and down a little bit to say the least, but he kind of during the bye week and this last little bit got used to the rugby‑style scenario and the situations, and that's where we use him, and we'll continue to use him in that spot.  I think it will help us.  Again, anything you can do cause people to practice a little bit more, cause a little bit more issues for them as they prepare for you, and then on game day it's a positive, and that's what Bart will do.  Let's not forget, either, that he is a quarterback back there, and he's always a threat to do some things with his arm.

Q.  How much time, extra time, if at all, did you spend on special teams during this stretch preparing for Maryland?
GARY ANDERSEN:  We focused heavy on special teams.  The kids executed, worked hard in practice at it, the coaches coached it hard, and we wanted to make sure that we felt like, again, we were edgy in the special teams area, and we have the ability to be able to do that now as we've got the base schemes and the scenarios.  I guess as you move forward through a year, you kind of understand who can make a play and how they can make a play and when to put them in a spot to give them an opportunity to make a play, and we grow every week in that area, and so this bye week gave us a chance to focus on it even more.

Q.  This is the second week using two quarterbacks.  I'm just curious, obviously Tanner got more snaps.  Did you get out of it what you had hoped, and is there anything that still gives you pause when you see him using two that you want to tweak a little bit yet?
GARY ANDERSEN:  Yeah, I was proud of both of them.  I think Tanner was two or three on his drives for touchdowns.  The one I think we stalled and punted if I remember right.  Joe had the rest of them down there, scored a whole bunch of points.
I just ‑‑ this team, the way those two young men handle it daily is impressive.  Walk out the tunnel, they're walking side by side out to the football game, and they're talking about each other and they're talking to each other, talking about the game plan, talking about executing, and that doesn't change in the football game.  They handle it well, the kids on the team handle it well, and I have no reservations at all saying that we are going to move forward and have the ability to play both of those young men, and they've executed at a high level, and you can see the offense change.
It's, again, practice time eaten up.  I don't know how much it is that teams that we prepare for use getting ready for Tanner when he walks in the game with all the option stuff, but I do know how much we spent on Maryland's option stuff, and it's substantial, and it eats up a lot of time.

Q.  You shut down the option, you shut down Diggs until the last minute.  Is this the defense you envisioned having, even when you got here?
GARY ANDERSEN:  Yeah, if we could play those kids every week, that would be wonderful.  They just really executed at a very high level, and proud of them.  That's what we want to be.  I think we were aggressive by nature.  We were aggressive by play call, and when I say that, I mean by our base play calls.  We stayed aggressive with them the whole game.  We weren't like overly crazy on zero blitzes or what have you.  We ran four or five of them throughout the game.
But the kids were settled, and sitting at the hotel last night, I felt very comfortable with the way that they had prepared and kind of just how they were going about their business.  So it would be great if we could do that every week.  That would be fantastic.

Q.  Maybe it's just me, but from your perspective was Joe Schobert involved more and more active or consistent today than he had been in a little bit?  He seemed to be around the ball more.
GARY ANDERSEN:  I'll have to watch the film on that.  Joe has been very steady.  I think the play of both those outside linebackers with Joe and Vince have had some big plays in the last couple games, big‑play capability.  And that big‑play capability, it's a position where you should have the opportunity to make big plays, and we're starting to do it.  Joe is showing up, doing that.  I thought Mike Caputo, again, was just fantastic today.  He makes the first play on the seven route, knocks the ball out, we turn around and flip the field and are able to go down and score, I believe, on that drive, and a number of tackles.  But those three kids are kind of interweaved within that defense to do some critical things for us, and Joe is one of them, Vince is one of them, and Michael Caputo is definitely one of those kids that I think changed the game today.

Q.  Could you detail the thought process going into the fake and what the keys there were for Drew?  Obviously they were thinking he's going to run, then the opportunity comes to I think it was a throw and pass if you want to put it that way.
GARY ANDERSEN:  Jump pass, yeah.  Well, it was just a pure call.  We were going to do it on that side of the field because we wanted to get them into a safe scenario where their defense was on the field.  Not often do you get fakes run in safe scenarios, but we felt like it was the best opportunity.  And Coach Busch and Coach Genyk did a tremendous job of designing it, and we dialed it up at the first opportunity it was there, and it just happened to be early in the game, and they executed it very, very well.
I think Troy did a great job, Drew did a great job, the front line did a good job.  The kids stayed behind the line of scrimmage like they were supposed to, and it was executed at a high level.

Q.  Melvin I believe has 15 touchdowns now in the last five games.  Everyone knows how good he is, but talk about what makes him so effective near the goal line and how is he able to convert so many chances?
GARY ANDERSEN:  Yeah, Melvin is very hard to stop in a yard or two or even five if he's down there in the red zone area if he gets a crease.  He's tremendously improved his pad level, his ability to hit a crease and know when he needs a couple yards versus when he's out playing in the middle of the field.  He pushes piles, and he's a physical runner.  He gets a crease, he's hard to get down, and he's a lot more powerful in those situations than I remember him being last year, which is, again, a credit to Melvin and the way he works.

Q.  You brought Caputo and Peniel Jean on safety blitzes a lot.  They both seemed to have the snap count down.  How difficult is it for a safety to be able to time that snap count so they're going across the line right at the snap?
GARY ANDERSEN:  Yeah, that's film study, and it is young men caring when they leave the facility and spending time focusing on the little things that win you football games.  It's very difficult.  It's an art.  It has to be practiced, and I would also pass on to our young men on the scout team who have to give us that look.  It's so important, and the scout kids in this program take tremendous pride in that, and the center did it all week long, was able to time it out, but those kids definitely prepared, and you could see it on the last drive when those kids were out, it wasn't timed out quite the same.  It was good.  It was a big advantage, and it kind of stayed on pace the whole game.

Q.  The ups and downs in the first half of the season, what can a game like this to kick off the second half do for the confidence of this team with the success you've had on both sides of the ball?
GARY ANDERSEN:  You know, we're a pretty good football team.  There's not a lot of 5‑2 teams in the country.  Ups and downs, backs and forths, that's football.  I'm proud of where these kids are, but it's great to start the second half of the season with a convincing victory, homecoming.  You know, these kids now have two opportunities left, those seniors, in Camp Randall to play, and pretty special to have this one.  Rob Havenstein, it's his home now, so he's going to spend‑‑ he's pretty prideful right now that he was able to win that game this week.  It's a good start to the second half of the season, and again, we did expect to play well today, and I expect us to continue to prepare and play well as we move forward.  It's time to look at ourselves and understand where we are and what we're doing, and I think they've handled it well.

Q.  You've had three significant players came back in Watt, Herring and Trotter.  Did you notice anything tangible that they brought today, or was it more just as a whole than coming back that helped?
GARY ANDERSEN:  Again, I look at this game as a team victory.  It's tremendous to have them back for themselves, to have that opportunity to be able to play.  It's tremendous for our team to have them back and be able to play.  But those kids had some big smiles on their faces and they were fired up and ready to go throughout the week of practice and as they felt comfortable, as Derek felt more comfortable and Warren felt more comfortable, you could just see it building momentum on Wednesday and Thursday, and the team gets a little extra juice from that.  I would definitely say that.

Q.  There seems to have been so much growth all over the place since Northwestern, especially on offense.  Do you feel your group is starting to get an identity now on that side of the ball?
GARY ANDERSEN:  Yep, I would agree with that.  We looked at ourselves long and hard after the Northwestern game, and you've got to‑‑ you can go one way or the other.  You can continue to fight, or you can ball up, and quite frankly you're going to be a man in a man's business, you've got to find a way to get better.  I'm proud of those kids, the way that they looked at themselves in the mirror.  We all did the same thing as coaches, and we came back and we decided we were going to work to get better.
Now, we've won a couple games, and we'll see in four or five weeks exactly how far we can take this thing.  But it was definitely a time where I'm proud of the way that they reacted to a tough loss I guess is the easiest way to put it.

Q.  Melvin has now 15 touchdowns in the last three games, I believe, and obviously what he does just in general, putting up yards per carry, what does it do for you to have a guy like that in your offense?
GARY ANDERSEN:  Well, I think Melvin Gordon is, with all due respect to the rest of the great running backs in the country, I think he's the best running back in the country.  And to have that ability, to have a young man that can go the distance at any moment and have the ability as a head coach to, I say it a lot, but here it goes again, to have young kids in your program that can be mentored by Melvin Gordon is pretty special.

Q.  Looked like Sojourn and Darius and Derek had turns taking a crack at Diggs at various points.  Does that boost your trust level in them, A; and then B, against a dynamic player like that, is there anything special those kids had to do to kind of take him out of the game?
GARY ANDERSEN:  Well, I don't know if we completely took him out of the game, but they put him all over the place, and they ask him to do at lot of different things, so it's really hard to kind of chase him around the field because in zone coverage he may be lined up at No.2, he may be at No.3, he may be out there at No.1.  He may be singled out on the side away from trips all by himself.  So we just kind of decided we would lock up and try to do our best to cover a very talented receiver, and we tried to mix up our coverages with him, put ourselves in the position to be able to get the ball out quickly for the quarterback, which was effective again today.  We definitely affected the quarterback with the rush and didn't allow him to sit in there and lock in on a very talented target.

Q.  Peniel got to start again today, and I saw Lubern came in a little bit.  Is he just not fully healthy yet, or is Peniel giving you a little for poise or experience back that?
GARY ANDERSEN:  PJ has played well, and Lubern is still a little gimpy.  We kind of went through‑‑ this game is a great game for PJ.  PJ loves to tackle you.  He loves to get up on you and get in your face and get physical with football, and he's very, very good at that.  He's got that‑‑ I like that a lot, the way he carries himself with the physicality and the toughness he brings to the field.
Lubern is in those moments where we used him in 3rd downs more where he was going to be able to cover the field.  Just another way that you try to use every young man in your program that you can to best help the football team.

Q.  You got something from both your quarterbacks today.  Can you live with playing two quarterbacks?

Q.  Or do you have to pare that down?
GARY ANDERSEN:  No, right now, like I said, I think it's the best scenario for us.  We did have some positives from both young men, and the key is to me, really the key is, again, I say it, how they handle it, how this team handles it.  We're in good shape.  I feel very comfortable with the spot we are at the quarterback, and I'm very happy that they both had some success today.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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