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November 29, 2014

Gary Andersen


THE MODERATOR:  Start with some opening comments from coach, then questions.
COACH ANDERSEN:  It was a great game.  So proud of the kids.  Overall, again, you look at this football team, adversity strikes, they keep on fighting and battling just like they have all year long.  They've dealt with it on the field, they've dealt with it off the field, they've dealt with it as a team very, very well.  So proud of them.
The first half you sit back and look at it, you're playing a very, very talented football team in Minnesota, you become your own worst enemy in a lot of situations, having unforced errors, if you will.  It's not a good place to be.
We had some of those.  Obviously we had a turnover.  Those things happen.  We're not going to sit there and point fingers in those situations for any type of turnover scenario, but the penalties were an issue, the missed tackles were an issue that really hurt us.
Once we were able to settle down, we produced a couple drives.¬† I thought the big turning point was when we got the fumble, with 18 seconds left were able to go get a field goal in the second quarter.¬† That was a big‑time moment.¬† Offense executed very well.
Tremendous team victory.  I love these kids.  Proud to be a small part of them.  They're going to continue to play as we move forward.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions.

Q.  Comebacks with this game and the Nebraska game.  Curious if it played out the same way and if you had the same feeling on the sideline or you thought you were in big trouble?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Well, the plan was definitely not to go down 14 points at home again.  No, I didn't feel like we were in trouble at all.  I felt they remained calm.  I felt it was a little bit different, though, than the Nebraska game.  Nebraska made a nice play.  We talked about the play that they made when they ran the pass for the touchdown, and it was schemed up very well.  They executed it.  Without going into too much on that stuff, we kind of caused ourselves our own issues.  I think Brian told me the scoring drives were, whatever, 30 yards.  What were they, first three scoring drives?
THE MODERATOR:  30, 13 and 40.
COACH ANDERSEN:  30 and 13 for the first three scoring drives.  It is hard to play defense against a really good offense especially when they've got the running quarterback and all the scenarios, the problem the offense causes you.
I'm not saying there was a calmness.¬† There's never a calmness when you're in big‑time moments in games in that situations.¬† But they handled it well.¬† They were prepared.¬† They just kept plowing through the adversity.¬† I thought the coaches did a nice job of adjusting the game plan.¬† The run was not there.¬† They had everybody down in that box.¬† Even when there was a crease, the second guy or the third free hitter that came down in there was making tackles.
Andy opened it up a little bit, the young man some plays, Joel threw the ball well.  We protected pretty well.

Q.  How do you sort through the issues of keeping the axe and having a shot at the championship in Indy?
COACH ANDERSEN:  I don't quite know, but I'm looking forward to doing it tonight, relaxing and enjoying this time.  We'll have a great time tonight.  These kids will enjoy it also.  I encourage them to.  These moments are few and far between.  For as hard as they work, and all they put into it, the same for all the coaches.  We will definitely enjoy this evening and wake up tomorrow and be ready to go.
It will be a normal week of work for us.  Instead of getting on planes and going recruiting, we get an opportunity to go and play again and we're excited about that.

Q.¬† Your offense was falling during that first half.¬† On third down, when you got the 70‑yard pass play to Alex, really seemed to change and uplift you guys.¬† What was the feeling on the sideline?¬† How much did you kind of need that to get back in the game?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Well, we definitely needed some big plays to get us going a little bit.  Any team feeds off emotion.  It's important to play, when you get a big play on offense or defense or special teams, it can get you in the moment with the momentum.  I thought we were prepared and ready to play.  I thought we came out in a good situation.  We handled Senior Day well.
The bottom line is that they were very physical up front in the beginning of those games.¬† The credit goes to Minnesota.¬† That play was big.¬† You know, Andy came in with the mindset, Coach Ludwig came in with the mindset that he wanted to take a couple shots on third‑and‑short to try to loosen them up.¬† That was a big difference, when we were able to get the safeties to at least back off a little bit, but that didn't happen until we completed a few of those balls down the field.

Q.  You talked about plowing through things.  What was the plan with Corey?  It appeared that he was not 100%.  You wanted to try to spell Melvin?  Talk about the toughness he showed to be able to give you what he did today.
COACH ANDERSEN:  Yeah, Corey was good.  I joked out there afterwards, he should have fresh legs, he hasn't practiced all week.
But he's done a great job of just working to get himself back in and be ready to go.¬† And that was exactly the plan, just use him as needed.¬† We've gone through a couple scenarios where we didn't have him and we had to use our timeouts to spell Melvin instead of Corey spelling Melvin.¬† The ability for Corey to come in, and not just come in and spell Melvin, but make tremendous plays.¬† The run he made for the touchdown was fantastic.¬† The other one he just came up short.¬† Those were big‑time moments when we needed him.
That's another guy on this football team that steps up.¬† I look back however many years from now, I remember this team in my mind, one of the first things that's going to pop up is how many kids had to step up either as the first‑year player or at some point in the season to do some things to help us win football games.¬† But Corey was a big part of that offense today.

Q.  Did Melvin tweak an ankle at the end?  And Dan?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Looks like Danny had a little bit of an ankle.  Last series we kept him out.  The last drive, he was in the scoring drive, the (indiscernible) route, wheel right.  He was in there for that drive.  Then we decided just to get him out.  I think Dan will be fine.
And Melvin, he looked great.  I mean, he was jumping around pretty good there in the locker room about five minutes ago.  So I think he should be just fine.

Q.  Pretty efficient day for Joel throwing the ball.  How much has he come along in the last few weeks.
COACH ANDERSEN:  Joel's throwing the ball very nicely.  The deep balls, a couple PIs, those were right on target.  They're coming down right on top of Alex in those situations.
I really believe that he feels comfortable with his protection now.  Probably as comfortable, I believe, as he's been since we've been all been here together.  If this gets blocked up, I am going to have a chance to throw the ball.  He is seeing the field very, very well.
Even the check down.  There's a play there today where checked it down to Melvin, good coverage, checked it down to Melvin, we didn't gain any yards, but Melvin caught it.  Those are just things where, hey, let's just get to the next play, some of those throw scenarios.  I think Joel was handling it very well.
Trust me, I'm not offensive guru, but I look at him and I think he's a very talented quarterback playing out there right now and doing a very nice job.

Q.  As a former defensive coordinator late in that game did you see Will out there, he hasn't caught a pass all year, he has two catches.  Did you expect anything from him?  How did you end up going to him on that play?
COACH ANDERSEN:  I don't know what it was.  Again, I hear those offensive calls, and they sound like a different language to me.  So I don't understand who's in there.
I saw Robert in there.  Then I heard him say, I think it was Coach Beatty, said, We got it.  Looked down there, the ball was in the air, they caught it.  I don't even really know the personnel package that was in there, but I'm glad they did it and I'm glad they called it.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH ANDERSEN:  No, he was in a little bit earlier.  He was the read that was open.  So when there's a pass play, the read that's open, and I will say this, I believe that Robert has grown up in practice over the last month or so, along with that whole corps of those receivers.
If you watch or pass skeleton drills that we go through in practice, if you threw on tape from six, seven, eight weeks ago, then you're throwing it on today, it's different, and it's different in a good way.  There's kids making plays.  Kids' care factor has definitely grown up.  It matters to them.  That carries you through on game day.
Their practice habits are allowing them to be able to make some plays, and today was a perfect example of that with Robert.

Q.  How do you get from Northwestern to here?
COACH ANDERSEN:  It's been a heck of a journey.  How did we get here?  With some tremendous, tremendous young men and some very talented coaches, in my opinion.  You know, it's been a joy to coach them and be around them.  This year has been full of them just keep on fighting.
And I felt like they had a lot of that in them as we went through a very difficult off‑season.¬† When you listen to the strength coaches, they tell you how they handled summer, how they went through summer, how they bonded together.
Then I would also say our leadership, it's phenomenal, it really, truly is.  The leadership committee on this football team is voted for early on.  They vote for those kids.  But this is the first year I didn't go back through and redo the leadership committee as far as having them vote again in the fall.
I look at the amount of kids that are on that leadership committee and how they've been excited about being involved with the youth of this team, it's so impressive.  So the kids deserve the credit.  They bought in.
I feel great about taking this team to Indy.¬† We're in a good spot.¬† We're resilient.¬† We're tough‑minded.¬† We're going to play against a very talented Ohio State team obviously.¬† We're excited about that opportunity.¬† And these kids set a goal to get to this moment.¬† We're going to start preparing and we're going to see what happens.

Q.  How do you keep your kids from panicking when you get in a situation like today when you're down early?
COACH ANDERSEN:¬† I think you practice it, first of all.¬† We try to compete every day.¬† There's winners and there's losers.¬† I think that's so important in the off‑season.¬† I think it's important in spring practice.¬† It's important in fall practice.¬† And it's important as you go into the season.¬† You need to keep competing every single day.¬† And the kids need to know when they won and when they lost.
Now, as far as handling and dealing with adversity, it's hard to make that up.  You know, you can't just in practice, all of a sudden say, okay, defense, this is your situation.  It's a little bit harder to do that but we do talk about it.  We don't hide from it.  We know it's going to come our way.  We ask ourselves how we're going to handle it when it does come our way.  We do communicate as far as you got to stay Steady Eddie.  You got to believe in each other.  You got to look each other in the eye and keep on battling when things don't go your way.
It's easy to be that guy when everything's wonderful and great and be part of things.  It's really hard to be that guy that's maybe the sounding board or the foundation when things are tough.
These kids have handled that and I hope that we work with them in the off‑season and put them in the position to handle some of those moments.¬† They've been very good at it.¬† And how coaches present themselves too is key.¬† If all of a sudden you're a different guy when things are bad than you are when things are good, it's probably not going to go very well.

Q.  Myrick is one of the biggest kick returners.  Talk about Endicott, the effort to make sure they didn't get that good field position.
COACH ANDERSEN:  Yeah, other than the first kickoff, I thought Andrew kicked the ball very well.  He got the ball up in the air really good, which was good to see.  We covered down the field pretty aggressively.
Last two weeks that kickoff team has done a nice job.  They were challenged.  They needed to be challenged.  They found a way to be able to answer the bell.  It starts with the kick.  Andrew is doing a nice job having those kids flying down the field.
The punting, I'm proud of Drew.  The way Drew has come back in the last couple weeks, punted the football.  We had a scenario, situation in there when we kicked, Bart, obviously that wasn't the exact kick we were looking for.  We had a situation where we really thought we had something we could take advantage of.  We wanted to see how they were going to line up to the simple formation that we put out there and it was important that Bart was able to kick the ball and we didn't have to go back to it.
But Drew is doing a nice job of punting the football right now, too.

Q.  When you have a day like this, Senior Day, you say Marcus have the day he did out there, what does that mean to you to see him go out that way?
COACH ANDERSEN:  It means the world to me.  Marcus Trotter is a kid, probably repeating this to many of you, but, you know, the first thing he says is just thanks for giving me the opportunity to play, coach, when you tell him nice game, great job, or thanks for believing in me.  That's come out of his mouth four, five times throughout the season.  It did again today.
As a coach, that's very satisfying to me.  It's very, very satisfying to know that he bought in.  He kept on fighting.  He kept on believing in himself.  He believed in the defense.  He knew that position was his to take.
I remember in the summertime that this is my spot, no one's going to take this inside linebacker spot from me my senior year.  To see him come out, not only hold a spot down, but I said it a week ago, I thought he was the best player on a week ago on our defensive side of the football.
I'll watch the film again.¬† He made some big‑time plays.¬† He plays with such energy and passion.¬† It's fun to see a young man like that have success, it really is.

Q.¬† If you can talk a little bit about the Ohio State matchup.¬† I know they lost in the game last year to Michigan State.¬† They're still looking at the possibility of the playoff picture.¬† What kind of game do you see from Ohio State?¬† Come in with a little chip on their shoulder, something to prove, to get into the four‑team playoff?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Having the opportunity to work with Urban Meyer for a year, I know they're going to be ready to play.  They're going to be excited just like the Wisconsin Badgers will be ready to play and they'll be excited, too.
They may have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder because they weren't successful in that game a year ago.  There's no question about that.  But, you know, we're excited to be able to get into this game.  We didn't set a goal at the first of the year to say, hey, let's just get to the championship game.  No, that wasn't the goal.  The goal was to find a way to be champs.  We're still fighting for that.  We're moving on to one more game to see what happens.
Ohio State is a very talented, gifted team, very well‑coached.¬† When you know a guy that's the head coach on the other side as well as you do, you've got to be careful to probably not go chase a few ghosts that are out there sometimes, too.
But we're excited to be in the spot we are.¬† I'm sure Ohio State is also.¬† There's two special teams playing.¬† Double‑digit wins on the season, have the opportunity to go to the conference championship, you're part of a special crew.

Q.  You said during the week, someone asked you about Senior Day, you said you remember all the losses equally.  Can you compare in your mind what you were feeling when you were up on the podium today with the trophy and victory compared to last year?
COACH ANDERSEN:  It was a tough day.  We played against a very talented team.  They executed, and they frankly deserved to win that football game, and did.
It was tough to see those kids go out that way when they've done so many things and fought so hard within a program.  For those kids to be able to go out on top, all that was on the line today, they're going to remember this for the their lives.  They get together 30 years from now, they're going to talk about this game.  My Senior Day, we did this, we did that, we got that, we got this.  A lot of special things out there on the line for them.  To see them have that success... 
I thought a lot about that game.  You go back, and Senior Day is always different.  It's a different feel.  It's a little thing, but you come off the field, you usually have 20 minutes to get ready.  We have 10 now.  The only thing that really changed up is we kept the rest of the team in the alleyway down there so as the seniors came out they could be with them instead of having the kids on the field.  I thought that was good.  It gives the kids a chance to be with their team for a minute.
But I like this feeling right now a whole bunch better than I did a year ago, let's put it that way.

Q.  This year talk about how important it was to have someone like Sam Arneson?
COACH ANDERSEN:¬† It's been big.¬† Those tight ends have been big.¬† Sam is another one.¬† I don't talk enough about Sam.¬† Not only does he make tremendous plays, he's a big target, he's physical, he's made big‑time catches, especially earlier in the year when it was harder for us to be able to throw the football successfully.¬† He was always kind of that guy that was making those plays when we needed them.
He's been an unbelievable mentor also, an unbelievable leader for that tight end crew.  Troy Fumagalli would be nowhere near where he is today if not for Sam Arneson being a great mentor to him.
To see a smile on his face today, to get to this position where he is in, it's a special spot.  He's really turned into a physical blocker week in and week out.  Another great young man.  A very, very talented football player.

Q.  Assess Melvin's performance today, what has it been like to be his coach and see his growth?
COACH ANDERSEN:¬† Melvin, today his performance was very physical.¬† I thought he was unbelievably tough‑minded in some tough sledding.¬† There was a lot of tackles going down low on Melvin today.¬† That's good defense when you go play against a tremendous back.¬† Those guys were good tacklers.¬† They're physical tacklers.¬† They wanted to get physical with him.
These last two weeks, you get the Iowa game, this game, you'll have a hard time finding two more physical football teams playing against each other.  We played them both.  Melvin handled that well.
Again, the flashy runs, everybody sees those.  Everybody sees those time and time and time again.  The ones I look at is when he's on the line of scrimmage, you need to get four yards, he's getting five or six yards.  I saw that again today.
He was driven.  He made a tremendous play, catch in the end zone there.  I'm not so sure it wasn't supposed to go to Alex.  He came up and got it, which is all a that matters at the end of the day.  It's been a joy to coach Melvin.  He is a young man that I will use as an example for the rest of my coaching career, probably for my own grandkids as I try to help them grow and develop and become men, how to handle their business day in and day out.  If you want to be a leader, he's the guy.

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