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December 5, 2014

Gary Andersen


THE MODERATOR:  We'll get started.  We'll ask Coach Andersen to make a statement, then go to questions.
COACH ANDERSEN:  First of all, it's great to be here, obviously, to be part of this team, to see what they've done throughout the year to get in this situation.  Excited to play Ohio State and be in the championship game and represent the Big Ten.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions, please.

Q.  What was it like to work for Urban at Utah?
COACH ANDERSEN:  It was great.  We never lost a game.  So when you go undefeated, there's not much adversity you face.
It was a great experience for me.  I was just there for one year, the second year that Urban was at Utah.  He was obviously on the offensive side of the ball.  I was on the defensive side of the ball with Kyle Whittingham.
Coach Meyer let us do what we wanted to do and what we did in the past.  We were very successful, had a great year.  I learned a lot, a lot from Coach Meyer in that year in a lot of different ways.  I put that into a lot of my philosophies as a head football coach.  It was a great experience, a great learning experience.

Q.  How is the health on your offensive line right now and what are some adjustments you may have to make?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Well, we'll know more on game day for sure.  Dan, we sure hope he plays.  There's no one tougher.  If there's any way that he can get out there and play, he's going to get that done.  I expect that to happen.  He expects that to happen.  We'll see as we move forward.
A couple other guys are dinged up, nicked up.  All the other starters are fine and ready to go.
It's just that center position that's an issue for us.¬† We've had two other young men that are really‑‑ Dallas Lewallen is our second center.¬† Obviously he's a starter on the offensive line also.¬† So what would be our third and fourth centers as we go through practice are both out for the season.¬† That puts Michael Deiter in a position to where, as a freshman, he's potentially next man up.
He's traveled all year with us.  He has not been involved in our prep teams at all.  He's been in the rotation with the one or two offensive linemen.  We have not played him and hope to save his redshirt.
But we'll see how that goes.  We're prepared to play him if we need to, and so is he.

Q.  Urban has had a lot of guys that have gone on to become head coaches.  What specific things did you pick up from him during that year?
COACH ANDERSEN:  On a broad topic in that area is just the organization, the plan.  I think that's one thing.  We have a plan.  You have a core system that every head coach has.  He had that.
A lot of those things were not completely fundamentally different than what myself and Kyle had kind of grown up with Coach Ron McBride, Lavell Edwards, Jim Fassel, I go back to all the people I lean on.  But there was a different view.
The way he had a set plan of organization throughout the year was impressive to me.  I definitely adopted that.  When I say that, my goal now as a head coach is to make sure the players and assistants are six months ahead.  I think he always had that plan.  When I looked at the calendar, I knew what was going to happen in April.  There were no surprises.
The other thing is the way practices were structured and maintained on both sides of the football as far as scripting for success for the offense, the defense, doing what's best for the team, and the special teams.  His emphasis on special teams was always impressive, the way we mixed up.
It wasn't at the end of practice, not a foregone thought.  You talk about playing offense, defense, special teams, that was the fact.  Not just we're going to practice offense, defense, take care of special teams at the end of practice.

Q.  Besides the video your son dug up of Jones' highlights from high school, what have you learned about Cardale and how much of a monkey wrench does that throw into preparing for a quarterback you haven't seen?
COACH ANDERSEN:  There's no question, he'll definitely have the opportunity to set the tone with the ball in his hands every snap.  What we learned is you go back and find every snap he played, you make the cut up of every snap he played, you try evaluate what moment of the game was that in, cleanup time, critical game situations.  We try to dissect that.
Wasn't a whole bunch to go off of in the last game.¬† You look at it, as a defensive staff, Coach Aranda and his staff basically came to the conclusion that this man is very, very capable of running their offense, doing a great job of putting the ball into the hands of their play‑makers.¬† We don't expect the offense to change a bit, quite frankly.
He's a big, strong kid that can throw the ball very well.  He's shown great speed.  He's jumped over people, ran through people.  He's definitely an issue to tackle and get on the ground, similar to the young man we played last week at Minnesota.  Both men are very difficult to tackle for quarterbacks.

Q.  Jalin Marshall, you have to prepare for him to get 10, 15 snaps.  How do you do that?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Yeah, again, it's evaluating the film, trying to see what takes place.  I just do not believe that the success they've had on offense, the way they've rolled through the year, the amount of points that they've scored, the yards they've put up, their offense is going to remain very much the same.
This offense, Ohio State's offense, it's option football in a way.¬† When I say that, it's 11‑on‑11 football.¬† Many of their plays are going to force you to involve your safeties, both of those safeties.¬† Either down in the box or creatively use them in a position to be able to be involved in the run game, doing everything you can to make sure you can involve them the right way in the throw game.¬† That's a definite challenge.
This offense has grown and evolved in a positive way.  A year ago when we were preparing for them, I didn't spend nearly the time looking at Ohio State because I wasn't as involved on defense as I am this year.  I've had the opportunity to sit down with Coach Aranda and his staff and watch a lot more film.  They've done a nice job of evolving the quarterback run game in some different ways other than just the speed option, the triple, without getting too technical, the Zorro play.  It's moved in a very positive direction.

Q.  The way your quarterback position has evolved, can you talk about how you feel about your quarterback position right now, the path you took to get where you are with those guys?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Well, I feel very good about both young men.  I'm also very proud of both young men.  The way that they've competed against each other all the way back to last January through spring ball.  Joel did not participate in spring ball because the shoulder was still recovering.  We all know we went through camp with another quarterback battle.
These kids have been together.  They fought it out.  They both want to start.  They both want to play.  But there was never agendas, trying to make a case for themselves.  They just continued to fight.
They've both gone through some adversity and handled it very well.  I feel very comfortable.  We've needed them both.  We would not be here today if we didn't have both those quarterbacks.  I truly believe that.  Joel made some fantastic plays in the Iowa game to give us an opportunity to win that game late.  Tanner made some great plays in that game to give us a lead in certain situations.  He's done that throughout the year.
So we're in a good spot.  We need them both.  That's what we thought would happen.  We hoped that would happen.  Again, I'm proud of the way they've accepted the situation because it's a little bit rare in this game of college football.

Q.  Are there things that you have seen offensively as opposing defenses have tried to stop Melvin?  As a defensive guy, are there things you haven't seen that you're surprised you haven't seen yet?
COACH ANDERSEN:  No, not in this league.  I'm not surprised with the way these coaches get these kids prepared to handle the physical run game.  They've thrown a lot of different things at us without question.
The key is our ability to be able to get to the next level.  When we can do that, our receivers have done a tremendous job.  Week in and week out, the coaches, Coach Ludwig and his offensive staff, have done a tremendous job of adjusting.
The Minnesota game was really no different.  Minnesota came in and showed a couple different looks that they had not shown in the past.  We had to adjust to some different plays and scenarios.  It all worked out for us in the end.
They're going to load up the box, be very physical.  That's the way the last three games have been.  I don't expect this game to be any different.  It's going to be very physical.  We're going to be tested, for sure, as we go through the game to get some holes, get us a chance to run the ball effectively.

Q.  Some of your guys have been here before and played in this game before.  What type of tone or mood have you sensed all week that trickles through the team?
COACH ANDERSEN:  I was very concerned, as you always are, as the head coach this time of year, still going.  With that month of November, it was basically an elimination series we had to go through to get to this position.  I was worried about them mentally and physically.  Tried to be as careful as I could with them and listen to them.  We needed to make sure we practiced them right.
As the week went on, it was business as usual.¬† I was very proud of them.¬† They've been in big games now for the last three.¬† This game has a very similar feel to the first game we played.¬† It's in an NFL stadium.¬† It's the 13th game, but the first game had a little bit of the same feel.¬† Big‑time opponent, big‑time stage.¬† They handled the preparation very well.¬† They were very on it today in practice before we left.
They're excited to play, which you would expect.  Again, you just worry about too much excitement.  Just go play.  This time of year they've gone through this so many times, I believe they'll handle it well and be excited.

Q.  Obviously you guys have had some challenges that you worked through this year.  In this new configuration with the Big Ten, East and West, what does it mean for your program to get to this point and play for the championship?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Well, that was the goal at the beginning, to get into this game, and obviously win this game.  You have an opportunity to win a championship, you got to win a championship to get here.  We got that first championship, now we're looking for the other one.
We broke the huddle every day all year long.  Anytime they came together as a team, they broke, said, 'Champs' on three.  I told them, If you're going to say it, you better mean it.
I looked back, I said this a few times this week, if there's one thing I can say about this team, they're tough, they work hard, they've won games, all the stuff that comes with it.  But I've learned from this team a lot.  I think I'm a better person, a better coach because I had the opportunity to coach them.  I think it's pretty special when you have the opportunity to say that.  I think all our coaches would say that.
It's a great accomplishment, but we're not done yet.

Q.¬† Some coaches and administrators talk about the potential of an eight‑team playoff.¬† How do you feel about that?¬† Do you feel the kids' bodies could handle another game?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Oh, boy, I don't know if I want to go down that road, that topic of discussion.
It's a lot of football.  Moving into the 13th game, then a 14th game, some other people are going to play more than that.  My own personal opinion is that is enough games for these kids.
I'm not saying a bigger playoff is not better because it's more opportunities for college football to be out there for the world to see.
I don't know where the common ground is.¬† To me right now, the four‑team playoff is the best way because that's where we are right now.¬† Whatever I say is not going to matter anyway.¬† I'm not changing it.¬† I'll just go along with the decisions that are made.

Q.  How integral do you think getting to this point is in establishing an identity?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Well, I think it's very important.  You go through a season.  You go through your beliefs as a program, how did you get there, how did you work it out to get into this situation.
These kids, they have a very strong identity of themselves and what the program wants to be.  The good thing is I think we got here and we showed that we are going to live up to that identity.  That identity is important to us.
We have good kids.  They work hard.  They do a great job in the classroom.  Football is important to them.  I think they represent college football in the right way.  We're not perfect, never say we will ever be perfect.  Football is important to them, but so is becoming a better young man, growing from a young man to a man, taking care of their business in school.
I guess that's our identity.¬† On the field, we want to be a tough, hard‑nosed football team that always has an opportunity to win.

Q.  When you go up against a friend, former mentor, you're focused in, but is there a little something you have to block out?  Will the girls be hanging out at all?
COACH ANDERSEN:  Probably not hang out.  They'll see each other at one of the meetings this summer in Chicago.  It really doesn't have any different feel to me anymore.  I look forward to seeing Urban.  If we get a chance to see Shelly, it will be fantastic.
I had the opportunity to do it at Utah.  Utah and Utah State played.  Kyle was there.  That was the first time I had an opportunity to do that.  I had an opportunity to do that two times, the second time with Urban.
It's not just another game, it's the championship.  But it's not a different feeling because Urban and I are coaching against each other.  He would say the same thing if he were sitting here.  It's an opportunity for the kids to play in a game and remember this game for the rest of their lives.  They deserve to remember this game for the rest of their lives.  There's a lot of work that goes into getting here.

Q.  To have the health issues that you do on your offensive line, how much of a concern is that, typically against Ohio State' defensive line?
COACH ANDERSEN:  A big concern.  Tremendous defensive front.  From top to bottom all the kids they rotate through that defensive line, I would say it's the most talented crew we faced this season.  You want to be at your best in these moments and situations.  You're playing this time of year, you're going to put on the tape and it's going to be a really good team.  It's going to be that way in this game.
It's important.  I hope for Dan that he gets to play for Dan because he has worked so hard to be able to get into this game.  Those five kids have been together this whole year and started and played every game.  That's really what bothers me the most, if he couldn't play, for Dan.
For us, trust me, we'd love to have him.  We need him against a very, very talented defensive front and front seven.

Q.  How do you look at Cardale Jones?  Do you look at him as a guy making his first start and you try to throw a bunch of stuff at him to confuse him or as a guy who has been around for a while and has seen some things?
COACH ANDERSEN:  I think he's definitely been in a position to be prepared.  You always want to throw things at a quarterback regardless of who the quarterback is.  One of our goals is to frustrate a quarterback, put a quarterback in a position where he doesn't feel comfortable, let him understand that we're going to be around him.  Regardless, if that happens or not, that's always a goal.  That would never change regardless whether it's a young man's first start or 50th start.
This offense will put him in a position to be just fine.  There's a lot of talented young men on that team that he can get the ball in their hands a lot of different ways, quick throws, easy throws, hand it off, deep balls.  He'll have an opportunity to feel just fine.
If the offensive coordinator feels he needs to funnel some things down, he will.  But it won't stop him from having an opportunity to be successful with all the kids they have out there running around.

Q.  Your team has been pretty successful since that loss to Northwestern.  What is different about your team now than from the beginning of conference play?
COACH ANDERSEN:  I would say they continued to grow and develop.  This team had an identity from the very beginning.  They definitely stubbed their toe a couple times, but they learned from their mistakes.
That's the key.  When you get into a position where you don't play well, there's a lot of places that somebody could have pointed a finger if they wanted to after the Northwestern game.  There was none of that.  They came back.  We learned from it.  We discussed it.  We found out we didn't do very good on the plan to win that day and we lost the ball.  It wasn't on one side of the ball, one single individual.  We looked at ourselves in the mirror and moved on from that.
The youth of this program continued to grow, and the strength of the senior class, which is not strong in numbers, but strong in the way they continued to carry themselves.  We grew.
Young guys got better because they simply played in games.¬† There's nothing like playing in games to become a better football player.¬† They're a tight‑knit group.¬† I feel like a broken record because I say it so many times, this team faced so much adversity outside of the football field this year with just a number of family situations that some of them are very tragic and hard to deal with.¬† This team dealt with those unbelievably well and helped the young men get through those tough situations.¬† That's another thing that I'll never forget about these guys is how they handled those situations.
Sometimes to this team there were more important things than the football games.

Q.  With Melvin and your offensive line, the run game, have you seen your team wear down opposing defenses at times in the second half, fourth quarter?
COACH ANDERSEN:  That's always our goal.  We talk about it.  Coach Lud always talks about it, a softening process that can take place.  How many times are you willing to take on the power over the zone play.  We train that way.  We talk about it.  We hope that's the case.  That's what we want to have happen.
I don't think there's an offense in America that would sit there and say that's not what they want to have happen, is to be able to use their physical running game at the end of the game to be able to win the game or give them an opportunity to go out and play well as the game wears on.
In this league it's very hard to do that.  There's a bunch of tough kids.  Week in, week out you're always saying, This defensive lineman, that defensive lineman, this crew was tough up front.  That is the case, the fact.  The Big Ten is that way.
Anybody that knows anything about football can throw on any tape you want and watch the front seven play.  They're talented week in and week out.  Tough to block them.  We do look to have leads late in games.  It's one of our goals.

Q.  The speed and athleticism of Ohio State, does it remind you at all of the opener against LSU?  How do you feel like your program is coming along in terms of adding that speed and athleticism?
COACH ANDERSEN:  It is like LSU.  That game was a long time ago.  Right now if I sit back and I say Ohio State is probably faster than them, but that was a long time ago.  With that, Ohio State is very fast.  They're skillful in all positions.  They're very athletic throughout.
You look at their offensive line, one of the first things that comes to your mind, they're big, strong, physical kids, but they're all athletic.  That carries out to the team, to the DBs, safeties, runningbacks, all the way through.
I believe in that process.  It's important for us to continually put ourselves in a position to up our athleticism at the right spots we need to.  We're working through that process.  We got some good young receivers, started to be more involved within the offense.  A couple plays were made in the month of November, big, big plays by some young players that have the athleticism, they just need to get the reps in the games, handle practice, and move forward.  We have to keep recruiting.

Q.  Do you look at this Ohio State program as somewhat of a benchmark for the conference?
COACH ANDERSEN:  No.  I think we all look at ourselves as an elite team within the conference.  Why wouldn't you, if that's where you're at?  If we look at ourselves as an elite team, I'm sure they look at themselves as an elite team.  I'm sure everybody does.
To say one team is the benchmark of the Big Ten, I don't think so.¬† It's a number of good teams, well‑coached teams.¬† I'm sure we all think we're on top.¬† If you're not, then what are we talking about?¬† You want to be the best of the best.¬† That's where you're at.

Q.  Joey Bosa was named the defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten.  What stands out about him?  Is that justified?
COACH ANDERSEN:  I would say absolutely that's justified from what I've seen.  We didn't cross paths on a whole bunch of films.  This is the week I have to sit down and watch those guys.  I'm always drawn to those great defensive linemen.
First of all, he's still a very young player.¬† What he's done is just continue to grow and blossom.¬† He'll hunker in there and play the run with good technique and pad level.¬† Appears to like doing that.¬† A lot of guys that can pass‑rush and have the athleticism that he does aren't excited to take on the physical run game that comes at them a lot.¬† He seems to enjoy those moments as much as sacking the quarterback.
He is a very talented young man.¬† Plays at one speed.¬† That's the speed you want all your kids to play at.¬† You never see that young man take close to a loaf.¬† When the moment comes you need a big‑time play, he's been able to make that many, many times for Ohio State.
You got to have your eye on that guy every snap.  He's going to get his, have his opportunities to make plays.
It's like last year when we played Clowney, he's going to make his plays, he's going to be in his spot.  Fantastic player.  Know where he is and do your best to get him blocked up when you need to.

Q.  How much has Ohio State's defense changed with Chris coming over and changing some things?  Does that give them a little bit of insight with his familiarity with your program?
COACH ANDERSEN:  To be honest with you, I could not tell you.  I didn't sit down and see what it was or really what it is.  When we came in, we evaluated the talent of the kids.  I didn't really break down the scheme.  I know it's a very good defense today.  Every coach has some tweaks.
We run a similar offense.  He's going to run maybe a similar defense.  But they both evolved.  Our offense has evolved.  I'm sure their defense has evolved.  It's a very good defense, talented.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Q.  In a game where you're all big and tough and strong, listening to you talk about your young men, the love you have for each other, it sounds like this group, win or lose, is going to be special to you for a long time.  Is that accurate?
COACH ANDERSEN:  No question.  Again, I just go back to the experiences that we've had and the moments.  They haven't all been good.  There's been some very tough ones.  But just to see them grow and develop, you look back and you kind of have a chance to do that late in the year.  You take a big, deep breath and realize that you're walking off the practice field for one of the last times.  Those are the best times of the day, the one or two hours of practice that you get to be around the kids.  All of a sudden they're not going to be out there much longer with you.
Close place in my heart.  I have that for every team in the end.  But there's some special things that have taken place with this crew off the field that are pretty amazing.  Fun to see those kids to have the support and care about each other.
I say it all the time in recruiting, we talk about family.  It's easy to say those words, but it's hard to love.  It's just like the word 'love,' you're not going to love 105 kids on your team.  It's impossible for every teammate to say, 'I love you.'  That's not true.  You don't.  You gotta respect and care for them.  These kids do that.  I believe now they are a family.  They've been a special crew.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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