The Wisconsin Badgers will have to rebound quickly after a heartbreaking 28-24 loss to LSU on Saturday, but do get the benefit of facing a Western Illinois team rebounding under second year coach Bob Nielson. Wisconsin is now 0-1 for the first time since 1997. Head Coach Gary Anderson talks about the game against LSU and the upcoming games.
COACH ANDERSEN: First of all, this was a tough game, what I think are two very good teams played against each other. We’ll continue to see how the season goes. Obviously we didn’t come out on the winning end.
When you break it down, you go back and watch it, there’s a bunch of plays you can go back and could have, would have, should have. Overall, I’m proud of the effort. I thought they handled a road game, basically. Anybody that was there would understand that.
It was definitely a loud crowd. It was in a dome. We handled that well, especially on offense. I was glad to see that the administrative penalties and ability to play in a loud situation, it was a big positive. It will pay dividends as we move throughout the seasons.
Proud of the kids. I think they played very hard. If we break it down, the issues came for us. We want to hit the negative, and then I’ll move on to some positives.
We lost the fourth quarter, obviously. We did not run the ball well in the fourth quarter. When we had to throw the ball in the fourth quarter, we didn’t throw the ball well in the fourth quarter. I believe it was 1 for 7 or whatever it may have been.
So that came with a lot of different scenarios from bad balls to drops, to protection issues, so on and so forth. So we’ve got to be able to execute in that area. From a defensive standpoint, we’ve been excellent on third downs all day long. They were 3 for 4, 4 for 5 in those situations. On third down, they converted third downs when they had to, and they ran the ball well. They did not run the ball well overall in the football game. You can look at the stats and say that.
But in the fourth quarter they really ran the ball 16 times. There was two kneel?downs. I don’t count those. Averaged five yards a carry. And that’s not going to get it done in the fourth quarter. So those are the issues that I believe that we had in the fourth quarter. And one of the plans to win is to absolutely win the fourth quarter. We didn’t get that done.
So on the positive sides, Michael Caputo had an outstanding game. 20 tackles is what we have him for. Ten unassisted and ten assisted, PBU, fumble recovery. Unbelievable game out of that young man. Melvin had a nice game also. I thought he carried the ball well. A couple times made something much out of nothing. When there was not a lot done, he found a way to get it done. A lot’s been asked about the situation with Melvin. Same thing I kind of said at halftime: The scenario was real simple at halftime. Melvin had a little bit of a hip flexor. Anybody that knows Melvin could see that on the long run, that he broke out in the second half there. It was very obvious that he had pulled up there at the end of that run.
We were trying to be smart with him as the rest of the game went on and trying to make educated decisions to keep us moving in the right direction with Melvin for that game, for the future. And it was tough sledding for any running back that was in there at that point.
So we didn’t run the ball a lot in the second half. Didn’t have a lot of opportunities when it was 3 and out most of the time. But again a lot could be taken from that game. Quality opponent. I thought they handled the travel well. And it’s a tough loss. It’s a game where we’re not going to sit back and say I’ll just move on to the next one.
We have a lot to learn. We’ll study that tape. We’ll study it hard. Put it in the back of our mind. But as I always say you’re never going to forget it because we have to learn from that game. There’s a recipe for success to get into these games against those big?time opponents and find a way to win. And we have to be able to tweak our recipe to get to that point. And that goes years back. And we’ve got to find a way to get over that hump. And it’s coaches, players, everybody involved.
Q. Do you have an update on Zagzebski and Herring injuries?
COACH ANDERSEN: Zagz, he came back with us, which was great, on the plane. And he’ll be out there moving around and should be ready to go. If not this week, for sure after the bye week.
So everything looks to be good for him. Warren will be a day?to?day situation with what he had with the little bit of the knee scenario. But he should be back shortly.
Q. When you say “back shortly,” do you have any idea how long that will be? Did you suspect at first when he went down it was going to be something serious that he could be done for the year?
COACH ANDERSEN: It’s always troublesome when you see both those kids down in those situations. And there’s never an excuse in football. But I was worried for Warren in that situation. He’s a tough kid. I was glad to hear the report when it came back what we thought it was.
Zagz extremely troubling. It’s another situation you can look at. I thought the team handled it very well. Zagz handled it very well with the team, when he went off the field. It’s hard now when you lose two senior defensive tackles and you’re already light in the freshman area.
Those kids stood up, did some great things. But I’m always concerned when one of my guys goes down, it bothers me a lot. But I’ll be glad they’ll be back with us for their senior years as we move forward.
Q. Since you haven’t had an opportunity to at least tell us why your decision going with Tanner, what was your rationale in making him your starter and continuing to go with him as your starter?
COACH ANDERSEN: I think the biggest thing is where are we at at the quarterback position with Joel and with Tanner. I still think there’s opportunities for both guys to play.
And as we go through time, and we went through last week’s practice, it was obvious that it was a situation that Tanner needed to be involved. And Joel’s going to be involved. It’s just the right time, the right situation, of making sure everything is where it needs to be, for him to be able to be part of the offense and be involved in the offense.
And we need two quarterbacks. Sooner or later you’ll have to have them both. Tanner is the starter today, but Joel’s going to fight like crazy to get some reps. There’s opportunity to present itself for Tanner to be able?? excuse me, for Joel to come in and play, so be it.
You can look at the numbers, if you want to break down just the numbers of the football game, whatever you say, whatever you want to say about the quarterback play, you can say whatever you want to say about the receiver play, the protection. It was the whole offense was the passing game. Tanner did some things, he made some plays, just like a quarterback has to, that we asked him to make, with his feet at times.
And walking into that game, felt like it was the best situation. And continually moving forward. I’m not saying it’s an open competition, but both quarterbacks have an opportunity. And we’ll need them both to be able to play. This team can handle that and both those kids can handle that without any problem.
Q. You said after the game you didn’t know why Melvin’s playing time, what it was in the second half. Were you unaware of his injury at halftime, the hip flexor? How does that mesh with Melvin after the game where he said he was fine?
COACH ANDERSEN: That’s the problem. Melvin is going to say he’s absolutely fine. This is where I get into a real problem. It’s like everybody wants to get into the kid’s personal business. It’s hard for me to be able to deal with.
If I’m off base, I’m off base. But all I can do is go by what a trainer tells me. And he’s the professional. So if I put a kid in harm’s way because I don’t listen to a trainer, then I’ve got a major issue on my hands, I don’t think I’m the person who I say I am.
I’m going to listen to people, do what they ask me. He gave me the information. He gave Coach Brown the information. And I don’t quite frankly think it’s anybody’s business to pass that on to somebody after the game. But apparently it is because that’s what I was told to do.
Q. Depending on how long Warren and Konrad are out, are you in a position to accelerate a guy like Patterson to get some playing time to help out on the inside, or is he still not close to being able to contribute at this point?
COACH ANDERSEN: Conor is ahead of Jeremy right now. Conor traveled with us. There was some thoughts and discussions on the sidelines, if we go down that road in that game, we did not. And Conor Sheehy is developing. Jeremy is developing. I’m proud of both kids, the way they’re working.
Today, I would say Conor would travel if we were going to go on the road. He’ll obviously suit up at home. But is he still going to play? Don’t know. And Jeremy would be behind Conor.
Q. You’ve talked about the things you look for from your quarterback, layups, big plays, manage the game. Did you see much of that out of Tanner in this game?
COACH ANDERSEN: I saw some opportunities that were?? there was a whole bunch of layups in this game, that’s for sure. We had a couple of?? we had a couple of chances in the throw game.
And comes to mind, Alex running down the sidelines. And that was a contested ball, dove out for it, didn’t get it. We had the misqueue on the wide receiver running an outbreaking route with the middle open. Throws the ball down the middle of the field where we would like the ball to be thrown but looks like Tanner made a poor decision and threw the ball in the wrong spot, which in turn he didn’t.
He obviously missed some throws he’d like to have back. We have a couple of balls in the air that are contested balls that we would like to see go our way. The one pick. It’s a contested ball. Can we go up and get that? We didn’t. And they did, and they picked it off and made a tremendous play in that area.
So do we need better play? Absolutely. I don’t think there’s?? no one’s going to sit here debate that, that we need better play out of the quarterback and better play in the throw game period. And there’s some bright spots and we’ll continue to go through that with both of our quarterbacks.
Q. Drew Meyer looked like he was struggling on a couple of punts, and I think he went to the locker room but came back, hit the other one. Is he okay? Was he banged up going into the game? Did he pull something during it?
COACH ANDERSEN: He wasn’t?? the word I got is that he just had some cramping issues in I guess his calf or foot wherever it was. And it’s concerning to cramp up in that situation.
But he’s fine. And we expect him to obviously punt the ball better than he expects himself to punt the ball better.
Q. You talked about Caputo’s great game and obviously Herring was a big factor before the injury and things went south after that. What about the linebacker play? How did they grade out after what you saw on film?
COACH ANDERSEN: Well, Marcus and Derek played very, very well. Michael was a little bit limited. He had enough reps to grade out on what a winning performance was. But I thought Marcus and Derek played very, very well. Organized the front, got guys moving in the right direction. We had some breakdowns when we got to the freshmen late in the game.
You know, that’s a big part of what we’ve got to fix as far as late in the game, losing the fourth quarter. There’s a lot of things that go into that. And we’ve got to fix it. But overall those two managed the game well. They were productive in tackles. They were productive in running to the football and managing the defense.
Q. You joined Twitter since the last season. Did you manage to stay off of it? Do you condition yourself not to look at it after the game?
COACH ANDERSEN: I dumped my Twitter. When I started Twitter, I thought Brian and I have talked about it. And I just think it’s the best. For recruiting, I tried it for period of time. The assistant coaches definitely need it. But it just really becomes one more distraction that I don’t need to be able to deal with.
I don’t think it helps myself as a head coach in recruiting. It’s a definite help for the assistants for recruiting people. But it’s just?? there’s no pleasing the world in Twitter, I guess, when I go back to it.
And coaching a position and being in the spots that I am right now as the head coach it’s just one more thing on my plate that I could eliminate. So I guess I’m out of the Twitter world.
Q. Because there’s such a long buildup to this opening game and what it all meant, how do you and the coaching staff and do you want the players to deal with avoiding a let?down, if you will?
COACH ANDERSEN: First thing is we’ve got to come back and study the tape. And it has to hurt. I recover when I see the kids, me personally. And I’m probably worse than they are.
But once I see them today and they’ll bring a smile back on my face and get me back where I need to be and get us refocused. We’ll walk out of here today feeling a lot better than we do today or we do at this time of the day.
But we’ve got a great challenge. If you throw in the tape a year ago, watch the team play against Minnesota, that’s our rival. We know how good our rival is. They’re a very good football team.
That game went back and forth deep into the third quarter, basically, and then Minnesota was able to score a couple times. I watched that tape twice this morning on both sides of the ball.
So it’s a very respectable team. Look at what they did in the first game. They scored a lot of points. It’s a spread team. It’s a major departure from what we practice against and what we prepared against for LSU. So we’ve got to get ready for that.
And on defense, there are a bunch of kids that play hard. So we have a bunch of transfers on their team, a bunch of junior college kids that are very good athletes. They’ll expect to walk in here, play well.
They’ve been to UNLV, and went to Minnesota last year. So the venue is going to be a big venue for them. I’m sure they’re excited about it.
Q. When you look at how well your defense played against the run Saturday, with Warren in and then the dramatic change afterwards, is it too much to just put it right on that moment that that’s where your defensive effort changed when Warren went down?
COACH ANDERSEN: I wouldn’t specifically say that. But I think I’d put Zagz right in there, too. When those two kids were both out, the amount of reps?? Goldberg had to take every rep. He ended up taking 50 plus reps. The plan was to keep him around 25.
And that’s difficult. Again, it’s football. But were we different without those two young men in there? Absolutely. There’s no question we’ll have to continually fight to overcome that until hopefully we get them back.
But they’re proven players. They played in big?time moments. They’ve got a lot of reps underneath them and they’re good.
When you lose that and replace it with a young man that hasn’t played, all those kids playing were on scout team last year and most were true freshmen. So it’s difficult. But again, we just have to keep on going. No excuses.
Q. Given the speed of that game, did you notice, when you look at the tape, did you notice anything that Tanner might have done either mechanically or in his reads that he’s worked hard to overcome and might have reverted back to because difference doing it in practice or scrimmage and LSU on the road, did he revert to anything he’s put the effort in to correct?
COACH ANDERSEN: I’m sure there’s many things that Coach Ludwig will go back and critique his own position. I’m far from being a quarterback guru. Talking to the offense a little bit, there’s some things, I think, we can do to from a protection standpoint to clean up the pocket even when it’s blocked cleanly and it has to do with the quarterback, what is his depth, where are his depths.
I don’t know the ins and outs of exactly what our offense is. I’m not?? there’s other coaches that that’s their job to get that done and get him in the spots. But we’ll definitely continue to work on it as an offense as a whole and I’m sure Tanner has many things he can work on. And we’ll keep on moving forward.
Q. No offense, but over the years I’ve learned not to trust depth charts. Are you sticking with Tanner as your starting quarterback?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, Tanner will start the game this week. Yep.
Q. What’s your sense of the concept of playing FCS teams? Big Ten wants to wean itself off those games. I believe this is the last one you’ll play. Is that a good thing or bad thing?
COACH ANDERSEN: I think the stance of the Big Ten is to get out of that business. So my stance is to support our conference and that’s the direction we want to head.
I think you go into more conference games. We have the game like we just played against LSU. There’s a couple of other games you’d like to get this year. We happened to get Bowling Green in those situations, UCF in those scenarios.
Games are closing in. And the ability to play them, if I’m there and I’m at Idaho State right now and we’re at Northern Arizona, boy, this is a big hit not to have a chance to play those games.
But I’m here, so it’s a good situation for us to move forward and get one of those big?time games earlier in the year like we just played. Didn’t win it, but it’s still a great situation for us. We know a lot more about ourselves than we would have a year ago right now, I would say.
Q. In your assessment of your offense you talked about a lot of 50/50 balls that were contested that your guys didn’t come down with. That seemed to be a strength of the freshmen that you brought in at wideout? Has your process changed at all as you go forward with that depth chart?
COACH ANDERSEN: No, we’ll get Robert back this week. We had a heck of a time getting off of press coverage, and if you get pressed up on the line of scrimmage, obviously you’ll have a contested ball, if the corner does a good job and stays with you, that throws off the timing of the offense.
But we want the young receivers to progress. We’re asking them to progress. But you also want to be careful of the situation you put them in.
In talking to Corey Raymond who I have great respect for, the DB coach there at LSU, in his opinion he thinks this is?? and Steve Kragthorpe is also there, who I have a great relationship with. He thinks this is the best secondary LSU has had in a long time. And that was after the game that they passed that on to me. So I guess they’re pretty talented kids. They sure look like it on film against us.
So it was a great challenge. We didn’t do good enough, but we’ve got to get the young guys in the mix, yes.
Q. You mentioned Wheelwright coming back, you mean coming back physically from injury? And also was Jordan Fredrick still limited? I know he missed time in camp and he wasn’t on the field as much as maybe some people might have expected in that game?
COACH ANDERSEN: Robert Wheelwright should be back this week. It’s my understanding he will be back, ready to practice full speed today. He’ll have his opportunity to get into the mix. And that will be good to see where Robert sits. Hopefully that takes place.
Jordan has been limited throughout camp. We’re going to be a little bit careful with him again with the situation where he is. It’s going to be?? he’s got to?? we’ve got to pick our reps and pick our spots. Him being the spot that he’s in, we just gotta be as smart as we can to keep him moving throughout the season.
I’m not saying to protect him, because he’s definitely ready to go out there and play, but we want to kind of pick our spots of success with him, if that makes any sense to you.
Q. Speaking of your secondaries, how would you assess the way yours played, specifically Lubern’s debut?
COACH ANDERSEN: We left some balls over our head. And that’s as much of a swing in the football game as the fourth quarter. That’s the facts. If you take away the fourth quarter, what you’ve already talked, and we talk about the defense stopping the run, which is great, we had balls over our heads. It’s a broken play.
You can break that play down. I’ll see it for the rest of my life. Did we contain the way we were supposed to at the defensive end spot? No.
Did we lose our eyes with Sojourn and did we lose our eyes with Lubern? Yes. The ball comes out of there. Did they make a great play? Yes, they made a very good play.
The other one got over the top of us. The other touchdown, it’s third and 21. They throw a 10?yard or 11?yard, whatever it was, outcurl relationship and we can’t tackle a guy. So I would say in the back end we were very, very average, because we let big plays affect the game in a very negative way.
Q. Going back to the run defense, the touchdown that Hilliard scored to give LSU the lead, I believe they were in a three?receiver set. You guys countered with your base. Is that a Catch?22, because obviously that’s not your best run defense unit?
COACH ANDERSEN: We also had a mental error on that rep that caused us some issues.
We have an opportunity to potentially make a tackle, but as you watched the game, smart coaches now, the I back run game was not real successful at all for them. So they went away from it.
Started to do some more zone read and some stretch and different things from the shotgun scenario.
And the young man saw a hole. He hit a hole. Made a nice play. But switching from our base to our nickel. Our base defense is really structured to be able to handle any defense. By preference, we could be in base or nickel there.
I couldn’t even off the top of my head I could not tell what you the defensive call was right there. I don’t know. But I know we didn’t execute it the right way.
Q. Getting back to the freshman wide receivers, as well as some played in camp, was there quiet concern going in that they might struggle against press coverage because simply they’re going up against guys who are bigger and more seasoned?
COACH ANDERSEN: It’s always a concern when you have youth and when you don’t have guys that have spent their offseason or their camp or whatever the youth that get off that press coverage is very, very difficult.
That’s why you run press coverage is to throw the timing off the quarterback and the wide receivers. In a nutshell, that’s what you try to do.
And, yes, it was a concern. You need to counter that a little bit with the offense and we will as we continue to move forward. The anticipation of press was in this game. I felt like we got off and our number two receivers had some opportunities. We missed those opportunities. That’s what’s so tough to deal with is that we had a couple of shots that we got what we wanted and we weren’t able to again by protection wrong route, bad throw, we weren’t able to get that done. And in turn our throw game is not good.
Q. You seemed to be the more aggressive team in the first half. In the second, not so much. Was that the perception you took your foot off the gas pedal, does that enter into the analysis at all, is that a fair assessment?
COACH ANDERSEN: No, I don’t feel that way at all. I think, shift of the game plan a little bit for them, like I said on offense. We stayed just aggressive. Maybe more so aggressive by call in the second half on defense.
Offensively, we just never kept up with the chains, ever, in the second half. We got the one time when Corey came in, Corey ran it three times in a row, got a first down, I think it was 1st and 10 and, 2nd and 7, and 2nd and 5, and then he got a first down on three consecutive runs. That was about the only time in the second half that I can remember right now that we did it the way we were supposed to do it and try to keep the thing moving down the field.
The sustainable drives were just not there in the second half. Again, credit goes to them. They did a nice job. They controlled the football game and that is really hard for me as a head football coach to look at the team and you guys and everybody else and say we couldn’t get it done in the fourth quarter. That’s hard for me to swallow.