Badgers hope to reverse primetime luck on the road
OCT 14, 2013 4:22p ET
The schedule makers this season have not been kind to the Badgers in that regard. When Wisconsin plays at Illinois at 7 p.m. CT Saturday, it will mark the team's third primetime appearance in as many road games.
The first two, you may recall, did not go particularly well for UW. Wisconsin lost, 32-30, in controversial fashion at Arizona State and later fell, 31-24, against No. 4 Ohio State. And while no away game is particularly kind to the visiting team, night contests seem to create especially hostile environments for a revved up fan base that has spent all day greasing its collective wheels for kickoff.
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said he had no say at all in the scheduling and suggested perhaps it was determined by television ratings. He did note, however, that the Badgers would be prepared regardless of the circumstances.
"The games fall where they fall, just like the byes fall where they fall," Andersen said during his weekly Monday news conference. "We just line up and play. It doesn’t really bother me. I'm used to the abnormal schedules. That’s kind of what I grew up in the last 15 years. You might play on Tuesday, you might play on Thursday. You might play on this and that.
"A traditional Saturday mid-afternoon kickoff is wonderful. I love that. Trust me. I do. I think we can adjust easily. It's a night game. I'm sure it will be a fun setting."
While playing night games is not a new development, Wisconsin is the only school among the upper echelon of Big Ten teams to have to play three of them on the road.
Northwestern played one night road game in the season opener at Cal. Its second and third primetime games, against Western Michigan and Ohio State, came at home.
Ohio State played in primetime at Northwestern, while a second game began in the late afternoon at Cal. The Buckeyes will play another night game, but it comes at home against Penn State on Oct. 26.
Michigan had a home night game against Notre Dame and a road night game at UConn. Nebraska and Michigan State, meanwhile, have both played just one night game, and they were at home.
"It's a fun atmosphere when you're playing at night," Badgers quarterback Joel Stave said. "That’s how they scheduled it. Whether you welcome it or not, that’s how it's going to be, so we've just got to make sure we're ready for it.
"We haven’t been able to get one quite yet this year, so we want to make sure we're focused, preparing well to get that win."
Wisconsin's game against Illinois represents the fifth time the Badgers will have played a Big Ten opponent on the road in the last three seasons. UW's record during that span is 0-4, with losses to Michigan State, Ohio State twice and Nebraska.
"If you want to be great, you have to win on the road," Badgers safety Dezmen Southward said. "You have to win in big-time environments. That’s something we're looking forward to. If you want to get anywhere, you can't just say, 'Oh, I'm just going to be great on my home field turf.' That’s not good enough, so we look forward to the challenge and we'll be ready for it."
Andersen said he sensed there was extra motivation to play well on Saturday.
"We're going to go see if we can get a victory this time on the road against a quality opponent," he said. "It will be a great challenge. We need to win on the road."
Kicking change: Andersen said he was moving forward with plans to have Jack Russell take over the starting field goal and extra point duties from Kyle French. French missed a 38-yard field goal attempt wide left against Northwestern on Saturday and was replaced by Russell, who made Wisconsin's final three extra points.
"It's a tough part of the deal," Andersen said. "It's a hard situation. We need to make the best of it for the football team. And make sure that we deal with all the kids that are involved in the scenario.
"As all changes and positions, we're not going to put up a billboard and say this is the guy that’s doing this or this is the guy that’s doing that. I just don’t believe in that. If we have a new left guard this week, we're not going to make a big deal of that, either. Jack deserves an opportunity. We'll see how he handles it during practice and go from there."
Russell is 0 for 3 on field goal attempts in his college career and missed out on an opportunity to take over the starting job for French in Week 2. He replaced French in that game but missed a 31-yard field goal try off the right upright.
Andersen acknowledged the inconsistencies from the kicker spot had changed the way he would make field goal decisions, perhaps leading to Drew Meyer punting in 50-50 scenarios.
"It will impact us," Andersen said. "The opportunity as we go forward in certain areas, I think the way Drew punts the ball also helps us there because, if he can kick it down there and get it inside the 10-yard line consistently like he's done, it allows you to have second thoughts about a long field goal or maybe not going for it as much. Asking somebody to go 90 yards if the defense is playing well is very tough. It all plays into it. Yes, definitely, it's going to change how we look at things as we move forward."
Abbrederis update: Andersen said Badgers wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, who missed the final three quarters against Northwestern with a head injury, could return for the Illinois game.
"I am hopeful," Andersen said. "I feel good about that. We'll know more in the next 48 hours. If Jared has the opportunity, he'll go."
It remains unclear when Abbrederis actually suffered his injury. He did sustain a helmet-to-helmet hit on Wisconsin's second offensive play, which caused Abbrederis to uncharacteristically fumble the ball away.
"I haven’t talked to him about when it happened," Stave said. "That very well could have been the play."
Still, Abbrederis managed to catch a 63-yard touchdown pass from Stave later in the first quarter.
"The fact that he was able to catch that deep ball was pretty incredible," Stave said.
Abbrederis bobbled a pass on another drive, which resulted in an interception, and he was ruled out for the game after the play.
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