Gary Andersen says he understands importance of Minnesota rivalry
NOV 19, 2013 12:32p ET
Andersen discussed how the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry stacks up to others he has been a part of, the skillsets of running backs Melvin Gordon and James White, the difference in Minnesota's team this year and his philosophy in recruiting both walk-ons and Minnesota natives.
Here is the full transcript of Andersen's conference call:
Andersen: It was another great day in Camp Randall for us. I thought the kids played very well against a very, very powerful offense in Indiana. They'll continue to play well I believe as the year goes on. So, it was a good day for us. We were able to obviously get the victory and moving on to this week is a big rivalry game. We're all very aware of it. I know that Minnesota is also very aware of it.
It's two very good teams at 8-2. A rivalry game late in the season. Really, what more can you ask for as a college football fan or as a player or as a coach? So it's a great opportunity. We're happy to be involved in this game.
Q: As a rivalry game, how does this week stack up to others you have been involved with?
A: It's right there I'm sure. Now it's my first time through it. But you get the feel. And it's not just this week. You get the feel as you go through the year, as you go through the first year on the job, you reach out and understand things.
It doesn't take long to walk through the locker room and see the axe sitting there in the trophy case. It's either going to be right back in there or it's going to be empty. One of the two. That lets you understand real quickly how important truly the rivalry is.
Then you hear more about it. You learn more about it. I was fortunate to be a part of a great rivalry in the Holy War at Utah and BYU. I grew up in it. I played in it. I coached in that one. So this one's going to be right there with it, I'm sure, as I go through it the first time. But it's fun to see the kids light up. They're telling experiences that they've had. It's fun to bring back players that have been involved in this game and hear about the great victories, the tough defeats that they've had and I think it's all part of the process.
For me, the challenge is to make sure the young kids that don't know about it or don't know about a college rivalry understand how important it is. It is a culture and they need to wrap their arms around it and be excited about the opportunity to play in this game because it is something that they're going to remember forever.
Q: How will coaches vote for the Silver Football Award for Big Ten's best player between Melvin Gordon and James White?
A: I'm glad I'm not making that decision. I'll tell you that much. That's a very difficult decision to make. As you go through it, you sit back and you look. What James has done for so many years and what he's done for this team for so many years. And then Melvin having the year that he's having.
They're two very, very good, talented young men that have made some terrific plays throughout this year. If they're on that ballot and they have that opportunity, if one of them got it, that'd be fantastic. But it's a tough call. You'd have to flip a coin on that one.
Q: Could you compare the skillsets of James and Melvin?
A: I would say if you look at them both, what the ability that Melvin has done this year is he's had the ability to run within the tackles. I think James has always been able to do that. Melvin gets out on the outside on the fly sweeps and is more involved on the outside edges of the defense. But James is more involved within our protections at times because of his experience and his understanding of just playing so many reps.
James does a great job in our screen game, which you see him be involved in. Melvin is involved in the edges of the defense. If there's a difference, Melvin may be on the outside more. James is involved more on protections and possibly in the screen game.
But as far as tackle to tackle, I think they've both done very well. These last three weeks have kind of been James' weeks. If you go back to Iowa, he broke a big run to kind of get the game broken open a little bit. Did the same thing at BYU. And then this last week they both played absolutely tremendous.
As much as they're the same, they do have some uniqueness in their games. But I think it fits our offense. The thing they are both is very, very unselfish. They have no agenda of themselves. Their agenda is their team plays well.
Q: Have you been able to look on film and see what has been the difference for Minnesota this year?
A: I really couldn't see. The only game I watched them play last year was when they played Wisconsin last year. But I can tell you what I see on film and why I believe they win games. No. 1, they're a very well coached football team. They do a tremendous job of using their talents and highlighting them on game day and putting the ball in those kids' hands. On defense, they do the exact same thing. They don't try and do things that their talent level doesn't allow them. When they're talented, they use those kids the right way from a coaching standpoint.
From a player's standpoint, they're in the right spots. They're very sound offensively, all the way through the positions. The same thing holds true on defense and the same thing holds true on special teams. You don't see them shoot themselves in the foot. You don't see them giving up a lot of big plays. They just kind of hang in there and grind like crazy. If it's a close game, they're going to continue to grind and fight until the end. If they're fortunate enough to be ahead, you don't see peaks and valleys in the level of play, whether they're winning or losing. Or maybe they're blowing somebody out, they continue to play at the same level. Very physical team also on offense and on defense.
It's hard for me to compare them from the past. That's what a good team is. When you sit at 8-2, they do a lot of those things I believe good teams do. They're definitely getting that done this year.
Q: As you get closer to BCS at-large eligibility, do you concern yourself with style points?
A: No. Not at all. We're going to go out and play a very good team again this week. Every game has its own personality, has its own identity. And when it's over with, there's a winner and a loser and you kind of play how you played.
I believe you start worrying about stuff like that, you're going to have a major issue on your hands. If we're fortunate enough to play well and win, then we're going to get back on a plane and fly home very, very happy regardless of the score. If it's in our favor, we'll be happy. I don't think about stuff like that, so it doesn't really enter in my mind.
Q: Do you see similarities between what Minnesota and Wisconsin does in terms of physicality in the run game?
A: Absolutely. They want to run the power play. They want to run the inside power. They want to run what you would call the more traditional or the outside power. Backs are downhill. Offensive line is consistently physical. Tight ends are good blockers. Another thing I would say is they do a nice job with their wide receivers enjoy blocking. They like it. They like to get involved. I think our wide receivers like that also. So there is a lot of similarities. Different styles.
They're more of a true fly sweep and having a few more things that they do in certain personnel packages. But the identity, to wake up in the morning and say we want to be a football team that runs the ball and runs the ball effectively, we believe in that and so do they.
Q: What does the player and what does your team gain from having walk-ons on the roster?
A: First of all, a lot of those kids are from in-state. And we have a major belief in having a large number of young men in our program from the state of Wisconsin. It's where we start first in recruiting. It's where we start first with our walk-on program.
I think it brings a lot of pride. It brings an understanding of how important Wisconsin football is and the tradition of Wisconsin football for the new kids in the program that are coming from out of state or coming from different parts of the country.
It really helps the identity of who we want to be. That's the kind of kids we want. Tough, hard-nosed kids that are willing to sacrifice academically, sacrifice socially, become a better person and grow into a man as they're here. I believe, in turn, it carries over to the football field to play at a high level.
But there is something to be said about having a bunch of in-state kids on y our team. Those walk-ons, when they get that award and it's awarded in front of the team and they get a scholarship, it's a special, special moment for a lot of those kids. We'll have two or three more in January that we're going to be able to award.
Q: What value does the walk-on program have?
A: It's a large, large factor in our program. I think it brings the toughness, just a lot of knowledge of who we are, what we're all about. The identity of what we want to have as a football program will continue to be there.
We have a lot of Midwest kids that are walk-ons. They have an understanding of the Big Ten. They have an understanding of the tradition of the conference and of the school.
Q: Wisconsin has pulled a lot of good players from Minnesota over the years. Will that state be a priority for you going forward in recruiting?
A: Absolutely. With the ability, and it is even for the walk-on program. The kids can get into school. It's a good situation for them. We definitely have a coach that's primarily sat down right in there in Minnesota to be able to recruit. It's good high school football from what I've seen of it and what I know of it. It looks like it's coached well. Kids have a large care factor, a lot of multi-sport athletes. The type of young men we like to recruit.
Q: Do you like moving this Minnesota game to the end of the regular season?
A: Absolutely. If I had it my way, it's where it should be played. A rivalry game in conference at the end of the year is a special, special experience. It happens to be the second to last game of the regular season this year. But in the future, it's going to be the last game. I think that's where it should be played if it can be when it means so much.
Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter