Former Utah State coach Andersen excited to coach Badgers football

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 11, 2013 - 12:16 PM
hide

Gary Andersen, coaching this spring, got a taste of the Wisconsin football experience last fall when his Utah State team nearly upset the Badgers.

Photo: M.P. King • Wisconsin State Journal via Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

 

– From his new office overlooking the field at Camp Randall Stadium, Gary Andersen still can see the fateful line of scrimmage.

Four years after taking over a languishing Utah State football program, Andersen had the Aggies on the verge of a major upset last September. Trailing the Badgers 16-14 with 11 seconds remaining, his team lined up for the winning field goal.

“Nineteen-yard line. Right hash,” Andersen said, pointing to the spot last month.

The kick sailed wide right. Then-Badgers coach Bret Bielema heaved a huge sigh of relief as Andersen walked off in defeat. But that night’s importance lingered into December.

After winning a third consecutive Big Ten title, Bielema abruptly left for Arkansas, thrusting the Badgers into their first true coaching search since they hired Barry Alvarez in 1990. Alvarez, who hand-picked Bielema as his successor before becoming Wisconsin athletic director, did something that California, Kentucky and Colorado could not — persuade Andersen to leave Utah State.

In the six years before Andersen took over Utah State’s program, the Aggies went 15-55. His teams went 4-8, 4-8 and 7-5 before turning in the best season in school history last year at 11-2.

“What he did there was fabulous because he brought the program from zero,” said Ron McBride, former Utah coach and Andersen’s longtime mentor. “He was No. 1 on Cal’s list. I was shocked he turned that down. I figured he was going to stay at Utah State, so the Wisconsin thing kind of blew me away.”

During his interview, Andersen immediately hit it off with Alvarez. And Wisconsin didn’t have to do much selling because Andersen had seen enough as a visiting coach last fall.

“We were heartbroken with that loss,” Andersen said. “But you also walk out of here going, ‘That was big time.’ It’s as big as it gets in college football.”

State of the program

Bielema went 68-24 at Wisconsin, including 12-1 his first season, but never quite escaped Alvarez’s shadow. The Badgers went 8-6 last year, winning the Big Ten, in part, because Ohio State and Penn State were bowl ineligible. Wisconsin then lost a third consecutive Rose Bowl.

But long before leaving, Bielema predicted this 2013 Wisconsin team would be his best. Running back Montee Ball and center Travis Frederick have moved to the NFL, but the Badgers return plenty of standouts, including linebacker Chris Borland and wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. The biggest questions are the secondary, the wide receivers and the quarterback. Andersen hasn’t named a starting quarterback. He plans to open camp with a three-way battle between Joel Stave, Curt Phillips and junior-college transfer Tanner McEvoy.

The Badgers ran the 4-3 defense under Bielema, but Andersen prefers the 3-4. Offensively, he plans to spice things up a bit, too.

“Do we want to use a power run game? Absolutely,” Andersen said. “But we do want to incorporate a touch of the option. In 20 years of coaching on the defensive side of the football, just the threat that they’re going to grab the ball and pitch it sideways is a whole new dimension to football.”

Andersen was the defensive line coach at Utah under then-coach Urban Meyer when the Utes went 12-0 in 2004. The two have remained friends, which will add to the story lines when the Badgers play at Ohio State on Sept. 28. The winner of that showdown should be favored to win the Leaders Division.

Speaking to Badgers fans at the River Falls Golf Club last month, Andersen had some fun with all the hype being stowed upon the Buckeyes after their 12-0 finish last season.

“Apparently, Ohio State is the best college football team to ever strap up their helmets, so we’ll see,” he said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to compete.”

When Meyer left for Florida in 2005, Andersen became Utah’s defensive coordinator under Kyle Whittingham. The Utes went undefeated again in 2008 before Andersen left to become the head coach at Utah State.

One challenge at Wisconsin is that Andersen and his top assistants had limited experience recruiting the Midwest. To help bridge that gap, he kept three holdovers from Bielema’s staff — Ben Strickland, Henry Mason and former Gophers assistant Thomas Hammock.

Last month, the Gophers received a verbal commitment from Gaelin Elmore, a tight end from Somerset, Wis., even though Wisconsin had offered, too. But overall, recruiting appears to be going well for the Badgers, who landed a 2014 commitment from one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country on Monday in Jacksonville, Fla., native D.J. Gillins.

“There is more time here spent recruiting,” Andersen said. “I would say it’s tripled, minimum, throughout the year. You’re recruiting like we would in January at Utah State all spring and summer.”

Lesson learned

Andersen, 49, is determined not to let the work overwhelm his staff. At Utah State, he stressed the importance of Sunday night family dinners and a one-week summer vacation. He said those will be just as important at Wisconsin.

It’s a lesson he learned the hard way, he said, during his second year at Utah State, after a 41-7 loss to San Diego State.

“It was probably the worst game we ever played,” he said. “I just felt like I kind of lost focus for a short period of time and ended up in the hospital.

“I forgot about everything. I forgot about eating. I forgot about sleeping. I forgot about taking time away. Nothing else mattered but football, and because of that I wasn’t as good of a football coach.

“It took a doctor to look at me and go, ‘You’re pretty much going to kill yourself if you don’t stop.’ That day changed me dramatically.”

Andersen scaled back the hours he expects his assistants to stay in the office and reduced practice times by 20 minutes each day.

“The same stress I was feeling was on the assistant coaches,” he said. “It was on the football players. It was on everybody who cared about the program.”

Plenty to offer

It should be easier selling recruits on Madison than Logan, Utah. The Badgers just overhauled their facilities, giving the football team a new locker room, weight room, training area and academic center inside the bowels of Camp Randall.

That will only add to what recruits see on visits this fall to the 80,000-seat stadium. Andersen got his taste last Sept. 15.

“I remember we were on the team bus, and the [Wisconsin] band was playing in the parking lot,” he said. “We’d been driving through people for goodness knows how long, trying to get to the stadium. It was an unbelievable atmosphere. On that day, you’re trying not to be distracted by it, but it was special.”

Wisconsin fans are “good football fans, period,” Andersen said. “It’s not over the top. It’s the way it should be.”

After leaving for the SEC, Bielema further agitated Badgers fans by saying he wanted a better chance to win the national championship. In the past 20 years, Wisconsin has won or shared the Big Ten title six times but hasn’t finished a season ranked higher than fourth nationally.

Andersen knows his Utah State players left everything they had on Camp Randall’s field. Beginning Aug. 31, against UMass, he expects the Badgers to do the same.

“I think anywhere you go, there are expectations,” Andersen said. “Winning is very, very important, but it’s not the most important thing to me.

“I get asked a lot what I would consider a successful season or a successful tenure? That’s easy. I want the seniors to walk out of here with their heads held high. I want them to be proud of their university, and I want them to have a degree.”

  • related content

  • Chart: The Gary Andersen file

    Wednesday July 10, 2013

    the andersen fileAge: 49Background: His coaching stops included Southeastern Louisiana, Ricks College, Idaho State, Park City (Utah) High School, Northern...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 7
San Diego 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 86 FINAL
Boston 100
Washington 100 FINAL
New York 103
Cleveland 92 FINAL
Memphis 96
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Milwaukee 91
Atlanta 117 FINAL
San Antonio 107
Portland 86 FINAL
LA Lakers 94
Phoenix 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 108
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Washington 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close