MADISON, Wis. - Gary Andersen is just starting to get to know the Big Ten Conference and his new team's traditions, but the Badgers will get a blast from Andersen's past this week when the BYU Cougars come to town on Saturday.
Andersen and his teams have played the Cougars in 16 of the last 17 seasons, including in each of the past 10 years. And with most of Andersen's Utah State staff now working with him in Madison, the Badgers have a little bit of an edge in that their coaches are very familiar with the Cougars.
Both defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig coached against the Cougars last year, with Aranda running Utah State's defense in a 6-3 loss to BYU on the road in Provo. And while Ludwig didn't coach with Andersen last year, he did coach against the Cougars in San Diego State's 23-6 loss to BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl.
So while Andersen and most of his staff are still learning about their new rivals and getting to know the rest of the Big Ten, the head coach seemed very comfortable breaking down what makes BYU a hard team to play.
"[They're] quarterback driven on the offensive side of the ball without question," Andersen said of BYU signal caller Taysom Hill in the head coach's weekly press conference. "He has continually gotten better and better as the year goes on and from a year ago. He had an injury, but he's come back and played well."
Hill is completing just 52.9 percent of his passes in his second year at BYU, but most of his value comes on the ground. Hill has rushed for 841 yards on 142 carries this season, scoring eight touchdowns along the way. Hill puts the 'dual' in dual-threat, and Andersen said he's continually impressed with the sophomore quarterback, who he recruited for a brief period out of high school.
"He'll be right up there with those [other] athletic quarterbacks. Just flip on the tape for the last six games," Andersen said. "He causes people a lot of issues. He's set up some big plays. He's a smart, smart young man. You're not going to walk out there and say, hey, you're going to trick them. You're going to have to earn your right against them."
Hill gets a lot of press for BYU's fast-paced offense and the total yards from scrimmage he puts up, but the Badgers will also have to deal with another stingy BYU defense, led by all-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
"They have good weapons defensively," Andersen said. "The Van Noy kid is a good linebacker. He's one of the top linebackers in the country. So we all know where the top linebacker in the country plays football- that is right here in our own backyard. But he's very talented, and you have to account for him every snap."
Van Noy in particular terrorized San Diego State's offense in the Poinsettia Bowl, racking up 3.5 tackles for loss, one interception return for a touchdown, and one fumble return for a touchdown. So far this season Van Noy has 10.5 tackles for loss and one interception, but hasn't forced a fumble yet.
Andersen said he was shocked to see BYU on Wisconsin's 2013 schedule when he first came to Madison, but he might have to get used to seeing the Cougars even while he's at Wisconsin. The two teams have a home-and-home scheduled for 2018 and 2019, with the second game set to feature Wisconsin's first-ever trip to Provo.
"They followed me all the way here," Andersen said of his long-time in-state rival. "It's a great challenge to play them. It's typical BYU. They'll take their best players and put them in position to make plays. That's absolutely no surprise. The way they play, the physicality they bring to the game, the love of football, you'll see it, they love playing the game and a lot of things I stand for in coaching and a lot of the kids play that way. Their best players will be in spots to make plays for them on Saturday."
News and notes:
-- Andersen gave brief updates on Chris Borland, Jared Abbrederis, Dallas Lewallen and Brian Wozniak, all of whom were either injured against Iowa or did not play. Andersen said he didn't know for sure if all of his injured players would be ready to go this week against the Cougars but they'll know more tomorrow during practice. Borland was available after the press conference and said he feels better than he did at this point at last week, and he expects to practice in some fashion on Tuesday.
As for Tyler Dippel, who is home in California to deal with an undisclosed family matter, it didn't sound like Andersen expected the senior defensive end to re-join the team any time soon.
"Tyler's situation is still completely up in the air," Andersen said. "Our concern is not getting Tyler back here to play in the football game. It's just being with Tyler and helping him get through the situation he's involved in. Football is a distant second in my opinion right now. I'm sure it is, and it should be in Tyler's mindset. I'm worried about Tyler as a kid and Tyler's family and Tyler secondly and making sure he finishes up school to get his degree and then we'll worry about football."
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