MADISON, Wis. - It's been a strange week for Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen, but he said after practice on Thursday that he's ready to get back on the field and put the week's distractions behind him.
"I'm glad it's an early kickoff," Andersen said. "It can't come quick enough."
The Badgers endured a strange 72 hours after their 28-24 loss to LSU in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff, to say the least. Andersen and Melvin Gordon weren't on the same page about just how hurt he was during the game, Tanner McEvoy struggled to complete more than eight passes against a tough LSU secondary, and nobody could seem to decide just how hurt (or not hurt) backup quarterback Joel Stave was.
But the Badgers get to get back on the field in just under two days, and Andersen said it would be hard for his team to be more excited about it than he is.
"If they want to get back out there more than me that would be pretty hard to do," Andersen said. "We're excited to come home. You only get to do this seven times per year."
And although he hasn't had time to really sit back and analyze what went wrong over the last few days, Andersen said at the end of the day he's still most concerned with doing whatever is best for his players.
"I'm always going to try and take care of kids. I know I use those terms a lot, but that's what I'm going to try to do," Andersen said. "I can't say I would drastically change anything. I feel good about the kids understanding that I've got their back."
News and notes:
Apart from missing Warren Herring and Derek Watt, Andersen said he expects his team to enter Saturday's game with all hands on deck. Robert Wheelwright, Melvin Gordon and Konrad Zagzebski should all be available.
With Watt out Andersen said that his offense might lean more heavily on their 12 and 13 personnel packages to get an extra tight end on the field to try and replace Watt's versatility. They had planned on using Watt as a hybrid tight end this year, so expect to see the Badgers use an H-back more often on Saturday.
Andersen said Western Illinois' spread offense will give his defense some trouble because the Leathernecks try and attack different parts of the field than LSU did last week. Western Illinois will likely try and test the edges of Wisconsin's defense, so cornerbacks Sojourn Shelton and Darius Hillary will have to be prepared to make some plays.
Conor Sheehy will serve as Arthur Goldberg's primary backup at nose guard, but the Badgers are also preparing to burn Jeremy Patterson's redshirt if it becomes absolutely necessary.
"Jeremy does have the possibility of playing," Andersen said. "With Warren out for that extended period of time, you're playing with a little bit of a teeter-totter with not redshirting Jeremy or redshirting Jeremy. If we have to put him in a game then we will."
"He's excited about that. I don't know how quite excited I am about that right now, but if we have to get to that spot we will. That is not the plan, though, to necessarily play him in this game."
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.