Wisconsin football notebook: Badgers brace for Northwestern's 2-quarterback system

USA TODAY Sports

Unlike in its Ohio State prep, Wisconsin will need to prepare for a true two-quarterback system against Northwestern.

MADISON -- This time, his answers are relevant.

After spending Ohio State week repeatedly stating that it didn't matter which Ohio State quarterback played against the Badgers, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen now has much more reason to talk about a two-quarterback system as his team prepares to host No. 19 Northwestern Saturday.

"I've seen guys get pulled and other guys come in, but I've never seen a mutual, give-and-share quarterback relationship. It's kind of different to see in the Big Ten." -Brendan Kelly

"(They use two quarterbacks) much more effectively than I've probably ever seen," senior outside linebacker Brendan Kelly said. "I think in my college career, I've never been a part of a system that truly did use two quarterbacks. I've seen guys get pulled and other guys come in, but I've never seen a mutual, give-and-share quarterback relationship. It's kind of different to see in the Big Ten."

Different, but it's been successful. Senior Kain Colter and junior Trevor Siemian have combined to complete 72.3 percent of their passes with nine touchdowns and five interceptions, not to mention Colter's 253 yards and four scores on the ground.

"Unlike Ohio State, their offense may change slightly when one young man is in there or the other one is in there playing," Andersen said. "I think the challenge this week is to sit back and really study the film and say, ‘Does it change? Is it drastic?' The normal fan's eye staring at the offense, it may not seem like a drastic difference, but I believe there's enough tweaks in there where you can at least be mindful of who's in the game, and it can matter as far as your defensive calls."

Kelly mentioned that Northwestern will even play both quarterbacks at the same time, and that the change between the two could make it especially challenging given the different ways the Wildcats use them.

To Andersen, the key for Northwestern has been the way Colter and Siemian have bought-in to the idea of sharing playing time.

"They're both proven winners. They're both talented. They've both done a nice job," Andersen said. "The key thing is both kids believe in it, and that's what matters most in the end. Something magical is the fact that those two kids work well together. They both respect each other, and they make the offense work. I'd say it's very similar to the relationship that Melvin and James have at the tailback position. They both believe in each other, and they're unselfish guys."

Bye-week tweaks

Wisconsin didn't use its off week to prepare for future opponents. There wasn't even much looking ahead to Northwestern.

The Badgers, along with getting healthier, wanted to fix their own problems first. Andersen said Monday that Wisconsin needed to tweak some of what it does schematically in order to improve upon some early-season shortcomings.

"We look at ourselves and say we have to create more turnovers on defense," Andersen said. "We can't give up big plays on defense. We're young in the back end, but youth is not an excuse. It does not matter; we've got to get better. We cannot let people get behind us. We've got to get better on third downs on defense overall. We've got to get better on offense on third downs.

"Does that change the scheme a little on offense? Yes, it does. We need to make sure we're using the proper personnel as much as we possibly can on the offensive side of the ball when we're at full strength. That may cause a little bit of tweak in some of the schemes that we use. We need to pass protect better. All the little things that pop up, some of them are bigger than others, but all those things cause a tweak in the scheme."

French still starter after short miss

Despite missing a 32-yard field goal against Ohio State, Kyle French will remain Wisconsin's starting kicker.

For now.

French, who is 5-of-7 on field goals this season, is listed at the top of the depth chart this week. Despite saying the junior has been the best during practice, though, Andersen didn't show much confidence Monday that French has secured the job for the season.

"It goes back to practice. Kyle has done the best in practice, by far," Andersen said. "If he makes one more kick in the game, right now we'd be saying he's done a pretty good job. He did miss one in the Ohio State game, and that's not where we want to be. We're just kind of working ourselves through that.

"Kyle, right now, is the kicker. We'll see what happens."

Badgers' offense healthy after bye week

Andersen said wide receiver/return man Kenzel Doe, tight end Jacob Pedersen, center Dallas LeWallen and running back Melvin Gordon will all be full participants in practice this week.

"All those kids should be back with a normal workload this week, and I expect them to go all 18 periods (of practice)," Andersen said.

Andersen also said the Badgers will begin practicing for 18 periods each day instead of the usual 21, a cutback the head coach normally implements midway through a season.

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