MADISON -- Wisconsin's game at Minnesota on Saturday could be the coldest in the five-season history of TCF Bank Stadium, and Badgers head coach Gary Andersen isn't going to ignore the ramifications that could have on the quality of play.
Afternoon temperatures in Minneapolis Saturday are expected to hover around 20 degrees, which would replace Minnesota's 23-degree 2010 game against Iowa as the coldest in the stadium's short history.
That's cold enough for Andersen to plan on addressing it with his team on Friday.
"I think we're a tough-minded football team, Minnesota's a tough-minded football team, but when it's 12 degrees, you need to address it on how to prepare," Andersen said. "The fact of the matter is it is cold. You catch the ball better if you're hands are as warm as they can be. If you get all seized up on the sideline, your risk for injury is much higher, so we will talk about it. I'm not going to say we'll make a big deal of it, but we'll educate our kids on what we anticipate to help them."
Wisconsin coaches will also have extra strategic duties in a game like this.
Andersen said the kicking and punting game could be greatly affected when below-freezing temperatures harden the ball. Not only could Andersen and his staff have some tough decisions on when to send Jack Russell out for a field goal attempt, but also where to tell return man Kenzel Doe to stand before punts.
"We'll try to gauge that in pre-game and as the game goes on," Andersen said. "It's a little bit of a chess match. Kicking's hard. The ball's really hard. I've been to pretty cold places in the past, and I remember a couple games in Wyoming that were unbelievably cold and it was a factor. The ball feels like you're kicking a steel ball sometimes when it gets that cold, so we'll have to see how it goes."
Voltz to start again
Andersen did say, though, that Lewallen could end up being available against Minnesota, and starting guard Ryan Groy has also taken some snaps at center this week.
"(Lewallen) did more today, so I think he could play if needed," Andersen said. "We'll see where it goes. We have enough guys to go around, and I expect them all to play well if they get the opportunity."
Embracing the rivalry
Andersen and the Badgers have embraced the essence of the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry all week, and the head coach said he believes the anticipation for Saturday's game has had a positive impact on practice this week.
That's why Andersen has always enjoyed having rivalry games late in the season.
"During these weeks, you seem to have more of an edge to you," Andersen said. "It gives kids a little hop in their step, if you will, in practice.
"I told the kids [Thursday] after practice, the rivalry's great, but this is their stamp on the rivalry. That's something you've got to remember as you get close to game time. Five years from now, they want to be on the video board, coming back and talking to the team that's here. They want good memories."