You have known Barry Alvarez for a long time, can you talk about before he took over the program to now being within 35 wins of Coach Fry, 7-2 in bowls and 3-0 in Rose Bowls?
When I was talking about Camp Randall to some of the Wisconsin guys on the phone, I told them that when I left here in 1989, we looked forward to going up there, I mean it was great. It was a nice trip, you got to look at the leaves, we ate well and you go out and you win. You play in a pretty serene setting, and we had a lot of Iowa fans at the game. It was a nice situation to be a visitor.
Things have changed. We had a rude awakening in 1999 going up there. What a great environment that was at their place.
What I am trying to say is that the impact that Barry and his staff have had on that program has been a 180-degree turn from when I left in 1989 to when I got back in 1999. Barry is an exceptional coach. We enjoyed our time coaching together, and I look forward to seeing him at our league meetings in the spring and the summer.
I don't particularly look forward to playing them, because I know they will be a good football team that will be extremely well coached, but he has done a fantastic job up there. I know Coach Fry is very proud of what he has accomplished.
What has Bret Bielema's influence been on their personnel?
It's hard for me to see that not being there everyday. They are experienced, and he had nothing to do with that, but the thing you look at is that they play extremely hard, they are well coached and they play with great effort and tenacity. That is how Bret coaches; he is an excellent football coach. I think that is how be became a successful player by having those attributes, and you see those characteristics on their defense. They play with confidence; it's been a good situation for all parties.
Is there any advantage for him coming back and playing against you guys, being that he used to be on your staff?
I don't know how much. We are a little worried about some checks and signals, but I have always said that if anyone ever got a hold of our playbook, they would really be screwed up. Because I am not sure that I understand what is in there. There will be some things we will be careful of, but we will not spend a lot of time changing things or trying to decode or recode.
I will tell you a quick story.
I was at a place, I won't say where I was. But I was at a place in the National Football League where we used to video tape the other team's signal callers, and we had a guy whose job it was to decode those things. We played a game at this given place where we knew basically 95 percent of the offensive calls the other guy was making. The quarterback that day set a stadium passing record; he threw for like 420 yards. We won the game, but I won't give you the details, or that would give it away. I may have already, but the bottom line is that we knew what was going on. My response afterwards was ‘thank god we knew the signals, just think what would have happened.' I think if you put too much time and effort into that stuff, you end up in trouble.
Wisconsin was allowing just 9.1 points per game before giving up 49 last week. Do you think that was a fluke?
They will play well. Sometimes those games happen. The score was a little misleading in some ways. They know how to win, and they will be prepared to win. I just noticed over to my right the trophy (The new Heartland Trophy). I am not sure if I am supposed to plug that, but it is a great looking trophy. Seriously. I just noticed him, he is supposed to be in our locker room. To me, it's a great addition, as this has been a great series throughout the years.
Last year's game was exceptional
Yes it was, and as I just said that, I started thinking about the 1999 game. I guess not all of the years have been great, but now that we are back on our feet, since 2000, it's back to the way it ought to be, where both teams have really fought hard and it has been pretty even. One year, one team has an edge then the next year it doesn't. Last year's game fit in with some of our games from this year, the way it went. It was back and forth and a tough win. I expect this will be the same type of game.
Is their defensive front four your biggest concern?
It's one of them. We feel good about our defensive line, and they have a similar group. They are all seniors and they are excellent. The difference is that they have a veteran offensive line and they are very good. We have been watching most of those same guys for several years. They have an advantage on that front, where we are not quite as grizzled up front as maybe they are. All four of those guys are excellent football players. Both of those edge guys can have a great burst. Hawthorne is one of the top interior players in the country, and Jefferson is probably one of the most underrated players in the county.
When Penn State had Jimmy Kennedy, he was a first round draft pick, but Courtney Adams was pretty good, too. He really got overlooked, and I think it's a similar situation with them. They have a marquee player on our right side (Rasmus James), but their other player is pretty good, too. They have four guys that can flat out play.
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