Barry Alvarez Q&A

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin head football coach Barry Alvarez addressed the media Monday at UW's weekly news conference. He discussed the Badgers' loss to UNLV this past weekend and the team's upcoming game against North Carolina, Saturday, Sept. 20, at Camp Randall.

How much do you have to talk about this game with your players or how much do you, as far as your players themselves, do you hope that they address this? How do you approach this? "Well you have to put the game to rest whether you win or lose. We haven't met with the team yet – we will meet with them at three o'clock and I always talk to them first, review the game – the previous game and give them a quick review of what to expect the next week. Then they'll go out, they'll watch the film. I think we've got to correct a lot of things from this. So you've got to correct the film, you've got to address things and you've got to learn from mistakes."

Barry, judging by some of the guys we saw on the field Saturday and some of the changes on the depth chart, guys like (Chris) Catalano, Roderick Rogers and Johnny White, it looks like ... first of all what have you seen in Catalano that he's garnered more playing time and also what have Rogers and White shown in practice that you guys really want to push them on the field? "We'll we … Catalano did some good things and showed us we could trust him on the field and he was where he needed to be. He competed pretty well and had been doing a good job on special teams, so we wanted to give him some more playing time. We're going to try to work … we decided after watching those freshmen defensive backs, we want to work them into the nickel package and just get them on the field. And that's the way to do it… is, you know, when you are playing extra defensive backs so they are not … they can get some playing time when they are not isolated one on one with someone." Moderator: "Mics on both sides for the questions."

After you had the chance to look at the tape, coach, did you … offensively, did you just see execution breakdowns? Was it a physical breakdown offensively? "No, Mike, there were some misreads by the backs. Actually, our offensive line played pretty well. They were physical in the game, they blocked people. We had some misreads and we had a lot of missed throws. And then you cap on that … just some mistakes. You know, we had the ball nine times in plus fifty ... fifty yards or closer. We had it five times in the red zone and three times inside the five (-yard line) and scored, you know, scored three points. And, so it was whether it be a fumble or whether it be a penalty that set you back. Whether it be taking a sack instead of throwing it away it was about everything you could do to not take advantage of field position when we had it, so it was … a lot of it … there were some mental mistakes, but just the things that you saw. There wasn't anything that we saw in films that we didn't see firsthand or that anybody else couldn't see."

Barry, has your offense to this point, at least not in terms of production, but in the way you've approached the game, has it struck the appropriate balance that you'd like to see? "Yeah, you know … you want productivity. The balance is you know positive yards running and passing. I think we were where we wanted to be. We talked about that. I think a week ago everybody felt pretty good about the offense. But you still have to execute it and you know we didn't execute it. You know, fumbles, running the ball, overthrows and interceptions that doesn't put you where you want to be. I don't want to be where we were. You know 200 and whatever we had throwing and less than one hundred rushing. I don't want to be there, but there were other factors involved."

You've gone for a lot of years here where people have wanted you to do more on offense, wanted you to throw screens, do whatever. Do you think your offense might be trying to do too much, or is it too early to make that kind of a judgment? "These are things that we did in the bowl game, these are things we did in spring practice, these are things we did through two-a-days and did them well for two weeks. We really didn't add anything last week. We just didn't execute, so to answer your question, no, we are not doing too much. The things that we have are things that can manage and have managed. But, I don't care what the offense is. I don't care what you are trying to do, you have to execute. And you have to make throws when you throw the ball. You go back to when Mike Samuel was here and we were criticized because we didn't throw, we couldn't throw. Well you know what? Mike couldn't throw at a high enough rate that we wanted to make a living on it, so we ran the ball and we had pretty good success with it, so it is about execution. If we couldn't have run the ball very well, then you've got to find some other things you can do, but we've thrown it well, we have some good receivers and Jim at times can throw it as well as anyone. And we have some good … we have a good balance, but bottom line is you have to execute."

Barry, who do you expect to be running the ball for you on Saturday? "Well, we are going to find out a little bit. I am sure Dwayne (Smith) will carry the ball. I am sure Booker (Stanley) will play. I think you are probably asking about Anthony (Davis). He is still in the boot. That is a day-to-day thing, don't know. He has improved, I do know that, but I am not going to make any speculation about him, but I know that Booker and Dwayne – I plan on them carrying the ball."

What is your advice to (Jim) Sorgi this week? How do you think he'll handle things? Is that something he has to work through himself? Can you help him at all through that or … ? "I just want Jim to play and have the mindset he had when we started the season. I really thought that he was very confident; he was very deliberate; he was very decisive. I really saw a great look in his eye and his jaw locked when we were preparing for West Virginia and that's the way he played in the game. And consequently he played very well. And so that's all. I don't want any more that that. I just hope this is an aberration, what we saw Saturday, and that he can pick it up, because Jim has done it before. You know, don't worry about what anyone says or don't get into this thing trying to analyze everything. Just prepare well and go play with confidence."

Are there circumstances, or if there are, what are they, when you would put in a back-up at quarterback or running back because of fumbles or bad throws? I mean, do you at some point say "You are not getting it done today," or do you just ride it out? "Well, we did that last week. We took Jim out because I wanted him to get on the sidelines and settle down and see it from a different perspective. You have a chance. So we gave Schabert a shot. Same thing with fumbles. We thought it was important to get Dwayne (Smith) back in there and get some confidence and he fumbled again. But, you know, there is no unlimited number of bodies that you go to. You only have so many guys and the guys that practice and prepare for games and those are the choices you have. It is not just unlimited and you can put anybody in there and they can do it, it is people that have gotten repetitions during the week."

Barry, of your three units - offense, defense and special teams - what has been the most consistent, if you can pin one unit, these first three game? "I really don't know. You have probably done more of figuring out statistics than I have, so I don't know. You know we've had a couple break down or a long run in each of the games in a return, but you know for the most part they've done well. We've got to eliminate one or two things in special teams, but I don't know which one just off the top of my head."

Barry, is this offense a reflection of your personality or your personnel? "Personnel. I think any offense we've ever had here is a reflection of our personnel. You could use the Ron Dayne - Mike Samuel offense. If you look at the type of kids … look at what we did with Brooks Bollinger where we incorporated more of the quarterback run with him, and mixed things up with run and pass. I think if you go back and look at the people we've had, we always try to tailor the offense accordingly."

Would you say you're a ‘smash mouth' team right now? "No. See we're not supposed to use that term. The American Football Coaches Association asks coaches not to use terms like ‘smash mouth'…so that's your term, that's not my term."

What's the politically correct term in that situation then? "I would think that's a team that just runs it all the time. They just physically run the ball all the time. Three yards and a cloud of dust type of team. So I don't think that's what we are. Three yards and a puff of rubber maybe (smiling)."

You always tell you're back-ups to be ready because they're one play away. Did it seem like Dwayne (Smith) was ready when you needed him on Saturday? "Dwayne (Smith) is always going to play the third series, regardless. I go through my meetings with the coaches in the morning, we go through their rotations and Dwayne (Smith) is going to be a third series regardless of the situation. He knew he was going to play and he has played.

Barry, does it mean anything at all that Lee Evans needs three catches to become your all-time leading receiver here? That that would pretty much re-write the record book for your era? You would have the leading rusher, the leading passer right up and down the line. Does that have any meaning to you at all? "No, not really. I've been here a long time so you should get records if you're at a place for a long time. I wasn't even aware of that to be honest with you.

How do you view the (Scott) Starks and (Levonne) Rowan battle? Would you like to continue playing both of those guys? What are each doing the best right now? "We will play both of them. I think we can keep guys fresh. Again, I think if you see things on the sidelines, you see them a little differently. They'll both play when we're in there at nickel. I thought that (Levonne) Rowan just had to finish some things. There were two touchdowns which were pretty good receptions. He was contending them. He just didn't quite finish. Maybe if he jams at the line of scrimmage or gives another chuck before that ball gets there it could make the difference. But a lot of that may just be lack of work when he had that club on his hand. I thought he played the deep ball well and I thought Sparky (Scott Starks) improved from the prior week.

Barry, you've done some good things in all three phases but we've been fairly inconsistent. Did you think you would be farther along at this point given the ball game and who you had coming back? "Yes. The bowl game didn't have anything to do with it this year. We tried to use that attitude and that was the thing that we tried to impress upon our guys for the last two weeks. I was disappointed the second week because we didn't progress defensively and then we took a step backwards offensively this week. That was our big emphasis. We wanted to play four quarters. We wanted to be a consistent team and we wanted to play consistently. So no, I'm not satisfied with where we are. We haven't made the progress that any of the coaches want. That's what we're striving for but we're certainly not there yet."

Booker (Stanley) said after the game that Dwayne (Smith) was struggling with the glove on and once he took the glove off things got better and there were no more fumbles. What are your thoughts on that? "He probably should have taken them off earlier."

Barry, given the fact that the Big Ten season starts after this weekend, would it not seem more of an advantage to let Anthony (Davis) rest, if that is part of the equation right now? How much does that figure into your thinking that another week of rest with, the Big Ten season coming up, that that might be more of a benefit than playing him this weekend? "Well I think we have to see where he is. If he's ready to play, then he'll play. If there's any question, if he's not 100 percent then he won't play. I'm not going to make that decision today."

Barry, I'm honestly not trying to be a smart aleck and I appreciate the Anthony Davis update. Is there any reason we can't have an Erasmus James update since you were kind enough to tell us Anthony's status? "I don't have anything new to tell you."

We don't know anything. How bad the injury is … how long he is expected out. "Let me tell you this, you know as much as I do. I think I've read where he's on crutches and he has a hip injury. That's all I know. So I'm not trying to be a wise guy. I don't have anything else to tell you. I don't even know when they're going to look at it again."

Tell us about North Carolina. What do you think we'll see Saturday? "Good question. The first thing I'm going to tell my players is don't let their record lull you to sleep or mislead you. As soon as you watch film, you'll realize that they're very athletic. Anyone that I talked to in the off-season talked to me about that. I can remember watching them play against Oklahoma when I think it was Ronald Curry that was the highly recruited as a two sports star and Oklahoma had him flustered as a young player. I think he was a freshman and he came in and moved them and got him back in the game and I think he's going to set all their records. He reminds me of a Randall-El. He doesn't use quite as much option but he still runs the ball and plays like an (Antwaan) Randle El. That's the type of player you're going to see. They present a lot of problems with the schemes offensively. A number of their coaches have coached in the Big Ten. They have Big Ten-type athletes, probably with a little more speed than we see in our league in some of the skilled areas. Defensively, their secondary covers a lot of ground. They're very big up front. I think they're a very solid team. They had a commanding lead over Syracuse and they let it get away. They lost in three overtimes and they ran into a buzz saw in the opener against a very good Florida State team. They've also had two weeks to prepare which always leads you to concern. Would they add things? Would they do different things? They have a little more time to study us. So we'll have to play better than we have played in our last three games. We have to do that."

You mentioned telling your team not to let their record lull you to sleep. How much easier is it to deliver that message and how responsive do you expect your team to be after what happened this week? "Well I'll make sure they'll hear that because I don't know what they'll hear outside. My next message is always about what we can do. It's about us. It's not about your opponent. It's about us and what we do and …we talked about consistency already … it's about us playing consistently. It's about us improving, about us correcting some of the mistakes that we've made. That's what we can control. We can't control our opponent, but we can control those things and we have to do a better job of it."

Photo courtesy Wisconsin Athletic Communications.

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