Big Ten Teleconference: Barry Alvarez

As part of the weekly Big Ten teleconference, Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez addressed regional and national media Tuesday morning.

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Opening statement


"First of all, we are very pleased with our win this past weekend. I was particularly pleased because I felt we improved as a football team. Dwayne Smith certainly is deserving of the offensive player of the week. He played particularly well. I thought he ran very hard, finished runs—got a lot of yards after contact. From a week ago where he was injured, at the beginning of the second half to bounce back and have that confidence I was really pleased with him.


"I really thought our offensive line played particularly well. Of course this weekend we go to Penn State. As I told my team yesterday I think this is one of the great stadiums and one of the great venues in college football, tremendous atmosphere. You look at Penn State, it is a typical Penn State team. It is a good football team, well coached; outstanding athletes on both sides of the ball."


Barry we were all pretty stunned by the UNLV game. Could you tell us what has happened between that game and Illinois to turn this thing around?


"That was one of those games whatever could happen did happen. We fumbled the ball going in inside the five-yard line which early in the game would have given us a lead. We had the ball right back, very next possession we fumbled again, they picked it up ran for a touchdown. We had three other turnovers all deep in our territory where I think their longest drive may have been less than 30 yards. Seemed like any time we started to move the ball we turned it over. So that is what can happen in college football. And they played well."


Barry there was a lot of talk going into the season about how good your receivers were. 63 rushes and 13 passes—does that reflect an adjustment in your philosophy four games into the season or was it simply a game plan?


"We have done it both ways. We have spread it out all over—our receivers have been involved in the game action and touched the ball. This just happened to be, in this particular case, our quarterback was hit and rattled. We decided that we were not going to put him in jeopardy. We wanted to establish the running game. So we just featured it a little bit more and asked our offensive line, told the that we were going to lean on them and that is exactly what we did. We are not going to depart from our general philosophy where we would like to be balanced, yet in this particular case we felt we had to lean on the run a little bit more."


I was just wondering if you could talk about keeping your players motivated week-to-week. What are some of the challenges that you encounter?


"One of the difficult things in any coaching is keeping your players focused on the game that you are going to play. There are just so many things that the athletes get involved in. We are a situation this week where its our first round of tests. Guys are up late studying; we have a number of players that will leave practice throughout the week; leave practice early for tests. There are a number of issues. Sometimes guys feel a little too good about themselves, or get too far down or whatever. To be successful, in any team that is a champion the one thing that they have been able to do is to keep there teams focused, not allow them to get too far ahead of themselves."


Is there any thing that you do that has maybe worked for you in the past?


"Well, I think sometimes players can fall in the trap if somebody is playing a team down or they feel as though they have an easy game. I think all you have to do is look at the scores every week where there are major upsets—whether that is the case or not or whether it is just turnovers or whatever.


"We just try to emphasize to the players. I don't know how else you can try to drive a point across—that you just have to play as well as you can. We try to emphasize improving. We try to emphasize ourselves and what we are doing rather than who our opponent is and what they do."


Can you assess Jim Sorgi's performance this year?


"I think other than the UNLV game, and he is the first to admit that he was not sharp. Whether the weather affected him or not I don't know, but the ball really sailed on him that day. He normally throws it pretty well, he just wasn't sharp that game, but other than he has managed our offense. He has spread the ball around to a number of different receives. This past week we had a couple runs designed for him. I thought he ran the ball well—scored two rushing touchdowns. I think all in all other that one game he has played well."


What about his durability?


"He has bulked up. You will notice a big difference. He is really burly now."


Do you feel comfortable with him running the option or running some isolations?


"He is not doing an iso running. We run a little bit of option, but we are not going to hang our hat on that."


Where was Dwayne Smith on your depth chart prior to the season opener?


"Dwayne was our No. 2 tailback last year as a true freshman. He was number two and Booker Stanley was No. 3. Booker last week, as I said a week ago, I thought he was a great story against North Carolina. Anthony Davis was out and he was spelling Dwayne the first half—Dwayne was injured, pulled a groin, first possession of the second half. Booker stepped in and rushed for 120 yards. So that is a great story when your third tailback can step in and have that kind of success."


So when everybody is in good shape are you going to alternate?


"Well Anthony is our tailback. I really think he is special. It is obvious Dwayne is a very solid back in his own right. We just want to keep people fresh. We are not going to rotate three, we will probably rotate two."


Are you surprised at all at Dwayne's performance?


"I really felt going into this season. I thought watching him in the spring and during two-a-days that he had taken a step forward. He was playing at a different level than he did a year ago. Physically he is gifted. He is very strong, a powerful-type runner. I still think he is just scratching the service."


Barry you have never not had a chance to win a game in State College. Why have your guys always played pretty well there? A lot of teams don't.


"I don't know. I can't answer that. I think it is a wonderful place to play and that is what I tell our players. I think the fans there understand football. I just think it is a tremendous college atmosphere and we go in there and approach it that way. Just not to be intimidated or anything just to enjoy the atmosphere and realize that this is as good as it gets in college football."

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