Monday Press Conference: Barry Alvarez

Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez addressed the media Monday

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Barry, is there anything you can do this week to address the turnover margin and try to improve that?


"Well, we try to address it every week. I don't know how we can make respecting the ball any more important or obvious or emphasize it any more than we do or have in the past. But we'll just keep doing it and hopefully some of our guys will hang on to it and secure it a little better. I thought a couple of them, particularly the one when Jim (Sorgi) flipped the ball up in the air when he was tripped at the line of scrimmage on first and one…you're going to have some interceptions but that one was… You're going to get a ball knocked loose like Anthony's (Davis), a guy hit him from the back side. But the on that was just flipped up in the air was really uncalled for."


Barry, you guys used Alex (Lewis) as a rush in your nickel early in the year and then you got away from it and then you brought him back against Purdue. Is that going to be featured now or was that just specific to Purdue?


"No, we'll use him in the nickel, just to give us a more little push there. I think he probably feels a little more comfortable with it now with repetitions. It's another way to spell our defensive line."


Barry, could you talk about why your team had such difficulty moving the ball down the field on Saturday?


"Well, I think you have to give Purdue's defense credit. It's not always what you do, sometimes…you know their guys are on scholarship too, and they're coached well too. It's a very veteran team. Their statistics are real. They led the league last year in defense. They out executed us, you know it's nothing…they did some games off blocks, they did some things. It wasn't going to be one (where you are) running up and down the field at your convenience. I think we had a hundred and some yards, but we didn't have anything consistently. What really put us in the hole, we were poor on first down. We were only 35 percent on staying normal. That's getting four (yards) or more on first down, which really put us behind the eight ball and allowed them to dictate the game, but let's give them credit, give them credit where credit is due because they did a nice job."


Can you talk about the differences, or maybe what's the tougher challenge in preparing a team for a Purdue, coming off a high of Ohio State as opposed to now having to prepare, coming off a loss, focusing on Northwestern?


 "Well, you know Rob, you can get into that every week. Our job is to get whatever the situation is beforehand behind you and focus on the next game. Hopefully, we're a mature enough team that that's what we can do. I thought our guys were prepared for that game against Purdue. It was a four-quarter game and they competed and fought hard for four quarters. Hopefully, we can put that loss behind us and concentrate on a game that's very important to us. It's a huge game for us and we'll make it that way with the players, make sure they understand the importance of this football team and that they're going to go play a good football team on the road."

Barry, Jim (Sorgi) is not listed on the depth chart this week. Is there any update you can give us on how long—


"Jim (Sorgi) had surgery yesterday. We were really going to do it after this game anyhow, during the open date, have the surgery done. We think he'll be back for the last three games."


Barry, on that play that he (Jim Sorgi) got hurt, I believe he has the option to hand it off or taking the ball depending on what the defensive end does. You had mentioned Saturday that his knee has been kind of bothering him. Are you kind of caught between a rock and a hard place then because that play is not a successful play for you yet; you don't want to injure his knee anymore?


 "No, that's his read. If you start—there's no use running the play. You go in and you play the game. I think Jim's biggest mistake was I think he squatted. I thought he did a couple times when he pulled the ball down instead of running with the ball and being decisive. If you're going to pull it down, run. Don't sit there and squat and take shots. He made the decision, made four or five yards. He should have gone in there hard or slid. But he went in there and kind of stopped and that allowed them to put him in an unusual position where they slammed him pretty good and he got his leg caught up in there. But you can't play cautious like that."


Barry can you talk about what you expect or hope to get out of both Matt (Schabert) and/or John (Stocco) this week and if something were to happen, what do you do, who is your number three if one of those…


"Well, we're going to have Owen (Daniels) prepare for emergency. We won't take the redshirt off of Tyler (Donovan). So, we'll have some things ready for him. It should be an easy transition. We'll give him part of the passing game and he can handle the running game, but we'll keep him oiled up. I just expect (the quarterbacks) to manage the game, be smart with the football."


Barry, Northwestern was co-champions in 2000 for the conference, had a 6-2 record, and then really dropped off the next year, 2-6, following year went 1-7. What things contribute to a team that plays that well and can be at the top of the conference and then have that much turn around?


"Probably lost a lot of players. Players normally determine how good you are. And unfortunately you can't keep them for an extended period of time because of graduation in the school. In most places that's what happens. You don't have the luxury of stockpiling anymore. So, that's what I would guess, without putting a whole lot of thought into it, I haven't seen them in two years."


Barry, Northwestern has shown at times to be pretty good and Jason Wright, in particular, is a pretty good player.


 "Offensively, I thought one of the statistics that's impressive is their time of possession. They move the football on everyone, they run it on everyone and I think they probably understand that spread offense better than everyone else. They throw a little more out of it than they did prior, yet they really put a lot of pressure on you. They are a good offense. The quarterback manages it well, he can run and hurt you and he's a good thrower and the tailback is outstanding."


Then coming off the Purdue game, is it basically you defend that scheme pretty much the same way or are there some subtle differences?


"It is a different scheme, totally. It's not even the same running attack or passing attack. They line up with four wides, that's the only thing that's similar and they're in the shotgun, but they're totally different attacks."


Just to clarify on Jim's (Sorgi) surgery—it sounds like cartilage rather than ligaments, is that…


"Well, I don't think I'm allowed to talk about that with that new rule, Tom. I don't think I'm allowed to be specific. I can tell you what body part—it was the knee. But, I don't think I'm supposed to get into it any further than that. I think you can probably figure it out if it's going to be a week or two."


Continuing with that, does it take a unique individual, or is it just assumed that with a surgery like that a player is going to be back in two weeks? Does it require a certain mental makeup from a player? A certain sort of recovery period, what?


"Having gone through several arthroscopic surgeries, you can walk out of that. You can walk out of there. I think the last arthroscopic surgery I had on the meniscus, I believe I walked out of the hospital. You can go in there and you can shave and in my case, you can take the meniscus and shave it. It's not that big of a deal anymore. We had Pete Monty; we've had several do this over the years.


On your show yesterday, Ron Lee mentioned that Levonne Rowan called him that night to talk about what he did right and what he did wrong. How normal is it for a player to do that, I mean, is that unusual? And what did you see out him on Saturday?


"I thought Levonne really got wrapped up into the game. I thought he wasn't as sharp as he normally was. Probably in a game that he hadn't been in before where they are throwing every snap. We probably didn't do as good of a job schooling him, not knowing they were going to run that type of offense, that you really have to be patient, that you can give them those short passes and in the long run if you play it well enough, they balance out. The one thing you can't do is let them throw it over your head and you can't get frustrated. So, I think it was a learning experience for him. He had some plays he could have made and didn't. He had a blitz on that last drive where he came clean and ran right by the quarterback. But you know, he's a young player. It's unfortunate that you don't have an older guy where he could be spelled and you could play them both. The important thing is that he doesn't lose his confidence and that he bounces back and that he learns from that experience. I thought that that was really positive that he called Ron (Lee) because that shows that he really cares and wants to do things the right way."


Did he get wrapped up emotionally?


 "He got a little emotional and I think you can get frustrated, they keep completing passes and you want to know what to do and then you start taking chances and you forget about your technique and all those things."


Barry, I'm sure you heard that Duke let Carl Franks go yesterday. He's the third coach to get fired, midseason. What's your take on that, especially given your new role, should coaches be let go midseason?


"I don't know the situations. My personal opinion, if the coach is there, I don't know what good it does to let someone go at midseason and disrupt the program. If you're going to let someone go, do it when the season is over. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but I'm not in those situations, haven't been in one of those situations, so I don't know what all transpired or what the workings are. But sure seems to me it's more fair to the players if you can wait until it's all over. But maybe there are some situations where it warrants a decision earlier."


How much of an increase in of a work load for (Matt) Schabert, during the week, is there now when you know he's going to play, as opposed to when he's the number two and how big of a difference is that for him and the rest of the team?


"Mentally, it won't be any different. His mental preparation every week should have been the same. Now, his repetitions in practice, he'll have…where he had probably 30 percent of the reps, now he'll have the 70 percent. So, that work load will pick up considerably, but mentally, it will be the same."


Did you miss having Northwestern on the schedule the last two years? It seems like they were becoming every bit as good of a rival, really, as Minnesota and Iowa.


"You know what Tom? I don't really care who we play. I just look at the schedule. I try to worry about the things that I can control. I can't control who the Big Ten says is off the schedule and who is on the schedule, although, Iowa and Minnesota are going to be on the schedule. So, the fact that I can't control it…once they are off my schedule, I don't even think about them for two years. People would talk to me about Purdue, I'd see where they were ranked, I'd see their scores, but I really never paid attention to them, watching them the last two years or Northwestern. This year Michigan, I watch their scores, but I don't spend a lot of time if I happen to be watching a game that they are playing in, I just don't really pay any attention, because it doesn't really affect me."



Barry, when Brooks (Bollinger) was here, you talked a lot about him being a coach's kid and what that meant. Matt (Schabert) was coached by his father in high school, too. Can you talk about that, does he carry a lot of the same stuff with him, too?


"He does. And I think Matt (Schabert) is the first one to tell you he's matured a lot over the last few years since he's been here. I think Matt came in with all the answers and realized maybe he didn't have them all. But, he's very bright. I think he knows his limitations. He always knows where to go with the ball. I think he does an excellent job of managing a game and understanding a game, understanding what people are trying to do. So, I feel real good about him going in. Particularly, having had a chance to play against the two teams he played against, two consecutive weeks. I think those were very good defenses. I thought he showed composure and did some good things, so that should have prepared him well for this game."


Barry, have you seen improvement in John Stocco and if so, what areas have you seen in practice?


"You know what? John (Stocco) hasn't had a lot of reps. I'll be honest with you, I could stand up here and say, ‘he's gotten a lot better,' but I'd be lying to you. You know your third quarterback just doesn't get many reps. It's not tryouts every week. It's not spring practice or fall camp where he's going to get more reps. He may be only getting five percent of the reps. It's hard for me to put a finger on where he is right now. I know he's….physically he's got a lot of ability…get a chance to watch him a little more this week because he'll pick up his number two reps."


Recently you just tabbed to work the Gridiron Classic. Why is that important? Is that an honor for you and why is it important for your program?


"Well, I think those games… I enjoy coaching in those games. They allow me to take whatever seniors that I want to play. It's a reward for some guys who might not be able to play in one of those games. I think it always… when you get that type of exposure… it is kind of a dead time. It is the week before recruiting – our recruiting will be wrapped up by then. It is just more exposure for our program. I have done about every one of those all-star games now and I just waited a while to make a decision on that. I was encouraged by the staff and I just thought because of the timing of it I thought it would be worthwhile."


Coach, when you see the stats – Lee Evans three, four, five catches – does it ever frustrate you or disappoint you? Do you wish you could get him the ball more in big games?


"Yeah, you know I would, but a lot of it is the flow of the game and what they are doing. That's not my number one priority Joe, I will tell you that. I would like to see the ball in Lee's hands more, but not at the expense of what I think we can and can't do and what defenses…we are not going to try to force anything to him. He is a playmaker and you'd sure like to have him get the ball in his hands."


Alex Lewis has had some really nice special teams plays this year, but he had only one sack into Saturday. Can you talk about him stepping up with five and one sack causing that fumble for a touchdown?


"Well, he really hasn't been put in the position to have many sacks. We played him earlier in the year as a pass rusher and I think he was just learned the position. We blitz him occasionally. I think he had a sack to win the game against West Virginia. Just off the top of my head, I can't tell you how many times he's had the opportunity. Now this week he had a number of opportunities because they threw the ball about every snap and we used him in nickel and dime defense."


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