Monday Press Conference: Barry Alvarez

Wisconsin football coach Barry Alvarez spoke with the media Monday

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A lot has been said about that 1999 class, three of the guys; Sorgi, Mack and Evans, who've survived, been through a lot, really contributed a lot to the program.  

"Well they started their career going to the Rose Bowl. They've been to four or five bowl games, four bowl games in five years. You see how they've led this year and how they've gone about their business. I think they've been excellent leaders. They're playing the best football of their careers right now, and I always say that to have a successful year your seniors have to play the best football of their career. I think they all lead by example, off the field as well as on. They go about their business in the right way, they take care of their business in the classroom, they're just good people. They're guys that you'd like to…you'd like to emulate those guys as you recruit. Have people like that in your program every year. So I couldn't be more pleased with them and what they've contributed to our program."

As a coach can you talk about the difference in a 5-3 winning season in the Big Ten and finishing the year with a 4-4 mark?

"Well I guess one's one game better than the other. It's all about winning this game. Just like every game. I'm not worried about our record, whether it's 5-3 or 4-4, I'm worried about trying to prepare our team to play as well as we can to give us a chance to win this game. That's what coaching is. That's what athletics is all about. You don't sit around worrying about all those other things; you just try to prepare your guys to win a game. Win this next one, the next one is always the most important."

Barry is there any one of Lee's (Evans) traits that stand out above the rest, that's number one, and number two is he the best receiver you've ever coached?

"We've had some good ones, but I think when you bring all of his strengths together…I don't know if I've ever been around anyone who has stronger hands that he does. I thought Saturday was vintage Lee Evans. Some of the catches he made just with his hands and how strong they were. Then the next thing that he does, besides having the speed and being able to run routes and cut things off sharply and be physical, is his transition from once he catches the ball and being able to accelerate and turn into a runner. I don't think any of the guys we've had could do those things. Tony Simmons could really run fast and get behind people, he had strong hands also, he could transition, but catch a seven yard hitch route and turn around and then be at full speed and make people miss. They've got to be good tacklers out there and be pretty strong or you saw what happened last week. The whole package, bring the whole package and comparing them, I don't think any of them could bring to the table what Lee (Evans) does."

Coach, Jeff Mack will finish his career, local boy, Madison West High School, what he means to the defense and the program as he finishes off his career.

"Jeff is a very confident young man, He's very bright. The fact that he grew up here, his father…his background, going to school right up the street, his father having played here, family being very involved with the program, him coming in and being a factor as long as he has. Jeff really exudes confidence and I think it's contagious with the other players. I think they look up to him. He's felt comfortable from the day he walked in. Those things are very important, but I think he really has taken a strong leadership role and those young guys really look up to him."

Barry, it seems that Iowa has had a similar season to you, a little inconsistent, lost to some good teams like you have, is that the read that you have a little inconsistent, what do you think of them?

"Actually I think they've been pretty consistent. They turned it over against Michigan State, they moved the ball they played well…they turned it over. That's what cost them that game. Their kicking game, I think they had some problems in their kicking game against Ohio State, there were just some mistakes and basically turnover type mistakes, but defensively they've been very good all year. It's a very good defense. Offensively they've run the ball pretty well, they've got a good running attack the quarterback has gotten better. I think their offense has really come along. They depended on their kicking game with their excellent kickers and their defense to carry them early in the year until a new quarter back got into the system and understands it. I think, Kirk (Ferentz) came out and said that early on, that's what they had to win on and they did. I think they're pretty balanced right now, they've been pretty consistent, other than…you know anybody has trouble winning in this league if you turn the ball over several times, that's what Minnesota did against them this last week."

Barry, I know you just have the one game left, but have you just taken a moment and appreciate first of all how well your offense has played in the last two weeks, and what do you think has been the spark and also what kind of problems will Iowa's defense present this Saturday?

"I have been able to sit back and enjoy our offense. It's fun to watch them work when they're hitting on all cylinders. It's fun to watch Jim when he's playing like he has; moving the ball around with confidence, knowing where he's going with the ball. I think it makes it easier for Brian and the offensive coaches to get a rhythm of the game. I really… I don't know how you can have any more fun than watching our offense operate the way they did this past Saturday. The kids felt good about it, they just had a glow about them and a real confidence about how they carried themselves. So I have enjoyed that. The issue this week and the problem this week, everything you get, and we will not get anything cheap. Everything you get against Iowa you have to earn. That's just their scheme of things. They've got a very physical front, you're never going to have anyone in the wrong gap, you're never going to have anyone guessing. They're not going to blitz much, they're going to make you beat them; same with the throwing game. Their secondary is going to stay basic and you're going to have to beat those guys. Your not going to get many balls over the top, you're not going to get a lot of chunks. We're going to have to be real patient with them in everything."

I'm sure you were more focused on the game than on the fans on Saturday but I'm curious to get your opinion on what's been made of the fans. Did you hear anything positive or negative or about the behavior during or after or anything like that?

"I didn't hear anything. I did read something where some Michigan State people didn't have any problems. I think more of the issues about last week were more about fans outside the stadium rather than inside the stadium. I see all those letters, or numbers of those letters. I get copies of all those. Quite frankly some of those are embarrassing. If someone's being physically intimidated with their ten year old son with them or young kids with a family they are being intimidated physically. I certainly wouldn't want any of our fans to have to go through that when they travel. I think most of that was outside of the stadium. We get questions about some of the cheers, we get that locally, that's nothing new. I didn't hear one thing negative after this week."

Coach, last week you had some questions about the program in decline. Do you think about what the season could have been if you beat Purdue, you lost by a field goal, if you beat…you guys lost a close one to Minnesota, How close you guys are one play or another from competing for the Big Ten championship and being ranked in the top ten.

"Yes, I realize that, I think of that all the time. I know how close we are. We have not had a…normally when you have years where you win championships you go back and look at the starters and you may have one change through the entire season. You don't lose quarterbacks, and you don't lose your best running back, and you don't lose one of your best pass rushers, and you don't lose two guys in the secondary, and you don't lose key people to injury. That's one of the keys and I think one of the consistencies with any championship team is consistency with your players. Injuries are so important in this game that you're not the same team. So yeah, I do look at that and how close we are and always think where could we be had (DL Erasmus James) still been able to play this year and if Brett Bell and (Joe) Stellmacher were still healthy, if Anthony could have played the entire season and if Jim would have stayed healthy and played like that. I think about that all the time, sure. I'm normal."

What'd you think of (Mark) Zalewski after watching the tapes from Saturday and given that he might have to start next year how important was it for him to have a game like that?

"I think it's always important to get playing time, I think it makes the transition to a starter much easier. I thought he did some good things. I thought for playing as many snaps as he did for the first time, it was solid. A lot of things that we can correct and a lot of things that just by showing him in that film…just some very routine basic things and just learning how to protect himself from blockers and not giving up his legs. Those are things that you can teach and practice everyday but in the heat of the battle things change and so I thought he had a very solid performance."

Barry, we talked about some of the personal accomplishments of your players, but a win this week gives you 100 at Wisconsin, just talk about what an accomplishment that is to do that all at one institution.

"Well it's hard to do and it's an important milestone. I'll be honest with you I haven't put a whole lot of thought into it as the years have gone on. After my first year and you win one game you don't think that could ever happen. I mean that's a hundred years if you go at that pace. This is a tough business and guys don't stay in this business very long. As I've been here I've seen some places with 4 different coaches coaching at the universities in this league. It's a very tenuous racket. I don't know if there's anybody left from head coaches' class of 1990 when I started. I think there were 17 that got head coaching jobs that year, I think Spurrier and McBride were the last two guys that left. It's hard to stay a long time and it would be a meaningful milestone for me. Friends of mine, Spike Dykes, used to say every year you stay you lose ten percent of your fans. So I'm way behind if Spike is true."

Barry, can you talk a little bit about Jim Sorgi's willingness to stay in the pocket and take the hit. It seems like last couple of weeks he's been more of a pocket passer and that's right up your alley, I think, of where you want him to be.

"I want Jim to be a runner. No, he has shown a lot of patience and a lot of toughness and has really stepped up in the pocket. He's taken some shots and (thrown) a couple of touchdowns when he's delivered the ball and he knows he's going to get hit. There've been times early on in his career where his feet would get moving pretty good and he'd get a little quick. I'm going to tell you, he's been a different person these last two ball games. How he's played, you'd hope you could see that quality of play all along. He's been outstanding. He's played with a lot of confidence and I think he's really shown tremendous toughness and again when the other players see that I think that is motivation to them that their quarterback is willing to stand in there for the team and take a shot for the benefit of all the players."

Barry I was wondering if you've had any friends or peers who you've witnessed while you're a head coach or assistant coach hit that 100 win mark, and what your thoughts were about that friend or that peer and what that meant to them.

"I think that I may have just left Iowa when Hayden hit it. When it's somebody else you don't care quite frankly. It didn't make any difference if Hayden had a hundred, I was probably at about seven at the time, so you know, don't care. I don't pay attention to the other guys' records."

Barry, you mentioned missing Anthony Davis. Was he close to playing last week and would you hold out hope that he might play this week or are you guys just going to hold him for the bowl game?

"It's all up to Anthony. He didn't practice last week so there wasn't any hope. I'm not going to push him; he knows when his ankle is going to be fine. If he's out at practice and practices well, he'll play. I'm not going to ask him everyday how he's doing. The fact that he didn't take any snaps last week told me how he's doing."

Barry, it's been well documented that you wanted to be a head coach by the time you were a certain age. At what point did 100 wins become a goal, if at all, when you were here? Second question is who do you like in the Rusty Tool Box game (a game among team managers)?

 "I really didn't set a goal for a hundred wins. I really never thought of it Andy, to be honest with you. My vision is very short, I'm just always worried about the next game, spring practice, recruiting, whatever it might be that's all that I try to focus on. I really don't pay much attention to the record or anything else. Then all the sudden when you're close it gets meaningful.

There's a lot of pressure on John Chadima, word has it that he is willing to shave his head and his goatee, take the goatee off with tweezers, if they win (the Rusty Tool Box game). He's trying to recruit Thomas Hammock to be a running back for the game. He's listed as a manager or student coach, so John may have something up his sleeve.

Barry, these past few seasons one of the streaks or milestones that's been talked about has been the rushing streak, the 1,000 yard rushing streak. Is that now that Dwayne (Smith) being the only one who appears to have a chance to try and continue?

"That won't play into this game. When we're splitting up all three rushers that pretty much goes out the window. You have to have someone healthy to get that. That's one of the amazing things about that record is that for all those years we were able to keep a back healthy throughout the season to get 1,000 yards. That hasn't even come up in conversation, we won't worry about that.

What do you think the chances are with two Big Ten teams in the BCS which would obviously help the bowl outlook for all the teams behind it.

"There's a possibility. It appears that Michigan would have to win, and see where everything else falls out. Then you have the possibility of Michigan and Ohio State being in. Obviously that's the only possibility. There's a chance.

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