Monday press conference: Barry Alvarez

Wisconsin coach address the media Monday afternoon

Barry, in the preseason there was a lot of talk about home-field advantage and, you know, what edge the renovated stadium would give you. And you always came back to the fact that it still has to be the players. Is this team better equipped from what you've seen in three games to fare better at home in the Big Ten this season?

Well, I don't know. That's what you find out. There's no reason why we couldn't have fared better in the past. I mean, we just for some reason get, didn't play our best at home or couldn't finish at home. Whether this team fares better, that remains to be seen. We'll find that out.

Barry, Erasmus James returned to the defense this year after injury. How has that helped the line and the defense in general?

"Well, you know, when you turn the film on of Saturday's game, I think that, if you just watch about ten minutes of it, I think that answers your question. He's all over the field. You know, he's been a good run stopper. He's had, been, you know, he's been around the quarterback. He's pressured the quarterback, you know, regardless of how they've tried to block him. He has been truly a dominant player. And, you know, he's a guy that you probably have to game plan against as you're preparing for us.

"So he, you know, he takes a little pressure off the linebackers, and he's really been active. And we saw that during camp, that he's a guy that, you know, he's just tough to block one-on-one. And with his speed, he's unnaturally fast for a defensive lineman. He can cover a lot of ground. And we've done some stunting with him and he's making plays on the other side of the field, and he's just been, you know, in Saturday's game he was all over. And he's pretty much done that about every week. I think in all three weeks, the first week the D-line were players of the game on defense. Last week it was he and Starks and this week it was he and Starks again."

Barry, former Bucks' coach George Karl used to always say that a playoff series would begin, really begin, when one team won on the road in the other team's gym. Do you feel like in some sense that's true for your team this year, now that you've gone on the road, you've proven you can win on the road in a crazy situation especially?

"Well, that game, I think you get a lot out of a game like that. You don't like to go through it. You don't want to go through the distractions. You don't want to spend an hour and a half in a locker room not knowing when you're going to play, because it's really a tremendous distraction for your team. Fortunately, with a veteran team, I really thought they held their concentration and were able to stay into the game.

"I think you can gain so much out of that because it was a four-quarter game, guys had to fight to come back to win. They had to make some plays and some crucial plays down the stretch, and if any one of those specific plays aren't made, you probably have a chance, you probably don't win the game. So when that happens, I really think you can grow and it can give you confidence. And I think that really contributes a lot to the team."

Barry, could you explain why the Illinois game's not on TV? I mean, it seems unusual that a Big Ten, two Big Ten teams can't be on national TV when you have a TV contract. And second question to that, does that affect instant replay for that game?

"First, I just found out about it just before I came down here. It was surprising to me. Why, I don't know why. I don't believe it'll affect instant replay. I don't think, you know, I would, you know, I would guess we'll have some, even the rebroadcast will have some cameras in there and, or the, I don't know how you, what you can do with our replay board, whether you could use those, but I'm sure we could get something, have something arranged."

Athletics Communications director Justin Doherty: Andy, I know the conference is working on maintaining the ability to do replay for that game still.

Barry, after the game, Brett Bielema said he was, one of the things he liked best was that some things were exposed defensively that he could show his guys on film. And he intimated that they needed, that they were listening too much to the positive things during the week that had been said about them. Did you see that during the week, that maybe they weren't as focused or were getting a little bit too excited?

"Well, I don't think, I don't know if he was, I didn't hear that quote. I didn't hear him say that specifically. I think anytime a team or a phase of the team does well and receives accolades, if it's not handled properly, if you believe it, you have a tendency to feel too good about yourself. There's a tendency to slip.

"Now, that defense gave up 199 yards and one touchdown. So the bottom line is still pretty good, yet there was a rub-off on that last possession for a big gain to the tight end, and we were very soft one time up the middle on a run. Now, if all that means because of those two plays that that's true, I don't know. I just think you always have to be careful of that. We will play much, we try to be very honest. We'll play much better offenses than what we've seen, and we're going to have to play a lot better on defense and you can't make those mistakes.

"And you're always just trying, you know, what you try to do is strive for perfection. You never can reach it in football. Irregardless of how good the game looks or whatever, you always find things wrong. It's impossible. But that's what you strive for, and I think that's what Bret is trying to get across to his guys, we certainly can't be satisfied."

Coach, the offensive line as a unit has played inconsistently this year. How would you rate their performance on Saturday?

"Well, apparently you've rated them already. Who said they've played inconsistent? I've never made that statement."

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to misquote you. I was asking how do you think they performed on Saturday?

"You know, actually, I thought they protected very well. I think we've had one, they've given up one sack in three games. I think they've covered people up pretty well. I think they can get better. We can get more movement at the point of attack. I don't think anybody's said they've played inconsistent, so please don't write that as one of my quotes."

Coach, does Penn State seemingly have more offensive weapons this year than like recent years, and in particular their back, Tony Hunt?

"The back is excellent. You know, I've always felt they have excellent personnel, and they have a lot of weapons on offense. I think Robinson, Mills [Penn State quarterback Zack Mills] has had a lot of snaps. He's played a lot of games. You know, he played, had a great game here two years ago. When you have a guy like [Michael Robinson] who can play wide receiver, come in and play quarterback, can throw the ball, can run option against you, they're multiple, they're multifaceted in their offense. And then, you know, they've got a homerun hitter in the backfield, you know. So they have a lot of weapons and they can create a lot of problems."

Barry, in light of some things that have happened around the nation recently, have you or any of your players ever been bothered by hecklers?

"Well, I'm sure there's some hecklers that, there's some places that there are more vulnerable for heckling just because of the proximity of the stands as to your bench. And that's an issue. We try to talk to our players about not getting involved with the crowd or getting involved with that because that, what that does is it's a distraction if you let that, if you're too aware of that then you're not paying a whole lot of attention to the game. But there are some places that are very bad."

You guys have been so good in short yardage through the years. I know you take pride in it. Could you assess how it's been so far and how much does it pain you if you can't get a yard on third or fourth down?

"Well, it always bothers you when you can't do that. We've been pretty good on third down. We've been pretty good in short yardage. But the last two games we've given up momentum, you know, where we've gone on fourth down for a touchdown, now those are the two that really bother me, that we, you know, whether it be the call or, I think the last week was more the call than anything else, you know, just anticipating what they would run. That play probably should have, we probably should have taken something outside, but that's, you know, that's the game. But it always bothers you when you don't make, when you go on short yardage, particularly on fourth down, and you don't make it."

Barry, what have you seen in the development of Stocco through three games, especially Saturday? He's got to engineer a comeback drive late. Do you see things that maybe we don't as far as his maturation?

"Well, No. 1, the first thing you want to accomplish, or hope that you get with a young quarterback, is that he protects the ball and respects the football, and I think he's shown that he does that. He's not sloppy with the ball. He's made very few bad decisions. Now all of his throws haven't been great, but he's really protected the football.

"I think last week really showed a lot of character, in the fourth quarter, third and fourth quarters, bringing the team from behind. I mean, if you don't make those throws, if you don't make the plays, you don't win. And I just think it's a progression, and I just like his composure and how he's handled himself. It was a tough, it was a tough environment with the rain and the delay and all of that to hang in there and show maturity enough and compete the way he did. I like his progress, I think, and I think he's made progress every week."

Barry, did you get a look at the replay of the play Crooks made down near the end zone, where he took the ball away? What did you think of that? And is that a play, knowing the way the Big Ten replay is, would that have been a reviewable play under the Big Ten's replay rules?

"Well, if you'd have listened to the TV copy, you could have heard the whistle. It was when Crooks was laying in the end zone. So you take it from there. There was no question, that was clearly taken away. And I don't think there's any question it would have been a touchdown if you would have replayed it."

Under Big Ten can they review that?

"Sure. Sure. I would think so, whether it's a fumble or not."

Barry, now that we're three games into this season with almost every team, what do you think of the Big Ten race? Are there any surprises, any, has it changed any from, you know, what you thought back in early August?

"I thought it, I thought we'd have a number of very good teams, and that hasn't changed. I don't think we have a weak team in the league. I think probably for a surprise team, you know, the fact that Purdue had to replace, I think, nine starters on defense, and for them to be leading the league right now in defense. That would probably be the biggest surprise. And we knew that they would be good offensively and they're, you know, they're averaging 50 points a game and leading the league in defense. That's pretty impressive. But I think top to bottom, it's as strong as the league has ever been."

Are you happy where you are right now, based on your first three games?

"Well, I love our record as it is. I'm not satisfied with any phase. I think we've done a lot of good things. I don't think any coach is satisfied where they are. You can't. You know, you, I've always said you either get better or you get worse, you never stay the same. And for us to be competitive, we better continue to get better."

Sports Illustrated ranked Wisconsin top ten college football (weekend sites) . . . with a big focus on fan support. What kind of advantages does this give your team, especially against Penn State, who has a six-game road losing streak?

"Well, an example of what a good home stadium will do, it puts added stress on the visitor. And like us last week, I really think they really, they're trying to create an atmosphere at Arizona where it's loud and you have the student section that cheers continuously. It makes the offense have to execute something that they wouldn't have to worry about at home.

"It makes them have, if they're going to make audible calls. If you've got a loud stadium, it's very difficult for all your players to get it. And if only one misses it, it might be an offensive tackle misses an audible, there's a chance for that play not to go. Or if it's a pass play and a wide receiver doesn't get the audible, he's running a different route. That miscommunication could cause a big play in the game. So it's making your, the visiting team execute more than they wouldn't at home.

"And, you know, and I think just the atmosphere and the crowd could really motivate and charge your, the home team up. I just think there's just so much to that. And also the familiarity. You know, we're stuck in that locker room for an hour and a half (during the weather delay at Arizona).

"Now, I told our guys, I really think ours is way too nice for a visitor's locker room, but, you know, you're in there in crowded quarters (at Arizona). There are no doors over the stools. You've got water standing and running into the locker room and you're stuck in there for an hour and a half, and don't know how long you're going to be there. Well, the visitor, now if we're at home and that happens to us and we've got all kinds of room to stretch out, it's much more comfortable. You know, so there's so many advantages of being at home."

I think Brandon Williams has only caught five passes so far. He's made so many big plays. Do you need to get him more involved in the offense?

"I do. Brandon has always been a playmaker. Since he's been on campus as a true freshman, he was a guy, one of those guys that shows up and is not wide-eyed and was a big-play guy. I would like to get him more involved. I'd like to see him more involved because I know certainly he can make plays."

Barry, how much more of an added benefit is it to have the fact that you played Central Florida and Penn State played Central Florida in such a short time span to compare what they've done to what you did and where both teams came out of that?

"I really don't, that really doesn't have any bearing. I don't see any advantage of that. You know, you could see how, you know, you could really compare how the, you know, you can watch last year's film, it would be just as much of an advantage as the Central Florida film."

Growing up in Langeloth, Pa., how much was Penn State kind of on that radar screen and Paterno, you know, at Burgettstown High School? What did you think of him and does this game mean a little more personally because it's against Penn State?

"I'll be honest with you. I [first] stepped foot on Penn State's campus in about 1982 or '83 when I was coaching at Iowa. I hadn't been on that campus prior to that. That was like on the other side of the world from where I grew up. That was probably a five-hour drive. You know, they're out in the middle of nowhere and I lived out in the middle of nowhere, you know.

"So, and we were poor, didn't have enough money for gas to get there. So I really, I was a Pitt, West Virginia fan, and a Steeler fan. I followed Penn State, but really, you know, followed the teams closer more than I did Penn State."

Barry, back to Brandon Williams for a bit. Is the number of catches he has right now a byproduct of John's willingness to distribute the ball more than maybe you guys have done in the past, or have teams taken him away?

"I don't think, I haven't seen anywhere where anybody has given special attention to Brandon. You know, from there, why he hasn't caught more balls, I don't know."

Barry, I think I know how the football coach in you answers this question, but now you're an AD as well. Does a guy like Joe Paterno have a right to go out on his own terms and make his own decision?

"Yes. I believe so. I just think, No. 1, you know, what Joe has done for this game, the man is an icon. I still believe he's on top of his game. You know, a couple years ago those same questions were asked and then, you know, you heard he couldn't recruit, he couldn't do this or that. That same year he had four guys taken in the first round. All you have to do is take a look at this team.

"I, we happen to recruit against him, and I know that you can't, in their area, you can't beat them. You can't beat them. They're very difficult to beat in Pennsylvania and on the East Coast for anyone. So, and then what he has done for college football, what he's done for that particular school, I think it'll be Joe's decision. I think it's only right when he decides he doesn't want to coach anymore."

After the game on Saturday you mentioned that (Jamil Walker) wasn't playing with as much confidence as he had the week before. How do you go about helping him regain that confidence?

"Well, you know, you have to take a look at everything. First of all, Jamil's, I think, only been on an airplane one time and on the return trip they had to send a car to get him because he wouldn't get back on. So first of all, he's frightened to even be on the airplane. He gets airsick and so on and so forth. The first away game, just the magnitude of it, how long you spend in the hotel, the rain delay, just so many things going on for a young person, sometimes it's just flat overwhelming.

"And for a coach, many times you don't understand. I just worry about X's and O's. But put yourself back when you're 18 years old, and all of a sudden all those things happen to you, and you're in a place you've never even seen before, you've never even seen a mountain before, let alone dealing with the temperature then thunderstorms and so on and so forth, and a loud, hostile crowd, it can be overwhelming. And so it's just a matter of that's an experience. You have to learn from it.

"The first time the freshmen come down here and scrimmage the first time, that's normally what happens. So hopefully that experience behind him, that he can just concentrate and practice the way he does and perform on game day the way he does at practice."

So you had a car come and get him?

"Not this trip. The only other time he had flown (the car picked him up)."

Barry, are you hopeful or optimistic this'll be your last game without Anthony (Davis) or is it too soon to know? And I guess the TV announcers were calling it a scratched cornea on Saturday. Is that accurate?

"You know what? I'm going to tell you . . . I'm going to tell you this. I never uttered the word cornea when I talked to them, and that is not accurate. But I did not even mention that. When someone came back and said something to me, that is not accurate and they did not receive that information from me. We'll know a little bit more at the end of the week. He's going to get, have an exam later this week and next week. Ultimately I believe it's going to have to be Anthony's decision, but, you know, that was our initial shooting date, our ultimate, our first initial goal, so I think we'll have a better idea."

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