Monday press conference: Barry Alvarez

Wisconsin coach discussed the Badgers' upcoming game against Ohio State

Did you stay up Saturday night to watch the Ohio State game?

"I did."

And what did you think of that, how well they played or how, or what they didn't do right, etc.?

"Well, first of all, I think you have to give Northwestern quite a bit of credit. They played very well. I thought they were well-prepared and took advantage of home field, made plays when they had to. The same respect, I was impressed how, you know, Ohio State came back with 10 points late in the game to force the overtime. They made some plays when they had to, to give themselves a chance to win it. But it was a good football game."

Coach, you ever hear how football fans say, well, they wished Ohio State would have won that game so they're less angry for their next game? Do you ever hear that theory, and do you wish Ohio State would have won that?

"Well, you know, I, it really didn't make any difference to me. There's going to be enough incentive in this game that I'm sure they'll be ready and hopefully our players will be ready. And that's how you go into a game. But I really don't, you watch too, this early in the Big Ten season I really don't root for one team or another. So I don't put a lot of stock into that."

Barry, Nugent missed a 40-yard field goal in overtime, but, I mean, he's been, the last two-plus seasons he's been almost automatic. What kind of a weapon is he for them? Just how good of a kicker is that kid?

"Well, he's excellent, good range, a very confident kicker. I saw his statement post-game about missing the kick, thought he hit it very well. You know, any time you get down around the 30, 35-yard line you've got, you know, if you're them you feel as though you have three points on the board and you, you know, you play it accordingly. You don't want to give up points, so you get cautious and make sure that the worst thing you could do is line up and let him kick."

You said you watched the game. How different is this Ohio State team than the team that came in here a year ago that you ended their winning streak?

"I think they're very similar. Ohio State recruits very well. They have good football players in the program. Even though I think there are probably four starters back on defense, most of those guys played a year ago. You know, they had an eight-man rotation in their defensive line with not much of a drop off. Their linebackers are, those guys all played last year. Same with the secondary. So it's a very similar team.

"They know, we've been, we've seen that running back for three years now. This will be the fourth time we've seen him. A number of the guys are back in the offensive line. Quarterback plays similar. So it's a very similar team. They're an excellent football team."

Barry, you mentioned when you got a kicker like Nugent, once you get to the 30, 35 you're pretty comfortable, you can get points and it influences your play calling a little bit. What about as a defensive team? I mean, do you, does that put more pressure on you with a kicker like that or does it change the way you approach when they get close or not?

"No. You know, you just have to play on defense. You try to make plays and you don't start defending the 35 yard line."

How surprising is it to you that they're struggling to run the ball for two straight years now?

"Yeah, you'd think that they'd have pretty good numbers running the ball, particularly with a veteran back and some of their young backs are excellent. And, you know, I know those offensive linemen and they're, you know, they're good players. So I don't quite understand their numbers, but they certainly are capable."

How much does it help Anthony and the offense that he had a chance to get out there this past week, kind of get his feet back on the ground and get going heading into a big game?

"Well, we didn't look at last week as a warm-up for Anthony. It was an important game and he was declared healthy, and he was healthy, and it's nice to have one of those under your belt. I think he, Anthony got stronger as the game went on and I think had a better feel as the game went on. And, you know, he's going to have to be at his best this week."

Barry, the last time you went on a road trip you had a hurricane in the desert and your locker room was flooded, among other things. This will be a different challenge, of course, but how much do you draw on that adversity on the road this week?

"Well, you know, I said this after the game. Number one, you always worry about distractions and that's why sometimes it can be difficult on the road, especially with a young team. Now, we do have a great deal of veterans, guys that have been here before, although we still have a core and some guys who probably haven't played at Ohio Stadium and played in the Horseshoe. And so we're going to get there a little earlier. I just, I want to get the team through the locker room just to feel comfortable with it. I want to walk through the stadium. I think all those things are important.

"But, you know, that's one of the issues you always worry about on the road, just there's the possibility of distractions. You have to deal with something you don't have to deal with at home, and that's crowd noise, being able to communicate and maneuver and deal with crowd noise."

Barry, every rivalry is different. You've got the axe with Minnesota, obviously. But how would you characterize how the rivalry between you guys and Ohio State has developed over the years, because there have been some very entertaining and surprising outcomes?

"I don't know how to classify that. I don't know how to label that. We have had some very good games with them. I happen to respect Ohio State and have always respected Ohio State and Ohio State football, because traditionally they've been strong. As long as I can remember they've had a good football program. Football is important in that state and that's their flagship school. So, you know, I like the way they play football. I like the way they go about their business. And, you know, we have had some excellent games. I don't know how to take it any further than that."

Barry, in some ways Tressel's whole philosophy is somewhat like yours, to, you know, play defense and play tough football and not turn it over. And is that, is it harder for you to play a team like that, because they don't get rattled in close games? They're kind of used to a low-scoring kind of close game.

"No. I feel very comfortable in games like that."

Do they present any kind of problem?

"Yeah. The problem, the problem is they have good players. That's the problem that Ohio State normally presents. But the style of football certainly, you know, I respect, I mean, anybody that's ever, you know, knows anything about football, I don't care if they throw it around or not, you know, if you can play good defense, if you're good in the kicking game, if you can stop the run, don't let them run after they catch the ball, don't turn it over, that's kind of "football 101." That's how I learned it.

"I believe in it and I think that's how, you know, I'm sure that Tressel, he comes from a football family. His father was a coach, his brother's a coach. You know, those are things he believes in. But it's, you know, it's football. You know, I don't have any issues with that style and it doesn't affect how we play."

The last two years you've put yourself in a really good position by about midseason, until you got to the tougher part of your schedule, and then you'd struggle a bit. Do you think this team that you have now is better equipped to capitalize on the start that you have?

"Well, we stumbled because we weren't good enough to beat better teams. I mean, it's not nuclear physics. You know, it doesn't, you have to win games like that. The better teams win them, and we weren't good enough. Let's face it. We weren't good enough. We, you know, put ourselves in position, but we weren't capable of making plays. That's what winning games is about.

"So hopefully we're a better football team and with veterans that we should take a step forward, and hopefully we can be improved. I think we, in many areas we are an improved football team. But that remains to be seen. That's why you play, to find out, to find out where you are.

"And we have some, we certainly have our challenges ahead of us. You've got a team that's been ranked in the Top 10 up until this past week, you know, an overtime away from being a Top 10 team. You know, and then you just take a look at the rest of the schedule. There's a lot of good football teams left and, you know, hopefully we'll be in the mix."

What do you think of Ohio State's young quarterback? And when you look around the league at all these young quarterbacks, do you see a lot of them going through the exact same thing Stocco's going through?

"Well, it's hard. Now I told John a week ago, that's the hardest position in sports, is the quarterback. You know, everybody wants to, likes, is in love with the second-team quarterback. You know, everybody is very critical of every time he touches the ball, you know, and whether you move or not depends many times on the quarterback, and everybody's very critical about the quarterback.

"He has to deal with a lot of things, crowd noise, you know, a lot of different defenses, changing, disguising defenses, pressure, responding quickly. It's hard for a young guy to come in and just be able to pick it up and to see things slowly. So, yeah, I don't see any young ones that come in and have a walk through the park. It's difficult. And to answer your question, yeah, I think I see most of them having the same type of problems, same type of issues."

We talked before about that there's been some great games between these two teams in the past few years especially. There's also been very emotional games as well, with things happening during, after plays, during the game, after the game. Is there anything you have to do in preparation with this team so it doesn't get too emotionally charged or wrapped up in any of those other issues?

"You know, Rob, I just think there's just, there certainly is plenty of motivation just for the game, the game itself. And all that other stuff, it just, that's the emotion of the game and things happening with the game. But it's about playing the game, and executing the game, and not getting wrapped up in any nonsense. And I don't think I even have to talk to my players about that. It's hard enough just to execute.

"They're a good enough football team, you have to be able to play and execute a game plan and know what you're doing, recognize things, anticipate things. There's not enough time for any extracurricular."

You hear a lot of your players talking about this 1-and-0 philosophy you've installed. It's one thing to talk about it, but do you think that they've really bought into it? And when you hear them repeating that do you know the message is getting through?

"Well, you like to think so, and I think thus far that's exactly what we've done. You know, I had the question a week ago, are you concerned about looking ahead to Ohio State, and my answer was no, and I think our guys were focused. And I think they'll be focused this week.

"And, you know, I do hear, when you hear that type of feedback, and I think they've bought into what we're trying to accomplish and the message that we're trying to send. And basically it's just to stay focused and, you know, regardless of what happens, whether it's the next play that game, you know, there's several different slogans. We used to use the term what's important now. But they bought into 1 and 0 and that really allows you to focus on that next game."

Erasmus mentioned after the game on Saturday that he was pretty ticked off about being held all the time. Is that still as big of an issue as it has been the past few weeks, and did you notice any more of that in reviewing the tape?

"I think it's been pretty consistent throughout the first five games. You know, after four and a half games we had one holding call against our defensive line. That's a lot of snaps. Now you guys come to the games, you watch the games, you see what's going on. I have the luxury of being able to sit down and run film back and forth and watch it. I think I know what's going on during the game. Then I confirm it when I watch film. But one hold, with that defensive line after four and a half games?"

Is there anything you can say to the defensive players so they don't get too frustrated?

"Well, just keep playing because you're going to be held. That's just, that's college football. And that's just the way it is. I'd like for it to be fair."

Barry, is there anything more you can do? I mean, you've pretty much tried everything, you've sent clips and everything.

"No. There's really nothing else we can do. You know, I talk to the supervisor of officials every week. I send in clips every week. But still, someone has to make a call during the game. And, you know, I think the worst thing I could do is make a big issue of it. We just tell our guys you're going to be held, that's college football, and just keep playing hard, just play through it."

Do you have any update on Starks at all?

"Starks will play. He's cleared. He'll practice. He'll go through everything this week."

Badger Nation Top Stories