Big Ten teleconference: Barry Alvarez

Wisconsin coach fielded questions on Erasmus James, Anthony Davis, the BCS and more

Opening statement

"We are certainly pleased with a big win over Purdue this past weekend. We are coming off of two very tough, physical road games, back-to-back. It will be good to be back home playing a very good, veteran Northwestern team."

How do you feel about replay at the midway point in the season?

"I think there are a lot of positives but I think there is some tweaking and we have to sit down and take a look at where we are at the end of the year when all the verdicts are in and we can throw some things around. I think we can make it better but I really think we are moving in the right direction with it."

You have those fancy new replay boards at Wisconsin. It looks like your fans have gotten into the idea.

"I think the fans enjoy it especially when the call goes your way."

When you left Tucson after that game against Arizona, could you have pictured this team being 7-0 and No. 6 in the BCS?

"I have to be honest with you. I really felt that we got a lot out of that game…We showed a lot of resolve in that game. Offensively we were not very impressive, yet I knew our No. 1 offensive threat wasn't there. Defensively, I liked the way we were playing, special teams I liked the way we were playing. But the important thing in that game is all the unusual things that happened and how easy it would have been to lose focus and just walk out of there with a loss. You know, you go out there and all we heard since the middle of the summer was heat. It's a one o'clock kickoff. First time forever out there and then next thing you know we're in a downpour, then our locker room was flooded. We don't know how long we are going to sit in there and fortunately we have enough veterans that really handled it very well and very easily could have been sidetracked and just said, ‘let's just get out of here.' But—have you ever heard of a football game not having a halftime? There were just so many things that happened that our guys were able to overcome, then come from behind in the fourth quarter to win. I liked what happened there and I felt that we could be a very good team."

It hasn't rained a drop since you left, by the way.

"It may not again for another year." (laughing)

Is there some kind of story. When you first saw Erasmus James on tape did he make some of the plays he's making now?

"Some of our coaches saw Erasmus in the spring. Really, he wasn't recruited. He'd only played one year of high school football. He was a basketball player. Probably played at that time 210 pounds. They liked his athleticism, just felt that he had growth potential, he could really run and we had a scholarship available, so we just decided to take a chance. Quite frankly, three of four defensively linemen were players that were not recruited. Guys we projected, who ended up turning out like pretty solid players."

Can you remember a guy like him in the Big Ten that just literally could not be contained? A defensive linemen?

"He's as good as I've been around. My memory's not that good to back through the entire Big Ten but we've had some pretty good d-linemen here. Tom Burke was an All-American and I believe led the nation in sacks. Wendell Bryant was an early first-round pick and an All-American but they can't do the things that Erasmus can do."

Is it too far a stretch to mention Bubba Smith because he is kind of that kind of guy. It was 40 years ago.

"Bubba's older than me….He was a pretty dominant player but I don't if he could run as fast as Ras. I'd be interested to know how much Bubba weighed back then. He's playing against 220-pound offensive linemen."

At this point Barry have you introduced or even talked about with your team the idea of possibly playing for a national championship considering where you are in the BCS? How do you treat that carrot now that it's dangling out there?

"We've taken a motto this year and you always try to do it as a coaches, you concentrate on your next game. Our motto for the year, and our players have bought into it cause it's been catchy for them, is ‘1-0.' We just want to be 1-0 this week. Our emphasis is on just focusing and getting better each day and not getting any further than this Saturday. And we'll keep that. There is a lot of football to be played. Our guys have done a nice job and we like where we are right now. Our focus is on Northwestern this Saturday."

That being said a lot of people have made a stink about this first BCS standings being released. What was your reaction? Did that make any kind of impression on you at all?

"I'll be honest with you, I had no reaction. I read in the paper where they anticipated us, then read again that that's about where we were. There is just a lot of football to be played. We have four games left, some teams have five, some teams have six. A lot of things are going to happen between now and the end of the football season. It is way too early to get too involved or too wrapped up in the BCS."

Could you comment on Anthony Davis, not only what his coming back from injury has meant for this team, but on what his maturity has meant for the program as a whole?

Anthony's really is a special young man and has had to deal with some different issues with injuries. After having two tremendous years—freshman and sophomore years—and put up the numbers that he did. He was on track to probably break Ron Dayne's record and to sit out the majority of last season and how well he handled it. Players voted him a captain and then to be knocked out again on a fluke in the first half of the first game. I just think how he's handled himself, how mature he's been. How he's helped the younger players really has been an inspiration and an example for our entire football team."

How big a loss is it not having Erasmus James this week

"Well, take the most dominant player we've ever had and someone that an opponent would have to make specific plans against, which allows some other people to free up. You take that type of person away. You just look at the difference in our game last week, the difference between the first half and the second half. From the time Ras left the ballgame. He is capable of a big play all the time. You know you are going to get some pressure on the passer. Plus, he is a tremendous run defender. I don't know if there is as dominant a player in college football right now as him. To eliminate him from your team is huge."

How confidant are you that he'll be OK a week from Saturday?

"You never know on ankles. That's what our doctors tell us that that's what they're shooting for. I know he'll rehab and do all he can to try to get ready. We all have our fingers crossed that he will be ready then."

How do you feel about a playoff for college football? If you guys were to go undefeated do you think you deserve a shot at a national championship?

"I am not in favor of playoffs. Never have. I believe in the bowl system. I think the bowls have been good for college football. I think that anyone who has ever played or coached in one will understand what I'm saying. It is a special feeling and something that young people remember the rest of their lives and cherish the rest of their lives. So I wouldn't be in favor of a playoff. I think all you have to do is go back and take a look at how many teams have gone undefeated. I'm not even worried about that right now. That never really seems to be an issue, finding, if you have a multitude of undefeated teams because it just hasn't happened recently."

I'm doing story on Boise State and Utah and their chances of getting in the BCS. As a voter in the coaches' poll, just curious how you evaluate those teams that obviously you don't get to see a whole lot and don't play quite the schedule that you guys play.

"Well, you are wrong. I get to a chance to see those guys about every week. We watch them either Thursday or Friday night just about every week. They're the only game on on Friday night. So we've had a chance to really watch those teams. I've got friends on both of those staffs. I'm really impressed with what they do and how well they do it. We do have a chance to evaluate them."

How do they stack up with the big boys?

"I think they think they stack up very well. I think the question always is if they had to play your so called term ‘big boys' every week, do you hold up? One of the biggest issues we have in our league are injuries. People you are playing against I think maybe you are a little more susceptible to injury and that type thing…I'm not taking anything away from them. They are both very, very good football teams."

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