Monday Press Conference: Barry Alvarez

Wisconsin football coach discussed his team's bye week leading up to a home game with Minnesota

Barry, there was a story today, Bob Stoops talked about his late touchdown Saturday when they lead by 25. They had the ball at the 8 or 10 and threw it once incomplete, threw it again. He talks about the pollsters still looking at scoring margins. Do you have thoughts on that? You know they took it out of the BCS, the point margin. But the human element involved in that, and does it still lead into late-game decisions?

"You know what … I really never worry about that. I think if you just take a look at our games this year, how many games we've, where the game is completed and we're down inside the 15-yard line, I think maybe three different times that I can think off the top of my head, including this past week. I just want to win the game. I really am not concerned about the points, who you impress or anyone else. I'm just, I just want to move to the next game and move forward. Now, you know, Bob's been involved in the championship game and has some strong beliefs in it, and, you know, that's his prerogative."

Barry, you've always been really good coming out of open dates except for the last couple years, maybe. Do you see any need to change anything, what you're doing, or will the approach be similar . . .

"I always, you know what … I'm always looking to improve something, because every team changes. I think each year you need different things. The open date, you have to emphasize different things. Really, actually I talked to Stoops a few weeks ago on their open date and asked what he did. I took a few ideas from him, where they worked earlier in the week and then gave their guys an additional day, gave them a Friday, Saturday, Sunday off so they could have a long weekend, so if the guys wanted to drive home they could drive home and spend a few days at home. So I really took a few ideas from him. So this is really a little different than what we've done in the past."

Barry, it seems like every time we turn on the radio now you're on some big hotshot national radio talk show around here. How enjoyable and how important is it to be back in that national spotlight again?

"Well, I think it's fun for, it's fun for me, and I think it's really good for our program. It's great publicity. You know, my coaches are calling recruits all over the country or just, you know, visiting with them. They've worked them hard, and all of a sudden they know something about us, now they hear us on a national show. That gives us more credibility. Same thing with parents and obviously I think our fans enjoy that. We have fans all over the country. And for them to, I think that's a thrill for them. It's fun to be in the mix."

Barry, I think after the Purdue game you went on late on ESPN's GameDay and they were asking you about John Stocco's development. And I think if I remember correctly you said that early on you guys wanted to play things a little close to the vest and then gradually expand things. The way John's developed over the last three weeks, has his play and the improvement in it kind of played out the way you had hoped and planned to at the beginning of the year?

"Yeah, exactly as the way we've planned, and we'll continue to give him more as we go along. I think if you look at his numbers, his numbers are better. His completion rates are better. He's still been able to get rid of the ball to save sacks. He protects the football, even though he had two turnovers the other day, and both of them were because of pressure. Both of them were, the ball was taken out of his hands once, and the other time he was hit as he released the ball. But, you know, I just think he's starting, he's really playing with a lot of confidence right now. I think a lot of that came that Ohio State weekend and how he handled himself in that game, and I think it grew to the next. And I thought he played even better in this game."

Coach, with what Halloween's been like down on State Street the last couple years is probably reason enough for concern for you. But not that you can take these guys trick-or-treating or anything, but with a bye week is there anything you can do to kind of make sure they don't get mixed up in that stuff down there?

"That's why we give them three days and encourage them to go home. That's one thing. I think we definitely have to address it as coaches. I'll address it with them in my meeting with them this afternoon and the position coaches will talk to them about it. I think we'd be foolish if we didn't talk to them about discouraging them from being there, and if they are there what to anticipate. A freshman kid who just came to school here doesn't know anything about what's going to happen. But just try to educate them and maybe give them a little historical view of what has gone on in the past and what to stay away from. You know, we have to be proactive in that. Our guys have been good, knock on wood. They've listened pretty well and, you know, hopefully we get through this."

To what degree will you address recruiting this week? And can you give us an idea of how your practices will lay out and what you have in mind as of today?

"Our guys will leave, some will leave Wednesday after practice and go to their specific recruiting areas. We will recruit through Friday. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Guys will get out, be able to get into high schools during the day, pick up film, visit with coaches, get transcripts, watch games. So that's how we'll do that.

"Today we're going to really work with our young players. We're actually going to scrimmage our young players. And I say young players, anybody other than the seniors or guys who have played a lot. We'll hold them out. We're going to give them a day. We're going to condition them and stretch them. But the rest of them we're going to have fundamental periods and then scrimmage. And I'll try to scrimmage them probably at least twice in these next three days.

"The older guys will come back tomorrow. We're looking right now in preparing a tentative game plan for Minnesota. We'll start incorporating that, but we'll spend some time on fundamentals. You know, I've already assigned the coaches to talk about areas that we need to improve on so that we can emphasize those the next few practices and then try to get a jump on Minnesota. Practices will be about, oh, an hour, an hour and a half; not long meetings. We won't be out there a long time, but we'll be able to stay sharp and, you know, let our guys get rested but still get some good work done."

Barry, you've been consistently putting up 20, 24 points a game, but you haven't had a real breakout offensive game. Where do you think your offense is at and how much more is there?

"Well, I think there's a lot more. And I think last, you know, this past game we probably could have knocked another one in there and there'd been, that's happened before. Again, I'm not worrying about points. I just want to score more than the other guy. And you like to score more points than that, but if your defenses keeping people where they are, you know, you just go from there. But I think we're getting better. It'd be nice to have Anthony full speed. We've got some linemen that are banged up. But I thought we've improved our throwing game and I think we'll continue to improve on offense and hopefully the final score will show that."

I don't know if you have any reaction to dropping a spot in the BCS poll that came out today. But in general, do you think computer polls or the human polls are a more accurate reflection of what's going on in college football?

"I don't know, you know, who tabulates the computer polls. I don't know what is, what data is entered. I don't know much about that. I would think that the media who follows it and the coaches who certainly follow the game have a pretty good pulse on the better teams in the country and who's playing best at that particular time. I just don't know much about the computer aspect and who's doing it. I think you can, those things can be skewed very easily."

You guys have lived by the 1-and-0 mantra all season long. Is this stretch maybe then the biggest challenge to that because there is that downtime, not a game this week for the guys to focus on?

"I don't think so. You know, our guys have bought into that. You know, I hear that every week. I give you the same answer every week. I can't give you anything new. I don't see why anything would change right now. You know, our kids have been good in following what we've given you. You know, the questions are redundant. My answers are redundant. But that's the way it is."

Barry, with the firing of Ron Zook today, do you, I think you've addressed this in the past, but as an athletic director, how do you feel about, do you see a scenario where you would let go of a coach at midseason, regardless of sport, or is it your philosophy that, you know, that's something you do at the end of the year?

"I think that's something you take a look at at the end of the year. I don't, other than, you know, unless there are circumstances that lead up to that or, you know, there may be some specific circumstances that may want you to do that. But, you know, in a case like this, you lose a tough ballgame. I don't think that serves those players very well. I don't know. And I don't know enough about the situation, but my general philosophy, I don't think it's, I wouldn't go along with that, but in some cases maybe there's a reason to."

Do you think these two weeks are enough to get you totally healthy for your next game?

"I hope so. I mean, some of those cases with ankles, you don't know. You just never know how they heal and individuals are different. Some guys heal faster than others. You know, I know we can't get any more than one week open date. So I know we'll get some guys back. You've got to feel like Anthony (Davis) should get close to 100 percent. And I thought Reggie Cribbs was pretty close to getting there. Jonathan Welsh was pretty close. I was glad we got by without having to play him, this week should get him to where he needs to be the following week. But it'll get us much more healthy than we are right now, I know that."

Barry, there were some rather inflammatory comments that came out at Penn State last week regarding the Erasmus James. Did you have some thoughts on that? Did you take exception to that? Is it something you just put on the people who said it, or do you kind of look at the whole program and maybe be a little disappointed in how that...

"I don't think that was a program comment. You know, I really took it with, a lady said something because her son was hurt. You know, she's not really, there isn't really a lot of thought put into that. I think there is just a lot more to write about other than those type things. And I don't get wrapped up in them one way or the other because it doesn't mean anything. Sometimes kids get a little carried away with themselves and say things maybe they regret later, but it didn't affect us one way or the other. You know, maybe that might disappoint you a little bit, but I didn't think it was that big a deal one way or the other."

Had Ras done anything that you disapprove of as a defensive coach, the way he's played? Has he done anything wrong?

"Other than hit the guy hard? Those were very clean hits and that was verified over and over and over again. You know, that was about as clean a play as you can find."

Where do you fall on the bye week, you don't want to lose momentum as opposed to you could really use the rest?

"We really needed it. You know, I just, I was very nervous playing this game without three starters, a team that's very difficult to defend, a team that's been very productive offensively and had a week off to get healthy. I think Randy [Walker] mentioned prior to our game this is the healthiest they've been all year. And you take three starters out of your defense, I was very concerned about that. I was concerned about Anthony being banged up. You know, if you keep doing that and you keep losing players, and we've been able to dodge a bullet throughout the year with injuries, with other guys stepping up, which I'm very proud of, but after a while you just get to the point where you're not the same team. And we had a lot of guys, I'll tell you, there were some guys, I tell you, you could see in their faces at the end of that game they were drained. So we need this week. We really need this week to get healthy."

Coach, how much do you think this bye week helps you going against an offense that plays a fairly unique style of football?

"Unique in what way?"

Just the emphasis on the run game, the way they have two running backs that can come at you almost as effectively as the other.

"I think we kind of practice against this pretty much year round. You know, they do some different things scheme-wise. But, you know, it's whether you're good enough to stop them. It's not the style of the offense. I mean, they do it very well. They execute it very well. That's a good offensive line. I have been impressed with that center-and-guard combination ever since they came into the league and started as true freshmen, really undersized guys who learned how to survive in this league and were effective in this league because they could run so well. They're so athletic. And they were down around your ankles, they get around that corner and get you on the ground and create some seams for their backs. But they've got a good plan. But, you know, it's something, we do see the run and we do see that type of thing a lot when we go against ourselves."

Barry, with the possibility that there could be a tie for the Big Ten title sitting here today, do you, is that something that you would prefer to see given the fact that it would result in two BCS teams more than likely and result in some pretty good money coming into the league, or would you prefer not to, the controversy...

"I think you're asking whether we should have a round-robin and a tournament . . ."

No, I'm not asking about that. I'm just asking that, that's what you're going to get. I mean, that's the alternative, that people are going to ask you, continue to ask why don't you play round-robin?

"Well, you know, somebody asked me that, I think it's about the same question, on the Big Ten call-in the other day. And two years ago Iowa and Michigan tied as champions. I don't think there was a kid on that Michigan team that didn't think they were champions, and the same thing with Iowa. I don't think it hurt or league or took anything away from our league, and we had two teams in the BCS playing in great bowl games. So, no excuse me, it wasn't Michigan it was Ohio State when they won the championship. You know, so you have two great teams, two teams with great years. Both of them were champions. I don't think it took anything away. I think it added to our league, quite frankly."

I know Stocco gets some of the credit for reducing sacks, but just the play of the offensive line, they took some heat for all the sacks and hits on quarterbacks the last couple of years. To have allowed only six sacks and with an inexperienced backup, to save on the number of hits on Stocco, what do you think of the job they've done in pass protection?

"Well, they're much improved in pass protection. They've done a nice job. And, you know, that includes the backs. Sometimes we're keeping tight ends in, although we're getting the tight ends more involved in the pass offense. But I think they're much improved in their pass protection."

Barry, regarding the line. With a guy like Dan Buenning, a blue-collar guy, is that kind of what you want this program to be all about? I mean, is he kind of the face of this program in a lot of ways?

"He is. Dan's a guy that's played a lot of football. I'll tell you what, it's very important to him. He's a tough guy. He's really taken the leadership role seriously, the leadership of a captain. And he's playing his best football right now. And he's really playing his best football, and you really don't notice those guys much. But, you know, you appreciate someone. So to answer your question, yes, that's the type of guy we built our program on, that type of lineman. You know, the Joe Rudolphs and Joe Panoses of the world, and they bring a toughness to the field and the right attitude. And, you know, guys like that show the young guys what we're looking for."

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