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"We're excited about going to one of the great venues in college football in Camp Randall to play what is an outstanding Wisconsin team. I think Barry's done a great job rebuilding his defense. I've been very impressed, particularly their victory last Saturday night against North Carolina. They ran the football very effectively. They had great field position because of the kicking game, and I thought they played outstanding defense."
When you started coaching in the Big Ten a few years ago did you ever imagine that the spread offense would be so prevalent and what specific defensive problems does that present the way it is played in the Big Ten?
"What I remember about the option teams that were prevalent when I came into this conference is that most of the formations had maybe one wide receiver. Today the spread offense, there's a lot of times just one back in the backfield along with the quarterback. And yet they've found a way to run the option against certain looks, which really puts a lot of stress on the defense. So they are able to spread the field, spread the defenders, which has created a lot of seams in the defense… Defensively, it's an assignment game. You have to be prepared for some of the plays where they don't block the defensive end, like the shovel pass, and of course the option. So If you rush up the field too quickly you take yourself out of the plays and that leaves the defensive team a man short. It's had an unbelievable impact and I think you know [sound cuts out for three seconds]… plays that come from the spread offense."
Does it make it a more enjoyable game for the fans? Probably less enjoyable for defensive coordinators?
"It was interesting last week we played a spread team and the teams come out of the huddle and they look to the huddle, every player looks to the sideline for 10 or 15 seconds and they get a play in.
"So I don't know that I like or dislike it. I think the truth is as a coach it doesn't matter whether you like it or not. It's something that you have be prepared for, you have to understand and be able to teach your players the things they need to know to be successful. Even then, these teams are scoring a lot of points, which means that regardless of what you are doing on defense you are going to have to score some points to win."
Could you just try to put your injury situation in perspective right now. Have you ever been this banged up at this point in the year?
"Well, I think, you know, we've been unlucky. That's the reality of it. And yet the guys that are hurt are fighting like the devil to get back as soon as they can. And in the meantime, we've got a lot of guys that are working hard to get prepared to play. And I think that's really the important thing. I think the critical thing for us is try to dwell on the things that we can do to give ourselves a chance to win. I think our players are doing that, I think our coaches are doing that. That's exciting. It really is challenging… That's the way we're approaching it."
Audio file 2 (6:10) –
How do you weigh a situation where you have a guy who wants to go but you think is not 100 percent, versus a backup who's not as proven?
"Well, I think what goes into it for me is my experience as a coach, one thing I've learned is that occasionally there are guys that can play with a lot of discomfort and be effective. But if a guy is slowed a step or two, it makes him a different player. So, in my experience down through the years, it's that if all things are equal you have a better chance to win if you have the next guy. Now, that depends on who the next guy is and it also depends on what kind of guy—I saw Jon Jansen last night playing late in the game against the Dallas Cowboys with a cast on both thumbs. Of course Jansen was a great player here. So I think you take into consideration your experience as a coach, but you also have to know that every player is different. Some guys can handle it better than others. And of course I think at some positions it's maybe not easier to do but you get a better chance to be effective in some positions when you're hurt than you do maybe in others."
"Well I think any time, I think there's a couple of issues there. I think it's great to play for any, most players, to get a chance to play as freshmen because it gives them experience. And really you can't buy experience. Of course it comes with a lot of pain sometimes. But I think in the big picture for most guys playing as a freshman is really a positive thing in terms of their development. Because the way you find out where you are and what your potential is is to get an opportunity to play in games.
"But there's always the other side of it. Maybe a guy sometimes gets a chance to play before he's ready. And of course then you risk lack of confidence down the road. So it's a double edged sword."
Do you think they played out of necessity last year or because they were better than what you already had?
"I think both of them got opportunities to play because of injuries. And certainly both of them seized those opportunities and played extremely well. We never could have expected two freshmen to play any better than Chad Henne and Michael Hart did a year ago."
Lloyd you guys have had a pretty good run here against Wisconsin, winning six straight. And those were some good Wisconsin teams that won two Rose Bowls. Are there some things that stand out from your perspective in those games that you've been able to accomplish to explain that run of success?
"Well, I think almost all of those games have been very, very tightly played, right down to the wire. And I think we've had some good fortune. The last time we were in Madison we got a good bounce of the ball. We probably won a game that had we gone into overtime certainly Wisconsin had the momentum. They had outplayed us very much so in the second half of that game. I think we've had a lot of great games and, of course, the way that those games have played, you have to be able to play as hard as you can. You can't go up against a Wisconsin Alvarez coached team and win if you don't play hard and if you don't play physical."
The Michigan game is always huge to the Wisconsin players. I'm sure your players face that almost every week. Does it feel like a big rivalry game from your side or is it just another opponent that circles you guys on its schedule every year?
"I think down through the years, the games that we've had with them have been very, very physical games. And our teams have been able to prepare for them and because they did… have great teams. But I think we don't have as many Wisconsin players as we used to have because Barry's done such a good job recruiting the state of Wisconsin. But we do have Adam Stenavich on this team, a guy that is in his fifth year. Of course, it's as big a game as we play for him. I think the tradition that Wisconsin has, the support they get particularly when you play at Camp Randall, you know that their team is inspired because of the kind of enthusiasm and energy that their crowd brings. It's always big from that standpoint."