Are the Badgers concerned with the number of carries tailback Brian Calhoun is accumulating?
"That's an original question," Alvarez said with a smile. "You put a lot of thought into that, didn't you? We've kind of addressed that every week since we've started, how many carries he has and how many he can handle, will have, can he hold up? He feels good. Brian, you know, he has the option to come out whenever he's winded. I think he's really a well-conditioned athlete."
There is no question Calhoun can carry a tremendous load. In the Badgers' 4-0 start he has carried the ball 127 times for 626 yards and nine touchdowns and has caught 13 passes for 144 yards. He played just one quarter in UW's 65-0 win over Temple in week two. So in 13 quarters he has 140 touches for 770 yards, or 10.8 touches and 59.2 yards per quarter. The rest of the Badgers' offense is averaging 7.7 touches and 51.1 yards per quarter.
Against Michigan last week, Calhoun had 42 of UW's 58 touches for 214 out of 287 yards. He was on the field for 72 of 75 offensive plays.
Alvarez has insisted that in the heat of the moment, he does not and cannot count carries. Calhoun, the team's best player, has to be on the field as much as possible. However, he wants to see backup tailback Booker Stanley receive more carries.
"First of all, Booker deserves to play more," co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Brian White said. "He's had a great camp and when he's played he's been very productive. And we have to be smart about Brian. You know 42 contacts carrying the ball or catching it last week. When he's been playing a full game it's been over 40. I just don't know if it's sustainable for 12 weeks."
It is not as if Stanley is an untested tailback. The junior ran for 103 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries in the season-opening win over Bowling Green — his fifth career 100-yard performance. With 22 carries for 138 yards this season, he is averaging 6.3 yards per carry. But he had only three carries at North Carolina two weeks ago and just one against Michigan last week.
"It didn't bother me," Stanley said of his one-carry outing. "Unlike some players who may go whine to the coaches and be upset about it. I don't say anything to the coaches about it because all I care about is winning. And we won a big game and have it be 4-0 going into this Saturday. So I'm happy for Brian."
However, Stanley said the coaches made a point to talk to him after the Michigan game and tell him that they felt he should have been more involved, particularly early in the game. His one carry against the Wolverines came on the first snap of the fourth quarter, a toss play to the left that lost a yard.
"Coach White talked to me, he was saying that it was unfair to the team to have one player in there like 70-something plays," Stanley said. "Who knows what could happen? He's in there a lot. And he said that he needs to find a way to get me on the field because I deserved it, the work I've put in here."
"We just have to be smart and need to put Book in, get him in in the first quarter of a game and get him into the game earlier," White said. "And that's no slight on Brian, but it's just… He played 72 snaps last week. That's too many."
Calhoun's physical endurance has been remarkable. However often UW wants to give him the ball, it seems, he will take it and will be productive.
Considering that Calhoun can take himself out when he is tired, has it become a matter of pride for him to stay on the field?
"Oh no," Calhoun said. "It's based upon if I'm tired or not."
If last week is any indication, though, Calhoun's endurance, or perhaps his tolerance for fatigue, is off the charts. He ran the ball 14 times in the fourth quarter and was at his best on UW's final, game-winning drive.
"There was a few times in the fourth quarter where I took myself out where I wasn't necessarily tired, I was just trying to pace myself because I knew it was a tough, physical game," Calhoun said.
"They give me a lot of freedom to kind of dictate whenever I want to come out," he added. "But really I try to stay in the game as long as possible because I know that gives us the best chance of winning."
White referred to Calhoun's endurance as "very, exceptionally uncommon."
"I don't know if I've been around someone that has the stamina that he has," White said. "Which is good, but at the same time, the longer you go the more vulnerable you become… We have to use good judgment."
Even Calhoun acknowledges that he may need to pace himself a little more.
"I can't play 73 out of 75 plays every game, over a 12-game season," he said.
"Hopefully we get [Stanley] in a rhythm earlier and then he'll come and give me some breaks throughout the game," Calhoun said.
"I know my opportunity's going to come," Stanley said. "Keep my head up all the time…
"I'm happy that we won and that's all I care about."
Despite seeing his playing time slip to next-to-nil the past two weeks, Stanley certainly did not sound like a player whose confidence was slipping.
"Not at all," he said emphatically. "I know what I can do."
"He's been awesome," White said of Stanley. "Attitude. Work habits. Unselfishness. He and Brian have really worked well together. They support one another tremendously well. I'm really proud of Book. I really think he's a pretty neat guy, and a good guy. Someone I've really enjoyed coaching."