Big Ten teleconference: Barry Alvarez

UW coach discussed rivalry with Minnesota, the Gophers' defense, parity in the Big Ten and more; text and audio provided

Audio file (8:44) –

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Opening statement

"Well, we lost a shootout in Evanston this past weekend. Trying to bounce back and prepare to play a very good, very impressive Minnesota team coming off an impressive win at Michigan this past weekend."

When you look ahead to Minnesota, can you talk about this rivalry you have the Gophers and just kind of put some perspective on where this rivalry ranks in importance of games to Wisconsin?

"Well I think normally if you have bordering states and fans can easily get to the away stadium, it creates a natural rivalry. The fact that we, this is a trophy game. Play for Paul Bunyan's Axe, which is the longest ongoing, continuous rivalry in college football. So there's a symbol of the victory with all the previous scores on it.

"Besides that we've had some great games. They've been very entertaining games and hard fought games, both teams playing well. I try to educate our players that they are a part of history and continuing history in college football."

On Minnesota's defense:

"They're much improved. I'm very impressed. You have a veteran crew there, you have a veteran group of players, who have really improved physically, they understand the game better… They play very sound. They're a physical group and you have to earn everything that you get from them."

A year ago when (Brian) Calhoun was sitting out and was running on the scout team, did you see signs of this? Did he do some things against that great defense you had last year in practice, where you said this kid's going to be pretty good?

"Remember, we played against Brian when he was a freshman in Alamo Bowl when he was playing for Colorado. And we were impressed with him in preparation for the game.

"But, yeah, he did impress everyone, and was very effective against our defense every day on scouts. He tried to emulate the opposing running back and whether it be a strong runner or someone that was a jitterbug and would make you miss, he did it very well, and normally better than the person we saw on Saturdays. It really helped our guys in preparation.

"And I think it really helped for our players to gain a respect for him in how he went about that role. Didn't try to be a big dog and act as though it was belittling to him to run on the scout squad. He accepted his role on the team and felt that that was a way he would contribute. But we saw last year what he could do."

You've had a lot of really good running backs there. What does he do that's allowed him to be so successful?

"He can do about — physically he's gifted. He has sprinter's speed. He can make you miss. He has good vision. He has excellent hands. He can catch the ball coming out of the backfield, he can line up as a wide receiver and be a legitimate wide receiver.

"So he has the whole package where some of our very good backs were one-dimensional."

What is the status of Matt Bernstein?

"Matt is still injured. We knew it was going to be a slow process in healing. We don't have a date. We knew when we got the initial injury report it was going to be a little while before he could return."

If he were healthy, what would his practice schedule be this week, given Yom Kippur is starting tomorrow night?

"I'm not exactly sure. That's totally up to him, how it affects him. Last year he fasted prior to the—he didn't make any meetings or anything, but we happened to play a night game against Penn State. He fasted all day and wasn't involved in anything until that evening."

Were you surprised by what you saw from Tyrell Sutton?

"I was impressed when I watched film. The only thing that surprised me was how physical a runner he was. I thought for a true freshman he was particularly physical and he was very impressive."

On balance in the league:

"I felt going in that we had a number of very good teams. A number of teams had quite a few returnees. A number of good teams; teams that were very successful a year ago. Take a look at Penn State, you see how well they played on defense a year ago with all of those guys returning, plus some of the key offensive people, and then add a great recruiting class, you expect them to take a big jump. But as you sat back and looked, all the teams that were preseason rated and then you took a look at some of the other teams that weren't, and I felt they were pretty good. I just felt, and I think I was quoted as saying, I know, in our media here, that I felt the league top to bottom may have been as strong going in this year as I can remember it."

Doing a story on grandfather's coaching and relating to the players of today. Wondering if that's a challenge for you still and if you do anything special to kind of stay current on what make your players tick?

"You insinuating I'm a grandfather….


"I am by the way…"

I know.

"Five times."

"You know what, I've got to say, I really haven't changed how I've coached since I've been in the business. I feel as though I've always had a good rapport with the players and been able to relate to the players. Really I haven't had to change anything."

Anything you do to stay current?

"You are around players so much you kind of have an idea of what's going on. You spend an awful lot of time with them."

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