Big Ten teleconference: Barry Alvarez

Wisconsin coach discussed Purdue's defense, Joe Monty, the importance of offensive line play and more

Audio file 1 (6:01) –

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Opening statement:

"We had another very competitive game in the Metrodome this past week with Minnesota and fortunate to come out with the win and to be able to bring Paul Bunyan's Axe back with us.

"This week we're in preparation for Purdue. Another team that we've had some very, very competitive and interesting games with over the last few years."

When you look at Purdue's defense, they've give up a lot of yards, a lot of points. Where do you think some of their struggles are coming from?

"I don't know. I see some different players in there. The front seven for the most part is kids that we saw a year ago that play very good defense.

"You see them play good defense but I know there have been some injuries. And anytime you start mixing and matching and moving people around you have the potential for that to happening. Much like what has happened with us."

Is there anything you can take away out of the way that you won the game at Minnesota in the second half of the season?

"That's two weeks in a row that we've had to come from behind offensively and do some things. Our offense has given us a chance. We came up short at Northwestern in a shootout.

"All three phases of the game down the stretch had to make plays for us to be successful. When you put that much into two games in a row and you're rewarded like we were this past week I think it really helps morale. It really allows for your kids to have some confidence and maybe some momentum."

Barry, apparently there's discussion by Minnesota fans about some type of gesture Donovan Raiola made to the crowd after the game. Do you know anything about it or have you looked into that at all?

"No, really haven't heard one thing about that."

Is there any update on Joe Monty? Is the news any better than you first expected?

"I don't think it's quite as severe as we first anticipated. But we'll know a little bit more today."

Aren't you going to miss all this excitement?

"It's been fun."

People have been talking a this week about defenses around the country kind of being a step behind. And yet if you look at the national, the teams that are in the top 10, a lot of them seem to have pretty good defenses. Do you still subscribe to the theory that defense is the way to win over time?

"I do. Defense will always give you a chance. I think it's very difficult to out-score people game-in and game-out. And yet if you just have an efficient offense, one that doesn't turn it over, takes care of the football, and a defense that's very stingy, you have a better chance to be an outstanding team."

Barry, a few weeks ago you played down the notion that your players are trying to win it for you but I wonder if any of them have said anything to you in that regard? And after last Saturday do you wonder if fate might be involved here?

"I've never been in one like that before Bob, so I don't know what was involved. Our players haven't said anything and I certainly haven't played that card, so I really don't know."

You played Indiana a few weeks ago… Coaches that are trying to build programs sometimes the way they do it at the start is with a wide-open offense with what Indiana is doing. Do you see Indiana as an example of that, and aside from the spread what do you see that Terry (Hoeppner) has done there to try to make them more competitive?

"I think Terry's trying to take his players and give them the best chance to win. His offense if you study it, really is flexible enough. He's going to throw the ball around. Yet if he can run the football, they are going to run the football also. They are going to be pretty balanced. But he's doing what his personnel allows him to do.

"I think the thing that I notice watching the film, every week that you watch it you see a little more implemented, you see the kids playing a little faster, which tells me they are starting to understand the system a little bit more. I was impressed when we played them, watching them play in person. Just how physical they were and how they are just a well-coached team. You can see that. They are gaining more and more confidence as they go along."

Audio file 2 (4:41) –

You've had a lot of good running backs in your tenure… Do you think that your offensive line has been kind of underappreciated in its role there? And how important are they in general to your offense?

"It's hard to get started. It's hard to have an effective Ron Dayne or Brian Calhoun without an offensive line. Your offense starts with it. Your passing game starts with an offensive line. I think anybody that's been in the business understands that. I think the only time I've ever heard anybody say that it wasn't important was when I coached with Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. He called me in his office, we had played Iowa State. He said, ‘Watch this.' None of his guys blocked anybody and Ronnie Harmon made everybody miss and ran for a 75-yard touchdown. But that doesn't happen very often."

When you played Northwestern earlier this year, they have four new starters on their offensive line. Were you impressed with how well they played?

"Yeah, I thought they protected very well. I think they do the things that they have to do to be effective in that offense. I think the style of offense that they have and as mobile and as versatile as Basanez is, it probably takes a little pressure off of them. But I thought they did a very good job."

Most teams in the Big Ten have had some kind of struggles defensively. As a coach is it tough these days to gameplan from week-to-week because maybe there's more variety of offenses that you're facing?

"I think it's more of an issue of matchups. Being able to matchup week-to-week. As you have spread offenses, you are making people play in space more. So as a defense you are recruiting linebackers and then you play teams with one back and four wides or no backs and five wides and a quarterback that can run the ball. They are playing in space.

"So basically your linebackers are defensive backs and then the next week you are playing a team that comes in and does what Minnesota does and runs the physical offense and really runs the ball and emphasizes the run. It's hard for those smaller, quick guys who play effective against the spread to go in there and be physical.

"So just the multitude of things and you're living on the number of scholarships that you have, creates some problems."

Regarding time spent on special teams in practice:

"We have a system that we incorporate during the week where we cover everything. We probably spend the most time on punt protection because that's what you do the most. But we have a set number of repetitions that we get for everything that we do or everything that we possibly can see."

On the punt block versus Minnesota:

"We had a specific block put in, but that block probably wouldn't have taken place had not the punter—it would have had a chance—but the punter cooperated by dropping the ball. And then one of our guys (Jonathan Casillas) had to make an adjustment because he was trying to get the ball off in a rugby-style kick. And (Casillas) did a nice job of adjusting. You've got to be able to think on your feet and adjust on your feet. He did a nice job of taking the ball off his foot."

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