Big Ten teleconference: Barry Alvarez

UW coach on Brian Calhoun's All-American résumé, Badger quarterbacks in his tenure and more

Audio file 1 (5:19) -

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Opening statement:

"Certainly we're very pleased with our win last week. As you mentioned Brian Calhoun was one of the co-offensive players of the week. (He) had another just fantastic ballgame.

"This week we're in preparation for a very, very talented Penn State football team where we go up there to play them."

Coach, it seems like not a whole lot of people were expecting Penn State to compete for the league title… What do you think allowed them to overachieve in some people's eyes?

"I think if you took a look at last year's squad, you saw a very good defense. The majority of those players returned. I think they have improved just with maturity and experience.

"I think offensively, you have another group of veterans that returned. Plus, you throw in some very talented freshmen with that group. It makes for a good football team. I think Coach Paterno felt that way going into the season, as did many of the other coaches in the league."

What does this game mean to you?

"I'm excited because this late in the season that we're still in the mix and the game means something and there's a lot riding on the game. We had a very young team… We did have the least number of returning… starters in the league. So, it's very meaningful that way. I really haven't looked at it — I get that question asked every week. It's my last go-around every place. So, I'll just wait until the end of the season to take a look at it. I'm just taking this season one game at a time and enjoying the games as we go along and the fact that we're having some success."

On being in similar situation this year and last year… Does it help that you don't have a lot of players in key positions from last year who experienced that, so you don't have to relive some of the old nightmares?

"I wish I had some of those players back. We were 9-0 last year, 9-1 when we played Iowa. Iowa played better than we did. But we did take a look at our schedule… Particularly this year without a bye. We played straight through. But we researched what other people have done who had success. And just tried to adjust practices, adjust our weightlifting schedule accordingly. Hopefully we can keep our guys fresh and focused."

When you say you adjusted practice, were you maybe a little lighter…?

"We've done that. We've taken pads off of them. I've given them, the last two weeks, given them an extra day off where they haven't gone out and practiced on a Monday. We give them Sunday off. But just giving them Monday totally off. Now, we didn't do that this week, but the two prior weeks we did just to try to compensate for not having that open date and trying to keep them fresh."

Can you talk about Michael Robinson's development?... Is there still a sense among coaches that you have to let him beat you with his arm?

"He can beat you so many different ways, I don't think you can overplay him… He can beat you with his legs. He's such a versatile quarterback, you have a hard time if you want to pressure him and you play man-to-man in the back end and he breaks the line of scrimmage and everybody's back's to him, he can beat you with his feet. The runs designed for him he can beat you there. And I see him as a much improved passer. I just think that he's just made tremendous strides and improvement."

On Tony Hunt:

"He's a very physical runner. He's going to run through a lot of tackles. You can't arm tackle him. You've got to have a lot of people around the football. He's a very physical runner."

Audio file 2 (5:14) -

Obviously there's a lot of good running backs in the Big Ten and nationally… What kind of case would you make for Brian Calhoun to be considered All-Big Ten or All-American?

"Brian is so much a part of our offense and can hurt you in so many different ways and gives us versatility in the offense. He's been an excellent runner. I believe he leads the nation in scoring, which is a start. I believe he's fourth or fifth in rushing.

"But really has done a nice job of catching the ball coming out of the backfield. Occasionally we'll line him up wide and get the ball to him.

"He's the most complete back that we've had since I've been here."

…Do you look at it as overall contributions…. The fact that he gets the ball in the end zone. Is that how you look at a running back as far as productivity…?

"Maybe it is who you are playing against. How much… he contributes to that team. His percentage of productivity towards the team's offense."

Joe Paterno just mentioned again today about recruiting you way back when. Were you really… I guess as delicately as he put it, as big and fat as he says you were?

"[Laughs] Joe thought I was short. But I was also slow."

On whether Paterno's recruitment of him had any effect on his recruiting style as a coach:

"Obviously I didn't know how Joe recruited since he didn't recruit me. So that didn't have a factor on how I recruited as a coach. I was just fortunate enough to be recruited."

On similarity between Badger quarterbacks over the years:

"That's kind of who we end up with. They've been similar… Bollinger was more of a combination of a runner and thrower. Mike Samuel is by far the toughest guy, an old Philly guy, the toughest guy that we had. More of a runner than a thrower. I think Stocco's probably more of a thrower than a runner. So they've all had their different strengths.

"By the way, Bevell is the quarterback coach at Green Bay, has coached Brett Favre these last several years."

Have you stressed… not having the quarterback beat you, or is that just an intrinsic part of all these guys?

"That's something that we try to build into our system. We've never been a home-run-type team. We try to protect the football and try to — we talk to our people about respecting the ball, particularly the quarterback."

On chance to win Big Ten championship in last year as head coach:

"Not really. Just a lot of football to play yet. I'm just pleased that we're in November, and this far along into our season, that we're still in the hunt. This game is an important game in the league race. We're just a part of it."

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