Alvarez's career finishes with a flourish

Badgers play inspired football, defeat Auburn to give their coach his fourth 10-win season

ORLANDO, Fla. — The look on Barry Alvarez's face said it all. Almost no one thought he'd finish his head-coaching career at Wisconsin by leading what was supposed to be a middle-of-the-Big Ten pack Badger team to the Capital One Bowl. About as few thought Alvarez and UW would knock off Auburn.

But here was Alvarez, sitting with a smile after his No. 21 Badgers topped the No. 7 Tigers 24-10 in Monday's game here.

Back in August at the Big Ten Media Day in Chicago, Alvarez spoke of this year's team as a fun one to coach, knowing that the fairly young squad would be one he could mold in his final year on the sidelines. But, instead of sitting at home in Madison or a city hosting a less prestigious postseason game in the middle of winter, here he was in Orlando at the Florida Citrus Bowl sporting a colossal grin.

"It ranks right up there," Alvarez said of the win. "This is a very good opponent. They have good enough personnel to go out and beat anyone every week. So, when your players play well and everything comes together and you're able to walk off with a win, it's very gratifying. It's right up there. I hate to rank wins because I love them all; nobody enjoys winning more than me."

The victory over Auburn gave Wisconsin its 10th win of the season, the fourth such occurrence in Alvarez's tenure in Madison –– and the only four times this has happened in school history. And after losing three straight games last season after beginning the year with a 9-0 mark, Monday's win carried added importance in addition to being Alvarez's finale.

"It means a whole lot," said senior wide receiver Jonathan Orr, who caught four passes for 74 yards. "Only a select few teams each year win 10 games…to get a win period is good, but just to have all those extra bonuses and seeing Coach Alvarez out the right way did make it that much more satisfying."

Added defensive coordinator and Alvarez's successor Bret Bielema: "Obviously 10 wins is a special place. In college football, there's not a lot of teams that can get to it. There were two teams on the field today, that at the end of the day, one was going to be a 10-win, one was going to be a nine-win…It's just a true testament the way our guys really prepared and handled themselves to get to this point."

As Alvarez has maintained all season, he did not place any extra importance on this or any other game during the year due to it being his exodus from the coaching world. Still, his players had sending him off on a high note in the back of their minds, and they played inspired football.

"Coach Alvarez is a classy guy and it's something that he just never talked about," quarterback John Stocco said. "He wanted us to stay focused on the game and our opponents. But it's something all the players were aware of and we wanted to play well and thank him for everything he has done for us."

The performance would seem to be a fitting end to cap Alvarez's time at Wisconsin, where he took a bottom-of-the-barrel Badgers' program from one win in his first season to a trio of Rose Bowl titles and an 8-3 bowl record with Monday's victory.

"You can talk about buildings, you can talk about bowl victories," Alvarez said. "I think maybe the thing I'm most proud of is we brought pride back to our fans and our football program. I knew when I took the job that they love their football. One of the things I kept hearing when I took the job was ‘Don't embarrass us.' And I think we brought pride back to them, and to our state and to our alumni and I'm very proud of that."

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