What do you think of West Virginia's tailback, Avon Cobourne?
Alvarez: He's an excellent back. He can make you miss. He's got speed enough to out-run you, he's a home-run hitter. Because of their spread-out type scheme, you have to respect all the receivers, so that creates a lot of lanes in itself, so really he presents a lot of problems. And the quarterback (Rasheed Marshall) is a pretty good operator. But he's an excellent back.
Do they look to run first more out of that spread offense rather than throw?
Alvarez: Their numbers, according to our breakdown, are very standard. First down they're going to run 60 percent of the time, whereas many of those spread-out teams, it might be 70 percent throw. They are very standard in their run-pass ratio.
You've talked about how important it is for this defense to play better against spread offenses this year. How do you think they've fared so far?
Alvarez: I have no complaints with our defense thus far. They're playing with confidence, they're being productive, the turnovers they've created have been outstanding. I see tremendous effort. I see guys really running to the ball giving effort. I thought we improved as far as mental errors from the first game to the second game. So I will be anxious to see…this will be another challenge. This will be a little more of a spread attack than we saw in either of the first two games. This will be another challenge, another step for them.
Can you take a lot from the game film when a team blows out its opponent as West Virginia did this weekend?
Alvarez: Not really. What we'll take a look at more than anything else is scheme. We can take a look at personnel. We can evaluate some of the personnel, but they really weren't challenged. They are very impressive. Now I haven't seen their defensive side of the ball yet. The film that we got had three plays on it, and the rest of the tape was blank. We're waiting to view that tape, so we really don't know much about their defense right now, but we have studied the offense and special teams.
Is your offensive line performing to the level you expected it to?
Alvarez: Our line has blocked well. I don't like the fact that we had four procedure penalties. We had five penalties on the line. That's our experience. What that does is, really, 65 percent of the time, we were in regular down and distance situations after first down, but when you flinch, all of a sudden you are out of regular down and distance situations. We put ourselves in the hole six different times on offense because of our penalties. It wasn't because of how we blocked anybody or anybody we missed or anything else. Penalties put us behind the eight-ball and that's something that has to be corrected.
Is there any disadvantage to having four straight home games?
Alvarez: I'd play 12 straight if we could. I don't think so. Not that I know of. I sure like guys staying in their own bed and knowing the routine and feeling comfortable with the surroundings. The one trip we just went on is a very tough trip. I try, any time we go a distance, I try to take advantage of showing the players a little bit of what exists out there rather than just going in, playing the game and going home. Now if it's a Big Ten game, I have a little different philosophy. But if you go that far, you allow your players to see something. That makes for a long two days, especially when you're playing a night game. Minds can wander and it's hard to stay focused. Whereas when you're at home, it doesn't make any difference what time you play. You're in a routine. Everything is familiar to you, and you have less chance for distractions.
Have the problems with blitzes this season been receivers not recognizing blitzes, or is it more guys not picking up their blocks?
Alvarez: Well some blitzes, we can't pick them all up. But we've had different problems. We've had receivers that didn't recognize it, and all it takes is one that doesn't recognize it, the one the quarterback is going to go to. But we've had different breakdowns, and all it takes is one person to break down because things happen so fast. This is nothing that's different than the last seven years. People have done the same thing to us the last seven years. So it's just something we've got to handle. When you've got young receivers, it presents more of a problem because it has to be a fast answer.
You've talked several times about the Fresno State atmosphere. Can you bring that same type of atmosphere to a kickoff at 11:10 a.m. on a Saturday morning?
Alvarez: I can, but I hope our fans can. I know what you're saying. You have a chance to sleep late and tailgate and do everything and then come ready for a game, whereas maybe getting up earlier to get into the stands and everything might be a little harder to have the right attitude or the right atmosphere but hopefully that set the tempo. Hopefully the Fresno game set the tempo for the type of attitude and atmosphere that we're going to have in the stadium and we can have that. Because I think the next three at least are 11:10 games, so hopefully that isn't going to deter a good atmosphere.
Do you feel it's the team's responsibility to get the fans back into that type of atmosphere with their play on the field?
Alvarez: Well I tell our kids, you want the fans to be into the game, give them something to be into it about. You have to do something. We try to designate a "detonator," the first person that makes a big play to get the crowd into the game. Yeah, that's part of the team's responsibility.
A designated detonater?
Alvarez: No, not a designated detonator. A detonator award winner is the person that detonated the crowd.
Is that an actual award?
Alvarez: Yeah. A cap of dynamite.
Who won the award against Fresno State?
Alvarez: Jimmy Leonhard. I think it was the second pass thrown.
What did you think of Orr's performance?
Alvarez: I thought he ran good routes on one-on-one coverage and found leverage particularly in that stretch, because they put themselves in, where that guy had to cover him. You have a good throw and you have to position your body. Their defensive back won some battles as it went on. He put himself in position where Jonathan couldn't get to the ball by getting over top of him or taking the right leverage. But on the ones that he caught, he put himself in good position and he ran good routes.
How much of Orr's performance was dictated by situations in the game, and how much was it you making a conscious effort to get him the ball because of his performance?
Alvarez: It was all game situations. We don't go into a game saying we have to get Jonathan the ball. It could be Darrin (Charles), it could be one of the Brandons, it could be any of those guys. It just so happened that according to what they were doing, the route we had called, he's the one that had to make a play.
Do you anticipate having Matt Bernstein back this week?
Alvarez: Yeah, he's been cleared to play.
With him back, what kind of running game will you be able to throw at people, having seen Bernstein the first week and Dwayne Smith the second week?
Alvarez: Well I think you have to worry more about our other backs than just zero in on Anthony (Davis). I think our fullback has to draw some respect of the defense and it's not just zero in on Anthony now when we're in I-formation.
Is the amount of true freshmen you are playing out of necessity, or have you changed your philosophy a little bit about not playing too many first-year players?
Alvarez: My philosophy is to play the best guys, the guys that give you the best chance to win. We've had an opportunity to really spoon feed some of these kids. A guy like Dwayne (Smith) I think will get better and better as he goes along. The young receivers, we said going in, losing Lee (Evans) we had a lack of depth there, particularly a lack of speed in some areas where we needed some speed and we needed some depth. We felt that they were talented enough, as we go along, they should improve and hopefully will play like veterans somewhere down the road. Same with our linebackers. I think the freshmen linebackers are very talented. They are going to make some mistakes, yet we have to play them and teach them under fire when we have the luxury to work them in. That's what we're going to do. I don't think anybody looks forward to playing a large number of freshmen, yet I think this is a special group, and some of them have really been put in a position where they have to produce. But they're the ones I think give us the best chance.
Is it hard for you to maybe look away when you see some mistakes that maybe a veteran player wouldn't have made?
Alvarez: No. I'll address it and I know it's going to happen. You try to explain to them what they did, why they did it and what we have to do about it. And that's with everyone right now. We just came from meetings and that's my whole message is, `These are the mistakes we made, these are the things we did well. The old adage is you either get better or you get worse, and you can't keep making the same mistakes, whether you're a freshman or a senior.' We cut our mental errors down from 20-plus to 10 on each side of the ball. But 10 is still too many. That's just what football is all about, eliminating mistakes.
Is 10 a typical number for a second game?
Alvarez: Probably. Ideally, you'd like to be in single digits, somewhere around 5-6. That's really a good game when you do that. So 10 I think is acceptable. Not acceptable, I think it's maybe what you would anticipate. I'm still not happy about the penalties. Way too high.
You inferred after the game you might change kickers, starting Scott Campbell next week. Is that the case?
Alvarez: I think (Scott) earned a right, right now. I thought he really had a good look in his eye, he was consistent on kickoffs, he wanted to kick that last field goal, it went in. Even though it wasn't protected very well, he kicked it. I'm going to give him that opportunity. As of right now, he'll be our kicker next week.
You've had repeated problems with protection on the field goal unit. What is the problem there?
Alvarez: Our wing hasn't done a very good job. That will be corrected.
Monday Press Conference: Barry Alvarez Verbatim
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