Is it possible to take a step back even with a victory?
Alvarez: It's possible to not play as well. I don't understand taking a step back. We didn't play as well last week as we had previously but sometimes in football matchups have something to do with that. The matchups where your strengths and weaknesses…their strengths really don't match up with you well. So I don't think…I think you learn from it. I try to look at the whole picture. I try to see what we did poorly and try to correct it. I try to look at the positives and emphasize them. But we gained a lot from that game. That's the second time we've come from behind in the fourth quarter to win. There are a lot of teams that can't do that. And we did a lot of good things, yet I think we could learn from that game.
When teams crowd the box so much, do you need to find different ways to get Anthony Davis the ball?
Alvarez: There are only two ways, you hand it to him or throw it to him. Anthony doesn't have the hands to put him out as a wide receiver or a check-down back or whatever. We have plenty of weapons to get the ball to. We have to find different ways to get people out of the box.
You've been pretty successful against Pac-Ten teams the last five or six years here. Do you have any reason why that might be?
Alvarez: We're probably better than those teams…I'm not trying to be a wise guy or anything. We've matched up with the teams that we've played. Every Rose Bowl that we've played in, there were good matchups for us. We played UCLA a few times, Stanford a few times. We just matched up well.
Lee Evans said last week he was going to see if he could return this week. How long in the week will you go before you make that determination if he can play?
Alvarez: Saturday morning. That's fine enough for me. I can put Lee out there, he can run routes and catch. I don't need to see him all week.
Is there a chance he will play this week?
Alvarez: I'm not even going to get into that. Guys, I've stayed away from that. That's going to be Lee's call. I'm not even going to speculate when. We're preparing as if he won't. If he's ready, he'll play.
Can you afford to hold a guy like Darrin Charles out another week?
Alvarez: If Darrin can't play, he won't play. I'm not going to put him on the field unless he's full speed or close to it. When he played early in the year, probably the first game he was 90 percent. We can play him at that. There are some matchup problems with his height that you like him on the field.
What did NIU do to shut your running game down? Similar things to what other teams had been doing the last couple of weeks?
Alvarez: You know, No. 1 they have some veteran players. I thought their linebackers were very good. Their down linemen were stout guys. I thought their safeties came up and played well. First play of the game we ran an isolation, their strong safety hit it at full speed a yard behind the line of scrimmage. So they had a good scheme to crowd the line. They probably had some tendencies on where to blitz us and we've seen those blizes before. We've seen those things.
Are those blitzes for the run, pass?
Alvarez: You can run, pass, you can do both. You're pressuring. You're sending a lot of people and attacking different gaps.
Are a lot more teams doing that?
Alvarez: I see everybody crowding…unless you spread people out, everyone crowds the line of scrimmage. If you get in the old two-back offense, two wides, people crowd the line of scrimmage and in a run-down, they are going to have the capability of nine people running downhill with the ball.
Anthony Davis talked after the game about hitting the holes with more patience. Have you seen that the holes are there but he hasn't been patient enough to wait for them?
Alvarez: I've seen times when there haven't been holes. I've seen times where he's been impatient and made cuts before the read has actually shown up, or he's jumped it outside when there might be something inside. But again, things happen so fast, so much of it is intuitive and just getting reps and seeing it.
Are you concerned about the offensive line's performance?
Alvarez: We gave up 10 sacks. You put a couple on the line, you put a couple on the backs, you put a couple on the receivers, you put a couple on the quarterbacks. I think it's been a combination. It just hasn't been the offensive line breaking down. I would have guessed that we would have played better, yet we have not had continuity on the offensive line. We have had different guys playing different combinations. Whether that's led to it or not, I don't know. I know we've been on the edge of some things. And we did not pick up where we left off a year ago and I thought that's where we would pick up. We are not playing like we did at the end of last year.
Does that go for their run-blocking as well or just pass protection?
Alvarez: I'd say it's for their (overall) play.
Would you like to see Brooks Bollinger throw the ball away more rather than take so many sacks?
Alvarez: Well when you're in the pocket, if you throw it away, that's grounding. When he's outside of the pocket, he has thrown it away. One thing, punting the ball, instead of just throwing it up for grabs isn't all bad. One reason we are 4-0 is because our guys have respected the football, and our turnover ratio is outstanding. We're not just going to force things. So when he's in the pocket, and there's nothing there, I like for him to step up and get what he can get. There are times when he doesn't have any choice…if you're outside of the pocket you can throw it anyplace you want. But if you're in the pocket and you just throw it away, it's intentional grounding
Would you put Arizona's Jason Johnson in the same class as some of the great quarterbacks you faced last year like David Carr, Joey Harrington and so forth?
Alvarez: I've been very impressed with him. I don't know his stature. I don't know whether he's as mobile as those two, but he's every bit as accurate as those two. You watch him, he's under pressure, he puts the ball on the mark. He knows where to go with the ball. If people are playing zone, he goes to the right spot. If people are trying to blitz him, they have blitz beaters. He knows where to go with the blitz beater. I'm very impressed. He was good a year ago. Their problem a year ago was their defense and they've rectified that. They've played very well. I think Utah might have had two first downs in the first half. But I would say as far as a productive quarterback, from what I see, yeah I would put him in that category?
They've been getting a lot of long gains with their two big receivers, Bobby Wade and Andrae Thurman. Have they been getting a lot of 1-on-1 matchups?
Alvarez: Teams are blitzing them, whether it's to stop the run or blitz the pass. They'll max protect and get two-man routes and they like to go deep. They do like to air it out and throw the ball down the field.
It goes without saying it's going to be a tough challenge for B.J. Tucker and Scott Starks this week?
Alvarez: You bet.
Can you talk about Bob Docherty's play recently?
Alvarez: I thought he made strides this past week. I thought he played better this week than he has been playing. And not just…the obvious is that he caught the ball well and ran with the ball well, but I thought he blocked better and played with more intensity. I thought he finished things better this week than he has.
How about Darius Jones? He had a big game defensively.
Alvarez: He made two of the biggest plays he had. I thought Darius played pretty well.
He came in as a state recruit with high expectations, and things don't always happen as quickly as people would like. Has he handled everything well in that regard?
Alvarez: It's hard sometimes as a highly-recruited player, to come in and not want to continue to be recruited. And that first of all was being a linebacker and only a linebacker, and then moving to the defensive line. I think he made a nice transition to that. I think he's developing nicely, and he has three years left. I mean he's very young in the program. I think we've all known what kind of potential he has and what ability he has, and I think he's making good progress. I think he's handled things well.
Are you going to take a look at Brett Bell this week at free safety? He's listed (at No. 1) on the depth chart.
Alvarez: Well that's where he played.
Alvarez: He's played some. He'll continue to play some.
What do you think of Clarence Farmer and the Arizona running game?
Alvarez: We tried to recruit Farmer. He's a big strong back, he has breakaway speed. They create some problems with the combination and they are a multiple offensive front. They create a lot of problems because they can hurt you either way, and you can't load up on them. You can't load up on the pass, you can't load up on the run because they can burn you either way. But he's really a good back.
How about Arizona's defense?
Alvarez: Well I think they are sound. They pressure you and they come from a lot of different angles. It's a different scheme than you normally see. What they probably shored up is the kids probably understand it better right now than they did a year ago when they first put it in. It's the same type scheme I believe, that they ran a few years ago and they called it the "Desert Swarm," where they flex attack on his back off the ball. He can play like a linebacker or he can rush. You don't see that week in and week out. So it's been effective, and the fact they have some pretty good players adds to it.
We've beaten the overconfidence question to death. But do you think just facing a Pac-Ten opponent helps raise people's intensity?
Alvarez: Well I think so. I don't know whether we were overconfident or not. Maybe we were. I know we didn't play well. But I think again, this is a good team coming in here. I think our guys understand…we'll draw their attention to the fact they didn't play well. They didn't play, other than the last three and a half minutes, play at the speed that we'd like for them to play and the intensity we'd like for them to play. I think they're smart enough to understand, to have a chance to beat this football team, they're going to have to play much better. The fact that it's an undefeated team from the Pac-Ten just adds a little more fuel to the fire.
Will you touch base with (Utah head coach and former UW assistant) Ron McBride this week?
Alvarez: We'll talk to some of the guys on their staff. Sure.
How valuable is that?
Alvarez: I think it's always good. You can only see so much from film. You'd like to find out what someone who has played a team really thinks. You can talk about some schemes, but you talk more about personnel, and what they might have done differently, and what their impression was after the game. That type thing.
You said after the game you don't have any illusions about being 4-0. But how important is it for the young kids to realize how much work there is to be done?
Alvarez: Well I don't have any illusions because I know we are 4-0. I said I didn't have any illusions that we're a real good team. But we're where we wanted to be, 4-0 at this point. I like a lot of the things we've done. We did correct some things this week. I think we were down to four penalties. And football is a funny game and every week you have a different problem. That's our job to address them. When you have a young team, different things are going to crop up. But I like where we are right now. I think this is a team that will continue to get better. And we have a big challenge this week. But I think our kids will be ready to play. It should be a real interesting game.
There's been a lot of talk about Brooks Bollinger, and this week he could tie the all-time record for wins here. Can you talk about what qualities he has that allows him to bring a team back to victory like he did on Saturday?
Alvarez: Well let's back up on this last win. All three phases had something to do with that. That's what I liked about it. No. 1, our defense went in, we had to punt the ball with, I think under four minutes left. Our defense has to get a stop. We were able to save a timeout. They ran a pass route that we hadn't stopped all day. We were able to defend it. We saved a timeout, we forced a hold on the punt, got the ball at midfield, and then our offense did what they were supposed to do. So that's what I like. And I'm going to show them a clip of just that sequence to show the speed, the intensity, lack of mental errors, attention to detail when the game was on the line and I think that's very important. Nobody flinched. Everybody played and did what they had to do. The key in a situation like that always is going to be your quarterback because he's going to have to make some plays down the stretch. No. 1, Brooks is a fierce competitor and I think he thrives in situations like that. I think he looks forward to them. Where a lot of guys tense up, I think he looks forward to that and he wants it on his shoulders. And he's responded very well, knock on wood.
Do your guys realize how much more intense they need to be to continue winning?
Alvarez: I'm fixin' to show them in about two hours….you know what? What I try to do is teach. When you have something that's concrete that you can use to show, you drive a point across a little bit better. This is just a teaching aid to show them the tempo. Then after my meeting, they go in and watch with their position coaches, the game. They'll be critiqued for the game and see the whole game. But I wanted them to see that speed and then watch the previous whatever minutes.
A lot of people said this was a huge weekend for the Big Ten. What did you think about what transpired?
Alvarez: There was some good and there was some bad. I thought Penn State was very impressive. I thought Michigan let one get away. Ohio State was very impressive. That kid reminds me of a young Ron Dayne. He just took over a game. But I thought there really were some impressive performances. And I'm sure some (teams) are disappointed how they played.
Will playing a good Pac-Ten team in your final non-conference game help prepare your team for what they will see in the Big Ten?
Alvarez: I think all five of these games have. Every one of these games has been a challenge. Every week has been totally different preparation. This is another different preparation on both sides of the ball. They have different strengths than what we have seen. So that's just another game that will help. Every one of these games has been, well the majority of them have been four-quarter games. Where you've had to concentrate and be on top of things for an entire game. All of them will help us in preparation for the Big Ten.
Barry Alvarez Verbatim: Monday Press Conference
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