The problems protecting your quarterback disappeared against Michigan State. Is that a credit to your line playing better, or an indictment of Michigan State's defensive line?
Alvarez: Well I think the fact that we established the run, and we used maximum protection. We had a pretty good idea when they would blitz, recognized it and got rid of the ball quickly. And that's a combination of protection, quarterbacks and the receivers adjusting to the routes. I think that was more of our guys doing a good job, we as a staff getting maximum protection, and then recognizing the blitz when it was coming.
When you prepare your team for Iowa this week, how closely can you show your team what tight end Dallas Clark can do?
Alvarez: Well if we had a tight end that could do what he can do, he would be playing. He wouldn't be on the scout team. So I think you can say that every week, with the best running back, the best wide receiver, the quarterbacks. It's hard to simulate what an offense is going to do with your scout team. You can show them schemes. We try to go against one another to get the speed of the game as much as we can, but we can't put a tight end out there on the scout team that's going to do what he does.
They have a history of good tight ends. Is he up there with some of the good ones they've had?
Alvarez: He's really a good player. Very good speed…the thing that he has is a knack for finding an open area, choking it down in between linebackers or wherever as he runs a crossing route or whatever. He has excellent hands. He'll go up in a crowd, he's not going to flinch, he's not looking around, he's going to make the catch, concentrate on the ball. He's really an impressive player.
Last week you focused on taking Charles Rogers out of the game. The way Iowa spreads the ball around, is it possible to key on one person on that offense?
Alvarez: No, I don't know who you would load up on. The key there is the quarterback. He's done such an outstanding job of being accurate with the ball. They give him a chance to get out in space, a lot of nakeds and bootlegs where if nothing's there, he can pull it down and run. Even if someone is there to contain him, most guys aren't athletic enough to get him down or get a hand on him, so they've done a pretty good job with that. But he's the key. He's the one that gets the ball around and does it very accurately.
What's the key to stopping that wide receiver screen they run?
Alvarez: You have to have penetration, the end man on the line of scrimmage has to sink into that alley. That's probably the primary thing.
What has contributed to you running the ball so much better the last few games?
Alvarez: I think we've just established a tempo, and went into the game deciding that's what we wanted to do, and we're going to get it done. I really think Anthony is running very hard, and seeing things very well and I think keeping him fresh helps, with Dwayne (Smith) in there. Really Dwayne's done a nice job of moving the pile and not putting us in bad positions. The one time we didn't get a first down, he slipped on his second step and just couldn't get moving and put us in a third down situation where the ball was tipped. But he's really helped keep Anthony fresh. But I think our line's really playing well and the backs are seeing things pretty well.
What makes Iowa's run defense so good?
Alvarez: They've got veterans, they are very strong up front, they separate well and they run to the ball. I mean, that's what most good defenses do. You don't see them on the ground. Good defenses aren't on the ground. Their linebackers press the line of scrimmage, they're going to get penetration, they're able to take on linemen well. And they challenge it.
Has Iowa surprised you?
Alvarez: No. I think I've said this before, I thought they were one of the better teams in the league a year ago. Most of their guys are back. The fact that their quarterback has really improved has made the difference because they had the weapons coming in. The running back's a nice player, the tight end, the receivers, that offensive line…I know Kirk (Ferentz) was very excited about the offensive line, the guys that he had returning. And then defensively they have a good nucleus coming back. And their kickers. They're really…Kirk told me the kicker was probably the best athlete on the team, best competitor on the team. So I'm not surprised at all. I knew they would be a good football team.
Do you expect Kirk Ferentz to get that program back to where it once was?
Alvarez: Yeah, I don't see any reason why not. Kirk's a good football coach, hired a good staff, they work hard in recruiting, so that doesn't surprise me.
Do you think it was harder or easier for him, having been on Hayden Fry's staff, to be successful there?
Alvarez: I think Kirk knew the lay of the land. When someone who's been on a staff before comes back, you don't need the time to learn the politics of the university or the state, understand the recruitment of the state, or recruitment of areas that are your primary recruiting areas. I think it's a very easy adjustment.
What feelings do you get going back to Iowa?
Alvarez: You know, I've been gone from Iowa a long time now. It's been 17 years since I've coached there. It's a Big Ten game, it's an important game, they're a good football team. They've always been physical games. Every year that we've played them since I've been here, they've been physical games. I can't say that it's the same way as it was when I first came here. I had just been out of there three years and we had so many Iowa ties with us. I'm not saying it's any more or less important but I've been gone from there an awful long time now.
Three times you've beaten them, Brooks Bollinger has had a lot of success against them. Is there any particular reason for the success he's had there? Were they focusing too much on the run?
Alvarez: That's athletics. I don't know how to answer that. Some days you're really sharp, like Brooks was very sharp the other day. It wasn't anything about their scheme. He was just sharp. Whether it's golf or anything else, that's why you play, to find out who's sharp that day, who's on and who's not. That's what it's all about. I don't have an answer. I don't know.
How important is the streak of 1,000-yard rushers here to you, as Anthony Davis is about to become the 10th-consecutive rusher to accomplish that?
Alvarez: I really don't pay much attention to that. That kind of goes along with, if we've got a 1,000-yard rusher, normally you're rushing the ball well. I'd like to be able to do that. But I really don't put a lot of emphasis on it.
Has the rotation with Dwayne Smith helped AD get more yards?
Alvarez: I think it's helped him stay fresh, and the fact we don't hesitate to go to Dwayne after a few runs. He had a long run the other day, and then two real tough, physical runs. We don't hesitate to pull him out and let him get his wind back. I know one time I pulled him out and he had something in his eye. Normally we would have just left him in there because we wouldn't have known. And another time I pulled him out and he was winded a little bit. I think just being fresh every time you go in, sure that makes a difference.
You talked a little bit about their kickers. But what about their special teams overall. Are they playing as well as anyone in the conference?
Alvarez: I think so. Yeah, their return guys are good. And they've been good. The last few years, they've had excellent…I forget the big, tall kid's name, who was a great returner for them the last few years. They're excellent. I don't know anybody that has a better one. I think they are leading the lead in about everything.
Why do you think it didn't work out here for Darrell Wilson?
Alvarez: I don't know.
Was that Ryan Aiello's best game?
Alvarez: Yeah, he played very well. I think he had 19 tackles. He was involved in 19 tackles, had a breakup. He played extremely well.
Barry Alvarez Verbatim
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