Monday Press Conference: Barry Alvarez Verbatim

Here is every single word of today's newsworthy Barry Alvarez Press Conference. Alvarez breaks the news of Lee Evans having another surgery, setting him back approximately six months, talks about the Rob Tucker incident and the upcoming Minnesota game, which Alvarez said is bigger than a bowl game.

Let me first give you an update on Lee (Evans') knee. He's had three different opinions to address the continued swelling he's had in the knee, and the consensus was that he would have to have the knee and the surgery redone. So Dr. Ben Graf will redo the surgery this Friday at UW Hospital. As you would expect, Lee is very disappointed, yet one thing about him, he's not discouraged. I'm sure he'll fight and battle through this surgery, rehab through this surgery just as he did the last one. I know there's a guarded optimism about a total recovery of the knee. I guess your first question would be, will he come back? And that's probably the last thing on our minds right now. Most importantly that the surgery is done well and that he has full recovery. We'll support him the best we can, and hope he can battle back and have that thing totally recovered, and I think that's general consensus, that he could have the same type of recovery and get it back to 100 percent. So he and his family, after the surgery we'll decide what he'll do, what his future will be, whether he'll come back or not.

Is there a feeling that he might have re-injured his knee during the recovery? Or was the surgery not successful?

Alvarez: No, I don't think he re-injured it. I just think there were some things that were causing the swelling that were not going to be…that they thought with some rest were maybe going to settle down, yet that's why he went to so many…he went to three different people for their opinions, and the consensus was that was not going to improve. That he would continue to have swelling and some irritation there, he had to re-do it again.

Did he try to come back too fast?

Alvarez: I don't think that had anything to do with it. I think the doctors can tell you, but he went through, he followed the doctor's orders as far as the rehab. He didn't get ahead of anyone else, he was never hit or anything. He rehabbed that. I think he had his full strength back within a month. So I don't think that had anything to do with it. There was some abrasion there, and I don't want to get into it because I don't feel like I'm an authority enough to talk about it.

Do you have an idea of the timetable on his recovery?

Alvarez: I think it's the same timeframe as his original one, approximately six months. Let me make it perfectly clear, we would welcome him back with open arms.

On a separate matter, you suspended Rob Tucker. He faces criminal accusations. Al Johnson also faces a criminal accusation of repeat drunk driving. What's the difference between the two situations?

Alvarez: I'm not going to get into the individual situations. I made my decision. I made my statement. We as a staff spend a lot of time talking with our players and we have made a re-emphasis of doing that and I felt it was necessary that I make it public that Rob Tucker was suspended from the team. I'm not going to get into each individual situation, discuss why I made my decision.

A couple of weeks ago you pointed out you have about 120 players to deal with. There's going to be incidents in the general population and the football population. With the situation with Tucker, does that change your sense of things at all?

Alvarez: No it doesn't.

Can you talk about this senior class and what it's been through in its time here?

Alvarez: I think even though it's a very small class, I think they've given us as much leadership as they possibly can. Some of them were directly involved with the Rose Bowl, been on the field with the Rose Bowl. The fifth-year guys have participated in that event twice. They understand the program. I think they've tried to talk about what the program is all about to our younger players. I think this is really, other than the size, been a very good class. You'd like for it to be a bigger class and have the quality of some of the guys we have, but unfortunately we don't.

Do you think the message has gotten through to the other guys, or won't you know that for another couple of years?

Alvarez: I think that will be answered in the future, yet I think it's important that they understand the history, and what's been accomplished here and how we've accomplished it. But I think that will be answered later.

Is that always one of the seniors' biggest roles, to pass on that legacy?

Alvarez: Yes. Absolutely.

You're essentially in a playoff game Saturday. Will you use that this week?

Alvarez: There are just so many things that ride on this game. You talk about a winning season, you talk about the Axe, the longest ongoing rivalry in college football history. You talk about the seniors' last game at Camp Randall, you talk about qualifying for a bowl game. Just so many things that ride on it. It is a playoff game. It's a one-game playoff game, and all those things are there. It's nice to be…we've been in positions years ago where the last game didn't mean anything, so it's nice to be this deep into the season, you're playing for something and it's meaningful to everybody, even more meaningful to some of them.

Getting back to Lee, have you ever coached a player that's gone through a situation like this? Deciding to come back, getting injured, rehabbing and then having to do it all over again?

Alvarez: The only one I think I was involved with like that was Michael Stonebraker. As I think back, Michael had a bad car accident after the '88 season, could have gone out. It was the same type thing. It was a knee. I don't remember all of those situations, but it was similar. He could have gone out, chose to come back.

How will you go about giving advice to Lee on this decision?

Alvarez: I think it will all lay out. I think the most important thing right now is to have the surgery. Have a successful surgery, let him rehabilitate and then take a look at everything at that time, see where he is at the time.

Are you optimistic this second surgery will clear up whatever was the problem the first time?

Alvarez: All I can tell you is the doctors are optimistic, yes.

In 1997, can you talk about how valuable that experience was for a young team, to go to the Outback Bowl, which set the stage for the two Rose Bowls?

Alvarez: Just that experience, going to a bowl game…and I always think back, that was one of those years, we won a lot of games in the last minute of the game to qualify for a January 1 bowl game. Then for those guys to experience that…we played a good team. That Georgia team probably had as good personnel as anyone in the country, and we were beaten soundly, yet I really felt that laid a foundation for us for the next two years and even longer than that with (Jamar) Fletcher, (Mike) Echols and all those guys, the offensive line. I just think they learned. If you learn a little bit…the more you experience, the better it is in the future, and I think it paid off in the future. It paid off the next few years with Rose Bowl wins.

Would a bowl this year have a similar effect?

Alvarez: I don't think there's any question. I think a bowl where guys know the experience, go through it, you're living someplace away from home for a week, you have to be able to mingle with your opponent…I just think all of that is good, and it only pays dividends.

Reading between the lines, you're almost saying the Minnesota game is bigger than any bowl game you could get into.

Alvarez: I'd say that's probably right, right now. It gives you an opportunity to play in that bowl game. Bowl games are important. I think they're more of a reward, but I think this game is more important than a bowl game, absolutely.

You have more to lose in this game than you would in a bowl game.

Alvarez: That's correct.

What are some of the factors for these bowls to select teams? It's not just the overall record, right?

Alvarez: I've said this before, I think you take a package. You take a team, you take…your fans are very important, the band is important, you take your name and the draw that your name has. You look at these different bowls, they are communities that open their arms to welcome teams from around the country to come in. It's a tremendous experience. You've heard me say, there are no bad bowls. I've never been to one, I've never heard of one. There may be some that are cold that day, cold that week, maybe not the prettiest places in the world, yet every one of them makes the players feel special. There isn't a player that's played in bowl games that doesn't relish those experiences the rest of their lives. So they may not be that big a deal to some people, you may not be interested in what's going on in this bowl or that bowl, but it's huge for the people that play in it. And it's huge for the people that are putting it on. I forget what your question was. I got rambling a little bit. I'm getting a little bit like (Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan).

Do you think Wisconsin presents an attractive package at 7-6?

Alvarez: I think we are. Let me just say this – I think the bowls think so.

Saturday you didn't get a lot of passing yardage. Are your receivers still learning how to break off press coverage and find spots in the secondary? Were they not open as often as you would like them to be?

Alvarez: That's part of it, and their secondary probably had a lot to do with it too. And I said that beforehand. I was concerned about their secondary. That's a big, physical group, very talented, and we didn't get any mileage out of our passing game, and that hurt us in that game. You come from 14 (points) back five minutes into the game on the road, really cold, ugly day against a very good team like that, have all the momentum just prior to the half, have the ball twice in your hands in the end zone in the first half, miss a chip shot field goal, we're giving up points. You rush 200 yards against that team which is pretty hard to do, establish a pretty good running game, but still didn't get anything out of the passing game. That hurt us severely in that game.

Did you have a chance to see Jonathan Orr's would-be touchdown in the endzone on film?

Alvarez: I just watched it again. Pat Richter and Matt (Lepay) stopped up there. We pulled out the thing and looked at it, and the official was pointing that he was out of bounds. He was six feet inbounds. The ball stayed on his body a long time, but the official was pointing out of bounds. And it looked like the ball rolled out. But I'm just telling you what…I asked the referee, "Did he catch the ball? Was the ball stripped? What happened?" He came back and said he was out of bounds.

Do you think he was interfered with?

Alvarez: Yes.

Did the guy pull down his arm?

Alvarez: The guy didn't play the ball. He hit him on the hip and had his arm before the ball got there. That's clear to see. What do you think of Minnesota?

Alvarez: I think Minnesota is a good football team. Unfortunately, they've played three top 10 teams in the last three games. But they're a young team that's talented. The quarterback presents a lot of problems, they have two very good tailbacks, they have a young offensive line that's very effective. They know their scheme real well, and other than these last three games have been able to run the ball against everyone and move the ball against everyone. Defensively, again, up until these last three games they've been very effective. I think, if I'm not mistaken, they were one of the leading defenses in the country up until the time they played those three top 10 opponents. So I think they are a very good team.

Is Scott Campbell 100 percent healthy?

Alvarez: He's had a hip flexor that's been bothering him. That would explain why…I'm not making excuses. He had a hip flexor that bothered him last week. I hope he can kick this week.

You have just 11 receptions from your tight ends this year. Has that been a big factor in the lack of productivity offensively?

Alvarez: Yeah. They haven't been a factor. That's something, when (Bob) Docherty was healthy early, when we had (Mark) Anelli and some people, there are some things you can do there for your intermediate (passing game). Intermediate routes, intermediate third-down situations where you can pick up first downs and we haven't been able to go to that. That has been a factor.

What do you think about your defense against the run, both generally and in the last two games?

Alvarez: Other than that last long one, we were trying to strip the ball on that last long run, I thought they did a pretty good job. And I thought they did a pretty good job against Illinois. I thought this past week, other than that one long run, we contained the run pretty well.

What about over the course of the year? Has that been a big strength?

Alvarez: I think we've been solid. I think we've been a lot better, but I think we've been solid against the run. I wouldn't say…we've done a lot better than that.

Is there any different feeling trying to get the Axe back, as opposed to defending it?

Alvarez: I think, our seniors have never had to run across the field to get it, and they've never been involved where Minnesota took it from them. So yeah, I think there is a little different feeling here. It's important. I think the Axe is important. It's a part of college football, it's a part of history, it's a part of tradition, and we'll try to make the kids all aware of it.

Has confidence been the biggest boost in B.J. Tucker's improvement this year?

Alvarez: I think confidence is a factor at that position because if you don't have confidence, you don't have a chance, and I can't say that he's had a lot of confidence up until this season. I think technique is also a factor. He's playing pretty good technique also.

What made the biggest difference with him, was it Ron Cooper?

Alvarez: Well I think Ron's approach, and then having success early always has something to do with that. I think Ron has pounded in his head as a defensive back you better have amnesia. If somebody beats you, you better forget about it quickly and move on and play.

Are you proud of the senior year he's had because of the trying times he's had?

Alvarez: Yes, because B.J.'s a good young man, he's been a good program guy and it's good to see him finish up with a good, solid senior year.

You've talked about all the of the emotions going into this game. Is that your job as coaches to try to bring those out?

Alvarez: I think you have to be careful not to make it bigger than life, yet you have to make players understand that it is important and there are a lot of things that they're playing for. I think it's always good when you make games special. It allows them to really focus on the game, and hopefully we play well.

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