Obviously I'm very pleased with the victory. I'm very proud of how our football team battled. We made it a big game, put a lot of emphasis on it and I thought we responded. We knew that it would be that type of game. Every game we've had with Minnesota has been a four-quarter game. It's been a game to see who can hang in the longest. We made plays down the stretch. We did what we had to do. I really like the way our offense answered. We went into the game offensively saying that we'd have to ride Anthony (Davis) and Brooks (Bollinger) and use them both to run the football, and I really thought Brooks competed very hard and competed well. The game was very important for him, and Anthony's numbers speak for themselves. And how can you not talk, when you talk about that team without mentioning Jimmy Leonhard? He broke two school records today, punt return and interception record and that one in the end zone may have been as good a one I've seen maybe ever. But I'm very pleased, pleased for our team and happy we're bowl-eligible and it appears as though we'll get a good bowl game and I'm happy for our guys about that.
What is the atmosphere like in the locker room?
Alvarez: Oh, kids are ecstatic. I mean, it was an important game for them. They had a little fun, and they had fun with the Axe and we talked about that. That's part of college football, enjoying the celebration of a victory and enjoying the Axe with their teammates and then coming down, having a little fun in the locker room and then going out and enjoying the Fifth Quarter. The guys were really excited.
Could you have asked for a better scenario, facing a team that is so susceptible to the run?
Alvarez: Well I like facing one that is susceptible to the pass too.
Does this win help ease the pain of losing last week?
Alvarez: Well right now I feel good about this win. As a coach, you try to put aside everything. You concentrate so hard on this game. We really put a lot into this game. From last Saturday, immediately after that Michigan game I tried to get our guys' attention on this game. I've learned in this business, when you have a win, you enjoy it and savor it, and we're going to do this. I'm not satisfied with how the season went, but knowing we're going to get to a bowl game and our guys held together and it's a young football team. I think we have so many young guys who have played and are going to be around here for a lot of years, I just think it's good.
Aside from the bowl game itself, how significant is the extra 4-5 weeks of practice you're going to get out of this?
Alvarez: The bowl game is big for the program, just to allow you to develop and get some more time to work on fundamentals with young players. We can scrimmage young guys. We have some good scout teams and a lot of guys we have redshirted, some walk-ons that I want to see. It gives us a chance to work with them now. So I just think it's huge for the future when you can do that.
With one more chapter left to write, what would you say is the legacy of this senior class right now?
Alvarez: This senior class, they've gone, the fifth-year guys have played bowl games four of the five years, they've been part of championships. But I think more than anything else, they try to teach, with the small number that we have, I really think they try to show our young players about the tradition of our program, what our program was all about, how we built it. And no better way than to finish up today winning how we won in the past. How many yards did we have rushing? (416) I just think they've given a legacy. They've taught the young guys and that's important.
You said this game was important to Brooks. How did that show itself both in the game today and earlier this week?
Alvarez: Well he was really into it. He had a bounce in his step. He talked to the guys…I'd talk to the kids after practice every day and Brooks would have something to say. And last night I gave them an opportunity to, after I spoke to them, I told them we were playing for a number of things, but the thing that was most important to me was, I wanted to win this for the seniors. Because I think it's a great group even though it's a small group. I didn't want this to be their last game. I wanted them to have a chance to play in a bowl game. Then (I) gave them a chance to talk. Brooks gave a very emotional talk. He broke down crying a couple of times. It took him a long time to say it because he was breaking down. So it was really meaningful, but he got across how important it was to him, and how important it was for the program.
How did he play today?
Alvarez: I thought he competed hard today boy. I really thought he played extremely hard. And on the sideline doing the same thing, running up and down the sidelines trying to help the defense. He tried to do everything he could.
After Jonathan Orr couldn't come up with that one in the end zone last week, how about that grab he had today?
Alvarez: I thought that was a great catch he made late in the game. We didn't throw many throws but I thought that was tremendous concentration. It was a big play because we needed to answer. And Brandon (Williams) had a good catch also.
Can you talk about your decision to go for a touchdown at the end of the first half instead of kicking a field goal?
Alvarez: Well we had two shots. We weren't slowing them down. I thought they were going to move the ball some more and I wanted a touchdown. So we thought with third down, I thought we would get it in with the sneak. We didn't get it in with the sneak, so I just made a decision we were going to do the same thing in the fourth quarter. If we didn't score on third down, we were going to go again. We had enough time to throw, if there's nothing there, throw it away, then we'll run it again. We had the plays called and everything. I just thought we would need a touchdown instead of a field goal, looking down the road.
Can you talk about the two blocked punts? Special teams was a big focus coming in.
Alvarez: Well they've blocked some punts. We put extra emphasis on it this week, and he flat ran over one of our guys who hasn't had a problem all year. He beat him twice, (David Braun) just absolutely could not handle him. I guess we punted one other time and we ended up shuffling some people around. We put Russ Kuhns in there, told him, `Bite him in the ankles. Do whatever you have to do. Fight the guy. Don't let him get to the punter.'
Was it nice to have Jeff Mack back out there?
Alvarez: Yeah it was. You know what? He gives a little substance to the defense. I think he brings a little security to the defense. I think the guys feel comfortable with him out there. He can direct traffic a little bit. It was really good to get Jeff back.
How would you evaluate your performance on defense?
Alvarez: I didn't think we played real well on defense. I thought the run defense was pretty good. I just thought we didn't play the ball in the secondary. I didn't think we were very good in the secondary. But our run defense…because they can run the football. They have run the football, they have good backs and I thought we did okay against the run but we didn't play the ball very well.
You've seen some great running back performances by Ron Dayne. How does AD's performance stack up with those?
Alvarez: Today it looks better than all of them. We've had some good performances. There aren't many 300-yard games. But he got some tough yardage too. You pad them with that long one at the end, but he got some tough yardage and ran through some…he had a lot of yards after contact.
When do you feel you will hear on a bowl game?
Alvarez: I have a feeling maybe next week. I think something has to happen where it has to be assured that Ohio State is in the BCS Championship game. Then the Rose Bowl can make it's selection and hopefully it takes Iowa. Then it's a pecking order before it's official. I just don't know when that will happen, but I have a feeling next week. I hope so.
Do you like your chances for the Alamo Bowl?
Alvarez: Yeah, I think they're very interested. They've indicated that. Their director was here at the game and I had a chance to visit with him yesterday. I think they'd like to have us. I think our chances will be good.
Lots of people jumped back on the bandwagon today, didn't they?
Alvarez: I don't know. It was fun today. It was a fun football game. Tough on old coaches, but it was a good game for the fans, especially when you win. You get a chance to watch players celebrate and have fun afterwards. That was neat. Neat to see.
Can you talk about the numbers that Jim Leonhard has put up this season?
Alvarez: Unbelievable, what Jim Leonhard has done. How he competes, how he makes plays. You know, the guy's not even on scholarship, and he's broken two school records today. It's unbelievable. What he's accomplished…I told him, we're going to give him a scholarship now.
Do you foresee Leonhard becoming a Bollinger-type leader?
Alvarez: I don't think he's as vocal as Brooks. He's not the same personality as Brooks, but I think he will lead by example.
Did you expect Brooks to run so much today, or was that by design?
Alvarez: That was by design. We went in saying those two guys, we were going to ride he and Anthony.
What about their defense allowed you to do that?
Alvarez: I thought it gave us our best chances. That's what we do best. Not so much what they didn't do. That's just what we felt we do best, and changing things up, we were going to do it.
What happened to, and what's the status of Alex Lewis?
Alvarez: Alex has a hip-pointer. Status? He should be fine right after Thanksgiving.
What's your analysis of the season as a whole at this point?
Alvarez: Let me just…I would say there were a few ups and downs. I feel real good about today, and I'm going to savor today. You know, let me enjoy this game. I'm excited about having the opportunity to coach this team in another game and I would have liked to have had our record better. We did a lot of good things. I'm really disappointed we couldn't close some games against some top 10 teams, making plays down the stretch. Actually a couple of games we just didn't play very well. Those are the ones that disappoint me, the ones where we felt we should have won and didn't. It always disappoints me when you have a chance to beat a team that right now, is going to be in the championship game, have a chance.
Is this a good team right now? Do you feel good about your future?
Alvarez: I feel good about our future because this team is made up of all young players, and a lot of them were thrown under fire. You look at a guy like Lamarr Watkins who is a true freshman. I think right before he leaves here, if he keeps progressing, he has a chance to be a great player. He's learning under fire. Same thing with a number of the guys, some of the freshmen receivers and so on and so forth. One thing we're going to have to do. Somehow we're going to have to correct our kicking game, our kickers more than the kicking game, but the kickers have got to improve. So we're a good enough team to get to a bowl game. I'm happy about that and excited about playing another game with these guys, happy for our players that they're going to have that experience. Like I said the other day, if you've never experienced a bowl game, it's special for the athletes. They'll talk about it for the rest of their lives, because some community will open their arms and really make them feel special. It's just a fun time for them, and then we'll get a chance to play and as far as I'm concerned it just helps our program.
Minnesota Postgame: Barry Alvarez Verbatim
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