Monday press conference: Barry Alvarez

Text and audio from UW football coach Barry Alvarez leading up to game at Minnesota this Saturday

Audio file 1 (5:07) –

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Barry, what's just your approach this week as far as rebuilding the confidence of your defensive players a little bit?

"Well, probably much like the same, as the first week against Bowling Green. You have to correct mistakes and just show where we had breakdowns. And a lot of it was communication. That's something that we'll have to correct. And you go back to fundamentals. You've got a totally different game plan this week and a different type of team that you're defending. But you always correct mistakes and then move forward."

Barry, when you say communication, is that players getting the signals in from the sidelines or is it players communicating amongst themselves or both?

"No. The signals from the sidelines are no problem. It's communicating when they change formations, strengths of formations two and three times, every time there's a change there's a different communication that comes out. You have some different people playing. Someone doesn't recognize what the formation is. They give a different call. Someone knows it's not supposed to be right or someone doesn't recognize it, a linebacker doesn't recognize a shift change to another formation, and then they get confused.

"And I think then we were scoring so fast, a lot of the times there wasn't a lot of time on the sidelines for the coaches to get enough conversation to know what the problem was before they were back on the field. So it's a number of things, but mainly player to player with changing of formation and strengths and that type of thing. There was never a problem signaling defenses in from the sideline."

Could you expand then this week on the difference in preparation going against Minnesota and what that entails?

"Well, last week is, their (Northwestern's) premise is to spread you out, try to isolate you on your field, try to get as many people out of the box as possible to establish their running game. This week you're going to see a lot of two tight end sets, two wides, but they'll throw out of it, but they're primarily a run team and it's a zone running team. It's going to be a very physical game, a game where you're going to have to take on linemen and stop very outstanding backs and then still respect the throw. Where last week was you're spread all over the field, this is a little more conventional."

Barry, when you lost your first game last year to Michigan State, you gave up a lot of points. I think it could be said it kind of took the wind out of your sails and you never really got your edge back. Is there any concern that could happen this year?

"Well, you're always concerned every week about that, but I don't think we're the same team. We only had one game left and didn't have much of an offense. Our defense didn't play that bad against Iowa. We just didn't have much of an offense. We didn't have much of a running game. And so I can't say it was because we lost, or gave up yardage or gave up points against Michigan State that we didn't win the next game. We just didn't have much to, we just didn't have much to go to offensively."

You mentioned at the top that the preparation in terms of restoring confidence is going to be similar to what you guys did after Bowling Green. What were some of the signs you saw that second week that led you to believe, okay, we're going to give a better effort this time around?

"Let's get something clear now. I didn't say anything about effort. I didn't say anything about lack of effort. I just see a group of guys that just want to do what they're supposed to do and guys that are willing to do what the coaches are doing and get another week of preparation, maybe learn some things from a first game. That first game, there were a lot of guys playing in their first game. We still have a number of relatively new guys.

"I think for five games the communication and how they manage themselves and change during a game has been pretty good. That wasn't the case, and why, I don't know. There's probably a number of factors. But they're willing souls. They want to do what's right, and you've watched us practice. Our guys are going to coach them hard and try to get them in position to be as effective as they can be."

Audio file 2 (4:53) –

Could you maybe compare and contrast your running game a little bit with Minnesota's, and why have they been so good over the years?

"You know, we're similar… I can't put my finger on it, but I'll tell you, they run the zone scheme. They really do a good job with their linemen, very, very athletic linemen, guys that get out on the edge and throw. They're down around your ankles. They're going to chop you.

"I remember when the center and guard were true freshmen. They probably weren't 240 pounds by the end of the year, yet they were very effective because they were down around your ankles. They didn't have to be big. They didn't have to be guys that go up there and block you in the chest. You know, that's four years of starting and improving and just the experience they've had.

"This, I think, by far is the best offensive line that we'll see. But, a couple of the plays, a couple of the things we do are similar, but I would say a couple of the running plays being similar, that their philosophy is different than ours."

You even mentioned the (Paul Bunyan) Axe after Saturday's game because it's such a big deal. Not every trophy has been a big deal, like Floyd's slab of bacon never quite made it, right? Why is the Axe in that position?

"Well, because we've put it in that position. I think it's important. I think it's a tradition. It's one of the longest ongoing rivalries in college football. I like to make it a big deal because I think our kids should appreciate college football and what it means and what it stands for and what this game means and all the people that have played in it.

"You know, they'll get the history lesson from (offensive line coach Jim Hueber) today when we give the scouting report. I've just decided that that's important, and I want the guys to know about it and we make it an important game, and make the Axe important."

Barry, did you have anything in your past that made you appreciate that or kind of make that important to this team?

"No. Never even played for an old coal bucket. No, at Nebraska we didn't play for anything like that. That's the first time I've ever been involved. Well, when I was at Iowa, they had, Floyd Rosedale wasn't quite as, that kind of goes along with the slab of bacon. You know, you played, it was important, but I don't think there was a lot made of it. I just feel like (the Axe) is a pretty special deal."

Three weeks to go in the Big Ten season, you only have one undefeated team and it's Penn State. You probably could have made some money if you'd gone to Vegas. The way the Big Ten standings look right now, what do you make of the league so far?

"Well, it tells me that the league is very strong. I did an interview this morning. As I mentioned to someone, if you looked at your preseason magazines and how all the prognosticators predicted the season would go, you had four teams in our league I believe ranked in the top 12, 15 at least, three in the top 10.

"I think Ohio State's the only one that's still rated, but there are still, there are four other teams, four teams, Minnesota, us, Penn State in the top 10 now. Ohio State is still rated, and so some of those teams aren't even in the mix. So that tells you that there are a number of quality teams in there.

"You know, teams like Michigan are not in the ratings, and Purdue is an excellent football team, and Iowa is a very good football team. And that doesn't mean they won't be there when the season's over, but midway through the season it just tells you that there's pretty good strength out there and you'd better be ready to play in our league."

Could you talk about (Laurence) Maroney a little bit, and maybe even beyond that, where he stacks up against some of the great Big Ten backs that you've seen?

"The thing that's impressive with him is he can run for power and how many homeruns he hits. Brian Calhoun is I think an excellent running back, very special. I think he had his longest run the other day of 40-some yards. Maroney every week has, it seems like he has big plays, 80-yard runs, 90-yard runs, 50-yard runs. You know, he hits homeruns a lot, and that's very impressive for a guy that's his size and runs with the power that he has."

Audio file 3 (5:16) –

Barry, if I remember correctly, I think on your radio show last week you were talking about that Jonathan Casillas would have contributed more had he not gotten hurt early in the summer. And I know on the depth chart you guys have him listed as a No. 2 Sam (strongside linebacker) now. What might he be able to give you from this point on the rest of the season?

"When he came back from that injury, which is probably about the middle of two-a-days, we started him at safety. And he just couldn't get enough reps to really get involved, although we wanted to use him on special teams, which we are.

"Then because Bret (Bielema) needed him, (we) wanted to start working with him at Sam and now with an injury to Casey (Hogan), we thought we would move him up. The more reps he gets, the more familiar he gets with the position. But I think he brings speed there. He's very mature for a true freshman. And we just think that as we get into the season further that he can help."

Coach, you talked earlier about Maroney running with a lot of power. (Tyrell) Sutton ran with a lot of power on Saturday. Is there anything that the run defense can take away from their struggles to stop him, that can be used to contain Maroney?

"Yeah, they're really two different schemes, two different running schemes. But the one thing that you have to take away from, or take away from that last game that would help is just playing and trusting our techniques and playing your responsibility, just being sound in what we do and normally you make people earn what they get. And when you abandon your techniques and you have some people going on their own, then the defense breaks down."

Barry, on the list of things that you'll miss when you're done coaching, where do these press conferences fall?

"Well, I just won't have a Monday afternoon that's the same without having one of these."

Do you look forward to them? Do you dread them?

"I don't dread them and I don't look forward to them. It's just something that I have to do."

Is it easier, harder this week after what happened last week? Is it all just the same regardless of the outcome from the previous week?

"You know what, I just feel like I have enough confidence in myself. If I were a young coach trying to prove myself after a tough loss, you come in and it's really hard because you don't want to talk about it anyhow and you want to move forward, and then you have to rehash the game. Or even if you win a big game, you want to get over the big game, like we were in here talking a few weeks ago about the Michigan game and we're trying to get ready for Indiana. It's hard. But I guess I've been doing it long enough, you just do it."

Do you put a lot of thought into this or do you just fly off the cuff?

"No. I just walk in here. I've been in meetings all morning. I didn't put one minute of thought in it. Because if I can't answer these questions, I mean, who can. You know, I think I have a pulse of what's going on."

Barry, when you go to smaller, athletic linebackers, do you lose a little physically in the run defense, or is it too simple to say that?

"It's too simple to say that. You can hide linebackers. If it's an old power game or isolation game where the linebacker's always responsible to take on the fullback, and in our league, you've got guys like we have that are 250, 260 and you have to go in and collision them and they're both running from 5-yard starts and you're a 200-pounder, then it's tough on you.

"But any more, you can protect your linebackers, and the most important thing is, is just being able to get to the ball and just being able to get to the point where you can make some plays. I think Dontez answered that. And the way our game is evolving it's more about making plays in space."

Barry, you said, one of the things you said after the game was you were curious to see the holding call on (Joe) Thomas, the tape of that. What did you see when you looked at the tape?

"I saw the same thing that I saw during the game."

Which was?

"There wasn't a hold."

Barry, what can you tell us about Casey Hogan and, you know, maybe the long-term future after this injury?

"It does not have to be operated on. It does not have to have an operation. They're going to put him in a cast up to his hip for a few weeks and then go to a cast probably just below his knee. I think they feel like that it'll heal and then just move forward and see where he is. But it was a clean break, both bones."

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