Notes: Every Day's A Gift

Barry Alvarez (Moebius/12)

Celebrating his 66th birthday Sunday, Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez has enjoyed every minute of preparing for No.8 Stanford and being around a team that has persevered through so much turmoil this year.

LOS ANGELES - Every day spent in California brings great memories to Barry Alvarez as he continues to prepare the Badgers for the 99th Rose Bowl game.

"This has been like a gift to be able to do this," Alvarez said during Sunday morning's press conference, "and on this stage is truly special."

While outsiders have tried to define Wisconsin's season by the five losses instead of the third straight conference championship, Alvarez says these players are more resilient than any group he has ever been around. Despite the bumps in the road, the Badgers – from coaching changes to overtime losses - have made the best of every opportunity that has been handed to them while still keeping their intensity.

"They've gone through an offensive line coaching change." Alvarez said. "They've lost three overtime games. They've lost two games where they've had a chance in the last possession to win, yet they came out the next week and played well. They lost their head coach.

"So, if you just look at how many losses we have, it's very misleading. I'm hoping Stanford's looking at that because we're a much better team, much better football team than a five loss team."

The Rose Bowl is familiar territory for Alvarez (having walked away victorious in 1994, 1999 and 2000) and says his approach to coaching will be the same as the last time he worked the sidelines.

"I'm the type of manager." Alvarez said. "I hire people. I give them and instruct them exactly what I want. I give them directions. I let them do their job. As an assistant coach, that's what I wanted. When Lou Holtz hired me as defensive coordinator, he let me run the defense. He would give me parameters to follow. I like that.

"So this is no different. I did that with my other coordinators or when I was coaching before. I told them what I wanted. They ran it, and I managed the game. It will be the same this time."

Alvarez also always tries to think like a football player. When he was a linebacker at Nebraska, Alvarez hated to waste time, considering how valuable a player's time is with respect to athletics and academics. With efficiency being his number one priority, Alvarez's shorter, crisper practices have been well received. "If we can get it done in an hour and 15 minutes or an hour and a half rather than two and a half hours, that's what I'd prefer to do," said Alvarez. "That's the way I practiced. That's the way I did it."

An example of efficiency happened Saturday. With rain in the forecast and Alvarez only planning a 45 minute practice with no pads, Wisconsin canceled practiced and have a walkthrough at the team's hotel. That suggestion was brought to Alvarez by Eddie Faulkner, the tight end coach who played in Alvarez's back-to-back Rose Bowl teams.

"Eddie said, ‘You know what, Coach, if I were a player, I would be praying for rain. I would hope that it rained so we didn't have to go all the way out there in practice. I would pray that we could just go down stairs and have a walkthrough.' I said, ‘Enough said. We're going to go downstairs, cancel the buses. We're going to have a walkthrough.'

"I felt Eddie was thinking like a player. That's how I normally try to think. What is best for them. Sometimes they need to be pushed. But in this case, our guys have done everything that we've asked them to do they needed a little break. They needed to get their legs back and get ready for the game because that's where they were."

That's why Alvarez's concerns Tuesday are minimal, only concerned about the tempo of the game and if the Badgers are ready for the speed that will come their way.

"I told them I want the (Indianapolis) team to show up." Alvarez said. "Bowl games are different. Most teams are different than the last game they've played. There's a month. There are a lot of ways that they can be distracted. There are a lot of thing that's can affect a team. I want the same team to play that played in Indianapolis, to play in the Rose Bowl. That's what I want to see. That's what concerns me. I don't worry about Stanford. I can't control Stanford, but I can control us."

Worried about Ball

When asked what his biggest concern was when the game starts, Stanford coach David Shaw mentioned Montee Ball's name by number.

One of three players nationally to earn consensus first-team All-America honors in each of the last two seasons, Ball has scored 82 career touchdowns, the most in NCAA FBS history, Ball has run for 1,730 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, averaging 133.1 yards per game. Ball is averaging a TD for every 11.8 carries in his career. For comparison, Ron Dayne averaged a touchdown every 17.2 carries.

Comparing Ball to his tailback, Stepfan Taylor, and having admiring him from afar, Shaw said he sought out Ball at last year's Heisman Trophy banquet to compliment him.

"I just wanted to say congratulations," Shaw said of the meeting. "We watched so much film, and I have so much respect for what he's done at Wisconsin the last few years, that we've always looked at their film and how they run the ball, and the different things that they do, and you always see no matter what they run, he's so patient.

"He's got great vision, great balance. He waits for the blocks and to happen and then he explodes. You never see him get in body position. He doesn't turn the ball over. He doesn't sacrifice the good play to try to make the big play. He makes the plays he's supposed to make and then makes more. So for me, he's just one of those complete running backs that we have a lot of respect for."

Prime Exposure

In his introductory press conference, head coach Gary Andersen said that he would do nothing to stand in the way of Wisconsin's opportunity to win the Rose Bowl, going as far as saying he will be a "fly on the wall" during his time in Los Angeles.

When asked about Andersen's role on game day, Alvarez was playing with the idea of putting Andersen on the sidelines for maximum national exposure.

"You can't pay for that publicity," Alvarez said. "I figure we'll get a few shots of him on the sideline, and that's invaluable in recruiting and selling the program, and selling himself."

Anderson and members of his new staff arrived to California on Friday and have been watching practices and are evaluating the current players. They are studying the roster and educating themselves on what they need in regards to next season, recruiting and the future.

"Gary has been very respectful of our team, our coaches, and does not want to be a distraction." Alvarez said. "Everyone certainly appreciates that."

Quotable

On how much a win would validate all the work and turmoil UW has been through

"It would really be a great life lesson for these players. I think they'd learn quite a bit about how to deal with things, how to deal with adversity, how to deal with situations and make something positive come out of it, especially after two tough losses. They could have won either game the last two years. They had opportunities to win, but couldn't close the deal. So I think it would be a tremendous lesson for them and very positive if they could win."

-Benjamin Worgull contributed to this report

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