tom oates

Tom Oates: Not even Alvarez's magic can hide Badgers' shortcomings

rose bowl | No. 8 stanford 20, badgers 14
2013-01-02T10:45:00Z 2013-07-17T17:22:22Z Tom Oates: Not even Alvarez's magic can hide Badgers' shortcomingsTOM OATES | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6172

PASADENA, Calif. — It was the perfect scenario for the most perfect setting in college football: Barry Alvarez coaching an underdog team against a highly ranked opponent in the Rose Bowl.

Alvarez constructed a coaching legend out of that exact situation, leading upstart University of Wisconsin teams to three victories in three trips to the Rose Bowl in the 1990s.

So when he came down from the athletic director’s office to replace the fleeing Bret Bielema as coach of the unranked Badgers against eighth-ranked Stanford in the Rose Bowl on Tuesday, there was an overwhelming sense of optimism among Badgers players and fans. Most thought Alvarez would be just what UW needed to win a Rose Bowl after losing the last two, and finally win a close game after dropping five of them this season.

“It was a perfect storm,” UW guard Ryan Groy said. “We got super hyped-up before the game. It was exactly what we thought it would be.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t end exactly how they thought it would end. Not even the presence of Alvarez, the undisputed king of the Rose Bowl, could mask the deficiencies that plagued UW this season. Despite the energy Alvarez brought to the locker room and the sense of confidence he engendered on the sideline, the Badgers were the same team they had been all year.

In a game that was similar to so many others in this turbulent and disappointing season, UW dropped a 20-14 decision to Stanford. The Badgers fell behind early, then battled their way back to make a game of it only to be betrayed by a lack of firepower on offense.

“He provided that spark we needed,” tailback Melvin Gordon said of Alvarez, the winningest coach in program history, whose all-time mark fell to 118-74-4. “He had us so hyped; he had us so ready to go. He means everything to this team, with how great of a coach he is. He did everything right. We still had faith we could get it done. We just came up short.”

Just like they had so many times this season. The Badgers finished with an unsightly 8-6 record, with those six losses coming by a total of 25 points. They were 2-6 in games decided by seven points or less. Stanford, on the other hand, was 8-2 in such games and 12-2 overall.

Despite their records, the difference between the two teams on the field was negligible. As usual, the Badgers were physical and resilient. And as usual, they had too many limitations on offense — especially in the passing game — to beat a good team.

If anyone thought Alvarez was going to wave a magic wand and give quarterback Curt Phillips experience or suddenly develop a second wide receiving threat to pair with Jared Abbrederis, they were fooling themselves. The Badgers were plagued all season by inexperience at those positions, along with some spots on the offensive line. It cost them again in the Rose Bowl, even with Alvarez calling the shots.

“Bringing him in is not going to change the team,” Groy said. “It’ll get us hyped up and get us excited and motivate us, and that’s what we did. We played well. It’s not like we absolutely came out and just got demolished. But you can’t change personnel. You can’t change that much having a new coach.”

Alvarez was justifiably proud of the Badgers for battling back from a 14-0 deficit and giving themselves a chance to win at the end. That was reminiscent of the previous teams Alvarez brought to the Rose Bowl — with one exception. This one didn’t win.

Phillips had been outstanding in running 2-minute drills at the conclusion of games against Ohio State, Penn State and just before the half against Stanford, but not this time. He threw a tipped-ball interception with 2 minutes, 3 seconds to play and the Badgers near midfield that pretty much ended UW’s chances.

“Every game we had out here was very competitive,” said Alvarez, who won each of his three previous Rose Bowls by eight points or less. “We were fortunate to come out on top in my games. This game, the only thing that’s different than the other teams I coached was somehow we found a way to win, and we weren’t fortunate enough to get a win today.”

The Badgers haven’t found ways to win all season. Good teams have been able to stymie UW’s running game and dare the Badgers to beat them with the pass. That’s what Stanford did in the second half, and UW couldn’t find an answer.

Some will wonder why UW couldn’t ring up 70 points like it did in the Big Ten title game against Nebraska. But this wasn’t a matter of going conservative on offense, this was a matter of being exposed by a great defense. Unlike Nebraska, Stanford’s defense is ranked in the top five nationally.

To their credit, the Badgers never panicked. But they didn’t make the big plays needed to win a close game, either.

“I guess we kind of just fell short,” safety Shelton Johnson said. “This is a great team. Anybody that watched our film can see that. We’re resilient; we fight ’til the end. But it just seems like we just came up a little bit short each time this year.”

Not even Alvarez, a Rose Bowl miracle worker in the past, could change that.

Contact Tom Oates at or 608-252-6172.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(30) Comments

  1. baseballguy
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    baseballguy - January 03, 2013 10:49 am
    If Stave is the QB of the future then Wisconsin football will not be very good! All he can do is hand off and throw the ball deep!
  2. Oscar
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    Oscar - January 03, 2013 12:25 am
    Why is Tom Oates such a constant cheerleader? He was one of the biggest defenders of bielema. Resign!
  3. saveme
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    saveme - January 02, 2013 11:19 pm
    I'd put this on the coaching staff. Almost all are moving on other places after the game and they couldn't show an ounce of creativity?
  4. natcheztrace
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    natcheztrace - January 02, 2013 5:35 pm
    Best post ever on the Badgers and those who cover them on this site. The last and only writer who ever dared to criticize St. Barry was the late great Vic Feuerherd, who was relieved of his duties covering UW football and eventually let go by the WSJ.
  5. Big_Joe
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    Big_Joe - January 02, 2013 5:11 pm
    yeah, you would have coached the team for HALF that amount.
  6. Big_Joe
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    Big_Joe - January 02, 2013 5:08 pm
    A very competitive game by a team with some obvious shortcomings. If only Barry had listened to all the experts on this forum the Badgers would have killed 'em. Barry and Bielema should both be fired for not producing a national championship instead of a lousy 5 or 6 Rose Bowl appearances.
  7. seamus
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    seamus - January 02, 2013 4:54 pm
    This article is mis-titled. It should read: "Not even Badger's extraordinary efforts can hid Alvarez's coaching deficiencies".
  8. Maui Jim
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    Maui Jim - January 02, 2013 4:51 pm
    And what indication have you seen that an Alvarez/Anderson football team will do anything other than what they've been doing since Alvarez got here.....RUN THE BALL FIRST...pass when neccessary.
  9. badgerfan1
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    badgerfan1 - January 02, 2013 4:29 pm
    It is incredible to watch a team in this day and age continually try to run the ball into a defense that is loaded against just that. I realise they really did not have a QB that was efficient or for that matter competent at that level to throw the ball, but even more disturbing is the lack of decent receivers. Once you got beyond Abederis (who unfortunately dropped a crucial pass) the well is really empty. Stave definitely should have been given a few series in the second half although I definitely do not like splitting the QB position. Phillips just could not get the job done--no zip on the ball and he telegraphs all his throws with a real slow release--ugh. So gladly the Bielema-Canada year is over and hopefully Andersen will recruit the talent and the coaches for a more balanced and effective offense.
  10. sammygadoodlinski
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    sammygadoodlinski - January 02, 2013 4:18 pm
    Tom Oates has his head so far up Barry's patoot that he can't see facts. Let's take a look at some of his statements...

    Oates: "Alvarez constructed a coaching legend out of that exact situation, leading upstart University of Wisconsin teams to three victories in three trips to the Rose Bowl in the 1990s."
    FACT: The Badger teams Alvarez coached to Rose Bowl victories were hardly upstarts and it took no "miracles" for those teams to win. In 1994 the 9th ranked Badgers defeated 14th ranked UCLA by a narrow margin (5). In 1999 the 9th ranked Badgers defeated 6th ranked UCLA by a narrow margin (7). In 2000 the 4th ranked Badgers defeated 22nd ranked Stanford by a narrow margin (8). In '94 and '2000 the Badgers were clearly the superior team. In 1999, they pulled a slight upset over a highly touted, but disappointing Bruins team.

    Oates: Alvarez, the undisputed king of the Rose Bowl
    Two of those years '94 and '99 the Badgers wen to the Rose Bowl on the "most recent" visit rule, having tied for the Big 10 championship. The 1999 an 2000 the Badgers were the Ron Dayne teams, who won the game MVP each year. Alvarez coached for 16 seasons and took the Badgers to the Rose Bowl 3 times. The undisputed Rose Bowl King? He did represent the Big10 about as well as anyone in the 1990s, but I think there are many other coaches who would lay claim to that title... mostly coaches from USC.

    The tenor of the article implies that the Badgers were left in disrepair after the incompetent Bielema bolted for, leaving Alvarez a mess to clean up. That couldn't be less true. Bielema's teams won more, against higher caliber competition, than Alvarez teams. Let's compare their records:

    Alvarez record
    overalll: 118-74-4 (.615)
    Big10: 65-60-3 (.520)
    Bowl games: 8-4 (.667)
    Rose Bowl: 3-1 (.750)
    Big10 Titles: 3 (2 tie)

    Bielema record
    overall: 68-24 (.739)
    Big10: 37-19 (.661)
    Bowl games: 2-4 (.333)
    Rose Bowl 0-2 (.000)
    Big 10 Titles: 3 (1 tie)

    Bielema's Rose Bowl losses were to teams ranked #3 (TCU) and #6 (Oregon), and each by small margins (2 points and 7 points respectively). Those were very good teams -- at least as good as this year's Stanford team.

    Not even Bielema could perhaps have beaten Stanford yesterday.

    The thing I dislike about Tom Oates articles is that, if he's not whining about something unimportant, he is exalting those who neither need nor deserve it. His cloudy-day sentimentality is getting rather tired.
  11. Hammingjusamur
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    Hammingjusamur - January 02, 2013 4:10 pm
    Norwood44, you are presumptuous. You respond to criticism of Alvarez with ad hominem attack, and you invent a new moral standard: board approval. What other precious bits of wisdom might you have to offer?
  12. Steelers6SuperBowls
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    Steelers6SuperBowls - January 02, 2013 3:53 pm
    Can't wait for next year to put this bitter pill behind us & start new. Should be a good year next year too if we can stay healthy...
  13. footballhelmet
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    footballhelmet - January 02, 2013 3:29 pm
    You can watch the re-run of the "No Rose Badgers" edition #3 on Comedy Central. What a laugh-er of a game...and a total embarrassment. Clowns
  14. seered
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    seered - January 02, 2013 2:53 pm
    It would appear that second half play calling cost us the game and that is on Canada.
    Also Stanford obviously adjusted their D in the 2nd half, and Miller, Canada, and BA did not adjust. The OL was pathetic in the 2nd half. And Ball only had 7 carries in the second half, are you freaking kidding me??

    And that 4th and 1 goaline Barge call was unbelievably stupid.

    So as it was all year it was a combination of poor play calling and poor execution.
    Coach Anderson will have his hands full next year. I sure hope he is better recruiter than BB was. Looks like it will be awhile before we get back to LA.
  15. MadCharles
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    MadCharles - January 02, 2013 12:12 pm
    0 for 3 at the Rose Bowl
  16. Observer5
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    Observer5 - January 02, 2013 12:05 pm
    Hard to win a college game scoring only 14 points. If Stave wasn't healthy enough to play then try O'Brien in the second half. Pounding the ball against a defense set it to stop it wasn't going to work. The defense played well enough ro win.
  17. motherlode
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    motherlode - January 02, 2013 11:25 am
    As an alumnus, I was proud of the fight the team gave to Stanford.
    The way everyone talked, it was lambs going to slaughter.
    So in an atmosphere of uncertainty and 'slaughter', the team held Stanford pretty well, and lost by only two field goals.
    The way people talked, the game was supposed to be 50-0 Stanford!

    And as far as Bielema goes-do you seriously think the score would have been different? NO. And good riddance to him.

    Can't wait for next year.
  18. bpro
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    bpro - January 02, 2013 10:32 am
    Not sure it would have fit, it may have been to small? I heard BA had some chips & dip at half.
  19. Homer717
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    Homer717 - January 02, 2013 9:34 am
    Barry should have worn one of Bielema's left over shirts.
  20. Norwood44
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    Norwood44 - January 02, 2013 9:11 am
    Well said. They didn't want to risk another collarbone break with Stave. It would be his fourth. He is the QB of the future, along with Houston. Smart to leave him healthy for Anderson and next year's team. Now to find some wides.
  21. Steve_R
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    Steve_R - January 02, 2013 9:10 am
    Three OT losses to very good teams...and a chance to win the Rose Bowl with a last minute drive...tough season for the Badgers. So close, so many times. Say what you want, it WAS an exciting season.

    I wonder what would have happened yesterday if the second half hadn't developed into a defensive/position battle and Bucky had at least tried to open up more on offense. Even if it may not have worked.
  22. jdg11
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    jdg11 - January 02, 2013 8:49 am
    The Badgers were certainly not embarrassed by the #6 team in the country. 2 early long passes by Stanford got us in a hole. One was a great catch of an overthrown ball and the other was a "throw it up and pray", aka Hail Mary that just happened to find a receiver for a TD. The roughing the punter penalty that was called running into the kicker, in my opinion, hurt more than I thought at the time. And, like others have said, when the running game was stopped in the second half, Stave should have played. But, we are all pretty good Monday morning QB's. Bottom line is Stanford played better. Do we have a talent deficiency? Probably yes, because our guys played hard with very few mental mistakes. At this level, it is a fine line between winning and losing, and we haven't crossed that line yet.
  23. bpro
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    bpro - January 02, 2013 8:17 am
    Agree, Bob, BA's language is very telling.
  24. dakref
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    dakref - January 02, 2013 7:42 am
    Had it not been for sanctions against Ohio State and Penn State Wi would not have even been there. They put up a good fight in spite of not being as good a team as Stanford. The Big Ten sent 7 teams to bowl games and won only 2. This has been the same story the past few years. Maybe the detractors of Big Ten football are right.
  25. RichardSRussell
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    RichardSRussell - January 02, 2013 7:25 am
    Sorry, Shelton, you're not a great team. Great individual players, yes. Decent team, yes. Solid team, yes. Great team, no.
  26. BobsYourUncle
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    BobsYourUncle - January 02, 2013 7:11 am

    “We were fortunate to come out on top in my games." Hmmm? Is Barry saying that this wasn't his team? Not his game to win? Nice, Barry, real nice! Still throwing players under the bus. GO BUCKY!

  27. Norwood44
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    Norwood44 - January 02, 2013 7:03 am
    Hamm. Instead of envy, why don't you develop a skill that pays you better money? Then your resentment would ease and you would be a happier person. Alvarez's comp was board approved and in line with the economy of sports. Which is an entertainment model. When they sell commercials for millions to watch you do your job, then you will make more. And be less concerned with the compensation of others. And then you won't post angry, bitter comments. And everyone will be a little happier.
  28. toobad
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    toobad - January 02, 2013 6:53 am
    Do you have to post the next game in the margin (8/31/13 vs. UMass) to remind the season ticket holders how much they're getting ripped off?
  29. Logbarn
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    Logbarn - January 02, 2013 5:21 am
    From what I saw last night the article earlier in the week about Canada and Bielema was bogus. It was the same we saw all season. Canada was way in over his head at this level. We also need a more athletic quarterback. Still try to figure out why Stave was not put back in the game the second half to at least see if we could throw the ball.
  30. Hammingjusamur
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    Hammingjusamur - January 02, 2013 5:06 am
    Alvarez got paid more than 100K to coach the team and HE FAILED! End of story.
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