Alvarez takes heat for decision to run

by Todd Zolecki

Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez hasn’t heard the final bit of criticism surrounding the Badgers’ 34-30 loss to Northwestern on Saturday. His call to have his offense run the ball instead of kneel has put him under the microscope of thousands of Wisconsin fans and the national media.
It appears he’ll be under it for some time.
For those that don’t know what happened, a review is definitely in order:
The Badgers had a three-point lead with 1:33 left in the game. Wisconsin took possession on its 38-yard line and the Wildcats had one timeout left.
On first down, Wisconsin quarterback Mike Samuel handed the ball to running back Ron Dayne. Dayne gained seven yards.
The next play was another Dayne run, except this time the ball went right through his arms, fell to the ground and Northwestern recovered. The turnover set up a 20-yard touchdown pass from Wildcats quarterback Steve Schnur.
Northwestern won the game and everyone in Camp Randall Stadium was stunned.
“Ron said he did not feel the ball on the exchange,” Alvarez said. “He anticipated he’d get a quick handoff. If you study the film you just see he didn’t close on the ball. He said he never felt the football. He didn’t know where it hit him. The next thing he knew, he heard the ball being called and he saw it on his leg.”
Alvarez was ripped on ESPN for not having Samuel take a knee. Alvarez said that was unfair. He said it would have been wrong to kneel because Northwestern could have still gotten the ball back.
If the Badgers would have been forced to punt, they had the risk of getting it blocked or returned for a touchdown.
Brad Nessler, a play-by-play announcer for ESPN, publicly apologized to Alvarez during the Big Ten’s teleconference Tuesday.
“Unfortunately we have to make decisions in the heat of battle and some of the things that get said probably shouldn’t be said,” Nessler said. “On top of that, people shouldn’t believe everything they hear, just like I don’t believe everything I read. Otherwise Princess Di would probably be married to Elvis by now.
“Anything that we did that caused the Wisconsin coaching staff any undue criticism, on behalf of ESPN, if we blew it, we apologize. That’s why you’re the coach and we’re up in the booth,” Nessler said.
Wildcats coach Gary Barnett and Gophers coach Jim Wacker said they would have done the same thing if they were Alvarez. Alvarez said he’d do it again if he had the chance.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno said it’s part of the business to have broadcasters criticize during the game.
“I just think it’s unfortunate that they’re so inaccurate a lot of times,” he said. “Some of them should know better. It’s not all of them. Some of them realize they’re in the entertainment business and they’ve got to be colorful, and they’ve got to say something to make it interesting.”
ù Ohio State coach John Cooper said he’s surprised his team has been able to replace players like Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George, wide receiver Terry Glenn, tight end Rickey Dudley and quarterback Bob Hoying on offense.
“We lost a lot of great players last year,” Cooper said. “I don’t think anybody, including John Cooper, felt like these players would step in and play as well as they have.”