2010 michigan state
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
Mike Martin and David Molk sprained ankles [Ed: PANIC!!!!], but both both should be fine [Ed: Cease PANIC]. Martavious Odoms broke his foot, no word on how long he's out other than "extended." James Rogers's injury against MSU was just cramps.
Carvin Johnson was a bit physically limited this past week, and his knee brace has been a hindrance. He'll be a bit better this week. "I don't know when he can take that brace off - I'm sure he wants to take it off today - but the trainers and doctors will determine that.
Shaw was still a little less than 100% against MSU. He should be 100% this week.
Toussaint - Won't be able to play this week. Rotator cuff injury, doesn't need surgery but does need rest. "I don't think it's mental at all. It's just bad luck." Reminds him of Brandon Minor.
Teaching Moments - "Probably we have a lot more teaching moments than I'd like, for sure, out of that ballgame." Team was just off in execution. State had something to do with that, but some were their own mistakes. D - "Our young guys are gonna make mistakes, but we've gotta get better fundamentally." Need to remember fundamentals, not just game prep, etc.
Didn't think there were more designed handoffs than there were earlier in the year. "They were playing us a certain way in the beginning, so there were probably more runs for the backs."
Dropped passes, a couple missed reads from Denard. Can't do that against a good opponent. More dropped passes in that game than there probably was the rest of the season.
Did MSU try new things to confuse Denard? "No. Not that I've seen and that we saw on film."
MSU D - "They've got good players; they played well. They moved their front some and they brought their safeties down. I thought they tackled pretty well and broke on the ball well."
Great support at the University, friends, family, colleagues. "Everybody wants the same thing here," and nobody's happy with a loss. "We lost to Michigan State, what, you wanna hang me off the building now? I mean, there might be a few people who want to do that, but that's the same people that probably wanted to do that after the first five games too, they just weren't saying it publicly."
After Denard's picks, RR talked to him about what he saw, and he got on the phone to coach Magee - but they do that on good plays as well.
"We didn't execute as well. They had something to do with that and we had something to do with that as well." Moving the ball on the ground.
Mixing up defensive personnel - "In the secondary, our only change is more freshmen playing... ready or not, here they are." Mike Jones would have played a lot at linebacker if he wasn't out for the season. "We'll see what happens this week in practice" as far as personnel changes at linebacker - need more production.
Denard very competitive, may have been pressing too much. "This is his first year as a starter... in all reality, he should be a redshirt freshman but he he had to play some last year. We're not going to panic." He's made tremendous strides from last year, and he'll be even better in the next couple years.
Younger guys typically aren't team leaders, but Denard is one still. "I'm not overly concerned with guys taking charge in the locker room and all that." Only need to worry about weak leadership when effort and focus wane, which hasn't been an issue.
Cullen Christian, Courtney Avery, and Terrence Talbott would be redshirting if there were enough numbers: "No question." They've been forced into duty this year and are growing up. "To play this many true freshmen on defense at this level, it doesn't happen very often."
"Some of the issues we have aren't gonna get solved overnight. We've just gotta minimize them the best we can, so we can still win ballgames."
Talent issues on D - "We're not as talented maybe as we'd like to be or we're gonna be." It's not just about recruiting, but also development - 4-5 true freshmen in the secondary, plus Carvin Johnson, Jibreel Black. They haven't had a chance to be developed yet. "Our development part with them and development of them in the weight room, and the development of them learning the system in college football and everything that goes on with that" can't happen until spring.
Team is resolved after a loss - their focus has been good, they'll be resilient and move forward instead of dwelling. Sometimes younger guys can move on quicker. No new leaders develop after a loss like this. "I'm not too much worried about that. I'm worried about them fixing what we need to fix and executing better."
"We've gotta be able to be patient." Don't want to press too much if they aren't having immediate success on offense. Need to remember to take care of the ball and make better decisions. "You've gotta be more decisive in your execution, and not try to force things."
Talks with defensive coaches about schemes, and a bit of fundamentals. "I'm obviously a lot more involved with the offense." Doesn't want to get spread too thin with all three phases of the ball. The coaches are frustrated that they aren't making the progress they want, but there are little signs of improvement.
Scheme has been simplified as much as possible to help the young guys. "If you're too simple, they'll find a way to go against you." You have to be more multiple. Iowa is one of the few teams that's able to beat you using mostly one defensive scheme.
Recruiting class to develop needs "We feel that's going really well." Particularly on defense: "This recruiting class will help us get those numbers... to that end." There's another 9-10-11 spots in the recruiting class, looking at positions where they're lacking depth.
Recruiting - Last couple classes were negatively impacted by drama around the program, but the coaches did a great job. "There's a lot of negative recruiting that goes on - and we've got a great thing to sell - but you've still got to fight it and our coaches have done a good job."
Doesn't want his coaches to fight fire with fire in negative recruiting "I'd rather just sell all the good things we have here." Will compare things like schemes, but doesn't talk negatively about other institutions. "It's not as bad in our league, in the Big Ten, than it is in other leagues."
"Sometimes you have a guy that comes into your program and he's on scholarship and maybe he didn't turn out to be as good or able to play at the level you want, but he does everything else right. You're not gonna boot him off your team for that reason."
Iowa has a veteran D, they have had two weeks to get ready for M. They're a great defense. "Their front four is as good as anybody's in the country." They'll occasionally blitz, but they don't need to in order to get pressure.
"Big physical team, Stanzi's an experienced guy, they've got some really explosive wide receivers. They're very good, and I think they're a top ten team in the country."
"We've got two really good tight ends in Webb and Koger. They're experienced guys." They've been playing well. "Their toughest challenge [blocking] comes this week" against Adrian Clayborn and the rest of Iowa's front.
In addition to game prep, the bye week will be used a lot to work fundamentals, particularly with young guys. This will be a normal week of game prep for Iowa.
Will watch film of last year's game against Iowa. Iowa has had two weeks to prepare though, and gotten a head start on preparation.
Will Iowa's run game mean more 4-man fronts? "We've got the ability to do that. We've done that a bit in every game." The key is to still be able to get off blocks, no matter how many linemen you have.
10/11/2010 – Michigan 17, Michigan State 34 – 5-1, 1-1 Big Ten
This just popped into my head in the same way a chorus of angels singing hosannas delivered calculus to Newton: they were probably Juggalos.
There were two of them, and they were walking south down the train tracks just east of the stadium as Michigan State bled the final minutes off the clock. I was in the midst of a stream of mostly Michigan folk who'd had enough—my breaking point was the running into the kicker penalty—moving east with the intent of hitting State Street and parts beyond after following the pathway between the field hockey stadium and football's practice field.
I don't remember much in the way of Juggalo-identifying characteristics except the hats. They were those oversized baseball caps with an enormous, off-center Old English D surrounded by graphic frippery I'm pretty sure designers call "grunge." They were carefully placed on the head, maybe 15 degrees from straight. This has been scientifically determined to be the angle that communicates maximum defiance.
The hats, man. These were the hat equivalent of chrome skulls, because apparently the best way to destroy your credit rating is to buy a bunch of chrome skulls. Maybe this is an urban legend but it's too good not to be true: men in a tall building somewhere have determined that credit card purchases of chrome skulls are inevitably followed by default, and will cease lending money to people who make them. If defiant hat angles left a paper trail these guys wouldn't have been able to get a loan in Zimbabwe.
The rest of it was just a way of confirming the hats. These were guys who had thought to themselves "wait, how do fuckin' magnets work?" They may have been blazed out of their minds at the time but no one can tell the difference any more. The reader will be utterly unsurprised to find out that as these guys approached the intersection with the Michigan fans one of them shouted "who's the little brother now?"
You. Still you. Always you.
Someone in front of me who was either a really pissed off 6'5" guy with a beard or the living manifestation of my id got into it with them. I get why. I mean, you're an adult with a family and a dishwasher. You've never thrown a rock at Tila Tequila. And these guys—who almost certainly didn't even go to the game because they couldn't afford it given the hats, the time and the direction they're walking*—start talking shit to you.
After the path to State Street intersects the tracks it jogs right to give the football field room. So there is this stream of slowly-moving Michigan fans including me and id guy separated from the Juggalos by just a few feet and a fence. For what was probably only a minute but seemed like forever, then, I'm listening to the back and forth between these guys. It's the usual—id guy is repeatedly asked where he went to school until he defiantly points in the direction of campus and says "here," then says his major is "FINANCIAL MATHEMATICS!!!" when pressed.
That was Saturday: financial mathematicians screaming at Juggalos, and the Juggalos winning. The State meathead directly behind me literally said "bitch! fuck you!" whenever MSU tackled Denard Robinson for less than five yards. On Friday, Tim came back to his apartment to find a trail of blood leading to a passed-out State meathead who'd broken in. The same guys who clumsily spray-painted a bedsheet in 2008 to declare their glorious victory over the worst Michigan team in 50 years reprised their genius. As I walked home every glassy-eyed Stiffler that passed me upped the amplitude of my anger/depression cocktail. Jesus, they were everywhere. They came to Ann Arbor cocky and stupid and left cocky and stupid. Enduring it was brutal. In their eyes, that was probably the point.
That's why Mike Hart's comment cut to the quick so much that three years later it's still the first, last, and only thing on the Juggalo mind. If coaching doesn't work out, Hart should start a consulting agency that visits bitter people on their deathbeds and devises things to say that just stick, nagging, sitting on your shoulder and telling you that's really not okay.
As for the current Michigan program, they took a grim step back against Stiffler U and are now poised on the edge of the same cliff no one knew they were falling from until the Illinois game last year. It is really hard to step back and say "it's just one game" after that travesty at Michigan Stadium, both inside and out, but long experience has taught me that gritting your teeth and just getting on with it is better than screaming the name of your major to the world at large.
*(The tracks are mostly fenced and anyone walking down them at that point is coming from well north of the stadium.)
This guy. I'm about to double this guy's yearly traffic but oh well—this is exactly what I am talking about in blog post form:
And FUCK ROBINSON because it was more than him, Michigan State BEAT THE SHIT out of Michigan across the board, offense, defense, special teams, YOU NAME IT. WE BEAT THE YELLOW BELLY ASS UP AND DOWN THE FIELD.
I feel bad for the MSU fans I know, all fine people who don't own SHAGGY 2 DOPE jerseys, and the guys at The Only Colors but Christ, man. Normal-ish MSU fans were outnumbered ten to one.
Forgotten kindness. I meant to mention this in the aftermath of the Notre Dame game but it slipped my mind until the events of the weekend made me wish I was on the road in South Bend instead of at home against Michigan State: ND fans really are the nicest in the country. There are always Those Guys. In South Bend we had one in the row in front of us a few seats over who kept looking back at us and doing the usual dumbass fan taunting routine. The ND fans around us made fun of him for it. ND spawns the kind of pathology that makes ND Nation the most unintentionally entertaining message board on the internet but the vast majority of the fanbase are just nice people sad about their team.
With Weis gone, I'm not rooting against them in an active way until they're threatening for BCS bowls.
Also something I've forgotten to mention a lot. Drum major David Hines, Jr., probably has the best pregame back bend I've ever seen, and since I remember when the drum majors went from taking off the hat only for big games to doing it all the time, that's probably an all-time record.
This was always going to happen. People complaining about the defense, and there are many: WTF, are you surprised? Are you? Did you sit down at the beginning of the season and look over the post-Woolfolk secondary depth chart and think to yourself "boy, this looks like an average unit we've got right here?" This was already always going to happen last year, when the Decimated Defense Diaries and a simple count of available upperclassmen would have revealed that there was a giant gaping dropoff from the legitimate first-stringers Michigan had at maybe 8 or 9 positions to the second string. Then Donovan Warren, Justin Turner, and Troy Woolfolk departed Michigan's thinnest position. This was entirely predictable:
Plugging the enormous hole at safety would be great, but even if you make the reasonable assumption that Gordon/Kovacs/Robinson is going to be way better than Williams/Kovacs, the massive downgrade at corner means you're probably just treading water. Treading horrible, polluted, razor-blade-filled, despair-laden water.
The defense is off from hopeful expectations in that post but the reason is obvious. The depth chart is what it is.
The doom. I never thought Denard Robinson's problem throwing the ball would be a refusal to take off and run after the timer in the head expires. On all three interceptions he should have just run after he sat in the pocket for two or three beats. The second one was just death—pump-fake, hesitation, slant on the goal line? Guh. I think we all expected Denard would have some issues throwing the ball but three huge mistakes in one game is fatal unless you're going up against a team making those mistakes back at you. Michigan gained 263 yards in a half and had ten points from it.
FWIW, Touch The Banner suggests Denard's first two interceptions were just poor throws against man coverage. I haven't had the benefit of replay yet.
The frustration. The game's killer sequence occurred when Jordan Kovacs tackled an MSU TE three yards short on third and ten only for MSU to catch a break on a false start. On the ensuing third and fifteen Michigan couldn't tackle Keshawn Martin after he caught like a five-yard hitch and they converted. The ensuing touchdown drive was the distance that put Michigan in desperation mode. That's a ferret-puncher right there. Makes you want to go find a ferret, and punch it.
Also you can add many drops, a hopeless MSU pass getting deflected to a receiver, and another missed field goal.
Punt? I know you're down seventeen and it looks grim but a comeback isn't totally out of the realm of possibility… until you punt with like seven minutes on the clock. Apparently Rodriguez owned up to that as a mistake afterwards.
Long runs. I'm going to have a lot of fun figuring out the basic off-tackle runs that Michigan State hit for touchdowns. I'm just hoping Ezeh was not involved so that someone else can come in for the tsking. I do know that on the second one the right side of the line was Patterson and JB Fitzgerald at DE, which got run directly at and did about as well as you would expect. That one's probably on the DL at least somewhat. I'm sure Cam is at fault, too, because I said I like him and he would be important and that he was really good at filling on run plays. This is how the world works.
Cam also had an opportunity to undercut a receiver and intercept a long pass that he did not take; I believe that drive was the one on which MSU ended up in third and thirty-two, so it didn't end up mattering much.
The usual Vincent Smith complaining and counter-complaining and etc. You probably don't want Smith ever getting another third and one carry whether you're on Team Smith or Team Whoever Else. I couldn't believe Michigan 1) went with another inside zone to a back who almost never gets one yard after contact, let alone yards, and 2) didn't get it. Hopkins may have fumbling problems but at some point Michigan's fail on third and one is just as damaging.
Also, the difference between Smith and Shaw was painfully apparent and relevant on a run during one of Michigan's early drives when he broke into the open field with nothing between him and the endzone and got tackled by a linebacker coming from the inside. Shaw probably scores there; Michigan got a field goal on that drive IIRC.
Silver lining. Hey, Penn State looks winnable!
Podcast jonez. If you have it, I did talk to a couple of guys at The Only Colors about the game this weekend. It was their first go-round so be nice.
Boiler Tacopants. Meet Purdue's new mascot:
Boiled Sports says it's just temporary, but we know better.
Just so you stop sending it. Yes, this is badass:
Hacker infiltration ends D.C. online voting trial
Last week, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics opened a new Internet-based voting system for a weeklong test period, inviting computer experts from all corners to prod its vulnerabilities in the spirit of "give it your best shot." Well, the hackers gave it their best shot -- and midday Friday, the trial period was suspended, with the board citing "usability issues brought to our attention."
Here's one of those issues: After casting a vote, according to test observers, the Web site played "Hail to the Victors" -- the University of Michigan fight song.
"The integrity of the system had been violated," said Paul Stenbjorn, the board's chief technology officer.
I'd sell a t-shirt that said "MICHIGAN INTEGRITY VIOLATIONS" but I'd get sued so I won't. J. Alex Halderman is the professor who unleashed hell on DC voting machines and explains his devious students' accomplishment:
The problem, which geeks classify as a “shell-injection vulnerability,” has to do with the ballot upload procedure. When a voter follows the instructions and uploads a completed ballot as a PDF file, the server saves it as a temporary file and encrypts it using a command-line tool called GnuPG.
For a UFR-level breakdown follow the link. Also that guy runs Drupal.
Onside kicking: no more defense ever. It says something about the state of the defense that there's a serious board thread, an extensive post at Denard for Heisman, and two emails in the inbox all wondering about whether Michigan should go nuts with the onside kicks. The blog post covers the math:
In the NFL, onside kicks are successful about 26% of the time. When the onside kick is expected, the kicking team recovers the football only 20% of the time. When the onside kick is considered a “surprise,” the kicking team historically has recovered the football 60% of the time.
The average NFL team needs to be successful at onside kicks 42% of the time for the strategy to work in a team’s favor.
Michigan wouldn't have to reach that level of success for it to be a break even strategy for the same reason that going for it on fourth down becomes a better and better idea the better your offense is. So… yes, I think Michigan should go for the surprise onside kick on a regular basis, around once every ten possessions. I also think zero coaches would actually do this in real life.
Michigan's kickers have enough to work on without onside stuff, anyway.
Yet another reassuring "one of these years is not like the others" post. This one is from the Mathlete and points out Michigan's statistically-adjusted improvement on offense from 2009 to 2010:
Based on the sets of numbers, Michigan initially has been 7 to 11 points per game better than year’s offensive unit. This represents a very high level of play.
The defense? Ask again later once we figure out whether or not Indiana's offense is actually good or not. Hey, you know what would be awesome? Winning this Saturday and killing this conversation forevermore.
Denard talking. You like it.
The university accuses Maple Street Press Buckeye Battle Cry of a series of copyright infringements. It has sent the company a letter demanding that print and online copies of the publication be pulled by Wednesday.
"This product was not properly licensed by the university, and they are competing with our game-day program," said OSU spokesman Jim Lynch. … The lawsuit alleges trademark infringement, unfair competition and "passing off," or an attempt to mislead consumers that the magazine is being published by the university.
A preseason magazine that has no information about the current season is competing with a game-day program and OSU is suing because… they use the word "Buckeye" in the title? Copyright law as currently wielded by large organizations is pure evil.
Etc.: Stuffing The Passer is awesome. Brabbs celebrates one year of domination by unleashing a shirt commemorating the Washington kick. Off Tackle Empire scouts Greg Jones, concludes he is not actually eleven people. Daily slideshow on the M-MSU rivalry over the years.
"I'm feeling good. Feeling alright. Just got done lifting." He felt pretty good yesterday after the Indiana game. Staying healthy - "I guess every Big Ten game's going to be a big game. I've been working out, I've gotten treatment, doing everything I can to take care of my body."
"I love people, so it's not that bad" getting recognized around campus.
"I've made some bad reads, and I kind of overthrew a couple guys. There's always time for improvement." Doesn't worry about his stats, so he doesn't care what people are saying about him. "Just don't watch it, don't read it, stay away from it."
Teammates can make plays "don't try to make too many plays."
On Roundtree: "Roy, just give him the ball and he's going to make something happen." He just makes plays. "We could do that with all our receivers, but he's standing out right now."
OL has been performing every week. "That's who I've gotta give thanks to all the time. Them and God."
Doesn't get any bigger than M-MSU [Ed: just wait a few weeks, son], it's going to be a hard-fought game. "They're a great team, they're a physical team, and they come to play. It's going to be a hard game." Everybody gets pumped up for this game, especially in-state guys.
"I was playing with him. I felt like I was in the game and just playing with him." During Tate's comeback at MSU last year.
Greg Jones is a fast, physical player who can hit. "As a quarterback, you've gotta read everybody else, not just one player." Nobody's tried to spy Denard with one player yet, we'll see what MSU does.
"Mike Shaw is doing good." He told Roundtree he's ready for Saturday. Just needs to go in, watch film, and get ready.
Denard is always worried about getting better, and that's what he's doing. "Man, Shoelace just too fast... Coach Rod just tells him 'run straight,' and once he runs, he runs." Depth at QB means that the offense doesn't struggle too much when Denard goes out. Denard is humble, and doesn't worry about the Heisman hype he's getting. "This week, he's gotta get better, and get us right." The skill players like to have the quarterback motivate them.
Roy works hard and listens to the coaches to get better. "It's showing Saturdays, but I know I've got a lot to improve."
"When we're out there, we don't really know the stats and whatnot. We just go out there and play Michigan football." Not worried about how many yards they got. Happy for Junior's big game against IU after the fact.
Everybody knows their offensive assignments now, the team is prepared well.
Intense this week? "Come on man, it's Michigan State, it's rivalry week." This will be the biggest game Roy's played at Michigan Stadium outside of Ohio State last year. Need to have a great attitude this week to get the win. "This week is like a different intensity level."
"You just gotta be ready, man. It's all preparation." Can stay undefeated and clinch bowl eligibility this game. "What happened last year was last year. You know, it hurt all of us. But we've gotta do what we've gotta do today to get ready for Michigan State."
"I still get nervous each game, so it don't really bother me." Prepares hard, which makes him confident for each play he's out there.
They've played tough defenses, not worried about putting up stats, just getting ready for the next D they'll face.
On Denard- "Any time he breaks through there, we know he's gone, which is a great feeling to have." The more yards Denard gains, the better it is for the offense.
Confident in the offense even if Denard goes out. Tate and Devin getting snaps, and they can spread the ball around. "I'm pretty confident in our offense no matter who's out there. Obviously 16's a special player."
You're getting the job done if you score quickly on offense.
Patrick's been playing really well, Taylor's been showing what the players knew he could do.
The OL is confident in the running game, hopefully they can run for more yards and get the win (as the team who has rushed for more yards has won 30 of the past 33 matchups between these teams).
Was never into the Washington-Washington State rivalry. Michigan-MSU is a much bigger rivalry. "Even if you win the Big Ten, you didn't win the state championship" if you lose to MSU.
Seniors will explain the importance of this game to some of the younger guys. "If you come to Michigan and you don't understand the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State... it's almost set in stone." They'll also hear from some former players about the rivalry.
Doesn't hear from students about losing to MSU twice in a row. "I know the fanbase obviously wants to get a win." Lots of people want to beat State. Winning as a senior is the most important, because it's the one you remember. "To be able to go out with a win, and to be able to say you beat Michigan State in your senior year is huge."
"Michigan State's always a physical game." Not particularly concerned for Denard, because he's a tough guy. He understands the importance of the rivalry. Maybe a little more banged up than he lets on with his toughness, good leadership.
Schilling hopes Michigan's speed can trump State's size. Endurance will be a big factor as well. "Some of the non-conference teams were smaller" up front. Michigan State has more size. Big Ten teams in general are a bit bigger.
Greg Jones is almost always leading the nation in tackles. He powers through blocks and makes a lot of plays.
"It's a big test for us. Coming in undefeated, there's a lot of angles to kind of approach it." Lots of storylines, looking to come out of the game undefeated.
Big sack against Indiana - "It was an exciting play, a big play for our defense."
"I've seen still pictures of myself before I snap the ball, and it kind of scares myself" the faces he makes.
Creating turnovers is a big emphasis. Coach Robinson talks about it, because you have the opportunity to get the offense the ball more than the other team.
He was used some at DE against the Hoosiers. "It's a different look. Whenever you can give a different look to an opposing team, I think it confuses them." They'll practice it again this week.
Patterson is a good sub when Martin needs a rest.
It's nice seeing other defenses chasing Denard around, because Martin, Van Bergen, and Banks have to do it in practice all the time. "He's always been a hard worker."
Michigan State is a big game for both teams. Excited to prepare this week. "I always grew up watching Michigan, so I loved Michigan through thick and thin... I never really liked the color green."
Tough to lose the last two years, but it will help be motivated to get the win. "We do remember what happened in the past, and the past two years have been hard." It's made the team better overall and closer as a unit.
Making a bowl is a team goal, along with winning the Big Ten. "If we can just control what we can control" that's all you can ask for. "We always remind ourselves of our goals." Keeping it in sight reminds you of what you can do.
MSU's offense is good, Martin has already watched a bit of film. "We're just gonna prepare as best as we can. Guys are getting in the film room on their own."
"I love the fact that they're undefeated. That just makes this game even bigger. I think that ensures they give their best on Saturday, and I wouldn't want it any other way."
There's a bit more talking between teams in a heated, in-state rivalry game like this one.
MSU's line looks athletic, and they play hard. Both teams play a little harder in this game, because it's a big deal.
Doesn't worry about what outside people are saying about the defense. He knows the defense has its issues (as does the offense). "They're all correctable. Every team's going to have issues, and every unit's going to have issues. We have five new starters so we're kind of learning as we go here... We're undefeated and we haven't played our best football yet."
"It works in practice, so it should work in games." Some issues are people trying to do a bit too much. Defense is improving this year, taking strides inthe right direction.
It's good to win the games, but you know where to draw the line with letting it get to your head. "As soon as I leave here and go down to the biulding, I put on my business face and go to work."
Not worried about bowl eligibility right now. Try to win the game, and that will happen on its own. "Those rivalry games are always big for us... it doesn't matter if we haven't won a game going into those, it's always going to be a big game."
Want to stop the run against MSU - "that's usually the key to victory in most games." Get after the QB and punish their skill players. "I feel more needed" when the opponent will try to run the ball.
Was always interested in Michigan running backs growing up, so he was on the Michigan side. Was a RB in high school.
"Year-round I hear from all of my ex-classmates who have gone to Michigan State. A lot of the families back home are either Michigan or Michigan State." The in-state rivalry is an all-year thing.
"It's not easy, it's not fun" to lose two in a row and not have bragging rights. "That's part of our motivation is to go out and get those bragging rights back."
Do you root for MSU in other games? "I don't. I would like them to have as much success as possible before they play us." It doesn't rise to the level of rooting, though.
"I hope the crowd's really rocking on Saturday."
"I think every defensive player takes that personal, and it makes us even hungrier for the win" when people talk down on the M defense.
Improvements are happening week-to-week, particularly the young guys. "I know it something that's surely going to show up in games."
Mike Martin played well against Indiana. "It worked out pretty well, he was definitely getting after the quarterback." Defense hurt themselves with some penalties, and that stuff is correctable.
The players may be fueled by losing the last two to Michigan State, but the past is in the past. "It doesn't matter if it's my first win or my fourth win against them, any time you can play Michigan State, you'd better be motivated."
Keys to the game: "It doesn't matter who your opponent is, any time you can make a team one-dimensional... you've got a chance of winning the game."
Cousins is a great QB, and they have a great offense. This should be the biggest challenge so far for the defense this year.
RBs are big guys that can move. Probably the best Michigan has seen this year.
Denard: "He's something else (laughs)." Other teams can try to contain him, but Kovacs doesn't know how they'll do it. "You've gotta have some speed, that's for sure."
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
- Shaw "should be OK to do everything."
- Toussaint day-to-day with shoulder.
- Banks: "Little calf issue." Defense played a lot of plays, so he'll need rest. Should be fine.
- Brandon Herron is OK.
Downfield throws for Denard? "He's missing three out of every ten. That's not bad." The couple deep misses Saturday were maybe rushed a bit, but he's been doing well.
"No matter who your quarterback is, you worry about him staying healthy" regardless of what type of offense you run. "I have the same concern every week as far as hoping the guys stay healthy. But you've gotta play the game." "He'll be a little limited [in Monday practice]. Just because he's been running so much. You want him 100% on Saturday."
Denard comeback - "There's no panic." Going to a no-huddle for the 2-minute drill isn't a change from regular offensive pace. Denard made a nice throw to Junior, Hemingway made a nice play on it. Offense is executing with a lot of confidence. They practice the 2-minute drill a couple times a week.
Denard has learned a lot since last year. He's just running the offense (he couldn't do all that last year). He has the capability to bust 10-yard runs for 50 or 60.
Offensive line - "As a group, whoever the five is out there, there's another level we can get to."
Dorrestein - "Perry has been really solid. He's a veteran guy, he knows the offense."
Taylor Lewan penalty: "From what I see... his left foot got tangled up as he was stepping over a pile... I didn't see it on film, maybe they saw something I didn't see." The scrum afterward was no big deal, the officials broke it up.
Field goals: "We were close to it in the last game. We were gonna center the ball for a game-winning field goal" [Ed: ...but you try keeping Denard from an end-zone he can see]. RR would rather score TDs, and fortunately the offense has been good at doing so. "There's gonna come a point in time where we've gotta make field goals" to win the game. They have guys who will be able to do it.
Hagerup has played a bit better. "He had a couple good punts, and he seemed composed, so hopefully the little nervousness is out of the way."
Woolfolk - "I saw him last week, he's still got a big old cast." He's doing upper-body work. Hard for him and Mike Jones to not be able to play because they're competitive guys. Woolfolk should be 100% next year after rehab.
Stonum KO returns. "It's been a little bit frustrating." Haven't come close to breaking one. The blocking isn't quite there at times, but Darryl has the ability to do that. "Boy would it be a good time to do that."
"We have not had an opportunity to return a lot of punts."
"I don't think you have to blitz all the time to have an aggressive mentality defensively." You get on your heels a bit when you've been giving up a lot of first downs. "We didn't make some key stops. Some of it was mental, and some of it was physical." The D is a little limited because they don't want to confuse younger guys.
Offensively, can make more in-game adjustments because of experience. On Defense, more limited in that regard. Can make some adjustments, but not as many. The D has improved in some respects. "There's some moments on defense where we've gotten a little better, but there's also some things we've not gotten better yet, and it's going to take some time." In a tough situation with a lack of experienced depth. Need to force more 3-and-outs and turnovers.
"You always want to play a little bit better. We've battled; it's not like the guys aren't trying." Injuries and other issues are mitigating factors. "We're 5-0, and as much troubles as we've had, I don't want to belabor the fact." When they've gotten sacks from Martin or others, the opposing offense has been able to convert on long-yardage, which is frustrating.
Michigan D stats? "You can learn some stuff from statistics. I don't have to look at them to know where our problems are." Some of the problems can't be solved overnight.
Worried about defense wearing down? "Our defense was playing too much and our offense wasn't on the field at all." Doesn't alter the offensive approach, but wants the defense to play as fast as they can. "We've just got to try to play better, and get a few stops."
Were there defensive changes with Martin at DE and Floyd at S? "It was more of a defensive package thing we're trying to do." Put guys in different positions to have some success. Martin and Floyd are experienced players, put them where they can make plays.
"Our numbers defensively were way down." That's trending toward the positive, but they need to help the young guys out with their schemes.
The team learns from winning close games. "You can develop a habit of expecting to experience that same thing again." Blowing the lead in the ND game, the guys never panicked to come back. Same thing with the win on Saturday.
Special teams have been average, need to improve there as well.
Better TO margin this season is offensive experience, guys maturing, and knowing how to take care of the ball. It's been a big point of emphasis for the team.
Tackled pretty well, defended IU's wildcat pretty well. "We don't want to give up 35 points to anybody, but they have some talented players, and they did a nice job pitching and catching."
"They're all big, but this one's bigger. I mean, the rivalry games are always bigger." The more you win, the more is at stake. Both teams undefeated. "A rivalry has enough significance." Not thinking about revenge, what matters is what's happening right now.
Doesn't worry about point spreads "Usually the home team gets a few points anyway."
In-state rivalry is a bigger deal "We recruit against each other, and a lot of our players know their players." "I know they talk about it quite a bit, but so do we." "I don't blame the fans for thinking that, because they're not coaching. They've got more time to think about it."
"It's just as important to me and I think all my players as it is to them. They've just won the last two games." Anything to the contrary is just talk. No countdown clock to a given game, just to the next game. "Trust me, we talk about it quite a bit. It's very very very important to us." For the rivalry, "Anything that we do, I would keep internally.. there's always things you do for rivalry games that make it a little bit unique."
Different parts of the fanbase emphasize different rivalries. In-state might be more intense, but you're not going to try harder just because it's a rivalry; you're always trying your hardest. "It's one of the biggest games we play every year."
"I'm sure Mark [Dantonio], his health is the most important thing." He'll do everything that the doctors allow him to do. RR would do the same "Most of the time, you're going to listen to the doctor." As much as you like to compete, have to worry about yourself. "Having a health issue at any time, whether you're a coach or not, is a tough thing to go through." Tough in-season too, because you want to be out there and compete every day. Nobody talks about the health of assistants "You've gotta remind your staff to do that" - watch their health.
MSU's defense is "the most experienced for sure. Presents some challenges. They've got a very good defense." Michigan has to execute well.
"I think Cousins is an outstanding player." Cousins was a great QB last year, and "he's even playing better this year." Can run, throw, is a great leader. "Defensively, we've got some things we've got to fix."
MSU runs the same schemes with all their backs; they're interchangeable parts. "You've still gotta have guys get off blocks and make tackles... If you do that, you'll have a better defense."
MSU's offense has "Great balance, no question. They have the ability to come downhill at you and pound away. And they're very good at play-action."
Might try to keep the ball away from KeShawn Martin. MSU will try to be confusing on kickoffs. "He wants to take every ball back."
"I don't have any expectations" of a shootout. The intensity will be there. "If we can squeeze more people in there, this would probably be the week that it would happen."
MSU Defense - "They got good players, they've got a good team." They'll tackle well and take away parts of the offense. "We're gonna have to execute. That's a key, no matter what." MSU has good team speed, MICH can't do too much dancing around. "I think you've gotta stay within your scheme." MSU can't just use Greg Jones to shadow Denard, because it's not within their usual scheme. "If you don't block him or attempt to block him, he's gonna make a lot of tackles."
M and MSU undefeated adds national interest. "The more you win, the more is at stake."
This game and recruiting - "It may make an impact on one or two guys." Most recruits don't look at one game, or even the season, they look at the whole package.