chance of bowl: 13.6%
“Thanks for coming out. We had a great practice last night. Physical, tough, lot of energy, which you usually have when you’re playing in a rivalry game but I thought what we got done from an execution standpoint was positive. It wasn’t perfect. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a perfect practice, but there’s some things we’ve got to clean up obviously and some things offense and defensively you look at and don’t want to do as much. So that part of it- I think we’ve responded very well from the bye. That is always important. If you’re playing with speed and playing fast I think that’s a big part of it and that’s one way to gauge it. I think obviously we have great respect for Michigan State. They’ve earned that from how they [were] Big Ten champions and how they’ve played. We’ve got a lot of work to do to go up there, and we will be prepared and we’ll be ready to play on Saturday.”
How much of this game is about matching their physicality and bringing the fight to them, and have you done that do you think in the past three years?
“Well, I think we played physical. At times not as much as we’d like, but I think in any football game if you’re a team and you’re a competitor there’s got to be a physicalness to it. Obviously there’s more emotion driven when you’re playing a rivalry game and playing an in-state rival who’s an hour and ten minutes up the road. I think more of that comes out.”
I think the stat on this game is 41 of the last 44 were won by the team that rushed for more yards. There’s probably stats like that for most games, but is there something specific about this game that makes it even more important?
“I don’t know. I think, like you said, I think being able to run the ball because it sets up so much of your offense is an important part of it. I don’t think that’s too much different than what this is. Every year I think we’ve talked about rushing yards by one team and so when you look at it, yeah, there’s probably something to it a little bit.”
Jourdan Lewis: five games in you guys put him in the starting lineup and he has your two secondary picks. What did you see as a sophomore to put that much trust in him?
“Yeah, I think consistency. Consistency and technique. His competitiveness out on the field and in practice with whoever he’s trying to defend. Obviously he’s got the athleticism and he’s got some length to him. He’s not the tallest guy but he’s long-armed and has a real knack for the football. The consistency that he’s shown week to week is really what’s kept him in the lineup.”
Was there a play or something in practice where you guys were kind of sold?
“No. No. I think coming out of the spring we were excited about his development and what Roy [Manning] had done with those guys. I think that started it. Getting into fall camp we had some veteran guys, some more veteran guys I guess, that he competed with and he’s been the guy.”
[After THE JUMP: identity vs. tendency, physicalness, rivalryness]
Jake Ryan, Jack Miller, Devin Gardner
Devin, as an in-state guy and your last shot at these guys, how much does this one mean to you?
DG: “It means a lot to me, but it means a lot to me every year so I’m just excited to get to the game.”
For Devin again, last year it was safe to say you got beat up pretty badly in the MSU game. Is there a mental hurdle that you have to clear yourself to get yourself prepared for this one?
For Jake: they have a pretty decent running game right now. Good wide receivers. How much have you and the defense talked about limiting the big plays [and] not allowing Langford to do what he does?
JR: “Yeah, that’s what our defense needs to do. Stopping the run’s been huge for us this year and we’ve got to keep on doing it. Lippett’s been a good receiver and we’ve got to shut him down.”
Devin, we were talking to coach Nussmeier and he said that he felt you made the biggest strides in understanding defenses this year. Talk about how that’s come about and the benefit of that for you.
DG: “I think it’s been really big for me, just being able to see what I need to see out there and it helps when you know where you want to go with the ball. You have to have an idea where you want to go with the ball, and he brought a lot of different coverages that we didn’t really know about and we didn’t really understand how they were played but we feel like we’re doing a good job of understanding now.”
Has that helped you a lot with pre-snap reads?
DG: “Yeah, definitely.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Two strong defenses here. I guess just looking at what Pat Narduzzi’s doing in East Lansing compared to what you want to do, what this team is capable of, how would you size up the two defenses and as a coordinator are you excited to see maybe those two units be the difference makers on Saturday?
“Well, the first question, how do you size up the two defenses; I mean, I don’t think you ever judge a defense until the season is over. I know you go game-to-game. I know we have goals each game that [are] how we want to play, the level we always want to have our kids play at. How do you judge a defense? Is it stats? Is it points? Is it points that your defense gave up? Is it points that the special teams gave up? Is it points that somebody else…I don’t think you judge it that way. I think you judge a defense by what they do game-to-game, do they do what they have to do to win the game, and how they finish a season, what they do at the end of the year, what it all looks like at the end of the year.
“As far as playing against…you know, I never play against a person. We’re playing- this is Michigan football playing their next game against an in-state rival and I’m excited about it and that’s really how I look at it.”
Michigan State’s been known for their defense in the past but the offense seems to have made great strides this year, putting up big numbers. How much better are they this year and how big of a challenge are they for your defense?
“Well, they’re a very good offense. They’ve done a great job first and foremost running the football. They’ve got some playmakers at wide receiver. They’ve got a very, very good tight end. They’ve got a good offensive line. They’ve done a good job, and it’s going to be a very, very good offense to go against and I think they’ve done a very good job on offense.”
Where have you seen Connor Cook improve?
“Well, Connor, he’s a very good quarterback. I think the biggest place you’ve seen him improve is he doesn’t get sacked. He seems like he gets the ball out quick. He seems like he knows where to go with it, and I think his maturity, his year-to-year, I think he’s a better quarterback. I think he’s a very, very good quarterback.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison watches some football, makes fun of some things, and scouts the Spartans]
What’s it like seeing this rivalry from the other side? Obviously you’ve coached at Michigan State. What’s the view when you had never been a part of it before [at Michigan]?
“Well, it’s one of the classic rivalries in all of college football and I’m very excited to get the opportunity to be a part of it and I know our kids are very, very excited about the opportunity.”
When you were at Michigan State what was it like?
“Any time you play in a game, whether it be an in-state rivalry game or a conference rivalry game and some of them are out-of-conference rivalry games, the important thing is the focus on the game itself and you can get caught up and lost in the things that surround the game. Any time you’re on either side it’s about the players preparing. It’s about preparing them the best you possibly can and giving them the opportunity to be in the right situations to play well.”
Any of those games stick out to you from when you were there?
“I think any time you’re a part of these games they all stick out to you. Obviously probably the one that was played right here [Ed.- he’s referring to Braylonfest] was one that goes down as a great, great football game. Really was.”
They obviously play pretty good defense. Without giving away what you want to do, what are the key things that they do that you have to combat?
“Well, I think when you look at them they’re an outstanding defensive football team. They do a really good job of stopping the run and they get guys and they commit to the box and they do a really good job of tackling. They tackle well. You don’t see a lot of missed tackles. And then when you do have a play you see their ability to make an adjustment and take that play away, so I think that the biggest thing about the game is we have to understand the plan very well. We have to understand how they’re going to line up in the different blitzes and things that they’re going to try and approach us with, and then we have to execute.”
In the past Michigan has had a problem with Michigan State bringing linebackers through the A gap. I wonder if there’s a standard way of dealing with that or is that a pre-snap read the quarterback has to make or-
“Well, when you look at their base defense that’s one of their base blitzes that they run against everybody that they play against. One of the things it does [is] it creates obviously pressure on the interior of your line and pressure within the quarterback’s line of vision. A lot of people that run that- I don’t know their exact philosophy but it’s to create problems and pressure in the quarterback’s lap so he doesn’t feel like he has a real pocket to step up into so obviously it’s a blitz that’s part of their base package and something that we’ll prepare for.”
[After THE JUMP: Why were the MSU coaches covered in glass after the ‘04 game and some strategy talk]
News bullets and other items:
Devin Gardner fully participated in practice last night and should be ready to start against MSU
It sounds like Jabrill Peppers may have been a part of that practice
Hoke really likes Michigan State’s offensive balance [Ed.- they’re ~ 40/60 pass/rush]
Hoke’s recipe for road success: “Don’t turn the ball over. Get turnovers.”
Hoke thinks bye weeks are good for healing injuries and not good when coaches tinker with systems too much. He prefers getting back to a team’s identity after self-scouting. He again says the identity they want is as a team that runs the ball.
He likes how they’ve prepared and how hard they’ve worked
They had a good practice
“Number one, thanks for coming. This is an exciting week. The bye week I think was good for us. I think it's a benefit. Get some guys healthy. There's bumps and bruises. We've been at it since August and we are pretty competitive and pretty physical with what we do, so four weeks of camp and seven straight weeks, I think it came at the right time. You're able to rest some guys and I think that's a big part of it, and at the same time you're able to get some guys who are right on the line that you might depending on how you get beat up or bumped along you may have some other guys that have to get in there and represent.
This is a great rivalry and a great rivalry in a lot of ways. Obviously we have three great rivalries – two great rivalries, but the passion on both sides of either green and white or maize and blue, I think that passion you see, you hear, and you feel. We are playing the defending Big Ten champs who deserve that and have played very good football during the year on both sides of the ball. Going out to Eugene is their only loss and that's a difficult place to play. You’re three times zones different and you're also playing in a pretty hostile stadium that can get pretty loud.
I think offensively, I think Michigan State [is] very balanced. I would think knowing Mark [Dantonio] he would feel very good offensively what they're doing from that balance standpoint. I think Connor Cook continues to impress and improve. You look at Langford and how he's improved and Nick Hill I think has emerged too back there in the backfield. Lippett I think has played like the best receiver in this conference I think when you see the big plays in big games that he's made.
Turnover margin; we’re [on] two opposite spectrums. They’re +11, I think we’re -13 and turnover margin in pro football, college football, high school football, Peewee football, whatever football there is out there is a big part of who wins and who loses and we've obviously got to do a better job of creating. The last two weeks we've done a better job of taking care of the football but that's got to continue.
As far as the bye, we got out Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. Had a practice last night which was a Tuesday practice for us and was very good, very physical. It was good to get out there again. Like the timing because that's one thing you always worry about and I thought our timing was sharp. I thought the execution on both sides of the ball was pretty good. We got a long way to go though, so… that's the longest I've ever given you an opening statement. I just hadn't seen you in a long time.”
Is there a downside to a bye week? You hear a lot of talk about upside but I wonder if there’s downside.
“You know, I think they're probably have been. I can try to go back and think over the years as an assistant and then as a head coach. We had a bye one year at Ball State [where] we were playing really good and then we didn't play so good the next time out. One thing that we've always tried to do is the speed that you play with, the efficiency with the sharpness, the quickness and if you can get that… The other part is the communication that your team needs to have. That's the only way I know how to judge it. I was very pleased with what we did last night because we were in full pads and we compete against each other all the time. Obviously you’ve got some things you're working on [for] your opponent but it was more about us competing against each other.”
[After THE JUMP: rivalries, edge, attitude, underdogs, gamblers]
News bullets and other items:
Hoke expects Devin Gardner to start against MSU, with Shane Morris now healthy enough to be his backup
Hoke identified zone coverage, the run game, and creating big plays as areas for improvement over the final five games of the season
Kyle Bosch will re-join the team in January after taking a leave of absence for personal reasons
Willie Henry could have played against Penn State if it was necessary
Hoke alluded to being past the point of making a decision regarding Desmond Morgan redshirting and was evasive when asked if he’d miss the rest of the season
The coaches go over negative highlights from around college football each week in team meetings
If you’re wondering why there were no MGoQuestions it’s because they were all about MSU, and I decided to save them for Monday since Hoke said the coaches are only in the preliminary stages of gameplanning
“Number one, thanks for coming out today. It was good to get a win. Obviously winning's an important aspect of what you do when you compete. The atmosphere, I think, in Michigan Stadium was unbelievable and I know our kids, the energy, they feed off that and it was through the whole game. It was loud when it needed to be loud [from] our students and our fans so we really appreciate that.
“Yesterday we had a shortened practice. We'll go a little longer today. Just fundamentals and techniques being the main emphasis. A little bit on our next opponent, Michigan State, but a lot of fundamental work because we've got some young guys who want to continue to grow and continue to get them as many reps as we can, and then you've got some older guys who've played a lot of football in seven games [over] seven weeks so you want to get them some rest when you can but at the same time try and get some of the early game planning stuff. And with byes, to get physically healthy is an important part of it as much as you can; you're never going to be all the way. And then we've got a great rivalry game with Michigan State.
‘So the other thing we’ll use the bye week for is recruiting. The other part of it will be for us to– for us as a staff to do some self scout with where you're at and what you've done so far and where you might want to change some details up and I think that's one thing Michigan State did – not Michigan State, Penn State, the other night when you look at some of the down and distance and formation things in the first half from an offensive standpoint. They had the bye week and I think they went in seeing that they needed to change up a little bit and I think they did that.”
Do you expect Devin [Gardner] to start at Michigan State?
“Yeah, I would. I think having Shane back and healthy also is a big part of it and as much as we are going to talk about injuries yeah, we expect Devin to be there.”
You've touched on this in the past, but what would you say is the biggest area of improvement in Devin since you've known him?
“I'd say as much as anything I think [it’s] his leadership. I think nowadays kids, not a lot of them have that natural leadership. And a lot of that is, and this is an opinion, I haven't studied this but they play so much AAU now. It used to be you go in a backyard or churchyard and you’d say [to] 10 guys, ‘Okay you're the captain of this team and you’re [the captain] of this,’ then pick. Now we have adults making decisions that I don't believe kids get to make and it doesn't help them grow and so that's just part of what I think. So it's a little tougher at times to help kids grow in that department.”
[After THE JUMP: more details on stuff summarized in the bullets]