"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Joe Bolden and Taco Charlton
Opponents only scored six touchdowns in the red zone on sixteen chances this year. What do you guys attribute your success in the red zone to?
JB: “Yeah, I mean, obviously as you get backed up- you never want to allow a team in the red zone- but when you get backed up it finally hits you and you can’t break. Ultimately when they’re in the red zone you want to hold them to three points. I think our mindset, our defensive mindset, is we don’t want them to have even three points. So, you line up to kick a field goal, we want to block it. I would say just the mindset we have when the ball gets down to the red zone.”
TC: “Yeah, to contribute to Joe, just give us a place to stand. That’s all we need. We just need a place to stand and we’ll make that stop. We have the confidence in ourselves. We know we have the coach in coach Durkin and all the coaches on the staff. They gave us all the abilities and we know we can get a stop if we get down there.”
Joe, your coach just got done talking about you guys playing the top three rated quarterbacks in the league the next three weeks. I know you’re focused on this one, but how much of an extra challenge do you take it when you face a guy who’s very efficient behind center?
“Yeah, a guy who knows how to manage a game, knows how to win football games, and having his ability playing- I think other guys on offense, when you have a good quarterback you have other guys playing off your quarterback, and it’s almost like a driving force for your team. Having guys behind the center and taking snaps with that ability, with that efficiency, I believe boosts your whole team: special teams, defense, offense. But really, when you look at all three of them and you look at especially Sudfeld, they’re all great players. Like I said, they manage the game of football very well.”
Talk about how the Michigan State loss opens the door for your Big Ten title hopes, and will you be rooting for Ohio State to give Michigan State a second loss because you need that to control your own destiny?
JB: “Yeah, it obviously helps us out. At the same time, not too worried about that. We’re worried about Indiana. Rooting for Ohio State is a very bad- I would say not a very good phrase. Obviously we want to get in the Big Ten championship, and for them to win that game here in a couple weeks would be awesome, but at the same time I don’t really care what happens there. All we care about is Saturday. We can’t get there without continuously winning.”
TC: “Yeah, we can’t control what Ohio State does or Michigan State does. We just control what we do, so we make sure that we gotta win to make sure we control our own destiny. Everything else we hope will take care of itself. Rooting for Ohio State? I don’t know if we can go that far with it.”
/silence while the microphones are redistributed
JB: “Nobody’s very talkative today. Used all your questions with coach Harbaugh.”
[After THE JUMP: De’Veon Smith and Ben Braden]
Is having a little bit more of a window to playing for the Big Ten championship something you even address with your team?
“I’m sure they’re aware of that, and…if not we’ll make them aware of it, but I’m sure they are.”
Just looking at some defensive stats: nine offensive touchdowns given up this year, twelve total. Can you talk about the evolution of this defense and the way it’s bounced back after those last two games?
“Yeah, doing some things that are great. But in terms of like answering the question of the evolution or how we got here or where we’re at and being in that position, we feel like we’re still asking questions. How can we get better? What can we improve? What else can we do to help our team improve? So, not so much the answering questions, more asking them about how to get better.”
Is there any one area specifically you feel like you guys want to improve more?
“No, not that list for you either. In all phases, in all areas. We’re constantly asking ourselves those questions.”
You weren’t happy about the intent to deceive call. Did you get anything that clarifies it more for you and how it’s going to be called in this league going forward?
“Yes. They said it wasn’t intent to deceive, it was intent to confuse. That was the own language that the official used. It’s…I take the rules very seriously, and understanding the rules, understanding the consistency, the clarity of rules, and not just the rules but the spirit of the rules and doing everything that we can to follow the rules, so yeah, I said I was offended after the game to have an unsportsmanlike conduct called on us and the language that they used…that’s offensive because we take it very seriously to know what to teach our players and tell our team.
“No, there’s still no rule in the rulebook that you can go back to and say that we broke. In fact, we asked for interpretation weeks ago and followed it to the best of our ability and…it needs specifics. What was it about it that made it an illegal play versus what would make it a legal play? I mean, everything else in the rulebook is specific, but this one seems to fall in a category that was left to judgment whether the other team’s trying to confuse the opponent, and that’s an awesome responsibility for anybody.
“And why have it? Why not specifically write it? How far can you be from the boundary, your widest eligible receiver during a substitution, after a substitution occurs? Is it in the bench area; has to be closer in the field to the numbers; outside of the bench area it can be closer to the sideline? But really there needs to be some specifics because that’s…that interpretation- we’ve put a lot of work into making sure we follow the rules and not just the letter but the spirit of them.
“Then you start thinking, playing the scenarios. I mean, what else could be deemed trying to confuse the defense? What would be next? Skipping the ball off the turf, if it were a backward pass where you skip it off the turf? Defense thinks that’s an incomplete pass, everybody stops, they pick it up, throw it, etc. I mean, those…need to have specifics on it. So that’s my feeling, yeah. Still remain offended by it.
“And I need some clarity and consistency on another thing I’m offended by: We’ve got a defenseless player covering a punt and he gets hit in the back, in our opinion, in the back of the head, which gets called a targeting foul. They go up to the booth and they say it’s not targeting, but no foul is incurred. It’s a…player, lines up a player- looks like he made a decision to hit him, hit him high, hit him in the back. At least should be a block in the back. Should be unsportsmanlike for making that play, so I’m offended for our defenseless player, so you can put that on the list of things. Top five.”
[After THE JUMP: “I love football, I love the University of Michigan, and I love coaching, and you can do all three of those. As my dad would say, ‘Who’s got it better than us?’ Nooobody.]
Rudock, you seemed really comfortable today. You weren’t 100% this week. Can you talk about your mindset out there?
“I’d say at this point in the season nobody’s feeling 100%. I felt good enough to go, which is all you need; the confidence to go out there and perform. Training staff did a great job of getting me ready to play.”
What did you guys see in looking at Rutgers this week to know that you were going to be able to throw the ball as well as you were able to today?
JB: “They run a lot of middle field open, like Cover 2 and stuff, and that’s one of our strong suits, attacking that kind of a defense. Kind of just liked our matchups against some of their secondary and linebackers and we were able to exploit that and kind of click on some of those balls today.”
Rudock, your rhythm tonight seemed to just have that in-the-zone look. Could you just explain it a little bit? I mean, this is a career high for you. Was this just one of those games where you felt it particularly?
“I think you get those games, as you were saying, but also kind of just getting into a rhythm. Whenever you see the ball get completed and completed you’re seeing the field well. That’s a big thing, and also I think that’s a big tribute to our coaches and really good scheme. All 11 guys on offense really understood and really took [inaudible].”
Jake Butt, take us through the intent to deceive play, like where were you and what did you think of the call?
“Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if there was an intent to deceive. I came off the field late. Got the sub call-in late and lined up. Got the look we wanted and completed the pass. I guess there was a flag. We weren’t really ready for the flag to be thrown but, you know, it happens.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
Talk about Jake Rudock’s day throwing and decision making and making some plays with his feet.
“Well, he was just on fire. He had a great game, making all the appropriate throws, all the right reads. Accurate and appropriate all day long. Kind of windy, blustery day, too. Played great.
“Played great with his feet. I mean, I don’t know how he got in there for that second touchdown. That was- looked like play that would be sacked in the backfield, and even when he got on the perimeter- I had a great look at it and didn’t think there was any way but he…just a heck of an individual effort. The rest of the time- you know, he’s really getting a good chemistry with Jake Butt, with Jehu Chesson, with Amara Darboh.
“The screen game was extremely effective today. Thought Jedd Fisch, Tim Drevno- just really good, creative game planning today on their part. Lot of good things to talk about.
“I also want to congratulate Jourdan Lewis. Heard he broke a record today for most pass breakups in a season and he had some big plays as well. Did a nice job on the kickoff return when he got in there in that area. So, other good things to talk about.”
What was your thoughts on the intent to deceive play? What did you see from it? What was the explanation you got from the ref?
“I’m pretty offended by that, you know, that that was called an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. There was really- everything…everything was…everything was to not deceive. There was- Jake Butt was in on the previous play. He did not go off with the substitutes that were leaving the field. They were practically off the field when he left the huddle. Was not even near our bench area; was down at the 15, 16, 17 yard line.
“We just train our quarterbacks to throw to people that aren’t covered, and- even if it’s a running play. I was watching an NFL game where they didn’t cover a receiver and the quarterback handed it off and got maligned by scribes and pundits and so-called experts for not throwing it to him, but it really is…I don’t know.
“May gameplan next week to if somebody substitutes and the receiver lines up wide, just don’t cover him. Why cover him? Put an extra person in the box to stop the run, and if they happen to throw it to the uncovered receiver it’s a 15-yard penalty. You could make that argument. It’s bewildering.”
How critical was the screen-pass game early in the contest? It seemed like you used that consistently to maybe soften the defense up a little bit.
“It was big. Big chunks of yardage. Got a screen in a long-yardage situation to pick up a first down; I’m thinking of three big ones right now. Changed field position and set up plays and were big-yardage plays. We really executed them well. That’s a credit to all the guys and the other coaches. Not me, because I’m not a good screen coach. Never have been. But Jedd Fisch and Tim Drevno are, and Tyrone Wheatley is, and very fortunate today that they got the guys coached up and it was an effective part of our game today.”
[After THE JUMP: I, for one, welcome our new chart overlord]
Are you finding teams focusing on Jake [Butt] a little bit more as part of their gameplan, trying to take him away?
“There seems to be a little bit of that every now and then. Just, sometimes that’s how it shakes out, how the cookie crumbles, that the guy that’s the intended target of a route isn’t open and we trust Jake Rudock to get the ball to the guy who is open.”
What was your reaction when you found out about Jerry Kill’s resignation this morning?
“Sad. I figured it was something that had to be pretty serious. You never want to hear anything like that, and you know that he has the background of certain health issues so you hope and pray that he gets healthy and his family deals with everything alright, because that’s a serious thing.”
As a young coach, how do you have to learn to manage balancing the stresses of coaching with your health?
“I don’t know, I probably don’t do a good job. I had a donut today, so that’s good. I don’t know. I mean, I think a lot of it has to do with your work environment. The guys we work with are serious about football but they’re lighthearted guys, so it’s fun, it’s loose and serious at the same time if that makes any sense. I’m not a doctor, but I would imagine that’s helpful over the long term of not developing like hypertension or something. I don’t know. I probably should stop eating donuts, too.”
How have your dad and uncle managed to handle it? How have you seen them do it?
“Um, I don’t know. Not in any way that’s special or unique, I don’t think. They both find ways and time to spend with their family and exercise and stuff. They have fun doing what they’re doing. I don’t know. It’s a good question. Certainly it’s something to be aware of.”
[After THE JUMP: Did he use the two-costume strategy as a kid? Also, things about tight ends. And Jabrill.]
What have you seen from Minnesota on film?
“Real strong, powerful running backs. A good running game. I think we’re going to have our hands cut out for us when we get prepared for Minnesota as far as the running game is concerned.
“An the receivers are good. They have No. 9 and No. 1, which are real flashy receivers. The guys know how to get open. They have really good speed, so it’s going to be a challenge for us on the outside and also in the run game.”
What kind of a quarterback is Mitch Leidner?
“He’s a good quarterback. He manages the game real well. Not flashy, I guess because of the knee injury that he had. Probably not the same, but we’re still on the alert for him running the football. He’s a good, solid quarterback. He’s got some good receivers and he’s got a good tight end in No. 86 who can stretch the field down the middle, so…you know, I think one of the biggest things we’re going to have to be alert for is a lot of play-passes and bootlegs from these guys.
“Because one thing we have to do, we have to focus on stopping their running game first because once their running game gets going that’s when everything else opens up. They’re a strong team, so we do have to be on the alert for that.”
MGoQuestion: What happened on the 30-yard touchdown pass to Kings and the fullback wheel route against Michigan State?
“Well, it was just one of the plays where our eyes and our linebacker wasn’t focused on the play, and a lot of our guys’ eyes were in the backfield, so it’s just one of those plays that happens. You wish it wouldn’t have happened, but we’ll learn from that from this point on.
“And like I always say and always tell the guys in the back end, it’s all about eye control. If you play with good eye control those plays are going to be at a minimum.”
[After THE JUMP: I get coached up on eye control]