So we were told on Monday that the receivers and tight ends were playing as well as any group in the Big Ten. They’ve taken a big step forward, it seems like. What do you think has been the cause of that?
“I think it’s just impossible to work hard and practice really well and not get a lot better. If you do the right things it will pay off. It’s just a matter of time, I think. Really that’s all I would attribute it to.”
Can you measure the synchronization change from the start of the season til now with Jake Rudock and the receivers?
“Just in terms of being on the same page?”
Just being more used to each other.
“Yeah. I think I wouldn’t say that we weren’t used to each other, but with the pass game relationship there’s definitely a benefit of spending more time together. Kind of, as I’ve said before, it’s just a matter of improving over time.”
When did you start to see those improvements pay off on the field?
“In terms of Jake and the receivers?”
“I thought we were going to throw the ball well against Utah, so…it’s not like an ‘aha’ moment, I guess. It’s not like an instance where you go all of a sudden Jake’s good, Jake Rudock’s good or Amara and Jehu are good. It’s just a matter of improving and connecting on plays; more plays in week two than we missed in week one, week three and four, etc. It’s not like a one week, one moment thing even though people will try to make Indiana out to be like that.”
I got scolded a bit Monday for asking about Ian Bunting. He was starting to contribute quite a bit in the passing game early in the year. What’s he got to do to get back to that level and see more playing time?
“He does all the right things. He’s working tremendously hard and is practicing really, really well. If there was a downside of having a really good, deep group at one position I think that would be it. Not everybody always gets to play as much as they’d like or contribute in the ways that they would like, but he’s doing all the right things and hopefully in the next few weeks he’ll be able to show his improvement.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
Royce, how much did that pace on Saturday affect you guys, and is it just one of those things where maybe the pace got the better of you for one game?
“Yeah, the pace was pretty bad. We didn’t play to our full ability and we definitely are looking forward to picking it up this week.”
When you looked at it- have you had a chance to look at the film yet?
Beyond the pace, what were some of the issues you guys were having stopping the run?
RJS: “Just getting lined up. You know, everything was going so fast. Just getting lined up and getting the call since they were running a no-huddle offense the whole game. That was a big challenge. And just hitting a guy after so many plays, it takes a toll. Just had to find a way to get the W.”
Graham, coach Harbaugh was talking about how Jake [Rudock] doesn’t flinch and how he turns the page so well whether it’s a great play or a poor play. Talk about the effect that has on a team.
“It’s great to have a quarterback and have somebody who’s the leader of our offense who comes into the play the exact same as he was the play before. He’s not too high, he’s not too low; he’s unflappable. I think that gives us a quiet confidence about ourselves, and whether it was a bad play or a good play we’re ready to keep going.”
Graham, how’s your brother holding up, and what words of advice did you give him after his injury? Tough break there.
“Ryan’s doing fine. Playing a lot of Halo 5. We play a lot together. Maybe you’ll see us online one day if any of you guys play. He’s doing fine, and I just tell him that he had a great season and, you know, we’re taking it week by week. Take it week by week, he had a great season, and he’s going to come back next year stronger and better and ready to play again. You know, fight another day.”
[After THE JUMP: but does the injury affect R. Glasgow’s Halo ability? Also, more G. Glasgow, RJS, and AJ Williams]
The scoring run that Jehu’s [Chesson] on here: three receiving touchdowns in three games. Why it’s happening and how much of a weapon he is for you guys.
“Well, I would really say Jehu Chesson, Jake Butt, Jake Rudock, Amara Darboh, those four I think are playing as well as anybody in the Big Ten Conference as a group, and all four of those deserve any success or accolades for their performance that they’re achieving because they’ve really earned it all, all four, with their work ethic, with their dedication to being good and their seriousness about winning and winning performance at a very high level. It’s just wonderful, wonderful, and they deserve it because they’ve worked extremely hard for it.”
You said on Saturday that you thought that Jehu kind of looked like an NFL player right now.
Did you think that earlier in the year? What kind of changes went down where you were thinking he could play at the next level?
“Well, it was just the constant improvement in all phases of his game. I think the one thing he is improving at, the final piece, is tracking the deep ball. You watch him run, you watch him catch, you watch him block, cover kicks, the way he plays in all phases and now the deep ball. Tracking that is really coming along well. You see that improving, and I think that’s the final piece that he’s acquiring.”
Thoughts on a second straight road game and the challenge that Penn State presents?
“Uh…I acknowledge that it’s our second straight road game. Fully aware of that.
“Challenge that Penn State presents is a big challenge and our team will be prepared for it this week. Outstanding defense. Offensively, outstanding quarterback, outstanding running back, receivers that are outstanding, so…acknowledge both of those things. Formidable task, and it is a road game.”
Because you’re beat up especially on the defensive line a little bit, do you approach this week-
“We’re not beat up. Nobody’s beat up that I know of.”
Dipping into the depth chart a little bit-
“Do you know something I don’t know? We’ve got a bounce in our step. We’re ready to go.”
[After THE JUMP: “I’m like Abraham: I’m gonna die leaning on my staff. I think that’s the way Abraham said it.”]
Talk about what Ryan Glasgow’s meant to you, and any update on his status?
“Ryan’s a tough, hard-nosed player and he epitomizes what we stand for. Blue-collar, tough guy, so he’s been doing a great job for us all year long.”
He was in a sling today. Is that an indication of his status for Saturday?
“Ryan, like a lot of guys, are working through things. It’s that time of year. It’s that part of the season where guys get a little banged up, especially as physical as he plays. He’s just- he’s working through some things.”
Talk about that time of year for a minute. Everybody’s banged up some, you’ve been at it for a while; is it easier to coach because you’re in a conference race at this time of year?
“I just think when you’re coaching the right group of guys, which I believe we have- I mean, they love what they’re doing. Obviously it makes it a little better when you’re in the thick of things, but it’s part of the game. We have an experienced group that’ve been through seasons before and when you get to November your guys’re banged up a little bit; there’s been a lot of football played, but this is when you’ve got to play your best, so we’ve just got to fight through it and keep going.”
If Ryan can’t go, you’ve already lost Mone at that position. Is there any concern about being a little bit thin at the nose tackle spot?
“I mean, that’s…at every spot on the field you could say if someone wasn’t there- that’s part of the game. You know, you’re never going to be three or four deep at any spot, I don’t think. We have a lot of guys that have played well for us, especially at the defensive line, and we just keep rolling guys in.”
After Hurst, who else would be at nose? Where would that position go after Ryan and Maurice?
“Um, I mean, we’ve played a lot of guys along the defensive front at multiple positions. You know, Wormley’s played both inside and outside, Willie Henry’s played both inside and outside, so I think those guys. We’ve doing it all year long anyways in the rotation, so no matter what’s going on, that’s always how we’re going to play. Whoever’s healthy up front, we’re pretty deep up there, we’re going to play them all.”
[After THE JUMP: The Jabrill Formula]
“What’s happening today? Anything good? Who’s got a good question?”
/Siri goes off on someone’s phone; “I’m not sure what you said there.”
“Obviously Siri does not have a good question.”
MGoQuestion: You guys threw a fullback wheel route to Sione Houma, and it looked like it had some similar elements to the one Michigan State ran against you earlier this year. How often do you guys look at something an opponent ran, take similar elements, tweak it, and put it in the playbook?
“Well, I think that you are constantly looking at what other teams do. You’re looking at what defenses you’re going to see and how they compare to the defense that either you play or other teams play. Sometimes there’s just times where you’re gonna go look and you’re gonna say, ‘Hey, are they in this coverage during this time?’ or ‘Is this a team that runs similar type looks?’ Ball plays are stolen all the time from everybody and everywhere.
“You’ll see very often you can turn on plenty of games and say, ‘Boy, didn’t they just run this?’ or ‘Didn’t Michigan just run that?’ or ‘Didn’t Seattle just run that?’ or whoever it might be. It’s just constantly- you’re always looking and watching film and when good ideas or things that look like we could use, you always try to use them.”
Is Jake [Rudock] getting more freedom from you guys to make decisions in terms of plays than he had earlier in the year?
“No, I think he’s really just getting more aware of the entire system rather than half of it or three-quarters of it, so the more he’s aware of what we’re trying to do, the more he can get to certain guys faster or maybe where he can get rid of the ball quicker. He can hold the ball longer knowing that something’s picked up where maybe early on in the season he might have thought the protection scheme might not have known that it was picked up, so checked it down quick.
“There’s, I think, more just knowledge base, and as knowledge base grows you become more comfortable, and when you become more comfortable maybe it feels like you’re getting to different things but you’re really just going through and maybe early in your career as a rookie quarterback or first year in our system quarterback you can go 1-2-checkdown. Now maybe he feels good enough to 1-2-3-checkdown or 1-2-3-4-checkdown. I think you see it in the NFL with rookies to their second year. I think you [also] see it with guys throughout the season.”
Jim credited you with the screen game. Can you talk about how that’s coming along and how pleased you are with it?
“Everybody gets credit for that. It’s really- the whole screen game, I believe that you can get a lot of yards in the screen game, and if everybody is on the same page with it we can get different ways of doing it, different formations, different guys catching screens. I think you go get some gimmee yards at times, but then there’s also times when screens are called and they don’t look good [and] it’s just a ball thrown right at the dirt, so you gotta be careful about that with screens. But, nah, I mean, I know he said that but it’s everybody has everything to do with our screen game and it’s just one of those deals that we ran a lot of them at different places where I’ve been and have really enjoyed the different aspects of it. You know, you can be real creative in the screen game. It’s not always just a straight drop-back deal.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Rudock might be 53 years old, no one really knows]
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]