"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
News bullets and other items:
The team’s goal is to win the Big Ten, but you probably knew that already
The starting quarterback will be determined tomorrow
Some of the criteria for who will start: efficiency, competing, challenging, completions in practice, and leadership
Don’t expect the quarterbacks to platoon
The problems on offense are not the same as last year, as this is a new system
Read the whole thing if you’re into Brady Hoke’s made-up words
“Number one, thanks for coming out. [We] start Big Ten play this week and that's something that we've always fixed on is the Big Ten championship. I think getting started is important. It's a new opportunity. As far as last week we did some good things and didn't do some things as well as we need to and those are things that from a coaching standpoint we always need to do a better job in our coaching of it and in our execution that we need to have. There's some positives and we want to repeat those positives to the guys. Yesterday we did a good job staff-wise in the clarity of the mistakes and fixing those mistakes and [I] like that. Like how they came to work. Like how our team has competed and challenged every time they go out. Like how they've done a nice job with the leadership within the program and how they have gone about the work and I've said that before. Questions?"
Brady, you’ve talked about the leadership that you believe exists in your team. Has that leadership group given you any feedback on how to improve the results of the offense this season?
“No. I don't think that's what they're all about. I think they're all about is how the attitude of the team is and their attitude has been great. I think the way they've gone about and treated each other has been great and we just need to keep that up and keep working hard.”
Brady, you guys reviewed the tape. Do you guys know who your quarterback is today?
“No. We will make a decision tomorrow.”
What did you guys do yesterday? Did you split reps or…
“We'll make a decision tomorrow.”
After watching film how did Devin look and how did Shane look?
“Well, I think they both had some really good things and then they did some things not so good. I think if you're looking for was there one guy who played better than the other no, I don't think so. I think they both know what they need to do better and they will, and I think they both competed and made some good decisions also.”
Brady, not necessarily just about the quarterback but partly about that: 2-2 start and the offense has looked not good. How do you stay the course? How do you not make some major shuffling right now?
“Well, I'm not saying we’re not, right? Tuesday we'll make some decisions. Or we'll let you know the decisions, let's put it that way.”
I mean, could it be beyond quarterback and [include] other personnel?
“I think you look at everybody. You look internally and then you look at everybody and see what combination of whoever in that starting 11 give you the best chance to win. Maybe it's a different personnel group. Maybe it's more two tight ends, three tight ends. You know, as Jake [Butt] gets healthier he'll be more a part of the offense but we'll see how that goes.”
[After THE JUMP: special teams issues, offensive issues, quarterback issues, other issue-y issues]
News bullets and other items:
Hoke thinks ball security is their biggest issue
The starting quarterback against Minnesota will be determined during the week via competing and challenging
Jourdan Lewis’ cross-field rundown that saved a touchdown was compared to a similar play Woody Hankins made in 1996 against Ohio State. The coaches show the team the Hankins play every season.
“Obviously very disappointed with the outcome of the game. I thought our kids came out very ready to play. I thought that they demonstrated that the first drive down the field and I think the defense, what they did early in the football game, was indicative of how they prepared, how they practiced, and how they got ready to play the game.
“I think obviously you have a punt return against you for a touchdown. Anything in the kicking game is momentum and we had some momentum and then we give up the touchdown on the punt return, which is very disappointing.
“You look at, from a standpoint of taking care of the football- you know, and we’ve talked a lot about that. Probably more than I would’ve liked to or you would like to talk about it but that’s one thing we’ve got to do a better job of and that’s constantly coached and we talk about it and sometimes those things happen and we’ve got to make sure we’re going back to work, working hard on it and we can’t have that happen through the Big Ten season.
“We talked as a team afterwards about what we need to do and I reminded them of the 1998 team, which was a team that went to Notre Dame- I was part of that team- and lost and then lost here at home against Syracuse and then went off and won the Big Ten or a part of the Big Ten championship. Those goals, our goals, are all out there. And I do believe we have a team that can do that. Now, you can’t play the way we did today and do that. We realize that. But we’ve got a bunch of guys in that locker room who every day work their tails off and are supportive and believe in each other.”
Brady, after a game like this when you pulled your quarterback and the score was what it was what do you see and why do you believe you can contend in the Big Ten this year?
“Yeah, and that’s a great question but I think the one thing I have that you don’t is I’m with this group of young men every day, these kids. I know how they go to work. There’s some things we did very well today. We did some things not as well as we needed to. And we’ve got to improve on that. We’ve got to go back to work. It starts with me as the head football coach. It starts with the assistants [and] everyone who’s in Schembechler Hall. We’ve got to do a better job for those kids.”
The incident on the sidelines with you and Greg Mattison right before or right after the penalty, was that a little loss of control there? What was that?
“Well, I’ve known Greg since 1984 and I can guarantee you that that wasn’t the first time two competitive men have had a- I wouldn’t even call it an argument.”
“Did I finish that? Sounded like it. Discussion. You ought to see us play euchre. We really have discussions.”
[More after THE JUMP]
News bullets and other items:
Ty Isaac’s appeal was unsuccessful, which means he has three years of eligibility beginning next fall
He currently is able to participate on the scout team
“Thanks for coming. It was good to get back on the field on Tuesday. Those practices, it was very physical. Had a great effort. It was another day for us to go out and compete and challenge with each other and prepare for a very good Utah team. It’s going to be great playing at home. You know, that always gets your players and coaches and everybody else, it gets them excited in the support that we’ve had, and we’re looking for that on Saturday.
“We’re not going to talk about injuries and I might as well bring that out now. And some of that is because you can say something about something and then you’re wrong. Everybody heals a little differently, and the other thing is for our kids. I want to make sure we’re doing a good job protecting them.”
Coach, what would you consider some of the biggest keys to beating Utah?
“Well, I think number one I think they’re third in the county in points scored. I mean, they’re explosive offensively. Good skill players. The two backs are kind of interchangeable in there. For the style of offense I think they really do a nice job of seeing holes. Travis Wilson has done a tremendous job when look nationally where he’s at. He’s second in pass efficiency. Gets the ball out of his hands pretty quickly.
“From the defensive side, I think they’re, depending on how they calculate it NCAA-wise, first in sacks and first in tackles for loss. Knowing Kyle [Whittingham] and Dave Christensen from [my] Mountain West time they both like to be aggressive defensively and then also on the offensive side of the ball.
“So for us, number one, we’ve got to improve. We’ve got to keep getting better every day we go on the field. I think from a defensive perspective keeping the ball inside and in front of the defense, making sure on those money downs, those third downs, [that] we can get off the field. Offensively, got to keep the sticks, got to be able to run the football, and also when you take shots you’ve got to execute.”
As someone who’s a guru in defensive line performance, is their defensive line- is it scheme? Is it the individual players that they’re so productive?
“Yeah, you know, Nate Orchard is one guy they’re using in a lot of different ways. As an outside linebacker, sometimes as a defensive end. I think from his athleticism that he has, he can cause you problems and then obviously he’s a playmaker for them so they’re putting him in some positions to make plays. I think up front they’ve got a quickness to them, and that’s something that can give you some problems. They spike a three-technique into an A gap, which is a coach’s nightmare but if you’re quick enough can be effective.”
[After THE JUMP: lots of tempo talk]
Jack Miller, Brennen Beyer, Derrick Green
Jack, you guys had so much attention on the offensive line coming in to the year. Through three games can you kind of rate how you guys have done and do you think it’s kind of stabilized?
JM: “Yeah, I think we’ve done a pretty good job. There’s been a couple bumps in the road but overall so far I think the group’s done a good job coming together and playing pretty well.”
Why do you think that is? What’s the reason you guys have made this leap?
JM: “I think the work that we put in in the offseason. We worked extremely hard and did extra work for offensive line-type stuff and I think that’s paying off for us.”
This is for Jack as well. I asked Nussmeier what the biggest different is from the start of fall camp to now in terms of improvement and he mentioned communication. How much does that have to, I guess, adjust on a game-by-game basis depending on what you’re seeing or is it a constant thing that you can make the same according to your offense?
JM: “Well, I think that’s why you have three practices a week and you watch a lot of film and those types of things so you’re not surprised come gameday with the types of looks and those types of things that you’ll get. The calls and the communication, while necessary, can be kind of a backup things because everyone should know what’s going on and what to do and those types of things so just the practice and the film work and those types of things really help that become an easier process come gameday.”
Jack, this is also for you. What have you seen from Mason Cole? He was thrusted into a starting position as a freshman, but how have you seen him kind of take on the transition?
JM: “You know, I’ve been very impressed with Mason since he first came in. The poise that he has for an 18-year-old kid playing offensive line is remarkable, and he’s got maybe the best attribute to have as an offensive lineman which is just being consistent play-in and play-out. He knows his job, he’s a smart kid, and he goes out and plays hard and tries to get it done and whether he does a good job or a bad job he’s on to the next play. And like I said, his poise and demeanor is pretty exceptional for such a young kid.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
“Alright, let’s get going on this next one. Go ahead, start it right out.”
As far as pass rushing, your guys are getting there. Like Frank [Clark] said last week, they’re not always finishing the job but what’s your outlook on the pass rushing so far?
“Well, you know, I’m happy with their effort. I look at practice. I look at practice all the time and I believe that what you see in practice is what you’re going to see in games and, you know, the ball gets out quick a lot of times. You can’t judge a pass rush based on whether you get sacks or not. The thing that you want to look at is how many times were you hitting the quarterback and how many times are you getting to him. I was happy with how our kids worked. When I look at the film, one of the biggest things I always look for is effort. The effort and the technique that they’re being taught and I think in that game those kids up front worked very, very hard the whole game. Late in the game they were running to the football like they should. Late in the game they were going as hard as they could on the pass rush.
“There’s a couple times the ball got outside of us on a pass rush. The first thing that somebody always wants to say is, ‘Oh, he lost contain.’ You start having guys just run up the field outside to make sure the quarterback doesn’t get outside, you’ll never have a pass rush. That happened to be a quarterback that did a nice job of using his feet when a pass rusher was engaged in a blocker so to answer your question we’re getting better. We’re getting better at it and we’ll continually get better at it.”
You talk about effort and technique on film. What did you see out of Jabrill Peppers at cornerback along those lines?
“I think our entire secondary made strides this past week and I think they have a lot of pride and I think they didn’t enjoy what they saw the week before. We’re all about trying to fix it, make sure we’re competing every day and then get the guys out there that are going to compete and go after it. I think Jabrill showed during the week that he was working really hard at it and he did the same thing during the game.”
With Jeremy Clark, Brady touched on that he’s learned that the physical skills that will get you by in high school won’t work up here and getting his technique and fundamentals down. What have you seen from this year that’s sort of taken him to the level where he’s become a starter?
“Well, the thing- you said it exactly right. He has a lot of physical talent. He’s a great looking young man that can run, that plays hard, that’s a great kid. When you’re out there at safety in our defense things happen real fast, and you have to make sure you’re making the right checks. If you don’t, if you aren’t where you’re supposed to be you’re asking for something bad to happen to 10 other guys so I think that this is a learning process that he’s had to learn from. Jarrod Wilson has done a great job of showing him what he’s supposed to do and how he’s supposed to do it and I think he’s listened. He’s worked very hard at it and he’s just touching it right now. He’s not even close. He’s got time yet and I’m very pleased with how hard he’s working.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison’s three keys to a good defense]
Offensive line from the start of fall camp to now: where’s it come and in what ways have you seen it grow?
“I think the biggest growth’s been in the communication. I see our guys on a day-to-day basis getting more comfortable and getting better at communicating. We’ve talked about it still as a point of emphasis. I think it always will be. I think you see that in really good football teams. If you watch the line play, if you just watch the trenches and you watch an offensive line play for a really good offensive team you’ll see both the verbal communication that goes on and then all the stuff that happens after the snap with the nonverbal stuff and how they pass games [Ed: I think that’s what he said] and all that type of stuff. But pleased with where we’re at as far as our focus and where we need to go. Once again, consistency.”
As far as focus goes offensively moving the ball, are you frustrated? Sometimes it looks like you’re moving the ball well. There’s other times you’re not moving it at all. There’s other times where not moving it well at all is an understatement. Is there a level of frustration for you right now? Is this offense coming together as planned or is it behind schedule?
“I don’t—I guess that’s kind of a difficult question to ask. I don’t really understand.”
Are you frustrated? Is this offense where it should be in your eyes?
“No, I’m not frustrated at all. Shoot, you look out there at the field at times- I look out there during the game and when you don’t have Funch out there and you have Amara Darboh catching his first touchdown, Da’Mario Jones comes in and catches his first pass [which was a] big third-down conversion, you look at a true freshman left tackle, Devin in his third game in a new system, at times we’re playing Khalid [Hill] at tight end. You just look at the youth out there [and] there is going to be a growth process. Our kids have worked extremely hard and take great pride in doing things right. Now, has it been perfect? No. And do we have a long way to go? Yes. But the attention is there, the focus is there, the want-to is there and we’ve just got to continue to improve.”
Last week you mentioned infancy stages. For another baby analogy, would you say it’s crawling now?
“Well, we took another step. We took a step in the right direction. Still we know as a group the consistency’s got to be better but at times you see us do some things very, very well.”
[After the THE JUMP: Nussmeier summarizes the offensive strategy against Miami and gives his thoughts on tempo]