"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."
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]
Amara Darboh and Willie Henry
What did you guys work on individually this week and what did you want to address as a team with your bye week?
AD: “We worked on a lot of different things. Me personally, I worked on routes, worked on timing with the quarterbacks and then as a team we just worked on getting better overall.”
WH: “Same on this side of the field. Defensive-wise, we corrected mistakes we had against Michigan State, worked on a lot of techniques, get our hands better, our feet and footwork because technique’s a big part of our game. Just getting better and resting our bodies as much as possible.”
What does your coach have to say to you or what did he have to say to you about perhaps one loss not taking you guys out of the Big Ten race and the forward focus you guys needed to have?
AD: “He told us to focus on us and our team. Depending on whether we won or lost we have to keep on winning, keep on taking every game as if it were the last game and go out and try to compete each game.”
Willie, coach Harbaugh was talking about Jarrod Wilson and his leadership style and how he’s not a guy who’s going to say a lot and how he leads silently. Have you seen that, and in what ways does he lead the defense?
“He’s not a guy who’s a big talker. He’s a doer, so you can see by his work ethic a lot of times what kind of leader he is on and off the field, in the class room and also when we’re off the field in the locker room the kind of person he is, the kind of person who cares for his teammates and wants the best for everyone in that locker room whether it’s the class he came in with or younger guys. He’s always trying to coach somebody and help them and help the team.”
Jon Falk isn’t here any more, so who tells the Jug story every year?
AD: “No one’s told it this year yet, but I think being here for a while we all know the story so now we’ve been telling the younger guys about it and how this is an important trophy game.”
[The rest after THE JUMP]
Can you talk about your practices last weekend how the guys responded?
“Yeah, really well. Had a real good practice Tuesday, real good practice Wednesday, and then very excited about that and even more excited with how they came back on Sunday for yesterday's practice. It was very sharp and guys were mellowing out. Felt like we improved from where we were on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
On your show yesterday with Jim Brandstatter you said that it's an improvement week rather than a bye week. How much time do you spend working on individual things before you get back to game planning?
“Well, we were game planning, and it's…it was probably 50-50: 50[%] on the next opponent, 50% on individual technique and fundamentals and football. The ability to get more reps, repetition, and practice good on good, Michigan versus Michigan, so all those things. You're referring to the radio show last week, not yesterday.”
Do you expect to have Drake Johnson back, and Brian Cole, what's his status?
“He is, uh… Drake Johnson, do expect him to be ready to go.”
And Brian Cole?
“Brian's still some time away.”
Is a redshirt still possible for him at this point?
“Uh…we don't really talk about that, that concept.”
Can you talk a little bit about Willie Henry and what he has given you this year?
“Yeah, he's been terrific. Stacked on the game from last week and continues to be an improving player and just playing all out. At the end of that ball game he was a critical factor in those stops and he's doing it with talent and hustle, and he’s played very good, improving football with his technique, his fundamentals, very aggressive. Really can't say enough good things about the way he's playing right now.”
[After THE JUMP: “Not for sure on that one, no. I can’t state positively. I’ve read some Hemmingway, so somewhere along the way that got in my brain.”]
Jake Rudock and Desmond Morgan
Jake, kind of tough sledding for you guys out there offensively. Just talk about their defense and what they did.
“Obviously they’re a really good defense. They’ve shown that through a number of years now and this year. They work hard, well coached, and it’s [mumbles].”
Can you put into words losing that way?
DM: “I mean, it sucks. I don’t know if there’s any other way to put it. Obviously credit to them. They fought through the final whistle and played fought the entire game but yeah, it hurts.”
Desmond, obviously you guys knew how important to stop the run was. What did you guys do to take that away from them today?
“Just played. We didn’t really change anything up too much. You know, we knew that they had the ability to run the ball out of some personnels that normally indicated pass so we put in some things to address that but other than that we just played our base defense.”
It’s obviously a disappointing loss, but just given what you guys have shown this season is this something that you feel like is going to snag you the rest of the way or is this something that really can serve as motivation?
JR: “Can’t let it snag you. Just have to learn what we can learn from this game. Look and remember it’s one game. Obviously it’s very disappointing and hard to look at anything else right now but yeah, you’ve just got to keep fighting. Can’t let one loss lead to two.”
Is there any consolation knowing that it did come down to a fluky play, that you guys did play well enough to win this game?
JR: “As far as I’m concerned a loss is a loss regardless of what happens.”
Jake, any thoughts on maybe some missed opportunities? You had possession right before the half on their side of the field. Is this the type of game where you think about series that might have gone differently?
“Right now I can’t really address that. Obviously every series you want to go down and put points on the board, but that’s not going to happen. That’s not realistic football, so obviously we’ll see on film what we can improve on.”
After a finish like that, what do you tell your guys in the locker room?
“They played their guts out. Played winning football. Overcame so much, and we messed up a play at the end. Have resolve, put steel in the spine, and we’ll move forward.”
Given the fact that your team played so well until the end, is this something that you can use as…I don’t want to say motivation, because that’s the wrong word, but something you can use as a good building point?
“Yeah. There’s so many- so much good, you know. Our guys played big in a big game…overcame so much- calls that were made, calls that weren’t made. Just kept fighting and overcame so much in the ball game and ultimately played winning football. What do you say about the last play? It was unfortunate. Didn’t get the result.”
Why was this the game for Jabrill to see the field offensively and how do you think he did in terms of impacting in all three facets today.
“He did good. He did great in all phases. Big time player, plays really big in the game as he does so often. He played great.”
As you said, you guys played winning football minus one last play that could have gone any way. You guys were in control most of the game- led or tied. How do you talk to your players about the fact that it’s a process, it’s more than one game, it’s even more than one season [as] it’s about building a program?
“Have resolve. Have steel in our spine. Gotta move forward.”
What happened on that last play?
“The snap was low, just below the knees. He didn’t field it cleanly, and looked like then he bobbled it again and kind of kicked it a little bit. Looked like he was trying to kick it while he was in traffic. I mean, you saw it. That about the way you saw it? Very unfortunate.”
[After THE JUMP: “We’re gonna put steel in our spine.”]
“Who’s kicking us off? No questions? Okay, great!”
Thoughts on Michigan State’s defense?
“They’re very good. They’re very good. They’re very fundamentally sound. They know exactly their assignments. They know where they’re vulnerable because they’ve run the same defense, or very similar defense, for so many years.
“I remember playing them in 2009 when I was at Minnesota, and looking back at that there’s so many similarities in regards to what they’re doing. Fun to see. Fun for the challenge, but they’re awfully good. They’re awfully good.”
Jake [Rudock] was kind of reticent to take any label: game manager, whatever type quarterback. How would you describe him and his style as a quarterback?
“Yeah, I don’t- I’m not a big fan, I guess, of that particular title. I think it does not give them the same credit. Sometimes you kind of lose that type of credit on that, but I don’t know. I think he does a very good job.
“He’s a good leader. He has been completing a lot of passes. He’s been smart with the football. He’s done a lot of things you would expect someone that’s a fifth-year player to do: be able to bounce back from a three-interception game opening night and play five games and throw three combined since then I think, and one of them was kind of a fluky play. So, I think he’s mature. I think he can make all the throws. I think he can make all the reads and just continue to lead our football team.”
Is Michigan State’s defensive line the best you’re going to face this year?
“Well, I don’t know. They’re good. They’re really good. I don’t know about the best or not the best. I feel like we’ve gone against some really, really good ones.
“I thought Utah’s defensive line was really, really good. I thought last week they created a lot of challenges for a lot of teams. I thought Maryland has a really good defensive line, so I don’t know. There are a lot of good defensive lines.
“Obviously this is a good football team we’re playing. We know that. It’s going to be a great challenge for our guys.”
[After THE JUMP: A great Steve Spurrier story]