...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Was the bust what you remembered it to be?
“Yeah. That was a great night. I was riding up there with my wife, and we were on the bus, and Fred Jackson was right next to me, and I said, ‘Fred, where was it? I can’t remember this.’ And when I got up to the hill right there and I saw it up the road, I said, ‘Oh yeah, I remember this.’ That was a special night, a special night because that’s a special group of seniors. That was neat that that many people turned out to honor them, and they’ve earned that. I think that’s again another one of those things that separate Michigan football from a lot of other people and a lot of other places. It was a nice night.”
What does it take to keep a group from not sliding back for the bowl game?
“It’s always something that’s in the back of your mind, but I don’t think that’s going to happen with this gorup. This group is so hungry, and they already have talked about it themselves. That’s the good and bad about a bowl game. You’ll rememeber that one. That’s your last game. You always are going to remember your last game. It’s not about saying, ‘well, we had a good season and that was a bowl game.’ That’s not the case, especially when it’s a BCS bowl. These guys are focused, they’re doing everything that Brady’s asked them to do up to this point, which is the conditioning part of it. The practices that we’ve had to get them back going again, we’re real up tempo, and all signs show that that’s the same team that’s going to keep trying to get better and better.”
How has this season stacked up to the expectations you had when you took the job earlier this year?
“Well I don’t think I’d be telling the truth if I didn’t think they exceeded them. I think as the season went on, it didn’t exceed them because I started seeing that this group of guys and the job that Brady’s done and the way the staff worked, it was a great great situation, and these kids just keep trying to do everything you ask them to do. The interesting thing is forever here -- and it’s not a corny deal -- in our team room, it’s ‘team, team, team’ … and if you want to look at a great example of team, it would be this team so far. There may not be a lot of great, great players there -- there’s some really good ones -- but when they all did their thing and all worked together, and the offense picked us up, and there were games where we picked them up, and the special teams picked up both sides, that’s what a team is. That’s what you remember Michigan as, is team. As far as expectations, I think the thing they did do is they became a team. A real team. That always is a lot better than anything else.”
(more after the jump)
“Obviously number one we’re very excited we have the opoprutnity play the 13th game. To be in the Sugar Bowl is exciting to all of us. We’ll start practice today, and we’ll go this weekend, next weekend, and keep it going after next weekend and kind of dodge around finals times and all those things you kind of deal with this time of year and with recruiting. We’re going to play a tremendous, great opponent in Virginia Tech, a well coached team. Frank Beamer’s done a tremendous job for many years, so it’s going to be a great challenge and be a lot of fun. We want to enjoy the atmosphere and embrace it, but we want to prepare to go win. That’s why you play in bowl games when you have that opportunity.”
You’ve done bowl prep a couple different ways. What have you found that works?
“The one thing, there’s a fine line between trying to outsmart yourself, maybe outpractice yourself a little bit and the intensity that you want to do things with. There’s a tendency sometimes to get stale -- and that can happen all year long, but you like the consistency of how you prepare, but at the same time I think you need to change it up enough. We’ll try to do that a little bit from shoulder pads to helmets the full length of practice, maybe some different drills, and those kinds of things.”
What are your thoughts on spending this time strictly for bowl prep vs. developing players for next year?
“If we had better depth at the big positions, your O-line and D-line, I think we’d do more. But when we came in we only had eight scholarship offensive linemen. Usually you’re at 15. That’s a little dicey. You’ve got to be healthy. You can’t run the race if you’re not at the start line. That’s always a part of it. We’re a little deeper at some positions, but O-line and D-line is where we’re thinnest at. You’ve got to be smart in how you transition your practice and the physicalness that you want to play with that you have to practice with. So it becomes more difficult. It’s kind of like spring ball when you don’t have a spring game. Well why don’t you have a spring game? You don’t have enough bodies. We’re still in that position obviously where we don’t have the bodies, especially at the bigs -- the big positions.”
(more after the jump)
News bullets and other important items:
- Brennen Beyer should be fine for bowl practice.
- Team will go back to fundamentals and technique during bowl practice and develop younger players.
- Quinton Washington, Keith Heitzman, and Chris Rock are improving on the D-line. Coaches also trying to coach up Richard Ash.
- Bowl practice schedule will depend on which bowl they go to. Team will be active this week.
“It’s great to go out and play well enough to win. I think there’s some things we all know we have to do a better job with when you look at the whole football game, but I think our guys responded well. As a team, I’ve said it many times, but they really complement each other offensively and defensively and in the kicking game. It’s great to win a football game. Anytime you can win that great rivalry game, it’s good.”
Borges has been saying all season that the offense is eventually going to come along. Have we been seeing that the last two weeks?
“You know, I think a couple things: number one, [Denard has] grown and matured as a Michigan quarterback throughout the course of the year. I think the decisiveness that he has run the football with when he’s made that decision, that there’s some open area or whatever has really been good the last couple weeks. I think that’s helped his confidence. I thought he ran extremely hard with the ball on Saturday. When we can rush the ball for 277 yards, it helps you obviously when you get into the throw game. And in the passing game, I thought he made three really good throw again. He was 14 of 17, so his accuracy and completion rate was pretty doggone good. I think he just keeps growing.”
What was the mood like the last 36 hours? Have you been hearing from a lot of people?
“Yeah, I mean there’s a lot of text messages that I haven’t even seen yet to be honest with you. It’s nice and it’s great that people want to congratulate you, but we’re not done with this year yet. Our goal was to win the conference championship and we didn’t do that, so we have a lot more to prove.”
What do you think about the Urban Meyer hire?
“You know, he’s not going to play a down and neither am I. To me, I’ve known Urban. He’s a good football coach. He’s a good guy, I’ll welcome him in, but this is still Michigan and Ohio. It’s still going to be that rivalry. Neither one of us is going to play a game.”
(more after the jump)
Denard Robinson and David Molk
The color is weird on some of these because I forgot to change my camera settings until halfway through.
David, can you talk about the poise of your quarterback and the mindset in the huddle during the game?
Molk: “I mean, he did great. It’s apparent how he’s matured throughout the season, how he’s matured with me watching after him. He did great. As an offense, we did great. We drove down the field. We were always composed. We were always ready for another drive. There was absolutely nothing that was going to stop us today.”
For both of you, can you put in words what this win that was seven years in the making means to you?
Molk: “I mean, seven years really doesn’t matter. It’s the fact that we won today. That’s all that counts. This is a game that I played in. This is a game that we played in today --”
Denard: “Oh yeah.”
Molk: “And this means the world to us.”
Can you talk about the emotion of the last couple minutes when the touchdown got called back and then they had the ball?
Denard: “We just said we had to do it again. We have to try and score again. That’s it.
Molk: “Yeah, and just to relate to what he said. Obviously we’ve been through stuff like this [going] back to Notre Dame and games last year. This is something that we’re used to. We never give up. Doesn’t really matter what happens, we know how to fight through it.”
Denard, your center just said you weren’t going to be denied. It looked like you specifically on a lot of those runs weren’t going to be denied. Was that your mentality there?
Denard: “Yeah. I was out there playing for the seniors. I played my heart out, and the guys did too. That’s what happened.”
This was probably the most efficient performance of your career. What went into that?
Denard: “I was just doing what I had to do -- playing for the seniors and playing for Michigan.”
Molk: “He’s matured as a quarterback and matured as a player. That’s a natural progression when you get more games and more plays. He’s done great.”
Borges has talked about big plays being important to your offense. Can you comment on your ability to be a quick-strike offense?
Molk: “I mean, you always want to score as fast as possible. Depends on the situation, but I mean, hell, if you can get 60 yards or 20 yards whenever you want it -- I think that most of our plays can break like that. It just depends on how they’re blocked. If they’re blocked correctly, they can go.”
Can you talk about what Brady Hoke is trying to infuse in this team and program?
Molk: “He is us, we are him. I love him. I love how he coaches. I love his leadership ability and how he does it. I’d do anything for him.”
Ablauf: “Denard, do you want to answer that?”
Denard: “I guess he wants everybody to be accountable for everything we do. That’s what we do every time, all the time.”
Can you touch on why the running game was so effective today and throughout the season?
Denard: (points to Molk) “Big guys up front. They open holes, and me and Fitz run through the holes.”
Molk: “When you’ve got a guy that fast, he makes plays. Same with Fitz. Those two can hit a hole, and they know where to go, and they know how to read a defense throughout.”
Emotions of last couple minutes, same question as above.
Molk: “When the interception came, it was kind of a, ‘There it is.’ That’s what we needed to turn. That’s the momentum changer we needed to completely lock this game down. The defense stepped up. They did what they had to do when the time came. This was a team win. It wasn’t an offensive victory. This was a team victory against Ohio State.”
Can you touch on the fact that this is the first time in a long time that Michigan has had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season?
Molk: “I mean, it’s great. That’s a credit [to] our schemes as an offense. It’s a credit to Coach Borges. It’s a credit to Coach Hoke. It’s a credit to this guy.” (Puts arm around Denard) “It’s a credit to Fitz and the rest of our backs. It’s a credit to our receivers for blocking. It’s a credit to the offensive line for playing their heart out on every play.”
What does it mean to you as being one of the runners?
Denard: “I’m just glad to be in the offense. I’m glad to be playing with these guys. I want to be nowhere else but with these guys … I’m glad I stayed.”
For a senior class that’s gone through so much, how does it feel to finish the regular season like this?
Molk: “It couldn’t feel any better. Going through what we’ve gone through -- this is my third coach, third offensive coordinator, third O-line coach, third strength coach. It’s been a lot, and it’s been a rollercoaster that for some reason seemed like it would never get good. But you know what, we kept fighting. It’s just like the old saying goes, ‘Those who stay will be champions.’ We all stayed, we all stayed together, we all were one as a senior class, and we made sure our entire group -- our entire team -- stayed with us. That’s why we are where we are now. It feels great.”
Denard, this week you passed Tom Brady in career touchdown passes.
Denard: “I really don’t look at stats. I’m just glad to be a part of the team. Whatever happened that’s good for the team, that’s what I did.”
Where did that postgame celebration thingy come from?
Molk: “I mean, that’s something we’ve done every Friday. We have a little short practice, and at the end of the practice, we do our take-a-knee formation. Take a knee, we all get together, Denard throws the ball up to the ceiling, and once it hits, like a bomb explodes, we all fall.”
Your offensive coordinator took a lot of heat for the short-yardage call against Michigan State. Talk about his guts to come back to that play.
Molk: “I mean, he’s an offensive genius. I love how he calls plays. You could question some of them, but at the same time, they’re absolutely genius when they work. I love what he does.”
Ablauf: “You wanna say anything, Denard?”
Denard: “Same thing.”
Hoke made the senior day activities very personal. Was that somewhat of a surprise?
Molk: “I don’t know if it was necessarily a surprise. Then again, I haven’t seen the past senior day kind of things. That’s who Coach Hoke is. He’s a very personal coach. He’s almost a friend. If I ever came back 20 years from now, the first guy I’d find -- I’d call Coach Hoke. That’s who he is.”
Molk: “Kisses? I don’t let him kiss me.”
Hoke wasted no time building up this rivalry when he got here. Was there anything he said before, during, or after the game today that drove it home to you guys?
Molk: “I mean, I don’t think there wasn’t necessarily anything that he’s said other than preparation that he’s given us over the past 12 weeks for this entire season. It came down to what the seniors put out. I spoke to the team multiple times. Koger spoke to the team multiple times. We all put in our two cents and brought this team tightly together and focused on one goal: beating Ohio.”
How would you describe your feelings after playing your last game here?
Molk: “You know, like I just said with his question, it’s been a long time. We’ve been through a lot of stuff, but then again, in the end, you truly realize what this place means. The power that that block M has on your chest. I love Michigan. There’s no doubt about it. I don’t care what we had to go through. I love this school, I love this university, I love this team, I love my teammates, I love my coaches. This is great. This is what college football is. I’ll never forget it.”
If you reflect on the past year, how much more do you think you’ve thought about Ohio State than in previous years?
Molk: “Probably 1,000 times more. That was the foucs of everything. We said ‘Beat Ohio’ after every team meeting. We said ‘Beat Ohio’ after almost every team breakdown on the field. This is what we wanted, and we wanted to prove it and we did it.”
Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen
OSU had more success against you than you probably expected, but can you talk about the defense making that last play at the end and having the game rest on your shoulders?
Van Bergen: “We were kind of, I think, as a defense, embarrassed that we had given up that original touchdown. We mixed up two coverages -- the exact same coverage -- twice. We feel like we let our offense down. Our offense performed spectacularly today. There’s no other word to describe it. They were excellent. Defensively, we’ve been excellent all year. We really wanted to be able to let the offense hand the ball off to us, so to speak, and let us take this game in for them, and we let them down once. We said, as we came over to the bench, ‘It’s not happening again. No way.’ Coach let us dial up a couple different things, let us run a couple stunts inside that were successful, and we came up with a big play.”
Did they do anything to surprise you or were they just a lot better than you thought?
Martin: “They’re a good team. They did a good job executing on their side of it, and they were successful with a few things. Defensively, we wish we wouldn’t have given up some things, but like I said, we made a few adjustments in the fourth quarter, and up front, with our line, running a few stunts and they were successful. We knew it was going to come down, and for it to come down for us defensively was something that we were going to put on our back and make sure we came through for this team.”
You guys have been here for a long time and have been through a lot. What’s your emotion right now?
Martin: “You know, the mix of the excitement of winning, and also this is my last game with this guy, the seniors, and this time, and this stadium -- it’s bittersweet, I guess I could say, but it’s a special place to be.”
Van Bergen: “I’d like to add to that. An amazing amount of pride -- that was one of the best team games we’ve played regardless of the score, regardless of the stats. The offense performed. Underclassmen, seniors, defense performed when they were asked to step up. I think me and Mike as seniors and leaders of this team couldn’t be more proud of all the guys. Every single player.”
How do you feel about finally getting it done against Ohio State on your last shot at them?
Van Bergen: “I think me and Mike would probably agree that we’ve been hoping since we were kids that we would get the opportunity to win a Michigan-Ohio game and it be on our backs. You couldn’t ask for a more picturesque situation as far as coach saying, ‘Ryan, Mike, Craig, and Jake, you guys do what you want up front. We’re going to play a coverage behind you, and hopefully you can get there with four men.’ Allowed us to that. Me and Mike had a pretty big play, I think on second down or something like that. It was amazing. It was the greatest feeling in the world.”
Can you talk about your legacy and what it means to you?
Martin: “You know, we’re just really caught up in this right now. That’s something we worked so hard to get to this point and make sure that we were successful and how much we’ve harped on this game. This was a big game for us and this program. For us to take this step as a team is huge and something we’re never going to forget. These fans and this fanbase will never forget, I think. Whatever happens, happens for the bowl game, and we’ll take that and look at that when the time comes.”
How big was the goal-line stop to force an OSU field goal?
Van Bergen: “I mean, it’s almost like it was a metaphor for our season. We’ll give up some plays, we’ll give up first downs, but you get us in a short yardage situation as a defense and make us feel like we’ve got our backs pinned up against it, we’re successful. We emphasize that. We practice it all the time. It’s been consistent, I think, throughout our season. Third and one, third and two, short yardage, you’re gonna try to run the ball on us? We’ve been good at it. And Jibreel Black -- give him credit, because he made a tremendous play on that boot. That’s probably one of the best plays I’ve ever seen him make. Being very disciplined against a really good athlete.”
Can you talk about your relationship with Coach Hoke as defensive linemen?
Martin: “I’ve grown so close to Coach Hoke and Coach Mattison as well. Coach Hoke, he coaches the nose guards a lot, so we sit in his office and we spend time with each other, watching film, whatever it might be. The guy really cares about this program and these guys, and he’s the most genuine coach that I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with and be coached by. I know Ryan and the rest of the guys on the team will say the same thing. He’s a guy that truly bleeds maize and blue and really cares about these guys. To get [the win] for him and this program and my fellow seniors, that’s what it’s all about.”
What was it like watching two touchdowns get wiped off the board at the end?
Van Bergen: “I swear, we have the most touchdowns called back on review. I don’t even like review anymore. You know, actually looking back at it, yeah I mean, it was disheartening, but at the same time, our defense had already made up its minds that we want this game to come down to being on us. The fact that it added a little pressure to us probably made us excel in that situation a little more. We probably would have been a bit more passive had we scored that touchdown. I think the aggression and the way we went out and came after the quarterback and jumped routes and stuff, I think we did a tremendous job with that.”
What was the mood like around the team on Friday?
Martin: “The most intense focus that this team has had the entire season. We’ve done a great job of preparing through the week, and that’s something that Coach has talked about since day one. We’ve done a great job from Sunday and Monday and all the way up to the game, preparing and doing whatever we can to make sure we’re successful. The guys on this team knew, like Coach says, ‘Whatever your role is, do it with the most intensity and the hardest and the best that you can.’ Each and every guy did that, and that’s what it came down to.”
Van Bergen: “Like Mike said, everybody was extremely intense, extremely focused. I would say we were perfectly at the edge of confident and cocky, meaning we were still on the confident side and we were full of confidence, but no one had underestimated or overlooked Ohio as a team. They’re a tremendous team, their record doesn’t indicate how good of a team they are, and yeah there’s hatred between the rivalries, but you have to respect an opponent. We had a good amount of respect for them -- just enough -- and we balanced that with confidence. You could sense there was a really good vibe going around on the team.”
Can you talk about the coaches allowing you to call your own plays on the defensive line?
Martin: “You know, I really just think it comes down that Coach has a lot of faith in us up front. The senior leadership up front, and for us to be able to communicate and recognize things, it’s on our part of being smart players. Ryan does a great job of recognizing things and echoing it down the line. When we do it together, it’s just something where Coach can give us the green light when it comes to certain situations. He has the faith that we’ll get the job done.”
Van Bergen: “I think our film study’s unparalleled throughout college football. We watch so much film we’re prepared for the play before it happens. I think we all do a great job with that defensively all around.”
You have seen a lot of Denard’s great games. Do you think this is one of the best games if not THE best game he’s ever played at Michigan?
Van Bergen: “I don’t know if I’d say it’s his best game he's ever played at Michigan. He’s had like 500 yards of total offense before. I don’t know what he had today, but you could tell that this game mattered big time to Denard. The way he ran that ball, you have not seen him run that ball the way he did with the style that he did in a while, just because he was getting first downs, moving the sticks, dropping shoulders. I couldn’t be more proud of him and the rest of the underclassmen who, you could tell, were just fighting with every breath they had for the upperclassmen, the seniors.
Martin: “I saw on one play, Denard lowered his shoulder like Ryan said, and I’m looking at Ryan like, ‘Man, look at this guy.’ I’m expecting him to do it, but the intensity he did it with and he had no doubt in his mind he was going to get the hard yards and the first downs and the touchdowns. Ryan’s like, we want to win, the guy wants to win. It’s just that feeling where everyone was pulling their weight and doing what they could do to make sure Michigan won today.”
How badly did Michigan need this win?
Van Bergen: “I want to say that Michigan probably needed this win to solidy what we did this season as a program. I didn’t want to say it before the game because I didn’t want to put the pressure on my teammates and stuff like that, but I think it solidifies what we’ve done this year as a team. This game is more than a win in the column. It’s bigger than that. It encompasses way more and our team feels like we finished the season. I think our team, all our teammates emphasized that. We finished the season and we went out the way we wanted to go out. We went 8-0 at home for the first time, I think, ever. Just amazing. So proud of everyone on the team. The team effort was amazing.”
What’s the last snapshot you take from Michigan Stadium today?
Martin: “I told someone earlier that Ryan and I and Will Heininger went out to the field after, and we just kind of stood out there and soaked it in and look at what this team had done. It’s special and it’s something that we’ll never forget that we did together.”
Van Bergen: “I think my biggest memory ever is going to be talking to Mike postgame -- me and Mike had a conversation. I’m not going to go into it, but just knowing that we accomplished what we accomplished and achieving that goal was huge for a lot of us.”
Kevin Koger and Jordan Kovacs
Can you talk about your touchdown catch as maybe the culminating moment of your career?
Koger: “I’ve always said my dream has always been to catch a touchdown in the Ohio State-Michigan game. I finally did that, so that means a lot to me and my family. It was a great play call. I was fortunate enough to slip inside the end and run to the corner wide open. Denard found me wide open. He could have run it, but I was so wide open I guess he found me.”
Kevin, what were some of things you said to the team as an Ohio guy this week?
Koger: “I mean, it’s different than any game we’ve played all season. It was definitely the most physical game I played in personally -- I can’t speak for everybody else. It was definitely a lot more physical and the mistakes we had earlier in the year, that wasn’t going to cut it. That wouldn’t have won us the game.”
Kevin, what was going through your head after the game was over? Did you think about guys you played with who never beat Ohio State?
Koger: “First and foremost I wanted to just find a teammate to celebrate with, and I found a lot of those. Guys were running around there crazy like a chicken with its head cut off. But just like the Martell Webbs of the world and the Jon Ferraras of the world that didn’t get a chance to beat Ohio State, hopefully they can live through us because we definitely did it for them and the team.”
Jordan, what were you struggling with as a defense today?
Kovacs: “Well we knew that they were going to be a tough offense to stop. Braxton Miller’s a great quarterback. He made some big plays, he’s going to make some plays for them in the future. I think he got loose a couple times, made some big plays, and defensive backs, we probably didn’t do a good enough job of keeping the ball inside and in front. We gave up a couple big plays. We had guys like Kevin on offense to bail us out and make some big plays for us. We’re excited about the win and we’ll take it. It wasn’t the prettiest, but it’ll do.”
Have either of you heard Hoke say the words “Ohio State”?
Koger: “Nope. Nope.”
Kovacs: “Haven’t heard it.”
Did he ever explain why?
Koger: “No. Just an unexplained mystery, I guess.”
Jordan, considering how much the defense struggled in this game, how excited were you to have that final defensive stand at the end, and was it appropriate the final play was intercepted by a defensive back?
Kovacs: “Right. As a defensive player you wouldn’t want it any other way. To be playing Ohio in the Big House, the defense has to make a stop. We had an opportunity to redeem ourselves and Courtney came up with the big play. At that point, I was kind of looking for the flag. I figured there’s got to be one coming. I ran to Courtney and celebrated, and it was an exciting win. It wasn’t pretty, like I said, but we’ll take it.”
Does this game and this season mean Michigan is back?
Kovacs: “We hope so, you know. We are excited with the 10-win season and beating Ohio, but there’s still work left to do. We strive to win Big Ten championships. We didn’t get that done, but we’re going to enjoy this win and we’re going to enjoy the bowl game.”
Koger: “What he said.”
What was going through your mind when the two touchdowns got called back at the end of the game?
“Well, there's probably easier ways to get to the end of the game, but you know, honestly it was so much fun watching those guys compete and watching them play together as a football team. I was having fun. The way they encouraged each other, the way they fought for each other -- there wasn’t a doubt in my mind, but I think a little different anyway.”
Was there something poetic about the fact that the play that sealed the game was made by a defensive back, considering the struggles that group had earlier in the game?
“They did a nice job. You’ve got to give Ohio credit. They did a nice job stretching the field, which is part of what they do offensively. I thought Miller threw the ball well. They max-protected a bunch, so if you have four guys or five guys coming, they could pick them up. That was a good plan for them. The way they run the ball, and with his ability to run and the dual-threatness that he presents, we got distracted a little bit with our eyes from a technique standpoint, and they were able to hit some. But the kids kept playing, and Courtney made a nice play.”
Was this Denard Robinson’s best performance?
“Um … Let’s hope the next one is. He played well. He played with a lot of energy and he played with, in my eyes, he played with a toughness. He went after some of those runs, especially in the second half. It just tells you a lot about him and how he feels about his teammates.”
Is it more gratifying to you that you won by pounding the ball?
“Well, [that] and the last drive that Fitz scored on and didn’t score on -- those offensive linemen, it was neat to see Koger and Denard [when they went] up to the offensive line and said, ‘We’re going to ride you guys. You’re going to win this for us, make it a 10-point game.’ It’s kind of neat to see how they all have the same belief.”
What happened on that last drive when Posey broke free and Miller just overthrew him?
“I don’t know. I didn’t see it well enough. I’m sure he probably double-moved. The guy may have bit on the double move.”
Did you think he was going to catch it?
“You know, if he catches it, we’ve got work to do.”
Was this one of the more satisfying wins of your career?
“What satisfies you [is when] you see those kids in that locker room, and you saw them on the field -- how happy. Because it’s been a struggle. They went to work in January. It wasn’t easy. It’s fun as a coach to see them and how they responded and how hard they worked.”
Do you think you should get a BCS invite?
“I don’t have that decision. I think we have a good football team. Somebody will make that decision.”
Since day one, you said that Ohio was the most important game on the schedule. Having played it and having won it, what do you think now?
“I haven’t changed my opinion. This is the most important game on the schedule, and 364 days and I don’t know how many hours we’ll be teeing up again.”
At any point did you feel the pressure of not having beaten Ohio State for seven years?
“We never talked about it. We never spoke about the last seven years. It’s not fair to this team, and it’s not fair to those teams that played in this game for seven years. So for us to comment about seven years, it’d be disrespectful for those teams.”
Did you feel that your players felt pressure whether it was talked about or not?
“I don’t think so. I mean, I think we had an unbelievable intensity and a focus about our preparation. They’ve been like that most of the year. Maybe there was some more this week. I didn’t sense any of that.”
What was it like being able to celebrate with your seniors afterwards?
“You know, one of them, and that’s Ricky Barnum, threw water on me. But it was -- just to see them happy. That’s the neat part. The investment and the commitment they made as a team. It was special. It’s special. It’s one of those good days.”
The affection you have for your seniors was visible during the senior day introductions. What did you say to them after the game?
“I don’t remember, it was kind of a blur. I just told them in there how proud I am of them. And I can tell you, if we would have gone out there and gotten beat, I would have told them the same daggone thing, that we’re proud of them and what they’ve done for Michigan.”
Can you talk about the confidence you have in your D-line and allowing them to call their own plays?
“Those guys are pretty smart. Ryan is really a good, smart football guy. So is Mike. You feel good about guys when you give them a little bit of freedom, and I think they enjoy that, too. We needed to do something and obviously needed to clog up some of the lanes inside and hopefully get some pressure on him.”
What happens to the clock that says 2,900-something days on it?
“It goes to zero. I think it was 2,926.”
When did you know that your seniors were coming together?
“Oh … that’s a good question. It really -- and I know that’s why you asked it, because it’s a good question.”
They’re not all good.
“Well I know, believe me. I think after spring ball, the summer, and fall camp -- we were tough in fall camp. They responded tough. They responded together. And then just the little things, the respect you see in a guy at the training table that he has for another guy. All that stuff. That’s what makes teams -- good teams -- is when they have that respect for each other. You could see it during the course of the game. The offense telling the defense, ‘We got your back,’ and the same thing [the other way around]. That doesn’t happen every year. Hopefully the guys will be in that role next year -- hopefully they’ve learned.”
How will you remember Team 132 and your seniors?
“Well I think they’re a group that obviously had been through a lot. They faced a lot of adversity through their career here. But they persevered and they stuck together. It’s a special group.”
Any thoughts on competing against Urban Meyer at Ohio State?
“You know the good thing about coaches -- we don’t do the competing. It’s the kids. It’s the guys on the field.”
Two question: Molk said you emphasized this game 1,000 more than the last few years. How did you do that? Also, what happened on Will Hagerup’s fumbled snap?
“Obviously took his eyes off it. Like I told him, I said, ‘How many snaps do you think you’ve caught over the course of your career? There’s a probability that happens, that you may drop one sometime. If you’ve caught 1,000, then you may drop one but you won’t drop the next one.’”
And the first question?
“We just -- we end every meeting with ‘Beat Ohio.’”
Nothing at the end of practice?
“I think we … eh, I don’t know.”
We’ve asked you a lot about Denard over and over and you’ve had to back him every time. What kind of statement did he make with today’s performance?
“Well, I don’t know who he’s making the statement to, because he’s out quarterback and will be our quarterback at Michigan. When you ask that, I think Denard went out there as a quarterback at Michigan and went out there to help his teammates and be accountable to his teammates on his performance. He couldn’t do it by himself, and no one ever does, but I thought he played an aggressive, controlled football game.”
Brady, you’ve got two 1,000-yard rushers.
“I didn’t know that. That’s good.”
What does that say about the balance in your running game?
“Well I think the ability that the guys up front and what they’ve done, I think the offensive staff and what Denard has done in this make-shift, a-little-bit-quasi offense that we have. I think Fitz, the growth and maturity that he’s shown.”
Van Bergen said this is one of the best team victories you’ve had. Do you agree?
“Yeah. I think whenever we win, it’s a team win. I think the magnitude of the rivalry and all those things, that always means a little more.”
How do you feel about your team and your first full regular season as head coach of Michigan?
“I love my team. I love the kids on this team. I love how they represent Michigan. And what was the last question?”
How do you feel about your first regular season?
“Eh, it’s fun, you know? It’s fun! Look, I’ve got the best job in the world. I do. Because at 2:30 every day, I get 115 guys that I get a chance to make a difference in their lives. What could be funner? Or more fun. Is ‘funner’ right?
Does it mean anything to you that three seniors caught touchdowns?
“You know, I just think for our seniors, and it doesn’t matter -- we have some seniors that didn’t play a snap, but they’ve played plenty of snaps on the look team and the scout team. They’ve been tough and they get in the weight room at 5:15 three days a week and go to class. One of them’s going to law school. I’m proud of all of them. It doesn’t matter who caught a touchdown. This is a team.”
[Players will be up this afternoon.]
News bullets and other important things:
- Brennen Beyer is the only major injury the team is dealing with. He hurt his leg.
- Barnum is practicing, will get consideration to start.
From file, just to spice things up. Still can't believe this game happened.
“This is a great week to follow college football. Obviously with this game, I thought we had a very good practice yesterday. Hopefully we can follow that up today with our preparation. Our seniors have done a tremendous job with really the focus and the things that we need to do as a team and being the leaders out there, so it’s been good so far this week, and we just have a lot of work ahead of us.”
You say the focus was up. Has the focus gone to another level this week?
“You know, I think there’s been a lot of consistency, which is what we want to have a on weekly basis. I can’t tell you if it’s up more, but I think they understand how fun this game is.”
Do you feel like they’re focused on the fun and opportunity rather than the pressure and stakes?
“I think the consistency that we’ve had week to week, I think that the intensity of it and doing all those things has been good. I think they’ve been pretty focused on it.”
“This group doesn’t get tight very often.”
(more after the jump)