Two strong defenses here. I guess just looking at what Pat Narduzzi’s doing in East Lansing compared to what you want to do, what this team is capable of, how would you size up the two defenses and as a coordinator are you excited to see maybe those two units be the difference makers on Saturday?
“Well, the first question, how do you size up the two defenses; I mean, I don’t think you ever judge a defense until the season is over. I know you go game-to-game. I know we have goals each game that [are] how we want to play, the level we always want to have our kids play at. How do you judge a defense? Is it stats? Is it points? Is it points that your defense gave up? Is it points that the special teams gave up? Is it points that somebody else…I don’t think you judge it that way. I think you judge a defense by what they do game-to-game, do they do what they have to do to win the game, and how they finish a season, what they do at the end of the year, what it all looks like at the end of the year.
“As far as playing against…you know, I never play against a person. We’re playing- this is Michigan football playing their next game against an in-state rival and I’m excited about it and that’s really how I look at it.”
Michigan State’s been known for their defense in the past but the offense seems to have made great strides this year, putting up big numbers. How much better are they this year and how big of a challenge are they for your defense?
“Well, they’re a very good offense. They’ve done a great job first and foremost running the football. They’ve got some playmakers at wide receiver. They’ve got a very, very good tight end. They’ve got a good offensive line. They’ve done a good job, and it’s going to be a very, very good offense to go against and I think they’ve done a very good job on offense.”
Where have you seen Connor Cook improve?
“Well, Connor, he’s a very good quarterback. I think the biggest place you’ve seen him improve is he doesn’t get sacked. He seems like he gets the ball out quick. He seems like he knows where to go with it, and I think his maturity, his year-to-year, I think he’s a better quarterback. I think he’s a very, very good quarterback.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison watches some football, makes fun of some things, and scouts the Spartans]
What’s it like seeing this rivalry from the other side? Obviously you’ve coached at Michigan State. What’s the view when you had never been a part of it before [at Michigan]?
“Well, it’s one of the classic rivalries in all of college football and I’m very excited to get the opportunity to be a part of it and I know our kids are very, very excited about the opportunity.”
When you were at Michigan State what was it like?
“Any time you play in a game, whether it be an in-state rivalry game or a conference rivalry game and some of them are out-of-conference rivalry games, the important thing is the focus on the game itself and you can get caught up and lost in the things that surround the game. Any time you’re on either side it’s about the players preparing. It’s about preparing them the best you possibly can and giving them the opportunity to be in the right situations to play well.”
Any of those games stick out to you from when you were there?
“I think any time you’re a part of these games they all stick out to you. Obviously probably the one that was played right here [Ed.- he’s referring to Braylonfest] was one that goes down as a great, great football game. Really was.”
They obviously play pretty good defense. Without giving away what you want to do, what are the key things that they do that you have to combat?
“Well, I think when you look at them they’re an outstanding defensive football team. They do a really good job of stopping the run and they get guys and they commit to the box and they do a really good job of tackling. They tackle well. You don’t see a lot of missed tackles. And then when you do have a play you see their ability to make an adjustment and take that play away, so I think that the biggest thing about the game is we have to understand the plan very well. We have to understand how they’re going to line up in the different blitzes and things that they’re going to try and approach us with, and then we have to execute.”
In the past Michigan has had a problem with Michigan State bringing linebackers through the A gap. I wonder if there’s a standard way of dealing with that or is that a pre-snap read the quarterback has to make or-
“Well, when you look at their base defense that’s one of their base blitzes that they run against everybody that they play against. One of the things it does [is] it creates obviously pressure on the interior of your line and pressure within the quarterback’s line of vision. A lot of people that run that- I don’t know their exact philosophy but it’s to create problems and pressure in the quarterback’s lap so he doesn’t feel like he has a real pocket to step up into so obviously it’s a blitz that’s part of their base package and something that we’ll prepare for.”
[After THE JUMP: Why were the MSU coaches covered in glass after the ‘04 game and some strategy talk]
News bullets and other items:
Devin Gardner fully participated in practice last night and should be ready to start against MSU
It sounds like Jabrill Peppers may have been a part of that practice
Hoke really likes Michigan State’s offensive balance [Ed.- they’re ~ 40/60 pass/rush]
Hoke’s recipe for road success: “Don’t turn the ball over. Get turnovers.”
Hoke thinks bye weeks are good for healing injuries and not good when coaches tinker with systems too much. He prefers getting back to a team’s identity after self-scouting. He again says the identity they want is as a team that runs the ball.
He likes how they’ve prepared and how hard they’ve worked
They had a good practice
“Number one, thanks for coming. This is an exciting week. The bye week I think was good for us. I think it's a benefit. Get some guys healthy. There's bumps and bruises. We've been at it since August and we are pretty competitive and pretty physical with what we do, so four weeks of camp and seven straight weeks, I think it came at the right time. You're able to rest some guys and I think that's a big part of it, and at the same time you're able to get some guys who are right on the line that you might depending on how you get beat up or bumped along you may have some other guys that have to get in there and represent.
This is a great rivalry and a great rivalry in a lot of ways. Obviously we have three great rivalries – two great rivalries, but the passion on both sides of either green and white or maize and blue, I think that passion you see, you hear, and you feel. We are playing the defending Big Ten champs who deserve that and have played very good football during the year on both sides of the ball. Going out to Eugene is their only loss and that's a difficult place to play. You’re three times zones different and you're also playing in a pretty hostile stadium that can get pretty loud.
I think offensively, I think Michigan State [is] very balanced. I would think knowing Mark [Dantonio] he would feel very good offensively what they're doing from that balance standpoint. I think Connor Cook continues to impress and improve. You look at Langford and how he's improved and Nick Hill I think has emerged too back there in the backfield. Lippett I think has played like the best receiver in this conference I think when you see the big plays in big games that he's made.
Turnover margin; we’re [on] two opposite spectrums. They’re +11, I think we’re -13 and turnover margin in pro football, college football, high school football, Peewee football, whatever football there is out there is a big part of who wins and who loses and we've obviously got to do a better job of creating. The last two weeks we've done a better job of taking care of the football but that's got to continue.
As far as the bye, we got out Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. Had a practice last night which was a Tuesday practice for us and was very good, very physical. It was good to get out there again. Like the timing because that's one thing you always worry about and I thought our timing was sharp. I thought the execution on both sides of the ball was pretty good. We got a long way to go though, so… that's the longest I've ever given you an opening statement. I just hadn't seen you in a long time.”
Is there a downside to a bye week? You hear a lot of talk about upside but I wonder if there’s downside.
“You know, I think they're probably have been. I can try to go back and think over the years as an assistant and then as a head coach. We had a bye one year at Ball State [where] we were playing really good and then we didn't play so good the next time out. One thing that we've always tried to do is the speed that you play with, the efficiency with the sharpness, the quickness and if you can get that… The other part is the communication that your team needs to have. That's the only way I know how to judge it. I was very pleased with what we did last night because we were in full pads and we compete against each other all the time. Obviously you’ve got some things you're working on [for] your opponent but it was more about us competing against each other.”
[After THE JUMP: rivalries, edge, attitude, underdogs, gamblers]
News bullets and other items:
Hoke expects Devin Gardner to start against MSU, with Shane Morris now healthy enough to be his backup
Hoke identified zone coverage, the run game, and creating big plays as areas for improvement over the final five games of the season
Kyle Bosch will re-join the team in January after taking a leave of absence for personal reasons
Willie Henry could have played against Penn State if it was necessary
Hoke alluded to being past the point of making a decision regarding Desmond Morgan redshirting and was evasive when asked if he’d miss the rest of the season
The coaches go over negative highlights from around college football each week in team meetings
If you’re wondering why there were no MGoQuestions it’s because they were all about MSU, and I decided to save them for Monday since Hoke said the coaches are only in the preliminary stages of gameplanning
“Number one, thanks for coming out today. It was good to get a win. Obviously winning's an important aspect of what you do when you compete. The atmosphere, I think, in Michigan Stadium was unbelievable and I know our kids, the energy, they feed off that and it was through the whole game. It was loud when it needed to be loud [from] our students and our fans so we really appreciate that.
“Yesterday we had a shortened practice. We'll go a little longer today. Just fundamentals and techniques being the main emphasis. A little bit on our next opponent, Michigan State, but a lot of fundamental work because we've got some young guys who want to continue to grow and continue to get them as many reps as we can, and then you've got some older guys who've played a lot of football in seven games [over] seven weeks so you want to get them some rest when you can but at the same time try and get some of the early game planning stuff. And with byes, to get physically healthy is an important part of it as much as you can; you're never going to be all the way. And then we've got a great rivalry game with Michigan State.
‘So the other thing we’ll use the bye week for is recruiting. The other part of it will be for us to– for us as a staff to do some self scout with where you're at and what you've done so far and where you might want to change some details up and I think that's one thing Michigan State did – not Michigan State, Penn State, the other night when you look at some of the down and distance and formation things in the first half from an offensive standpoint. They had the bye week and I think they went in seeing that they needed to change up a little bit and I think they did that.”
Do you expect Devin [Gardner] to start at Michigan State?
“Yeah, I would. I think having Shane back and healthy also is a big part of it and as much as we are going to talk about injuries yeah, we expect Devin to be there.”
You've touched on this in the past, but what would you say is the biggest area of improvement in Devin since you've known him?
“I'd say as much as anything I think [it’s] his leadership. I think nowadays kids, not a lot of them have that natural leadership. And a lot of that is, and this is an opinion, I haven't studied this but they play so much AAU now. It used to be you go in a backyard or churchyard and you’d say [to] 10 guys, ‘Okay you're the captain of this team and you’re [the captain] of this,’ then pick. Now we have adults making decisions that I don't believe kids get to make and it doesn't help them grow and so that's just part of what I think. So it's a little tougher at times to help kids grow in that department.”
[After THE JUMP: more details on stuff summarized in the bullets]
News bullets and other items:
- Ondre Pipkins was dealing with “something” and should be back soon
- Willie Henry was dressed but didn’t play; he’s injured
- Hoke said any of the dressed QBs could have played, but read between the lines re: Morris and being injured
- Devin Gardner had a boot on his left foot after the game but said he’d be ready to go against Michigan State
- We talk about injuries a lot for not talking about injuries
- Penn State broke away from their tendencies in the first half. Hoke praised Mattison and the defensive staff for adjusting before the second half.
- Hoke again praised Matt Wile’s kicking and Devin Gardner’s leadership
“It was- obviously it’s always good to win. We’ve had some tough times and tough weeks but the resiliency of our football team, the resiliency how they go about every day in practice and the hard work that they put in paid off. It wasn’t pretty at time but I don’t know if anything’s pretty all the time and what they did, though, is they played together, they stuck together.
“We had some guys who were banged up obviously, and that’s just part of football. If you’re not banged up then you’re really not playing, but we’ve got guys who are tough. We’ve got guys who understand what it is to play as a team and play for each other and play for Michigan, and I’m excited about for them as much as anything [that] they stuck together.
“Also, the environment, the crowd; there’s no place better in this country when you have a game like this than Michigan Stadium. I can tell you our kids, they feel it. They feel it when those people are there cheering for them, and those students that were there, the former players coming back and supporting those kids; you don’t get that at a lot of institutions or maybe any institutions like you do at Michigan. Very excited for our kids. We’re going to enjoy it and then we’ll get back to work next week on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Could you talk about the play of the defense in the second half, and then the winning plays at the end there?
“You know, I think a couple things: Penn State had a week off and as most teams do, you have a week off [and] you start looking at tendencies. You start looking at things that maybe have patterns to [them]. The first half they broke some tendencies that they had, so I think Greg and the staff defensively did a great job at half time. I think our kids had a will, and they willed themselves to keep going and it was pressure on the quarterback with a four man, three man rush that really worked out pretty well and maximum coverage. And part of that is that he has to hold the ball a little longer, and we got off the field on third downs which in the first half we really didn’t as much.”
We all saw Devin [Gardner] pacing the sidelines and grimacing and looking like he wasn’t going to get back in. Talk about him coming back in the game and what he showed you and what he gave you.
“Well, Devin’s leadership has been outstanding, and he played a game a year ago with a broken toe for half the game so you know he’s a got a toughness to him. He is turning in, through his maturation process and everything else, into a tremendous leader. He was cheering the defense on when they were out there and he just wants to compete and play and the trainers said, ‘Yeah, he can go.’”
[More after THE JUMP]
News bullets and important items:
Ondre Pipkins should be back this week. Sounds like he was injured last week.
The coaches want the running game to be filtered through the running backs because they don’t want the quarterback to get hurt
Maurice Ways and Chase Winovich are two younger guys who have garnered attention from the coaches
Mo Hurst was a running back in high school and has good vision; hence his use in goal line situations
Jabrill Peppers is not out for the season
“Thanks for coming out today. Yesterday, again, the consistency of having good practices continued. They went out and it was spirited. It was tough. Obviously they want to win. They want to play better. They want to compete better, and I think they’ve done that throughout so that’s been focusing on improving at each position and what we can do to play better, coach better, the whole deal. You know Penn State has a very good defense. Very salty, very good defensive front. I think Hackenberg is as talented as a quarterback as you’re going to find. I remember talking to Bill O’Brien about him and I know what Bill thinks of him as a quarterback and I can tell you we share those sentiments. We’re excited to get back out on Saturday. I think that’s the great part about football; you get another opportunity. We’ve got to take advantage of it. It’ll be a historic night, obviously, with the first Big Ten night game in Michigan Stadium. The atmosphere the night games have created the last two years have been something that has been very exciting for our players, so we’re excited about that.”
Coach, Ondre Pipkins didn’t travel with you. Where is he in the mix on the defensive side?
“He’ll be back with us this week.”
So you’re not talking about injuries, but-
With the running backs, do you move [Ross] Douglas back there or do you do anything else to get more depth, because you were kind of thin there anyway?
“You know, Ross is playing a little bit of the slot. He’s helping us there a little bit. Haven’t moved him full-time back. The good thing is he’s had some snaps there but right now we feel pretty confident with DeVeon and Justice and Drake Johnson. In some personnel and situation things Joe Kerridge being back there is a possibility.”
Is Wyatt Shallman playing there?
“Well, he- a little bit, yeah. He does some things for us.”
We’ve talked about this all the years with Denard and now Devin but the balance between letting them run, which was obviously successful the other day, and then now the injury factor; how do you balance that?
“Well, I think with two good athletes like that who from an instinctive point of view maybe run the ball a little bit more than you want depending on what they see down the field in those passing situations, but I think there is a balance. I think we would like to keep creating the runs from the tailback position as much as possible so that we don’t have to put him in harm’s way.”
How much of it is Devin initiating it and how much of it is directed from Doug [Nussmeier]?
“Well, I think he initiates some of it. He has a feel for it, and instinct for it but obviously there were some designed runs that were in there.”
[After THE JUMP: Get out your Ouija board, because we’re (barely) talking injuries]