“ ’Sup? What are you shaking your head about?”
I’m laughing at your “Giants and Tigers, it’s on” thing.
“It’s on. I’m fired up.”
Are you a baseball fan?
“Yeah, but not as much now as normal. Just a little more focused on other things, but I’m like anybody else. I like watching Sportscenter.”
What’s the word of the day?
“The word of the day? God. Good question. What’s the word of the day … Hmm. ‘Ear confection.’ Yeah. ‘Ear confection.’ It’s two words, actually. She has an ear confection. That’s what she said. And I’ll be darned if I’m going to correct her. It’s too cute listening to her say it.”
What did you see from the Michigan State film that you liked?
“Oh, certainly wasn’t flashy. But there were some good plays. We played a very close-to-the-vest football game offensively. It was by my own admission conservative. The nice thing about it, as much as we failed inside the red area -- or we could have been better because there were some chances there -- but our quarterback took care of the ball. Other than when it was in essence a meaningless interception at the end of the half. He did play pretty smart. It kept us in the game although it wasn’t flashy. That part I liked, which has shown, the last three weeks particularly, is his growth. About being conscious of taking care of the football, making plays where there are plays, and not trying to create something that’s not there. That was good, and that will help us in the future I think.”
- Raymon Taylor should be good to go Saturday against Nebraska.
- Hoke is being super coy about putting Denard on the kickoff return team.
- Spread punts! I asked. Hoke answered. And ... he's just more comfortable with the traditional punt, it seems.
“You know, we had a good practice last night. Good energy. We have an opponent that’s an awfully good football team when you look at they’ve won 18 of 20 at home. They’re 4-0 this year. I think Taylor Martinez is playing his best football. You look defensively or offensively, they’re leading the league in scoring. Very good football team. They’re physical up front. Defensively you look at tackles for a loss and you look at negative plays that they create. They’re leading in sacks, I think they’re leading in TFLs. Very physical group. Playing in Lincoln a neat place to play because of their tradition and their passion that they have as a fan base about Nebraska football. It’s really a neat place to play. It’ll be loud. We’ll have to play our best football that we’ve played this year.”
Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs
What was so formidable about your opponent today?
Denard: “They’re a great team. They’re a great defensive team, too. And so they played great. Toward the end that’s when we started picking it up. We talked about all week finishing, so that’s what we did. We finished out the end of the game, and we kept fighting the whole game. We never let up.”
What does this moment feel like for you guys?
Kovacs: “It’s pretty good. It feels pretty good. And like Denard said, you have to tip your hat to those guys. Obviously they were struggling a little bit coming in, but we knew it was going to be a dogfight. That’s what the Michigan-Michigan State game is year in and year out. They have a tough defense. They pound the ball on offense. You have to tip your hat to them, but Michigan won today.”
Is this defense good enough to win the Big Ten?
Kovacs: “We believe it, but at the same time, I think if we play like this every week we’re going to be in trouble. We have to keep getting better. That’s one of the things coach Hoke and coach Mattison emphasize: never become complacent. Get better every week. That’s what we plan on doing, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The last defensive stand was sort of reminiscent of the last drive against Notre Dame. Did it feel like redemption or something similar to be able to get the stop this time?
Kovacs: “You know, that’s what I was thinking as we took the field. It’s our opportunity to redeem ourselves and give the offense the ball back. Same situation as Notre Dame, and today we executed. We stopped them when we needed to and made some big plays and got the offense the ball back and let Denard take over.”
I don't always golf. But when I do, I think of brunette girls.
What’s your overall reaction to your team’s reaction to winning No. 900 against Michigan State?
“Well to be honest with you I don’t know if they realized the 900th win. Maybe the two seniors had an idea -- the two captains -- where we’re at, because that wasn’t the point of focus for the week. It was playing a great rivalry game, a game in our division, that’s important to win. Playing hard and playing to represent the 133 years of Michigan football.”
Reaction to Drew Dileo’s game?
“He’s not the biggest guy. He’s not the fastest guy. But the one thing Drew is, he’s a football player. What he does for our football team in a lot of different areas from an off returner in kickoffs to holding on PATs and field goals, I think you all would agree that there were two field goals that were pretty important today. The one at the end, that’s a skill set. He’s just a tough, undersized, not fast enough, but he’s a football player. That’s what he is.”
Where do you think your defense is at right now compared with where you want it to be?
“We really had a bad series in there defensively. You give your opponent credit, but we didn’t do some things well at the start of the second half. They went down and scored the touchdown. You know, I think we’ll look at the film. I think we’ll look at some things we did well, and I hope we repeat those, but we’re not near the defense we need to be to win a championship in this conference.”
Denard was bottled up for most of the game but was able to make some big plays when it counted. What does it say about his leadership ability?
“I think he’s been an outstanding leader. The confidence that he has and his teammates have is part of it. I don’t know if anyone on our sideline thought the game was over. The defense was playing well at that point. Get the ball back and see what happens.”
Can you talk about the fake punt but then holding MSU to a field goal afterwards?
“Yeah that was a very good play for Michigan State. That was a smart play. They saw that we weren’t leveraging the outside, and that’s something that I need to do a better job with as part of the punt return team coaching staff. Because that got them some hope, got them in the game, but the one thing we told the defense: ‘Keep them to a field goal. If we keep them to a field goal here, then good things can happen for us.’ Obviously that’s what happened.”
Did you feel like you did a better job of matching their physicality this year?
“I think so. Yeah. I thought our kids, you know, we wanted to play, finish everything we were doing. Blocks, plays, catches, runs, whatever your job is to do, we wanted to finish. I thought we practiced that way. I thought we did that.”
You’ve talked to us before about Matt Wile having a big leg. What went into the decision to put him out there for the long field goal?
“You answered it. Bigger leg. Stronger leg. That’s one reason why Matt kicks off for us. We had some wind with us. That wind kind of changed really right before the start of the game, so we felt that he would have the leg to do it. He did by kind of a lot.”
What does Michigan State do defensively that’s so effective in terms of bottling up Denard?
“I think they’ve done that to a lot of players, quarterbacks. I don’t know a final statistic, but they have good players. They play extremely aggressive. The things that they like to do, sometimes can be higher risk and higher reward. It’s a belief system they have. They tackle well. They do the things that you need to do in order to play good defense.”
What do you feel like you need to do in order to become a Big Ten championship-level defense? Also, what is Raymon Taylor’s status?
“Raymon got a little boo boo. He’ll be probably okay, most likely. Turnovers. We need to do a better job of creating. We need to do a better job [putting] pressure on the quarterback with four guys. I don’t think that’s a strong suit of ours. That can help our secondary out. I think at times we’re playing too far off the guys in coverage. So that’s a start.”
Gibbons seems a bit of a free spirit.
“What do you mean by that?”
Well, you know, last year at the Sugar Bowl about the brunettes and stuff, not that I don’t agree with him, but …
How do you approach kickers? Do you stay away from them? Do you say something before a big kick? Are you superstitious? Where’s your mind at? Do you go up to him and say, “Hey, we got this one?” Do you --
“I’m with those guys a little bit during practice. I’m not a kicking coach, but it’s kind of like golf, which I’m probably a pretty good golfer ... if I would do it. Those guys, they know what they need to do and how they need to do it. I think them going up to the stadium during the week is helpful because the wind in there’s a little different, especially with the new stuff up there. I think it’s a little different. You know, both those kids, we have a lot of confidence in. And anything else, when you show confidence, kids are going to respond. Not that you don’t rip them once in a while, but I decided when they called the time out, I was just going to watch Gibby do his thing. I don’t know. There’s no magic to it.”
As well as Michigan State’s defense played, you maybe missed a couple opportunities for big plays (dropped pass, missed a block, etc.). Were you disappointed by the execution?
“Oh. I think you could go through every game and there’s going to be execution. We didn’t block down once on a run play that may have been pretty open. We don’t block down. Why? I don’t know. 113,999 or whatever it was? A good defense that you're playing against. You want to see them all execute, but no one has ever played a perfect game. No one will ever play a perfect game. They’re 18-22, 23 years old. We’re going to try and prepare them and remind them and do all those things and grow them right, and then … go play hard.”
Dileo said on the radio that he thought the kick was going wide right. What was your view?
“I watch the people sitting behind the goal post. Because they’ll tell you. I’ll be honest with you. You can’t see it from [the sideline].”
Kovacs said this was the monkey off the back for you guys. Does it feel like that’s what this was for the program, preventing them from beating you five years in a row?
It’s not more meaningful than a “Yeah”?
“It’s an in-state rival. But we have bigger expectations.”
Did you feel like the icing-the-kicker timeout helped you or hurt you?
“I think we were well prepared. Denard did a tremendous job spiking the ball. The field goal team was there. Dan Ferrigno was there, our special teams coach, had all those guys right there ready to go. I think it’s a strategy that can work. Can’t work. You know? Flip a coin.”
What made you go back to Gibbons rather than Wile?
“Because it was his range. We had talked about distance, and it was his range, and he’s more consistent than Matt has been in practice at that range.”
[player transcripts will be up later today]
- Elliott Mealer mentioned that the scout team does something "extra" for motivation. Hoke, unsurprisingly, does not reveal what that is.
- UPDATE: It is THIS. [h/t indyeagle]
- Drake Johnson is playing running back for the scout team. So is Norfleet.
- This was the shortest presser ever, so there is no jump.
“Good practice yesterday I think on both sides of the ball. I liked how we competed with each other. Thought that, you know, when you put in the plan and sometimes Tuesday’s a little more thinking, I thought we reacted well and I thought we had a good tempo and were playing fast.”
You’ve practiced well in previous weeks, but is the focus more intense during a rivalry week?
“Well I think it’s been a continuation, but I also would agree that when you play in a rivalry game, there’s always a little more intensity to it.”
Did you do anything different in practice?
“Not really. I mean, uh … no.”
On the scout team?
“They … know their role, so they practice hard.”
How has the scout team been this year?
“I think, you know, it probably would have been a little better if we didn’t have some of those guys dinged up, like Wormley or Chris Bryant. Whether they’d be up or down, just your ability with depth and those things. But I think they’ve worked hard. We give an award out every week to guys on each side of the ball, and who in the kicking game does a great job, giving looks, so. I think they’re doing a good job. I think they’re motivated. Our young coaches, our GA’s do a good job of prepping them each week with watching film and mechanics and all that stuff.”
Do you have them wearing green during the week?
“Uh, you know, sometimes you do.”
With the way Le’Veon Bell is size-wise, do you have a particular guy on the scout team mimic him?
“No. You know, Drake Johnson gets most of the heavy lifting. Fleet gets down there to run some, but we don’t have anybody that size that you would use for that.”
Would you say Taylor Lewan has lived up to the expectations for him this season?
“I think he’s played pretty solid.”
The secondary is ranked third in the nation in pass defense. Is that because they’re playing that well or have they just not been tested enough?
“Well, I don’t know if we’ve been tested, you know. We haven’t had balls thrown down the field vertically in the pass game. I think this will -- since early in the year …”
You mentioned how --
“… really Alabama, to be honest with you. So I think that’s all part of it, where we’re playing a lot of spread teams that want to use the bubbles and want to use those things. I think that’s a fair assessment. I think we haven’t been tested yet.”
Are you interested in seeing how they stack up against a downfield passing team?
“Oh sure. Sure. I mean, I don’t know. I like the bubble screens and stuff like that.”
Does it speak at least a little bit to how your safeties have been playing?
“That’s a big deal. It’s made all the time. We want to be inside and in front. It’s a big part of whether you’re playing two-deep or playing single high, you have to do a good job of if you’re the guy, you have to keep your depth and be the last one to the party. I think those two guys have been a catalyst, and I think J.T. has improved every week.”
Are any of the ACL injury guys close to practicing?
Are they in rehab?
“Rehab. They’re doing fine. Some of them are at different levels.”
Do you think any of those guys will be able to practice by the end of the year?
Assessment of Michigan State’s defensive line without Jerel Worthy?
“Well I think they’ve filled it in pretty well. I think they’re very aggressive. I think Ted Gill, their D-line coach, who was one of my coaches at Ball State in college, has done a nice job of developing that group. That style defense is such that it’s an aggressive defense.”
You mentioned you have some guys wearing green…
“At times there is green out there … We have grass. Field turf.”
MGo: Not much.
MGoActually: I have a technical question.
MGoAwComeOn: Would you rather me ask it now or later.
“You’re going to ask it one way or another, so ... shoot the moon.”
MGoQuestion: That play where the tight end blocks down and the two linemen pull and go outside of him. What’s that play called?
“… Oh. It’s just a horn scheme. Down and around type deal.”
MGoFollowup: Is there an advantage to doing that vs. running a zone stretch?
“Um, yeah, it’s just two different looks to give the defense based on how they’re playing, you know. They could be playing one style, and that’s a better way to block it. A lot of it is personnel, too. How well does your tight end handle the down blocks? If they’re playing another scheme you’re better off zoning. You really -- I’ve learned over the years you kind of have to have both. We have both. We have the ability ability to do both. In certain games one’s more prominent than the other.”
MGoThankYouThatWasAGreatAnswerBrianWillBePleasedButHereIsOneMore: Who would you say is your best blocker at tight end?
“I think they’re all pretty good at this point. I think Devin Funchess has improved the most. I don’t have any reservations about doing it with any of them. Now to be honest with you, that was a concern at the beginning, but I don’t know if I’d favor one over the other at this point.”