When you were considering coming back here, was being able to play in this rivalry game again part of your decision-making?
“No. Honestly I can’t say that. I mean, I’d like to say yeah. That goes with coming back to Michigan. If you coach at the University of Michigan, playing this game is the biggest rivalry in college athletics. But I don’t think you think about that and say 'I’m going to come back so I can coach in that game.'”
What memories of this game stick out to you?
“Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I can remember this game probably better than any other game. I had the opportunity to play them six times, five times here. They’re a good football team. There’s no question about it. It’s what college football’s all about, this game. You always remember those games.”
Everybody talks about scheme, but tackling is the foundation. How do you tackle well?
“By getting a lot of people to the football. I think if you watch any defense and you see one person trying to make a tackle, you’ll see a team that’s not a very good tackling team. But if you see a lot of people around that football, then you see teams that do well tackling. The big thing is, it closes the space. It closes the opportunity for a running back to cut.”
Is that effort or scheme?
“I think most of defensive football is effort. Wanting to get to the football. We talk about it all the time. When you look at somebody pursue, you always have to talk about ‘Why are you pursuing?’ Are you pursuing because that coach says you’re supposed to run to the football or are you pursuing to try to go make a tackle? I think that players understand that after a while that ‘Hey, my job is to tackle the football, so I have to pursue to get there,’ and that’s effort.”
(more after the jump)
Have you noticed any difference in Brady this week at all?
“Not really, no. I mean, it’s Ohio, so he’s fired up about that, but in terms of prep, no. It’s not just another game, but it is pretty much just the same preparation.”
How has the focus been?
“Well we haven’t practiced yet. We did a little bit Sunday, but it was off the charts. You can tell that there’s a little more pep in the step”
Was last Saturday as complete a performance you’ve seen from Denard this year?
“I think yeah, it would rank among one of the top ones. We’ve been encouraging him so much, and in this game particularly, to pull the ball down when guys aren’t open. And he did that, and it made a difference, so that helped us keep some drives alive. We’re going to continue to do that, but because the way they played their defense particularly … there were some opportunities to pull it down and run. He did [throw the ball], when there were open receivers … there were a couple throws that were a little ill-advised but for the most part he played a solid football game.”
What do you think has kept him from scrambling previously?
“Yeah, sometimes as a quarterback, and everyone I’ve had is like that -- they want to prove that they can throw the ball, but there’s a point where you have to use your skills. We talked about it before, I said, ‘You have to use your skills more. You have great skills. Let’s make these guys pay for some of this stuff.' He took it to heart. Here’s the delicate balance: you don’t want to turn down open receivers. If you start looking to run every time you drop back, you can’t pass the ball. You can’t do that. That has to be something that’s instinctive or just comes from a result from the receivers being covered. But you can’t drop back and say every play’s a quarterback draw and then if somebody’s open, throw it, and expect to have any sort of passing game. That’s absurd. I don’t care how good the running quarterback is. That being said, where does one start in the other end? But in this game we were a little more quarterback-is-going-to-be-the-check-down oriented. And we’re like that anyway.”
(more after the jump.)
News bullets and other important items:
- Vincent Smith dressed for Nebraska but did not play because of a shoulder injury.
- Everything else is sort of general fluff on the rivalry.
“Our guys, I thought, played their best football game as a team on Saturday. In saying that, from the kicking game to offensively and defensively, I thought they all complemented each other well. We had a great day yesterday as far as putting that game to bed and moving forward. This is a special week because you play in the greatest rivalry there is in sport. When you get the chance to play in this game or coach in this game, it’s always a fun week. We’ve got a lot of work to do because we’re not where we need to be in any sense as far as the team that we envision ourselves to be and we expect to be.”
What does this senior class mean to you and this program, and how special will their legacy be if they do win on Saturday?
“Well, you know, the seniors are always out in the forefront. This is a group of guys who have been through a lot. They’ve hung together well and they’ve done a nice job of preparing weekly. Just not preparing themselves but preparing their teammates. They’ve got to keep that up and be consistent in what we do and how we prepare.”
Can you remember the first time you ever watched this game and said to yourself, “I want to be a part of that?”
“Wow. Uh. Boy. I can’t remember how old I was or anything, but my dad had a chance and played for Woody Hayes. Loved coach Hayes. You know, that game you were always watching. So I can’t tell you how old I was or anything else, but it’s always been a special significance, at 12 noon, that last Saturday in November or the Saturday before Thanksgiving -- you’re watching that football game.”
Why do you call them “Ohio” rather than “Ohio State”?
“Always. So whenever always is.”
(more after the jump)
Martavious Odoms and Denard Robinson
Denard, did you have any idea that this kind of performance was in you guys today?
Denard: “Oh yeah. We play as a team and came out like we did. Of course, oh yeah.”
Martavious, can you talk about battling back from the slow start due to injury and the feeling of catching that touchdown?
Odoms: “It felt great. I got my chance. Coach called a good play. Denard threw the ball and I caught it.”
Denard, how important was field position for you guys?
Denard: “That’s the thing. We played as a team, and that’s what we needed. We got everybody executing. Those three teams [were] executing.” Were you just more comfortable today? That was probably your best game in a while. “Oh yeah. Everybody felt good today. The offensive line gave us time to do what we had to do and [gave] the running backs holes to run [through].”
Denard, can you talk about what you saw on the Odoms TD?
Denard: “Me and Martavious had a race, what, two years ago? So I saw that he can run, and he went right past the defenders and I put it in the air.”
What happened in that race?
Odoms, to Denard: “… What happened?”
Denard: “You have to tell them. You have to tell them.”
Odoms: “No, you should tell them.”
Denard: “Ah … he beat me. He got a win there. He got a win.”
Martavious, Denard gets a lot of scrutiny about his arm, but can you talk about his perfect throw from the 50 to the back of the endzone?
Odoms: “Yeah a lot of people doubt his throwing because he can run so well, but when he needs to throw and make a play, he gets the job done.”
Your reaction to the “Beat Ohio” chant in the fourth quarter?
Odoms: “I knew it was coming. I was prepared for it.”
Denard: “We have to celebrate this one first. Tomorrow we’ll be on Ohio.”
Denard, you had the chance to talk to Lavonte David. What did you guys have to say?
Denard:“I told him to keep going and have a great rest of the season.”
Fitz had another great game. Can you talk about how he’s grown in the past four weeks?
Denard: “I mean, I knew he was a physical running back, and once he gets into an open field he can make guys miss and run the ball. I think he’s been ready. He just had a couple injuries.”
Was any part of Nebraska’s defensive play a surprise to you?
Denard: “I mean, it’s always a little surprise, but we kind of adjusted -- coach adjusted well and called some great plays, and we executed.”
Denard, today you matched Tom Brady’s 35 career touchdown passes. Thoughts?
Denard: “Oh I didn’t know that. I’m not a big stats guy, so I’m going out there having fun with my team, so that’s the biggest thing.”
Looking at where the season started to where you guys are now, especially given the expectations externally, how does it feel to be 9-2 heading into the Ohio State game?
Denard: “I can’t tell you how it is outside, because inside I know everybody in here knew we could have a great season this year, that we would go and do some special things this year. That’s the biggest thing everybody knew. We worked hard all offseason and that’s it.”
How big was the roughing the kicker penalty in terms of momentum?
Denard: “Oh that was big. The offense we knew we had to take care of the ball and do what we had to do.”
Martavious, did you feel like you were close to breaking a long run?
Odoms: “Yeah, I think I was really close to breaking through. There’s always the guy that I don’t see that so happens to trip my leg or hit me.”
Was this the best special teams performance you’ve had in a long time?
Odoms: “I wouldn’t say that.”
Is there another game that stands out more?
Odoms: “Um … not really. I mean, I feel like on special teams we really take pride and Coach Hoke takes pride in special teams. People just go hard on special teams and [in] regular play. I think special teams is a really big part of the game. It’s most of the game, really.”
Denard, did you appreciate the crowd counting down the play clock when the scoreboards weren’t working in the first quarter?
Denard: “Yeah, that was the biggest thing. I was supposed to send someone as soon as I walked in about it (Ed: I think that’s what he said. Denard was speaking Florida here.) I mean, I appreciate the fans helping us out because we really needed it. Shout out to the fans and I hope they’ll be ready next week.”
Denard, you can win 10 games, beat Notre Dame, Nebraska, and maybe Ohio State next week, but you can’t play for the Big Ten title. Can you talk about the good vs. bad of that?
Denard: “We can only control what we can control, so that’s the only thing we worry about. We worry about playing Ohio next week.”
Martavious, have you ever seen Terrence Robinson make a hit like that in practice? Can you talk about the emphasis on special teams?
Odoms: “We have some pretty fast people on our team, and Terrence Robinson is one of them. He does a great job on special teams getting down there. We knew if he gets down there he can make a hit, and that’s what he did.”
Denard, can you talk about cashing in our your opportunities today compared with last week when you were unable a couple times?
Denard: “We still think we had missed opportunities today, too. We have to still grow and start putting the ball in the endzone when we need to.”
Can you talk about the momentum going into the Ohio State game that may not have been there the past couple years?
Odoms: “Like Denard said, everybody knows what next week is. We’re just going to enjoy this one and prepare for next week when the time comes.”
Denard: “I feel the same way. We have to enjoy this win and tomorrow we’ll be preparing for Ohio.”
Do you feel this is the highest level you’ve played at in years?
Denard: “Not that Michigan has played at.”
Since you guys have been here.
Odoms: “I mean, games are up and down so you really can’t tell if you played at your highest level. When you feel like you played at your highest level, you go watch film and you didn’t do so well. Can’t really say.”
Is the team playing as well as it has since you’ve been here?
Denard: “You could say that because all three of the teams are playing well.”
Mark Huyge and Fitzgerald Toussaint
You guys held the ball for 40 minutes. How important was that?
Huyge: “Yeah I know for a fact that our defense plays better when they have a limited amount of time on the field. I didn’t know we held the ball for 40 minutes. It’s a good deal. Uh, yeah. It’s great when special teams can contribute like they did. I swear every time we’d come off the field and sure enough we’d be right back on with a quick turnover or a three-and-out. It’s a good deal.”
Both of you guys heard about the “Blackshirts” defense and watched them on film. Were they as advertised?
Toussaint: “I would say it was a very physical game, but we prepared all week for this game and we knew what was coming and we expected everything we were given.”
Huyge: “It was very physical up front. The main thing was that we knew we had to be physical throughout and just try to wear them down. With the time of possession, I think that helped.”
Can you talk about how the running game has evolved from the start of the season?
Toussaint: “I would say a little bit more execution. Up front the guys handled their business. We prepared for these moments, and that’s what happened.”
How much did the turnovers help your psyche today?
Huyge: “It’s great. I mean, we can get turnovers and even though you’re on the bench and you don’t expect it, I’ll take it any day of the week. Just to be able to run out there with great field position as an offense, we know we have to get it done once we get down in there.”
Hoke has said this is the most well-rounded game you’ve played. What’s the cause of that?
Toussaint: “I would have to say it’s more teamwork. Organize the team and focusing mainly on unity.”
Huyge: “Yeah, execution. Just executing on every play and in all three phases.”
Why is that better now than earlier in the year?
Huyge: “Maybe just time. More games, get more experience.”
Thoughts on “Beat Ohio” chant? Also, the fact that fans are calling them Ohio rather than Ohio State?
Huyge: “It’s going to be a big one next week. We’ll enjoy this one for a little bit, but the whole emphasis starting back in January when these guys got here was this game coming up. We’ll be really looking forward to them, and we’ll be ready.”
Re: Denard, there’s a lot of criticism about his quarterbacking. Can you talk about his game today as a runner and a passer?
Huyge: “Well Denard … I love playing for Denard. I really do, because I know in the run game he makes stuff happen all the time. In the pass game, he can pull the ball down and run, too. When he threw that ball to Martavious Odoms in the endzone there, that was a great throw and a great catch. That was something that we need.”
Mark, how much confidence does this win give you going into next week?
Huyge: “Well, it does give us a lot of confidence. In the past -- and I don’t want to bring up the past -- but past seasons we haven’t been playing well in November. It’s very important to be playing well at the end of the year. It’s a definite boost for sure.”
In the last couple weeks, you’ve really gotten the ground game going. How does that change the offensive scheme?
Toussaint: “I wouldn’t think it changes any schemes. It’s just the way we prepare and the guys up front execute.”
After you lost to Michigan State, guys like Mike Martin and Jordan Kovacs said this year was different and there would be no second-half collapse. Why was it different?
Huyge: “I think it’s just an emphasis of getting better every week, where improvement was the key. You had to put the one behind that you lost and the fact that that was our main goal was to get better. We knew if we got better in November we’d be playing better football, and that’s obviously what’s shown.”
Molk said Monday that last year the philosophy on offense was “score score score” because the defense couldn’t stop anyone. How does the success of defense change how this offense operates?
Huyge: “It gives us more confidence, that’s for sure, that we know that if we do mess up or have a three-and-out, we can rely on our defense to make plays. Obviously they’ve been doing that all season, and special teams, too. That was huge.”
Senior legacies and rivalry games -- what does Saturday mean for that legacy?
Huyge: “It’s a big one. It’s a big one for all of us seniors, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Either of you guys catch yourself peeking at that countdown clock?
Toussaint: “Everyday. Everyday.”
Huyge: “You walk in that building it’s right there.”
Toussaint: “It’s right in your face. Can’t miss it.”
Do you guys do anything related to beating Ohio State throughout the year?
Huyge: “Yeah the emphasis is definitely on Ohio. When we bring it up in meetings, we talk about it everyday.”
You might not have been aware, but the power was out in Michigan Stadium. (surprised laughs) Could you hear the crowd chanting the play clock? Did it affect you guys not being able to see the play clock on that side of the field?
Huyge: “Well after the first little mishap, I think Denard didn’t know which ref had the signal that was making the calls, but yeah, you could hear it, 'Five, four, three, two,' and I’m like, 'Snap the ball … snap the ball …' ”
Mike Martin and Jordan Kovacs
Mike, can you talk about Ryan Van Bergen’s impact the last few weeks?
Martin: “Yeah, he’s stepping up. The whole line up front is doing a great job of communicating and executing. Ryan does a great job on the vocal side of things. Helps us execute, and we all do a great job echoing the call so we can all play tough.”
How much did you focus on stopping the option?
Martin: “Yeah that was one of the main focuses we had during the week. Preparation was key and talk about that everyday on our team. Beginning Sunday to Monday watching film and getting looks from our scout team -- they did a great job. So I feel like we prepared well and it showed on the field.”
Anything you saw on film that made you think you could do certain things?
Martin: “You know, a few things -- coach does a great job of tweaking things week to week and giving them a different look on our side of it. For us to be able to execute and attack them differently with keeping in mind how dangerous they are on the perimeter with the option and everything, that was big for us.”
You’ve played in the first night game, now first game against Nebraska. In games like this, is it important to make a statement, or is it more like “another game, another win?”
Kovacs: “I mean, coming into the game we knew it was going to be a big game, both [teams] coming into the game 8-2. We want to make a statement every time we take the field. We knew it was going to be a big game, and we played pretty well in all three facets of the game, and we earned this one, so we’re excited about it.”
Hoke says this is first time you’ve played in all three phases. Why are you peaking now this late in the season?
Kovacs: “I just think we’re all starting to click. Defensively, we’re gaining some confidence every game. We’re improving every game. The offense did a nice job of complementing us. They did a good job of holding onto the ball and making some big plays when they had to. They moved the chains on third down, which always helps. And you can’t say enough about the special teams. Any time you cause two turnovers, it’s kind of tough to lose a game like that. I think you have to take your hat off to those guys. Offense, special teams, and defense played well. There’s a few plays we’d like to take back, but we’re always looking to impove, but we’re excited about next week.”
You’re allowing three touchdowns fewer per game this year compared with last year. You’re basically the same players. How does that happen so quickly?
Martin: “It’s always going to be in the back of your mind, but this is a new year. Really our mindset has just completely changed 360. This senior group, and this team, they learned when coach Hoke and the staff came that we were going to have to buy in. It really started from our winter conditioning, summer conditioning, fall camp, all those different phases leading up to the season, and now it’s showing with our focus and our dedication to this team and this coaching staff. We know we’re getting better, but the season is far from being over. We still have a lot of work to put in, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Kovacs: “Just to piggyback off that question, it’s guys like Mike and Van Bergen stepping up and being great leaders for our defense and for our team as a whole. But the same time I think our offense helps us out a lot. Anytime you’re not on the field as a defense, they can’t score too many points on you, so I think they do a great job holding the ball and moving the chains. They aren’t doing that hurry-up tempo anymore, so I think that’s really helped us out.”
After the Michigan State game, you talked about being out-physicaled and out-toughed. Is that what you did to Nebraska’s offense today?
Kovacs: “We knew that they were going to be a physical team, and that the tougher team, the more physical team, was going to win this game. To a certain extent, I think we played pretty physical, but like I said, there’s always some lapses and always some plays that you’d like to have back. I think that’s still an area that we need to improve on everyday.”
Jordan, can you talk about how huge this win is for this program, and where does it rank in your career?
Kovacs: “This was a big win. Huge. I can’t stress that enough. Like I said, we knew it was going to be a big game coming in. I think that this is the best win that we’ve had since I’ve been on the team just because it’s so late in the year. I don’t think that we’ve ever had a game this late in November that really meant as much as this one. I think it was a big for us. We played well in all facets of the game, and it was a fun win. I guess we’re looking forward to next week.”
Mike, how different will this week feel knowing that you’re on par/favored going against Ohio State for the first time since forever?
Martin: “Yeah, well, like I’ve said before, the mindset of this defense and this team is on a whole n'other level this year. We’ve had young guys step up. We’ve had great leadership with the seniors. A lot of juniors and the underclassment have gotten a lot of time. It’s really just putting all those pieces together knowing that we can play Michigan defense and Michigan football for a full 60 minutes. That’s what you need to win football games, because you can’t start a game out strong and not finish it. We’ve done those things before, and it’s never worked out. I feel like we’ve improved as a team each week, and we have to make sure we take a positive step for this week coming up.”
Can you talk about the pride that special teams players take in their job since most of them are backups? Also, their impact on this game?
Kovacs: “I think all special teams players take a lot of pride in that facet of the game because a lot of those guys don’t play on offense or defense so that’s their contribution to the game. I think a handful of them are walk-ons as well, so they’re excited to get out there and play in the Big House and wear that winged helmet. I think they played great today. They made a huge impact and caused some turnovers, and I think they won us the game.”
“Beat Ohio” chant ftw. Thoughts?
Martin: “We all know what next week has in store for us and this program. That’s the end of November, that’s the deal. This stadium, this team, and all of us, we’re just going to enjoy the win tonight, but tomorrow get focusing on Ohio, and that’s something that we’ve done each week for every single team. This is a huge game for our legacy as a team, for this senior group, for team 132. We just have to make sure we finish the season out the way we want to, the way we’ve envisioned the whole season.”
Jordan, you’re an Ohio guy. What does this game mean to you?
Kovacs: “I think that as the game winded down the last minute and a half, and we were kneeing the ball, I think that everyone was thinking that in the back of their heads, like, ‘All right. This was a big win, but it’s on to the next one.’ We’re excited about it. Like Mike said, this was a huge win today. We’re going to enjoy it for the next few hours, and then we’re going to come in tomorrow focused and ready to improve and ready to get after Ohio.”
Is it different going into the Ohio State game this season than in years past?
Martin: “I believe, especially as we progress through this season, this team has taken major positive steps. It’s showed every single week we’ve made an improvement. We know what our capabilities are as a team. We know [that if] we play together, play as a team, that good things are going to happen. We have to complement each other.”
Is there any extra punishment this week if you slip up and say “Ohio State” instead of “Ohio”?
Kovacs: “Not that I know.”
Martin: “I don’t know. This week’s going to be an intense week. I don’t know if any of you media want to come to practice. I don’t think you guys will be able to make it. This will be a good one.”
Mike, can you talk more about shutting Nebraska down on the perimeter?
Martin: “We knew how dangerous they were, the weapons that they had, Martinez and Burkhead. We knew we had to attack them a certain way. We took advantage of the strengths that we have on our side of it. I believe we did a great job with executing. We had a few plays here and there that we wish we could have had back. That’s something that we have to improve on and we will do that, but overall I feel like we did a great job executing.”
Did you feel like you were successful in accomplishing what you set out to do when the first half ended and Burkhead didn’t have very many yards?
Martin: “I have no clue what he had at hafltime, but I knew that we were playing together and we were playing hard. We were having fun playing defense and playing Michigan defense. We knew we had another half at that point to play. You clock in for 60 minutes, you have to make sure you finish them all out.”
What does it mean that this week will be intense? How much more intense than normal?
Martin: “Everyone knows how big this game is. From our side of it, from the other side of it -- that’s what makes it such a great game, because of how much time’s put in, how much it means to each program, and really playing this great game of football in the month of November. Can’t get better than that. This week has to be one of our best weeks of preparation, period. That’s what it needs to be.”
Can you talk about last night’s team meeting? You were tweeting photos.
Martin: “Today we honored the armed services for everything they do. We’ve embodied and embraced some of their principles and things that they believe in on their team. You can never compare it -- what those guys do is something that is just amazing, but accountability and the different essences of teamwork are something that we adopted, so they visited us, talked to our team, really gave us a few words of wisdom, and it meant a lot. They gave us a couple of their tridents that represent the U.S. Navy Seals. That’s something that represents what they embody. That meant a lot to us as a team.”
Just to follow up, from “Beat Ohio State” to “Beat Ohio” -- is that something you immediate adopted because of your head coach? Is “Ohio State” forbidden?
Kovacs: “That’s what he calls them, so that’s what we call them.”
Can you talk about the uniqueness of Greg Mattison’s defensive scheme?
Kovacs: “He brings an unbelievable scheme. Obviously he was coaching with the Ravens before and he’s established an NFL defense here. I think that we do a pretty good job disguising and giving them a bunch of different looks and giving the quarterback something to think about. But at the same time I think our D-line has really been playing great so far. They really help us out on the back end. You can’t tip your hat off enough to those guys up front.”
Mike, has it hit you that this is your last time preparing to play at the Big House?
Martin: “That’s something that I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks here. That’s why you have to take each day for what it is. It means a lot. You always tell those younger guys it’s going to fly by. You never listen, though. I didn’t listen. But this is huge for our program, for our seniors. Really I thought about my last time having clam chowder at the Campus Inn, because that’s the D-line’s favorite thing to eat on Friday. This is going to be huge, and we have to work hard this week.”
Can you talk about the importance of special teams today? “Well that was a big part of -- it always is a big part of every game, but to be able to knock some balls loose and start with great field position is a good thing for us. Obviously offensively having a short field, I thought that was a big part of what our kids were doing and what helped us today.”
How happy are you with all three phases of today’s game? “Well it’s probably as well as we’ve played with all three phases. We still had some opportunities from an offensive standpoint that we didn’t take advantage. Then we don’t field a punt and [it] backs us up, then we’re kicking with a short field … there’s always something. I can sit up here and go on a long time about that, but as a group, they played with a great toughness and complemented each other well. I thought the guys up front offensively were really working hard to make things happen. Fitz did a nice job. Denard did a nice job. Defensively, our front seven played well.”
With everything that was going on today, did you feel an additional pressure to win? “No. No. We’re going to win the game. We’re going to fight and compete and coach and motivate and do all those things.”
What did you do differently in kickoff coverage this week? “We really didn’t do anything differently. We challenged our guys, which you always do. For them to outcompete the guy they’re playing against. T-Rob hit him and the ball came out, and Cam hit him and the ball came out -- it was really just playing and competing as best we could, every guy who was in that locker room.” Were they going harder? “You know, I don’t know if they were going harder. It looked like about the same speed we do going down.”
How big was the blocked punt and converting it into a touchdown in terms of momentum? “That was huge. When he kind of dropped it there and ran -- yeah. Field position again is a huge part of it. We capitalized on a mistake in there that happened. The hustle that the guys showed, I thought, was great.”
Talk about Denard’s poise in the pocket and the challenge of having to run plays without a play clock in the beginning? “Well, you know, a couple things. Number one, I think the one thing we could do as a coaching staff and as an offense is make sure that we’re getting the plays in as quickly as we could. We had to make sure the huddle was set as quickly as we could get it set. If you’re a receiver or one of those guys coming in and out, you’re hustling on the field or off the field -- those personnel groups. The first one, the penalty we had, that’s on me. I should have called a timeout. For me not to do that, that’s bad coaching. I thought he did a tremendous job.”
How much has this defense grown since January? “The seniors on that defense have done a tremendous job. They’re prideful kids, the Mike Martins, Van Bergens, Woolfolks. We from day one have said that we are going to play and coach for our seniors. I think the young guys understand that and I just think fundamentally and technically they’re playing what they’re coached to do, and they’re playing together. That’s been fun to watch.”
How were you able to limit Burkhead? Was there anything you saw on film? “No. You’re just doing your job. If you’re a nose tackle you’re getting a double or a base reach. You have to play the base reach and get off and make plays. We talked about because of the physicalness that he likes to run the football with, that we wanted to try and get 11 guys to the ball all the time.”
Is that the best you’ve seen Denard play since you got here? “I don’t know. I’d have to rewatch it probably. I thought he did a nice job managing our offense. I think he took advantage of some creases that he found in there and accelerated through them pretty well.”
Could you have dreamt of a better way to welcome Nebraska to the Big House and the B1G? “Well I don’t know. They want to win, we want to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s Nebraska or Slippery Rock. We want to win the football game. I’m just being honest about it. We have a lot of respect for Nebraska. The pride and the tradition that they have. Bo Pelini is an excellent football coach. They’re a good football team.”
Can you comment on the time of possession disparity (42 min to 18 min)? “You play really good defense when you get to watch your offense. Believe me, and that’s part of it. Our offense, not every game, but having a little bit of an advantage in time of possession. One of our best defensive calls is them on the field. And then you look at the defense, I think we were 3 of 13 defending them in third down conversions -- you’re helping yourself defensively and getting off the field.”
With six minutes to go, the crowd was chanting “Beat Ohio, Beat Ohio.” Thoughts? “Well, we’re going to really go to work on that tomorrow. But that’s our next opponent.”
Can you talk about the momentum you have going into the Ohio State game? “You know, we won two in a row, right? There’s another to go win.”
Is this as close you’ve come to play the kind of football you envisioned when you started? “You know, we definitely want to run the football. We want to control it. We want to take care of the football from that standpoint. And we want to play defense as 11. We want to play defense where we’re stopping the run and then putting people in situations where they feel they have to throw the football. That’s where some of the uniqueness of what Greg does has been good for us.”
Can you talk about picking the spot to fake the field goal? “We had put it in. It’s the one Penn State used against us in ’95? I think it was ’95 up there. [We] wanted it on the right hash, [and] they gave us the look that we wanted. Even if we had kicked the field goal, Drew Dileo -- having him as a holder, he’s such a smart football kid. He did a tremendous job with it. You got it, you might as well use it.”
Thoughts on how Denard played on third down? “Well I thought he did a nice job. Believe me, because we were making low yardage on first down and on second down we went backwards a couple times. When you get into a situation [with] those longer third downs, I thought he was very accurate with the ball when he was throwing it. I think the throw that he made for the touchdown to Martavious Odoms was as good as a throw I’ve seen him make, especially on a long ball. It was a great catch by Martavious, but that’s where he had to put the ball.”
You’ve emphasized Ohio State since the first press conference. Why is this going to be different, and how does it feel to go into it with nine wins? “Well I think any time that rivalry is played, and believe me, we appreciate it always at the end of November. We have tremendous respect for that football team and that program and that school. It’s exciting."
"It's exciting! You get excited! Look!”
When you hear the fans chanting it, does it get you a little charged up? “Well it’s eight days, less than eight days.”
Defending the option, whose responsibility was it mostly? “Well it was more the ends. Our ends did a nice job on the quarterback. We tried to keep the backers inside because of what they were doing with the zone part of it and put it on the two ends. The one he got out earlier in the game, our end didn’t do the job he should have.”
Did you change some things on offense? Seems like Denard was making more checks at the line. “No. Not really. It was about normal.”
Don’t hate me, but as much as you guys dominated today, there’s a certain team down the road that won, so does that taint this victory at all? “Not at all. Not at all. We had our opportunities. Part of competitive sport and competitive life is you have to take advantage of the opportunities. So no. I really don’t hate anybody.”
Denard looked really patient in the pocket and made some good decisions. Is that the Denard you usually see in practice? “You know, I think he was a little bit beat up in the mid-year with some ailments, but I think he’s healthy now. I think he’s more confident. One thing I can tell is he’s taken ownership as a leader. That’s neat to see.”
Opening remarks: “This is a little nicer press room than I remember.”
What’s it like being at a postgame press conference? “It’s exciting. It’s exciting to be down on the field at the end of the game. I told Dave Brandon before the game, before the ceremony -- you look around that stadium, and there’s no place in the world like it. To see such a great effort, a total team effort today, a great victory over an outstanding football team was a great day.
Can you comment on the play today? “Well I agree with whatever coach Hoke says. But that was fun. I was hoping on fourth down down there that we would go for it. He sent the field goal team in and ran that fake. I thought that was a big, big play in the game. It was well executed. And there were lots of good plays -- kicking game, defense -- outstanding game. Scored a lot of points.”
Talk about the job Brady Hoke has done to get this team to a 9-2 record. “Well I think it’s remarkable. Any transition is about finding out a lot of things that you don’t know about your players, and the players finding out about the coaches. But I think, when I look at that team today, they’ve consistently played very good defense, and I think the transition offensively has been good. When you realize we’re two losses, both of which we had chances to win -- I don’t think you could ask the coaching staff and a team to do a better job than this team has done. This is just wonderful to see. I mean, you talk about every phase of the game … what I look at is the intensity with which they play. They’ve given up very few big plays this year, and here we go into the last game of the season with a lot to play for and great momentum. This team has started to believe in itself. Coming back here today, that crowd was outstanding, and they’ll be outstanding again next week.”
The fifth year seniors were players you recruited and were on the team during your last year. Did you get a chance to talk to them after the game? “Well I have run into a few of them during this season. I’ve just tried to tell them how proud of them I am, what they’ve done. They persevered. On any team your senior leadership is a critical issue, so I think it speaks to what those kids have done this year. It’s been exciting to watch them.”
Do you miss being on the sideline? “Yeah. Yeah. When you’re part of a great victory, there’s nothing like it. But I’m so happy for Brady and the staff and the players, because Michigan football is -- we’re where we want to be.”
Did you get any jabs from the Nebraska fans about the ’97 championship during your tribute? “The tribute -- and I’ve said this and it’s true, if you coach at a place like Michigan with great tradition -- and the players that played for me were outstanding players but great people and people who were unselfish who put the team first. That’s how a coach gets selected for the hall of fame. That’s certainly my case. I had great, great players and great, great people.”
(Ed: If you were wondering, the answer is no, Lloyd did not answer the question)
A lot has been said of “Michigan football.” Did today feel like Michigan football is back? “Yeah I think it was a loud statement. Great defense. I’ll tell you, that’s what I expected from a Nebraska team. They’ve always been a very very physical team, played great defense, run the football. But as I looked at this game, that’s a hard-hitting football team … it was what you want to see in a football team from the standpoint of our performance.”
Prediction for next week? “Whatever Brady says.”
[Hoke will be up shortly. Players tomorrow morning.]