“Who’s kicking us off? No questions? Okay, great!”
Thoughts on Michigan State’s defense?
“They’re very good. They’re very good. They’re very fundamentally sound. They know exactly their assignments. They know where they’re vulnerable because they’ve run the same defense, or very similar defense, for so many years.
“I remember playing them in 2009 when I was at Minnesota, and looking back at that there’s so many similarities in regards to what they’re doing. Fun to see. Fun for the challenge, but they’re awfully good. They’re awfully good.”
Jake [Rudock] was kind of reticent to take any label: game manager, whatever type quarterback. How would you describe him and his style as a quarterback?
“Yeah, I don’t- I’m not a big fan, I guess, of that particular title. I think it does not give them the same credit. Sometimes you kind of lose that type of credit on that, but I don’t know. I think he does a very good job.
“He’s a good leader. He has been completing a lot of passes. He’s been smart with the football. He’s done a lot of things you would expect someone that’s a fifth-year player to do: be able to bounce back from a three-interception game opening night and play five games and throw three combined since then I think, and one of them was kind of a fluky play. So, I think he’s mature. I think he can make all the throws. I think he can make all the reads and just continue to lead our football team.”
Is Michigan State’s defensive line the best you’re going to face this year?
“Well, I don’t know. They’re good. They’re really good. I don’t know about the best or not the best. I feel like we’ve gone against some really, really good ones.
“I thought Utah’s defensive line was really, really good. I thought last week they created a lot of challenges for a lot of teams. I thought Maryland has a really good defensive line, so I don’t know. There are a lot of good defensive lines.
“Obviously this is a good football team we’re playing. We know that. It’s going to be a great challenge for our guys.”
[After THE JUMP: A great Steve Spurrier story]
“How ‘bout those Cubs, huh? Is there a real Cub fan in here? I wore No. 14 growin’ up. I mean, Ernie Banks is the greatest player ever! How ‘bout those Cubs! What do you think? What’s up? What can I help you with?”
Talk about Ryan Glasgow as a pass rusher and how he’s stepped up into that role this year.
“Well, I think all the guys up front have tried very hard to use their technique to do what fits them, you know? A lot of people when they talk about pass rush, they see all the fancy type things the NFL uses and all these different type of moves. Well, some people aren’t built for that, and what these guys have embraced is moving the pocket [and] doing what’s best for them and what’s best for the defense.
“And sometimes to be a good pass rusher you have to be selfish, where you don’t really care about rush lanes and things and you kind of just say, ‘Man, I’ve got to get to the quarterback cuz getting to a sack is everything.’ But there aren’t many sacks, so the big thing is you’ve got to stay in your rush lanes and try to get to the quarterback or put stress on the quarterback another way, and I think our kids have all tried to embrace that philosophy.”
These kids developed right along, but are even you surprised at three straight shutouts?
“I don’t look at shutouts. I think what you look at is you try to play the best defense you can and do what you’re supposed to do and everybody be on the same page, and then good things will happen. Sometimes shutouts go hand in hand with special teams, hand in hand with offense and it’s not always just the defense that gets that shutout, it’s the team. There’s been some great things done special teams-wise and offense-wise that’s allowed us to play defense and play what we have to do.
“We just go out every game trying to play as hard as we can with great effort, try to eliminate big plays, and try to make sure that we play with great effort and I think that’s what our kids are trying to do.”
Connor Cook’s been pressured but he’s only been sacked four times. Is he getting rid of the ball quickly? What’s the key to getting to him?
“Yeah, he’s a very good quarterback. He gets rid of the ball quick. He sees who the receiver should be by the coverage very well, and I think that’s a lot of him as a quarterback getting rid of the football.”
[After THE JUMP: Breaking down Glasgow’s sack, talking stunts, and Jake Arrieta: defensive end?]
Desmond Morgan and Joe Kerridge
Joe, can you talk about being able to touch the ball, carry the ball and what a thrill that is?
“It’s really- over the years, looking at the fullback position it’s a lot of blocking- a lot of blocking- and so getting to touch the ball every once in a while is an awesome thing for us fullbacks. Sione’s been doing a great job. It’s a different twist in the game now and it’s something we really like to do.”
You guys probably haven’t had a lot of practices yet, but has there been an early message from Jim about how to prepare for this game? You guys have been moving up the rankings, people are talking College Football Playoff- how do you not let that get to your head?
DM: “After the game on Saturday we addressed it being a trophy game and being a big game for us, but as far as that we meet this afternoon in probably about thirty minutes or an hour. We’ll get more down to it then.”
When do you recall the countdown clocks coming down, and what do you think about that?
DM: “I don’t remember exact dates or anything like that. As far as thoughts on it, I think the whole mindset this year’s just been approach the next game, just go out and try to win the next game. So, for us in terms of countdown clocks or to count down to a certain game, it’s just basically been the next Saturday.”
Your thoughts on Jake [Rudock]. The steadiness obviously has been kind of a theme for him. This is a big game. Just your thoughts on having a quarterback who seems pretty level-headed through six weeks.
JK: “Yeah, Jake’s done a great job. He’s a student of the game, for sure. I try to get around him as much as I can. He’ll come up to me in the locker room after practice, he’ll already have watched the practice and come up and give me some pointers or something like that; he’ll critique something, or something like that. He’s shown great strides and it’s great to see a quarterback that loves the game as much as he does.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Butt and Jourdan Lewis]
so then Simba gets hit on the head- this is where it gets really good- and he says… [Fuller]
Your thoughts on the line play after watching film?
“Thought it was good. Graham Glasgow stood out the most and he was our offensive player of the game. Also to note, Ben Braden continued to be an ascending player. He might have got the silver medal, which was good to see. But for the line, line play’s been the same.”
Talk about Joe Kerridge. He’s obviously a captain, but what he brings you leadership-wise and what he brings you on the field.
“A++ from day one in terms of work ethic, leadership, role model, example. Been really good. Good to see him back out this week. Warms your heart to see a fullback pop a run for…what was it? 36? 34? Heartwarming! So, nice to see the fullback position do that.
“Sione Houma also has been outstanding. Both in the way they’re blocking and the way they’re running the ball. Haven’t had fullbacks like this, talented runners when they have the football in their hands. Been heartwarming to see the fullback dive be successful.”
What made that play successful? Was it the play fake to De’Veon, or whose blocking was most central to making that successful?
“Yeah, everybody. Everybody who doesn’t have the ball is essential. In terms blocking and carrying out fakes, everybody becomes a blocker who’s not carrying the ball.”
A lot of coaches and players in football and other sports talk about consistency and trying to stay consistent with a demeanor and a message. What’s been that most consistent message that you and your staff have brought to this team that has made it successful?
“I don’t know. I don’t know what the most consistent message would be. What we hope for and look for in consistency is being consistently good, as opposed to being consistently average. I don’t know what else to say about that.”
You had said after Maryland that you thought Channing [Stribling] was just a one-week injury and he didn’t play the other day. Is this a longer-term situation with him?
“Yeah, it’s longer than a one-week. He was very, very close this past weekend. He could have played, but thought it was more prudent to not play him.”
Do you expect to play him this weekend?
[After THE JUMP- It’s State week, so you know what that means: quoting Rafiki from The Lion King]
Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis
Jabrill, can you give us a sense of what it feels like on that defense to lead this team in, in this case, three consecutive shutouts? What’s the atmosphere on that defense right now?
“You know, there’s still room for improvement. We just come in time in and time out with a great gameplan. It’s up to us to execute. We have a lot of talented guys who take pride in what they do, and when you have a group of 11 guys that are all doing their job and hungry to do their job then the sky’s the limit for us.
“We’re not going to pat ourselves on the back and all that other stuff. It’s time to go now. We’re getting into the guy of our schedule and we still have to improve on a lot, so that’s how we look at it. Just get in the film room tomorrow and try to correct the mistakes and take it one game at a time.”
Jourdan, take us through the pick and what happened. We couldn’t see the ball. Did he bobble it or did you strip it from him?
“Oh no, I took it from him. He had the ball and I guess he was trying to brace his fall and I snatched it out of his hands and I didn’t even know I had it. It was on my leg, so as soon as I saw it on my leg I just started hitting it.”
Did you guys hear the crowd chanting “Defense! Defense!”? I know you said you’ve got more to improve, but to get a third straight shutout and to have that feeling, isn’t there some type of emotion coming right now from what you guys are doing?
JP: “I wouldn’t say any emotion. This is what we expect to do. We work extremely hard, our coaches work extremely hard gameplanning and letting us know what they like to do out of said personnel on first, second, third down so when we’re out there we just keep that in mind and do what we’re coached to do to the best of our ability.”
Jabrill, that last drive in the fourth quarter, all the starters are out there and you guys are fired up. How important was finishing that third straight shutout?
“You know, we really don’t think about shutouts when we’re out there. We really just try to limit them to as much as possible. When we’re out there we don’ want to give them anything, and if a shutout is the byproduct of that then so be it but when we’re out there we’re just concentrating on three and outs, constant three and outs, getting off the field, let our offense give us a break and put up some points or let us put up some points. We don’t really hang our hats on a shutout but if that’s a byproduct of our hard work and what we gameplan for then so be it.”
[More after THE JUMP]
What goes into deciding whether to go punt block or punt return when you’ve got such an explosive return man in Jabrill?
“Uh…same thing that goes into when you throw a fastball or the curve. You know, you’ve got to pressure- the ability to pressure a punter keeps people in protection, sets up the ability to return. The ability to return a punt sets up the ability to pressure, and it’s really not unlike making calls of any kind in the game of football. You do all your work and you crunch all your numbers but you coach the game by feel, and it pretty much is that.”
How pleased are you with that unit? Does that unit still have more to give?
“The punt return unit?”
And punt block.
“I’ll tell ya, I’m really pleased, actually, with the punt return. The amazing thing is we’ve had 51 reps of it in five games now. Somebody needs to go back far and see how many times there’s 51 reps in five games. Obviously it’s because we’re playing amazing defense and what have you, but if you really look at what the unit has done, there’ve been three returnable balls kicked to us out of 51, okay? Obviously we had a round robin with all the Australian rugby punters against each other in the first four games, and everybody found out it’s really hard to return one of those. Three returnable balls, and we’ve- you know, the baseball analogy is we’ve hit the ball hard but unfortunately we’ve knocked it off the wall for doubles and triples. We haven’t had a home run yet.
“I think the thing that goes unsaid is Jabrill’s amazing decision-making back there [and] unselfishness to not risk balls that shouldn’t be touched or should be on the ground, protecting his teammates, those kinds of things. Besides being explosive the punt returner needs to be a great decision-maker and really needs to handle the ball well because one of the things we always say is if you have the ball you have the team, and you need to take care of the team. It’s been effective. I wish we could get more returnable balls, but I’m not in control of that.”
[After THE JUMP: Baxter is the Yogi Berra of this coaching staff]