The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
So I hit up a Glazier Clinic last week. I'm not sure what the etiquette is about actually talking about this stuff since the atmosphere in the room was not at all similar to press conferences in which carefully evaluated non-statements are provided. For instance, at one point Greg Mattison said that "I've never seen such awful technique" than that of the defensive line upon his arrival.
Mattison didn't say anything offensive, but he was very blunt. If he knew someone would be posting about it on the internet he might not have spoken like that, which means I probably shouldn't be in the room. But being in the room was exceedingly useful for me as I try to figure out what people are supposed to be doing on the field. So here's a mostly paraphrased recap that I don't think anyone could possibly get mad at.
I also listened to an hour of Funk after Mattison was done; having missed two hours of table-setting and lingo I had a hard time grabbing anything that I could relate to you. FWIW, Funk's presentation was three hours of inside zone minutiae—I don't think we're dumping zone any time soon. Craig Ross took in the whole thing and provided a few notes that I'll post Friday.
Mattison. Very personable, obviously a veteran of the clinic circuit. At points reminded me of a folk singer in one and only one very specific way: after explaining this formation or this coverage or this defense, he would fire off some zingers, get everyone to laugh, and then continue with business. I can see why he's regarded as a great recruiter.
His interest in teaching was also clear. Occasionally it felt like it was a college class as Mattison asked the room what player X would be doing in a particular situation. That lent a lot of credence to his assertion that one of two primary reasons he came back to college was a desire to "influence young men—that's what we do." (Brady Hoke was the other.)
On message. Mattison kicked the session off with about 30 minutes describing Michigan's philosophy, goals, and motivational techniques before getting into Xs and Os. He started by talking about Hoke; that "the one thing Brady did was bring back what made Michigan what it is." Michigan hasn't been "one of those teams loaded with unbelievable stars" but plays fundamentally sound, tough defense with maximum effort. Etc.
There were then the usual bits about Hoke's "Years: 133, Championships: 42" call-and-response and a statement that the Sugar Bowl was "fine" but he would trade 100 of them for a Big Ten Championship. The rooms say "THE TEAM THE TEAM THE TEAM," of course. The program is on message.
Position switches. As I wrestled with how to handle this various coaches in the room told every-damn-body that Mattison said Brennen Beyer was moving to WDE and Craig Roh to SDE. This was explicitly stated. Adjust the wiki pages.
Helmets to the ball. A major theme: "loafs" are not tolerated and Mattison wants to see the jersey of 10 guys at the end of every play. When he catches a defensive lineman getting passed by another one he asks the kid how fast he is, and when they say "4.7" he says "well that guy must be a 4.3 then."
At the end of the session Mattison was discussing a corner blitz they didn't run much because the corners didn't come hard enough. One of the cut-ups was from the end of the third quarter against OSU. This play:
The coaches' film is a wider shot and emphasized the huge distance Floyd had to make up to catch Miller before the touchdown. Mattison took the opportunity to point out that this was an example of the corners not coming hard enough and gush over Floyd ("I love this kid") in general and specifically as an exemplar of the Michigan philosophy. Floyd's effort led to this:
And that led to a field goal.
Bonus: For those looking for a reason other than blind luck that Michigan recovered 80% of opponent fumbles this year, in practice all incompletions are live balls. Mattison credited this practice for getting players moving towards the ball at all times and being in position to scoop up live balls in actual play.
Technique a priority. This was a feature of both the general philosophical section and the chalk talk. Mattison did not select the cutups himself—that was delegated to a video coordinator—and didn't know exactly what would come up. This made for an interesting dynamic as he evaluated each play live. He repeatedly digressed from his main topic to note the footwork of his linemen: Van Bergen is getting distance with his first step. All of these guys have identical footwork. There was also a long discussion about why your rush end needs to start with his outside foot back when he gets a tight end to him*. Etc.
In the philosophical section he noted that Michigan was probably the only team in the country with a head coach who coaches a position, that nose guard. It was at this point he told the story about Hoke coming to him fuming, saying he "wasn't going to be one of those head coaches who just walk around" and demanding a position group. He took the nose. Zinger: "now… I question why he coached the best player on the team."
Here he also noted that everyone hits the sled every day and that this was not something the previous coaching staff did frequently, if ever. This is where the bit about "I've never seen such awful technique" came in. Pretty much the only thing negative Mattison said was about the state of the team he was handed. Everyone who's surprised raise their hand. That's no one.
The final bit on this: "don't go be a scheme coach, focus on technique."
*[The reason is the biggest threat to the rush end in this situation is getting reached and if the tight end flares out to do so that first step needs to be one that gains him distance, something you can't do while remaining square if your outside foot is to the LOS. Disagreement with this appeared to be a pet peeve of Mattison's.]
Big plays. Obviously a priority just from the play on the field. Section on this concentrated on the secondary, declared the biggest problem with big plays. Hates it when safeties "look like blitzing linebackers" when there is a pile. He wants a cup around the pile and safeties to make tackles at least six yards downfield.
Now, that doesn't mean Jordan Kovacs needs to make a tackle six yards downfield. In this context a safety is a player in a deep zone. This is most often the corners and Gordon/Woolfolk.
Rotation. This is a Hoke thing Mattison was skeptical about: Michigan rotates the entire defense on every play of practice. Run on—snap—run off. This is "not pretty" when your 21st and 22nd best defensive players are going up against the first team offense but builds conditioning and depth and was credited for "saving the team" in the Sugar Bowl when injuries whittled down available defensive linemen to dust. Think Martin and Van Bergen in the third quarter.
Goal line philosophy. To Mattison it's simple: one zone "you run perfectly" and an all-out pressure.
When they're backed up. Mattison asked the crowd to think of what they are thinking when they've got the other team backed up, and then said "how many of you are thinking 'don't give up a big play'?" Mattison's been there and tries to fight that. Now if you're backed up, "if we have a great run pressure, we're coming after your ass."
This goes here.
Not exactly a run pressure but Michigan is sending all five guys on the line there. "When you have a chance, when they're backed up, go after their ass."
Third down. "For us, we're gonna pressure." Mattison on the end of the Akron State game:
You saw the Ohio game, you probably thought 'this guy is the dumbest sonofabitch in the world' He turned a wide receiver loose against Ohio a couple minutes left in the game.
But we intercepted it on the next play. Did we win? Yes. So we were aggressive and we won. [laughter]
So they'll be aggressive come hell or high water, that's clear.
4-3 versus 3-4: THE FINAL WORD. "We'd be here for hours" if someone tried to argue him away from playing the 4-3 under. Said something along the lines of "if you've got that 330 pound nose tackle and your ends and your linebackers, okay, God bless you." I thought of Pipkins—what is Mattison going to do with a 330 pound nose?
Anyway, Greg Mattison will never run a 3-4. End of story.
4-3 under assertions from the man himself. These aren't too different than the things you'll hear about the under when you read up on it on the internet but just to confirm, the basis of the defense:
- Rush end: "The whole thing is predicated on the rush." Must be a great player, and athlete who can spill power (ie, get into a pulling guard and stop him in his tracks), drop into coverage, and win one-on-one battles with the tight end. All that and he's got to be a ferocious pass rusher. More similar to the SAM linebacker than the SAM is to the ILBs.
- SAM linebacker. Must not be outflanked either in the run or the pass game. Hugely important not to give himself up one for one on the edge. [Editor's aside: that's something we were talking about a ton early in the year. It got a lot better as the season progressed.]
- Inside linebackers. The usual: the mike has to be a little bigger, a little stronger, and the will has to be able to adjust to coverage outside of the box. An important difference between the two is the WLB has to be able to run vertically down the seam whereas the MLB can pass his guy off; IIRC this year the guy running down the seam was Demens, not Morgan. Adjustment based on Demens's surprising ability to stick with guys downfield?
- Nose tackle. Also hugely important. "You cannot win with a weak nose." We should start calling our incoming five star "No Pressure Pipkins" right now.
- Corners. "Corners are corners" but the field corner (Countess) is not involved with "heavy work" and usually just has to clean up plays that have been strung out. The boundary corner (Floyd) has to be a bigger guy better in run support. It's a seven man front; if you go eight you'd "better have a war daddy" at field corner because he's got to cover an outside receiver with little additional help.
Michigan does not align to strength but rather aligns to field—ie, if you're on the left hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field and if you're on the right hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field. You can flip your tight ends all around and Michigan won't flip in response. I assume the flipping from earlier in the year was a necessary evil as Michigan tried to get everyone up on the new system.
The most important thing. One of the line shifts Michigan runs is called "pirate technique."
Kyle Kalis. Mattison saw one of the St. Ed's guys and mentioned that Michigan had recruited a "real man" out that school, one that "may just maul some of our guys."
Jake Ryan. Mattison said Michigan was "blessed" at SAM linebacker—probably including Beyer in that assessment—and that Ryan was a major player. A major player they probably wished they didn't have to run out as a freshman, but a major player.
Mattison referenced a particular play against Nebraska on which he lined up on the wrong side of the field. I remember that but I don't think it was against Nebraska; there's no mention of it in the UFR. "Still a lot of coaching to do" with him but it's clear they think he has vast potential.
JT Floyd. As mentioned, Mattison seemed enamored with him. "Love that kid."
Desmond Morgan. Came up on a couple of clips where he ended up clubbing offensive linemen. Mattison said something along the lines of "think he'll hit you?" And "is that good or what? For a little freshman?" It is unknown whether he has ever said "freshman" without preceding it with "little."
Morgan tipped one of the blitzes they run; Mattison mentioned that he told Morgan he'd play three technique if he kept it up. This is a common threat, as…
Kenny Demens. …they literally did this with Demens, playing him at nose so they could have Martin run the blitzes he wasn't coming hard enough on. In contrast, the SAM (Ryan) was called out as a guy who does come hard.
Some secondhand reports that the implication was Demens's job is under threat have filtered out to premium message boards; I did not get that vibe.
Jordan Kovacs. Michigan's "down safety" or "close safety"—I'll stick with strong, FWIW—was "tremendous."
Departing DL. Heininger "really became a football player." Seems like they think they'll miss him. Van Bergen "really, really played" for M and Martin was of course the best player on the team.
I was tasked by Brian with a couple specific MGoQuestions for coaching assistants following the press conference. Here are those answers and whatever else I could get.
Can you assess your new offensive line recruits?
“These guys are tough. They can run, they can move, they’re going to be really good players. They’re great looking kids. Each one of them has a little different skill set, but they’re going to be a great line for the years to come. We’re really excited about that.”
Players’ bodies change a lot from when they’re in high school to college. What do you look for physically in recruits?
“Like I said, they’re each different. A few of them have to put on a few pounds. A couple of them are pretty much at weight. When you’re developing linemen that can come in, the biggest difference is the strength levels between them and the defensive linemen they’re going to block. I think these kids are advanced in that compared with some potential guys we were looking at because they are stronger and more physical. They’ve got some size to them, but every guy develops a little bit at his own pace.”
How excited are those guys to finally get here?
“Well they’re chumpin at the bit. Most of them have been commited for a while and just signing day seemed like forever to them. And now that’s here now, and now the next thing I’m going to hear is 'Gee, coach, when is June 24 going to come around?' Then they have a lot of chances to get stronger, hit the weight room -- they’re going to have an opportunity to play early. As coach always says, you can’t guarantee someone’s going to play right away, but if they’re better than the guys in front of them they’ll play. And they know that and we’ve talked about that, and the work that they do between today and June 24th when they come to school in the summer will go a long way.”
Are you allowed to communicate with them and advise them before they get on campus?
“As soon as they sign, which they have, now we can give them a weight workout. I can send them playbooks, I can send them different things. There are some strange rules whether they can come on campus and they can’t sit on meetings and different things -- we abide by the rules -- but for the most part I can be on the phone with them every night talking about our base power play and explaining things, and I will. I’m going to work hard with those four kids and give them every opportunity to come into camp and when we install the offense and they hear the terms it won’t be the first time they’ve heard it.”
Do you send them a playbook?
“We send them a version of it. The reason we couldn’t last year is because really until we went through the spring, we really didn’t know exactly -- we know what we’re going to run. We may tweak a couple things. I’ll send them a version, kind of an accelerated version, almost like cliff notes or something like that, so that they get pretty well versed before they come here.”
Are there any other offensive linemen you’re waiting on?
“Yeah, I think it’s important we talk about the guys that we have for today.”
MGoQuestion: Who of your current players on the roster would project to center?
“Well, we have guys who can play center. We wanted to recruit someone in this class that could play center. Guys could play center in this class … you could make some switches. I’ve got some flexibility with the guys I have, and we can find some replacements for David, and we have guys who have played a lot at the position.”
MGoQuestion: What exact position does Mario Ojemudia project?
“At this time I would think he’s more of what you would consider a defensive lineman. He’s going to be more of a defensive end, kind of a Craig Roh position where sometimes he plays up, sometimes he drops. I won’t have much exposure to Mario until he gets here.”
MGoQuestion: Do any of the current commits project to weakside linebacker?
“Well of all those four guys you mentioned other than Mario, with Kaleb and Joe and Royce and James, they’re all going to play somewhere in the middle, meaning a Mike or Will-type linebacker. They’ll be one of those two positions at least to start out with. That’s where our need for depth and competition is most.”
MGoQuestion: What do you look for in a middle linebacker vs a weakside linebacker?
“Generally speaking the guy in the middle’s a little bit bigger. He’s going to have to take on blockers a little bit more, whereas the guy on the weakside, he’s protected more, and what I mean by that is he’s covered up by down linemen a little bit better, so maybe a smaller guy that runs a little bit better. But you know, what I want them both to be interchangeable. They should be able to play both positions to start out, and then you try to fit them in where they best fit in.”
MGoQuestion: Dennis Norfleet isn’t the prototypical back for the power running offense you talk about a lot. How do you envision using him?
“Well until he proves he can’t do that, we’ll give him a chance to do that. He’s coming in here kind of as an all-around player. He’ll return kicks, play offense, and we’ll see what he does. I’ve had little guys that you didn’t consider prototypes to be good backs. You say, ‘Well, maybe he can do it.’ As we go through it, we’ll test the waters and give everybody a chance to prove what they can do. He’s in that category, too, but he’s electric. He’s a touchdown scorer. You can’t get enough of those guys.”
MGoQuestion: Hoke said you guys didn’t really give him that hard of a look until yesterday. How long have you known about him?
“Well we’ve known about him, but because of the fluid nature of recruiting, you have things become available, and you say, okay, well, we got this, we have a kid that can score touchdowns, let’s take a good look at this kid and see how he fits. Everywhere I’ve been we’ve done that. Whether it’s last week, last couple days, something becomes available … you end up taking a guy who has a chance to help you in some way or some form.”
People have talked about this offense potentially shifting over the next couple years to something similar to what the Patriots run. What do you say to that?
“We do a little of the things the Patriots do. We have an empty package. Didn’t use it this year as much as I’ve used it before. We are very similar to the Patriots. We’ll line up in two back offense, we’ll line up in spread … the key to offense is not whether it’s the Patriots or the 49ers or whoevers. It’s being diverse enough to deal with all situations that arise in football. Having an offense that can accommodate all of those situations that’s geared to your personnel. That’s a nebulous answer, but that is the answer.”
Tight end is a position you like to use. Funchess and AJ Williams are pretty different players. Do you envision using them differently?
“Possibly. There’s a skill set that you anticipate and there’s a skill set that you get. So when they get here, we’ll see how they fit into what we want to do with them. They’re both going to be tight ends, they’re both going to be coached to be pure tight ends, and we’ll see how that skill set fits with the rest of the group, and we’ll accommodate it.”
How do you like your depth at that position?
“I think we have plenty of guys. We just have to see how it shakes out. We have a couple kids in the spring that are still going to get a golden opportunity to prove they can do it. With the new guys coming in, we’ll see if they can break into the depth chart.”
MGoQuestion: Jeremy Clark and Willie Henry seem to be pretty under the radar recruits. How did you learn about them?
“Well Jeremy Clark was in our camp, and all it took was for a bunch of guys to watch him, they went, ‘Wow, this guy’s something special.’ And then the process that we talked about where the coach that recruited that area goes in there and meets the caoch and the coach just says the same things about them. You walk down the hall and you talk to the math teacher and the math teacher says this guy’s unbelievable. Now all of a sudden you say, you have all of this, and look what we saw on the field, and then it’s pretty easy. Willie Henry was the same kind of thing. There are some schools that coaches will not recommend very highly until they’re done with them. They’re going to make sure -- people, especially the ones that respect Michigan and respect coach Hoke, they’re not ever going to give you somebody they’re not willing to put their name on. When a coach like that says, ‘Yes this guy can play.’ Then you listen. So that’s the deal with that.”
After looking at his film and evaluating him for yourself, did you feel like he was underrated as a recruit?
“I don’t care about stars. And I really don’t. There are some five stars out there that I hope we play against. To me all I care is what we, our staff, when we look at the film and say yes he can play or no he can’t play. When we looked at this guy on film, we said, Wow, this is one that we want.’ I don’t care if he’s a five star, three star, or two star. Those are the kind of guys we want in this class.”
[Captions located below images]
The French Quarter was flooded with Michigan and Virginia Tech fans for most of game day. I walked down Bourbon Street to take some photos of the fanfare.
"Sugar Bowl Headquarters" on the corner of Bourbon and Canal. If true, would explain a lot.
These street musicians didn’t play jazz, but bluegrass is basically the blues. Right? No? The guy in the middle hails from Grand Rapids.
Michigan fans enjoying the view. Pretty sure that woman is/was a dude.
And for something completely familiar, Michigan sorority girls on their way to …
Rick’s (American) Cabaret.
(more after the jump)
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the official postgame press conference for the 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl.
We'll begin with Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. We've been joined by Denard Robinson, Junior Hemingway, and Brendan Gibbons.
At this time I'm going to turn it over to Coach Hoke, a few thoughts on the game, and we'll open the floor for questions.
COACH HOKE: You know, thank you. It was a great college football game. Two teams who played extremely hard, two teams that played for each other. I think Virginia Tech and Coach Beamer, they did an excellent job, when you look at how they defended us a little bit and then offensively and then you look at the Michigan Wolverines and how our guys stayed together, complemented each other.
We talked about playing 60 minutes of Michigan football. We played about 63 and a half, I think. So I'm just real proud, real proud of our seniors, real proud of how they took this football team last January and molded it and did a tremendous job.
And we always have a tremendous legacy of Team 132 that a lot of teams are going to have to try and match up to.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by Ryan Van Bergen.
Q. Brendan, it hasn't been a great Bowl season for kickers. You see him miss, and you go up. Just talk about what's going through your mind at that point and how good it felt?
BRENDAN GIBBONS: It felt good to go out there. Coach Hoke and the whole Team 132 had faith in me the whole season. Coach puts us in situations, two-minute drill every Thursday practice.
And it just felt good to make the kick for the team to help the seniors go out in a good way.
Q. Junior, you seemed to get very emotional after the game. What was behind all the emotion, just the victory? Was there something else? What does it mean to get the two touchdown catches and the victory?
JUNIOR HEMINGWAY: From the beginning when the coaches first came in, you know, we had to buy in and the seniors had to get the rest of the team to do the same thing, Team 132.
It was just a hard-fought season. And to go out there and do it for the underclassmen who now have a Sugar Bowl championship under their belt and for us to leave with the Sugar Bowl championship, it just shows our hard work, our determination, our resilience. And that's where most of the emotion came from.
Q. Coach, I'm curious: What do you think this win means for the program? Is Michigan back?
COACH HOKE: I was asked that the other day. Michigan never left. And some people may have thought that way, but Michigan never left. What it means is that we've got a group of guys, especially a group of seniors, who won 11 football games.
And it's only the fifth team in the history of 132 years of Michigan football to win 11. And so it's a significant task.
And these guys have grown as a team. We've grown as a football team and a staff, and there's a lot of love and respect that we have for each other.
Q. Denard, how do you describe the way this game went, just from your perspective?
DENARD ROBINSON: I feel like this was a team that didn't quit and we just kept fighting. We held everybody accountable for what we had to do to win.
Q. Ryan, Brady's talked throughout the year about what this season has meant to the seniors and he's in a way dedicated this year to seniors. Can you talk about what it meant for you ending it with so many challenges in losing Will and all that?
RYAN VAN BERGEN: We've had times where we had to face adversity throughout this whole season, and it kind of comes full circle for the seniors. Like you talked about, we faced a lot of adversity since we've been here.
This game was kind of just, you know, a microcosm for what happened to us so far as a senior class, and it's been an amazing turnaround for this year, and I think the seniors left an amazing legacy.
Team 132 will be the fifth team in Michigan history to have 11 wins. That's significant when you play in a program that has the tradition that Michigan has.
So we couldn't be more proud as a senior. I couldn't be more proud of the guys that we got the opportunity to lead. It's a full team effort. And we just stayed strong all season. It's a marathon.
Q. Brendan, did you know it was good when you hit it? How did you celebrate when you were absolutely sure?
BRENDAN GIBBONS: I thought it was good when I hit it. Felt good coming off my foot. How did I celebrate? I just wanted to celebrate with my teammates, and it felt good to celebrate with them.
Q. Denard said earlier in the week he wasn't second-guessing himself, whether he made a mistake throwing the ball to Junior Hemingway. After he throws that pick looking for Junior earlier in the game, goes back in the corner, I guess, what kind of confidence does Junior instill in you and what kind of confidence does Denard instill in you and your performance today?
COACH HOKE: I've always had confidence in both of these guys. And when you have a big target and a guy who has great timing, which I think is part why Junior makes a lot of those catches, and has a big body and bodies some people out of the way.
And so we've always had a lot of confidence in that combination and sometimes you are going to make plays. And you've got to have guys who can make those plays, and when they're the ones doing it, you feel pretty good about it.
Q. Junior, talk about your two catches.
JUNIOR HEMINGWAY: The first one, the play was called. I forgot what the play was. It was corners. So I saw how the DB was playing. I broke it off in front of him. I seen Denard getting ready to throw the ball, but I didn't know who he was throwing the ball at. He threw it up and, number one, didn't play the ball good. I caught it. I heard the safety coming over I didn't know if he was going to take me out or what. Snatched the ball in there, ran it in for six.
And the second one, it was an all-go play and I got behind the safety, and I was thinking in my head: Please, Denard, throw this up, please, I want you to so bad.
And he threw it up. He threw it up. And I made a play on it.
Q. Coach, a lot of people question the selection process for this game and said that maybe the teams weren't worthy. What do you think that the result of the game and the way that it transpired says about that proposition?
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, people always are going to have an opinion, and that's part of the beauty of college football, part of the beauty of the BCS and all that kind of stuff.
And I can tell you that team we played tonight is a pretty doggone good football team. And I think we're a pretty good football team.
So people are going to have their opinion. We just happen to disagree with them.
Q. Brady, a couple of things kind of related maybe. If somebody had told you you weren't going to have 200 yards of offense in this game and only have the ball for 23 minutes, how much trouble do you think you would have been in? And can you talk a little bit about what David Molk went through to even be on the field?
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, I'll answer the second question first. David, he's a warrior. He's a captain on this football team. He tweaked his foot during the pregame. And our trainers did a tremendous job, our doctors.
And he has a lot of pride in Michigan and he has a lot of pride in this offense. And so it means a lot to see him come out there and perform like he did.
What was the first question?
Q. Getting it done without offense …
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, you never know what you're going to get in any game. We just gotta be able, when the time's right and when either side of the ball needs to make a play, and we've done that through the course of the year.
The defense caused a turnover. We got a great turnover on the kickoff, their kickoff return, which was a big part of it. But to be honest with you, you know, you really -- points on the board. And that's what's at the end of the day. We had more points.
Q. Brady, you've been resistant, reluctant, throughout the year to qualify whether or not this season has met or exceeded your expectations for this season. Now that it's over, can you qualify if the season lines up with what you expected?
COACH HOKE: We go in with the expectation to win the Big Ten championship. And that won't ever change. Winning ten games or more are part of that expectation. So we didn't reach that goal. But I can tell you this group of guys got us a heck of a lot closer than we were before.
Q. Brendan, what was going through your mind as Virginia Tech calls time out and it's overtime you're lining up that kick and thinking about lining up that kick? What was going through your mind before the kick in overtime, during the timeout and all that?
BRENDAN GIBBONS: Brunette girls. Every time we were like struggling in kicking, Coach tells me to think about girls on a beach or brunette girls. So that's what we did. Made the kick. (Laughter).
Q. Brendan, I'm curious if maybe thinking about those brunette girls you may have false started on that kick. Replays appeared to show that you jumped a little early. Do you feel you might have beat the snap coming out there?
BRENDAN GIBBONS: I moved a little bit. Not really. But it's kind of like my false step approach. So Glanda and Drew did their job and I did mine to win the game.
Q. Denard, after giving up two field goals early, what helped you change to get the offense going?
DENARD ROBINSON: We knew the defense was stepping up making big plays. It was time for the offense to step up and make plays, and that's what we did.
Q. Coach, out there Al talked about how this really wasn't about execution, it was more about will. In some ways is it even more satisfying for you as a coach?
COACH HOKE: I think you're right. And Al's right. It was about will. When you play a game like that and we're both -- both teams are getting after each other -- and I can tell you down on the field it was physical. You could hear. And guys were playing football, and you could hear football. And so it was a physical game.
The one thing that's great about this football team is they've continued to stay together. And they've continued to complement each other. And that's exciting. And that's why we've won 11 games.
Q. Ryan, obviously in the crutches, just what happened in the end?
RYAN VAN BERGEN: I got stuck under a pile and my foot got bent down in an angle, so my foot was parallel with my shins, so that was an awkward angle. That was early in the game, and that was bothering me. I had a cut block actually fold it the other way. So I was just trying to battle it off.
This was my last game. Unless I saw a bone, I was going to try to stay in and fighting that off. The guys behind me, they filled the role really well. Jibreel Black did a great job at the end of the game.
Q. We talked about after the Ohio State game what this senior class means to you. After a game like this, a win like this, how are you going to remember them? How are you going to remember the team and how they set the foundation for your first year?
COACH HOKE: These guys have left a mark and one that -- I can tell you, the senior class, we'll always remember and always be proud to say that we had the privilege and the opportunity to coach them.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
(FastScripts by ASAP Sports)
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our official postgame press conference. We'll begin with Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, also being joined by quarterback Logan Thomas and cornerback Kyle Fuller.
We'll begin with Coach Beamer.
COACH BEAMER: I'm really proud of our football team. I thought we battled back, great heart. Did some -- you know, it's tough when you give Michigan the ball on the fumble kickoff return, an interception, go for it on the punt, it was an option, run or kick it, and thought we might be there to pick up the first, or not, kick 'em deep.
And the field position too many times we gave a good football team, and that's tough to overcome. But our guys did their best to try to do it and hung in there great.
A couple of close calls, probably the difference in the ballgame. And so I'm proud of our football team and the effort and how they hung in there and battled when things didn't look great.
They kept battling. Proud of that.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. The fourth and one where you had the fake punt with Danny, what was the thought process behind that play?
COACH BEAMER: Like I said, it was an option: run or kick. And I thought it was a good -- it was a short -- it was a yard. And if they dropped off, had a little seam, we were going to go for the first.
If not, we're going to kick it and try and pin them down deep. So we had that option going. And their guy did a nice job. He looked like he was going to go outside and all of a sudden jumped back in underneath and got us.
So it was an option there whether he's going to kick it or not.
Q. Coach, on that, you don't typically do a lot of rugby-style punting. Have you all worked on that play a lot in practice?
COACH BEAMER: We've been working on it for the last three weeks, really, the situation. And if it's going to be less than five, we really planned to do that, and so -- but the situation hadn't come up in the last three games until that situation.
So, yeah, we've worked on it quite a bit.
Q. Coach and Kyle, can you talk about the job you guys did on Denard Robinson? For the most part you contained them. A couple of big penalties, really, set up both their touchdowns.
COACH BEAMER: Yeah, you know, I think field position and penalties, you know, kind of helped them out, but I thought our defense did a great job of containing Robinson.
And, you know, it's just tough giving a good football team that many good field positions.
KYLE FULLER: I think our goal was coming to the game was contain Robinson on that run and pass. And I felt throughout the game we did that. A couple of times he used his athleticism to get out of the pocket and make some good throws down field. And their players, you know, they made some big plays.
But other than that, I mean, I like the way all our guys played together.
Q. Frank, just a comment on what Justin did tonight. Never made a field goal in a college game. To go out there and make his first four, and then in overtime ??
COACH BEAMER: Yeah, I just talked to him. I told him he did a heck of a job. He said he didn't quite get through that last one. But he did a nice job for us. And I liked to have seen him make the last one.
And it's so close. Danny's play is so close, and it seemed like there was just quite a few of those there tonight, so close but just didn't quite have it go our way.
Q. Logan, in that first half, how frustrating was it that you guys were moving the ball as well as you were but couldn't punch it in? What do you think was going wrong there with your inability to kind of punch it in there for touchdowns?
LOGAN THOMAS: Well, I heard a stat that ?? something like they're seventh in red zone defense, so gotta give them credit in that aspect.
They did a great job defending us. Just couldn't pick up the short yardage when we needed to.
But, yeah, all the credit goes to them for stopping us.
Q. Frank, were you planning ?? you sort of mentioned how you guys had been practicing the rugby bump. Were you guys planning on taking more chances? You went for it on that fourth and one in the first half. Did you have a different mindset going into this game, you wanted to sort of catch them by surprise a little bit?
COACH BEAMER: Well, we talked about before the ballgame that it was going to be more likely to go for it on fourth down. That we got a new kicker, hadn't been in those situations. You know, your percentages go with you going for it.
And then on that one we got there and we didn't know exactly how close it was or how far away it was. And so we got in a little bit of a situation where we didn't know exactly where the ball was. And then they were -- for our sneak, they were in a good defense, too.
Q. Logan, on that one play where you threw the interception to ?? the defensive lineman kind of got in front of you, can you describe what happened on that play, please?
LOGAN THOMAS: He saw me rolling out. I was just trying to dump it over his head. He timed his jump perfectly and got his hands on it and came down with it.
All the credit to him. He made a great play. Great athlete.
Q. Frank, we always talk and you're always asked about representing the ACC. From your perspective, how do you feel you guys did in that regard tonight?
COACH BEAMER: How we did in what regard?
Q. Representing the ACC.
COACH BEAMER: I still didn't hear you.
Q. In representing the ACC.
COACH BEAMER: Representing the ACC. Well, we didn't get a win. We need wins. And, again, it wasn't because of lack of effort by these guys. It wasn't because we didn't prepare. I thought we worked hard for this game. The kids made great preparation.
And just in the big picture, you know, we gave them the ball on our side of the 50 too many times.
And if you could go back, I'd take a couple of decisions back. But knowing how things worked out. But they are what they are.
I think everybody in Virginia Tech football put a lot into this ballgame, I can tell you. And we wanted to get a win for the ACC and wanted to get a win for Virginia Tech.
We haven't done as well as we want to in these BCS games. But you give Michigan credit. I mean, they hung in there and battled and hung on, and they certainly never slowed down.
I mean, they gave effort throughout and hung on and got a win.
Q. Logan, you've seen a BCS game from the sideline before, but to get into one to cap off your first season as a starter, how far did you come this season and how did it help you grow working towards the future for you?
LOGAN THOMAS: I think it helped me grow a whole lot. Especially coming from never playing, never playing in a real game that mattered last year, and being able to grow throughout the season, I think I made ?? I think I matured pretty well and I'm happy with my maturity.
Yeah, playing in a BCS game, it's something that everybody dreams about. It doesn't come around every year. Thankfully for us we've been able to play ourselves into that situation the past couple of years. And I'm very thankful to be here.
Q. Logan, you guys talk about the Danny Coale and how close that was. What was that like for you? Seems like you think you probably have a touchdown. And what was that whole ?? what was that whole, I guess, scenario like?
LOGAN THOMAS: When I first saw it, Danny made a great play to even get a hand on it. I think I left it a little bit wide. I could have left it straight up ?? I guess right down the numbers, and he probably would have had an easy touchdown catch.
But the play is designed to hit the corner. I threw it out to the corner. He got a hand on it. He made a great play. From the two angles we saw, I guess we thought it was a touchdown. And we couldn't see any other way, because inconclusive evidence or whatever it was, but I guess the official saw something.
So, I mean, it's tough. But just to know that we were that close.
Q. Logan, you guys had 3:53 left starting on the 9?yard line. Driving to tie it up there, you guys ended up getting Myer's field goal there. Take me through your mindset there, kind of somewhat of a two?minute drill where you guys needed to score?
LOGAN THOMAS: We've been there before against Miami. We had to do it twice the end of the first half and then at the end of the second half to go win that one. But we've done it a couple of times all year and we came out with points on a lot of them.
So, I mean, it was nothing. The offense had been clicking all night. They weren't stopping us. We were stopping ourselves.
So I knew we could take it right on down the field, not a problem. And we did so. Had that false start, or else we might have had another shot at a touchdown.
But it's past tense now. I'm proud of the guys. They battled up front all night long. We heard for the past 30 days they're so dominant up front, but I think our guys showed they're just as dominant. So I'm very proud of the guys.
We battled on the outside, and we made big plays when we could.
Q. Frank, I know last year the Stanford loss was ?? you guys took it hard because things kind of unravelled in the second half. I wonder, does this one feel worse because you were so close? And how do you move ?? how do you get over it moving forward heading into the off?season? How do you move past something like this?
COACH BEAMER: Last year against Stanford, we just -- you know, we didn't get it done in the second half. But, again, I think a couple plays starting that half, had they gone our way, maybe it would have gone different. But it didn't. And walking away from that one, it wasn't very good.
And I'm about half sick right now. But I'm proud as can be of our players. I'm proud of how we battled back. I'm proud of what we are as a football team. It wasn't lack of effort here at all. It wasn't, again, lack of preparation. It wasn't -- our guys played their heart out. Just some kind of fluke plays right before the half, a couple of fluke plays.
And, I mean, just, you know -- but, again, our guys never stopped themselves. So I feel a lot better walking out of here tonight than I did against how we played against Stanford. But also knowing that we kind of -- we let them have the ball too many times in great field position.
And too many mistakes, what Logan said. We get down there, what was it, third and one, and we jump -- we jump and now it's third and six. And all of a sudden just roughing the kicker penalty. It was just some stuff there that wasn't in our best interests.
Q. Coach and Kyle, you talked about Denard, but the play of Hemingway, can you elaborate on Hemingway and his performance tonight?
KYLE FULLER: Hemingway, we knew that they also had other guys, their running back, a lot of good receivers that we had to focus on as well. And, you know, just like we saw on film, those guys, they'll make some plays.
And they did that tonight.
Q. Logan, Michigan threw a lot of looks at you on its defensive line. What were you able to do that made you so successful against what they were trying to do defensively?
LOGAN THOMAS: Great preparation. Coach got me prepared right. We kind of went over this week what they were planning on doing. And they did exactly as we thought.
They actually played a little bit more two safeties than they had previously. But I've been studying, been trying to get ready for this game after our last outing, knew we couldn't have another one like that.
And I thought we did a great job offensively. Of course we didn't get points when we got in the red zone. We didn't get all the points we could. But I think we played a good game. We played our hearts out.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports (Ed-Heiko: Thank YOU.)
Have you been able to regain your focus for the bowl?
“Yeah, I think so. We’ve have five or six very spirited practices, and they haven’t been clumped together so much that the kids have gotten tired. We kind of have a philosophy with bowl practices that we’re not going to practice real long anyway, so yeah, I think they’re pretty good that way.”
You’ve talked about quarterbacks taking a year or so to be comfortable with your system. Was that last game with Denard as close as it’s going to get before next season?
“Yeah. He’s getting there. The last game -- the last couple games, really Illinois to a degree, too, other than a turnover or two … but yeah, I think he’s catching on. He’s doing pretty much what every quarterback I’ve had in the first year has done. He started a little slow. Again, I said this before, is our passing game is so different from what they’ve done. There were going to be pains because there always is. He’s starting to absorb the concepts and be able to understand what we want, and it’s showing up at the end more than it did earlier.”
Is there something specific you’re looking at with Denard in terms of development going into the bowl game?
“Same stuff as always. Fundamentals. Fundamentals and basic understanding of route structure, timing the routes, it’s always the same, and it’s always a work in progress in the first year, but we’re further -- much further now than we were when we started.”
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