somehow we're only 124th
File photo by Tim. Because today was a hat day.
Did you have to make significant adjustments at halftime, or was it more just settling down and refocusing? “Well, yeah, there’s some adjustments. There’s always some adjustments. But I think for the most part in the second half we kind of stuck with the plan, we just didn’t turn the ball over. That’s really the difference. When we didn’t turn the ball over, we were much better. Everybody is. That’s not news. We did a couple things differently, but I think sometimes halftime adjustments can be a little bit overrated. Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re critical.”
Denard said he was just too excited on some of his throws. How much of an issue is that for him in that kind of environment? “Yeah, that can happen to any quarterback. He’s not the first guy to have that happen to him. He was fired up. He’s coming off a really good game, and he really wanted to show up and kind of pick up where he left off. Eventually he did. Early on, when he had a little bit of early trouble getting into rhythm. Once he did, he was really good. We just have to limit our mistakes to incomplete passes. Because incomplete passes -- you can recover from incomplete passes. But when you turn the ball over that hurts a bit more. He knew every time the mistake he made. We went over the tape and doggone it we beat it up one side and down the other. I think he’s getting better. He really is. Other than the turnovers, but in terms of his passing, and his fundamentals were improving. Hence his numbers were gradually going up a little bit.”
(a lot more after the jump.)
News bullets and other important things:
- Woolfolk is "banged up."
- Barnum's status is up in the air, but last night he "ran around."
- Shaw played because of situational stuff against Northwestern, but is also working his way back into the rotation.
Opening remarks: “Saturday, I think, we learned a little bit about ourselves as a football team in good ways and bad ways. We learned that you can’t turn the ball over. That’s an important aspect that we have to do a better job [with] decision making at times, fundamentals at times, technique at times. The other thing I think we learned is that from a defensive standpoint, you need to get off blocks. That enhances your ability to make tackles. I think we learned that if we hang together, good things can happen. If we play with an aggressiveness and an aggression, then we play a little better football.”
Can you talk about how good your team has been in the second half and what you attribute that to? “From an offensive standpoint, I think we see something different pretty much all the time in how people defend us offensively and really defend Denard. I think Al does a tremendous job. And his staff -- Darrell Funk and [Jeff] Heck[linski] and Fred [Jackson] and Dan [Ferrigno] -- I think they all do a tremendous job of getting together and talking during the course of the game or the first half, putting their ideas down, and making the appropriate adjustments and changes. I think the same thing defensively. I think Greg [Mattison] and Curt [Mallory] and Mark [Smith] and Jerry [Montgomery] do a tremendous job defensively. The kids have been willing, and they’re listening. I think they’re learning.”
What stands out about Michigan State’s defense, particularly their defensive line? “Well I think you answered that question. I mean, they are extremely talented, aggressive, well coached. Coach [Ted] Gill was one of my coaches in college -- their defensive line coach. He’s a tremendous motivator. He knows the game, does a great job coaching them. Those kids play with a fire to them. You look at their defense as a whole, and I think the whole team is very well coached. I have a lot of respect for Mark Dantonio. He’s a defensive coach in his mindset and vision of how they’re going to play defense, and I think they’re athletic. I think they play with good team speed, and they’re going to be a physical presence out on the field.”
(more after the jump)
(No jump because this was a pretty short presser.)
News bullets and other important things:
- Barnum isn't "out", but didn't practice much yesterday.
- Hemingway's arm wrap sounds about as concerning as Denard's arm wrap.
Opening remarks: “We had a good day yesterday, I thought, on both sides of the ball. One of the big things in this football game is going to be field position and turnovers. They’re plus five and we’re plus seven. They’re taking care of the football, and they’ve done a nice job defensively of creating some opportunities. The other part of it is the field position in the kick game, when you look at their returns on punt and on kickoffs, they’re significantly higher than the average. Both of those things I think are a big part of it. We had some struggles with kickoff coverage last week. We haven’t done great in kickoff returns. I think we had some opportunities in the punt game punt-return wise, but we have to be better at those two things to create some things for us offensively. Obviously defensively, when you look at helping your offense out so they can get another -- steal another possession.”
How much do you physically practice coverage? “We always do coverage teams Tuesdays, plus our return games on Wednesdays, plus we always do another five-minute segment with the punt because that’s such an important play in football. Statistically, if you believe in statistics, if you look at teams with a punt return against them or a punt block, your percentages go way down to win a football game, so we work pretty physical with it. We’re going to do some kickoff live at the end tonight, and we have to send a message. We also have to do a better job of coaching and teaching.”
How much success on kickoff coverage is location of the kick? “I think it’s always part of it. When we’ve had really good locations, usually we’ve had good coverage. I can think back to last week, there were three of them that were really located pretty daggone well. And then two of them, one of them was in the middle of the field where we didn’t want it, and the other one was -- if I’m coming down the field -- right-middle, which wasn’t far enough. There’s all kind of things you look at. I think their returner is very good, quick, and he does punts and kickoffs. We just have to be more sound.”
You pitched a shutout on third downs defensively last week. What’s your target percentage for third-down stops? “I think if you can be successful defensively 63-, 64-percent of the time, maybe a little higher than that -- but I don’t know where we are right now. I don’t really look at that stuff much. I don’t think we’re where we need to be. I think last week helped, but that’s an anomaly a little bit.”
How much is Junior Hemingway limited by arm wrap? “He’s all right. He’s just got a little boo-boo on his elbow. He’s fine. We did punt yesterday and he’s one of our wings and did a great job protecting. We serve them live bullets.”
Have you talked to players about road game and traveling expectations? “A little bit. We’ll talk more about it tomorrow. It’s more when we, on Thursdays, you cover some more of those administrative things. Where they sit on the plane, all those kinds of things that go along with it. How we’ll dress, getting to the hotel, knowing where you’re at, knowing where the stairs are, because that’s important. Elevators sometimes don’t, you know, bode too well.”
Are you pleased with how healthy this team is given how physical you practice? “Yeah. Yeah. No question about it. And I will knock [on wood] a bunch (knock knock). Understanding that Tuesdays are going to be heavy work days and today will be a heavy work day where we’re going to get as good a look as we can, as physical a look as we can so that the reactions on both sides of the ball and even on the kicking game are what we want come Saturday. And the mentality of how we play.”
Is Barnum out for Saturday? “No, I don’t think he’s out. ”
How much is he practicing? “He didn’t do much yesterday, but today’s Wednesday.”
Countdown clocks … have you caught anyone talking about Michigan State yet? “No. Heck no. No way. The seniors have done a nice job. They’ve done a nice job.”
How is Will Heininger doing? “I think Will has come along when you look from the fundamental side of playing the position and what we ask those guys to do up front. He has always wanted to do it. I think there is a confidence thing at times that he had to, in my opinion, push through. Being a little more confident in this is how we’re teaching this and how we want you to do it from a physical standpoint. But I think we do some two-on-one live drills on Tuesdays and Wednesday that are really good for our guys up front on both sides of the ball.”
Craig Roh was dropping back in coverage. What does his versatility do for your defense? “I think it helps. When you have a guy that can do a couple different things, it can keep an offense off balance. Craig’s greatest asset is he’s a smart kid and he’s a smart football player, and he picks up things well and he has good recognition of if he has to wall the second receiver or if he’s on what we call train and he has to take the guy out of the backfield. He has a good understanding of it.”
Do you see your players getting more comfortable with Mattison’s defense? “Last two weeks they feel more comfortable. I think this week we have a different challenge because of pace and tempo that we’ll get from Northwestern. They’re going to snap the ball at times with 30 seconds still on a 40-second clock. So that’s getting to the line of scrimmage and making a decision. At other times they’re going to slow it down, so all those things that are things that will disrupt you defensively, and that’s where our discipline, our communication, our urgency to look into the sideline and getting set -- that’s all part of it.”
Mattison talked about players taking ownership of defense. What does that mean to you? “I think there’s a lot of pride. There’s a unit pride by position. I think it’s always important. I think the personal pride you have, how much you really study the game and study the oponent and look at tape and all of those things. I think they’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
What kind of effect will having a whole lot of Michigan fans in the crowd have on the game? “Well I think it’s always nice to play in front of folks that are behind you. It may help a little bit with crowd noise if we have a lot of Michigan people there. I know there’s a ton of alums who live in the Chicago area, so we welcome them all.”
Thoughts on Denard’s improvement? “We worked on it pretty good, you know. And he took it to heart. He was stressing that he wasn’t throwing well. He’s a better passer, I’ve told you that before. Like I said, part of it is we had to get him some throws that he could make early and then he got into rhythm, and it was lights out after a while. Yeah he was feeling good. But his fundamentals were so much better other than two throws, okay -- there were two throws and both of them were pocket movements to the left where I think he didn’t get turned very well, and part of that was protection. But he got his screws in the ground pretty good and transferred through most of the throws, and he was pretty much on the money. And he touched a few balls nice, too. He dropped a couple balls in, and the key to passing is it’s a finesse art.”
How did you come up with the diamond thingy and what can we expect to see from that in the future? “Well I’m not going to tell you that. But it’s something -- Devin Gardner’s a talented kid, and we just wanted to give him a chance to feature him a little bit in a couple of deals. [With] Big Ten play, we’ll empty the drawer more as we go now. Our first four games, we’re still learning the offense. That’s still a work in progress. We’re going to have our deals. They’re not all going to work. Some are going to be good, some of them aren’t. But that was just one of them.”
Is it based off anything or did you just kind of pull it out of thin air? “Well, it goes way back. There was a series [that the] Chargers ran back in I think was the 80s or early 90s with Buford Jordan, where he was a quarterback in college and we took a piece of that and expanded it a little bit. I think Dan Fouts was playing back then. Part of that’s kind of old Ernie Zampese would have done that. The other piece is that we just kind of built some stuff off it that they didn’t do back then. The option part of it was a piece from the past.”
(more after the jump.)
News bullets and other important things:
- Barnum is still day to day.
- Woolfolk is fine, even though he may or may not have been limping at the end of the game.
- Cam Gordon will practice more. Sounds like he has to fight for his job back.
- McColgan should be back for Northwestern.
- Hoke voted for Michigan to be in top 25.
Opening remarks: “It was good to start the Big Ten season winning the football game on Saturday. It was good to keep the Brown Jug. I think the score got painted on this morning at eleven. It’s good to have the Jug here in Ann Arbor.
"Everything gets tougher. Northwestern, they’re 2-2 as you all know. They lost a heartbreaker down in Champaign last week, but they have a football team that’s very well coached. Pat’s probably as good a coach as there is in the league and a guy that feels strongly about that program, being an alumnus of Northwestern and being a tremendous player there. I also think when you look at them from an offensive and defensive standpoint, they’re a team that’s going to play physical. They’re going to play 60 minutes of football. Defensively, they run very well to the ball. Offensively, Persa was back, played most of the game, was pretty productive. But Coulter is also a guy who’s moved them offensively and done a nice job. So when you look at it and playing away, we haven’t been away. It’ll be a little bit different for us because we’ve been fortunate enough to play five games in Michigan Stadium.”
Does being tied for second in the country in ppg allowed mean anything to you? Also, can you point to any tangible improvements in the defense between the spring and now? “Well, it’s like anything else. It doesn’t mean anything right now. I mean, none of those things matter. We’re 1-0 right now. I think when you look at our front the last two weeks, we’ve been a little more disruptive. That’s enabled the linebackers to do their job. I think we put a little bit more pressure at times on the quarterback. We still don’t blitz worth a dog, period. And that’s got to improve. Guys are playing together. I think they’re understanding the roles. I think the defensive staff has done a good job in preparation, and the guys are doing a good job preparing themselves.”
How did Denard look in the passing game on film? “I think mechanically he was better. I think the routes were better. I think the timing of the offense was better. There was a good tempo and good flow when you look at him and his footwork and all those things that are part of the mechanics of throwing. I think it was better. I thought it wasn’t bad versus Notre Dame, either. I think he’s a prideful guy, he’s a competitive guy … He wants to be good for his teammates.”
How do you work on timing in practice? “Well it’s just the routes and the timing, and if it’s five-step or three-step drop, from the gun or under center. Just the mechanics of that and when the ball should be thrown, on what step.”
(more after the jump around.)
Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith
Why was the passing game better today? Denard: “We just clicked. We worked on it in practice, and we just had to put it forward in games, and that’s what we did today.”
When the last time you had a rushing, receiving, and passing TD in the same game. Also, can you talk about the game plan that utilized you in a unique way? Smith: “I was just put in the right place at the right time. The coaches know what I’m capable of. What I have to do for the team to help them out.” Was it fun? “Real fun. And the last time I threw a pass was in high school, but not like three [TD’s] in one game.”
When did the 2-QB thingy arise? Denard: “We’ve been doing that in practice. We’ve been working on it. Coach said he’d throw it at us, and just be ready. And he called it, so we were ready.” Were you expecting it that early? “Oh yeah.”
That was an unorthodox offense today. Is that exciting for you? Denard: “Oh yeah … Just going out and having fun with my teammates.”
Denard, how comfortable did you feel in the passing game? You looked more comfortable. Denard: “Oh yeah. I mean, we’ve been practicing getting it down with the receivers, and we were just on the same page.” How much you looking forward to going on the road? “Both of us are looking forward to that.” Smith: “I mean it’s just another football game, and that’s what we love to do. We just love to come out to compete, and it’s another night game.”
You guys have been putting up a lot of points. How does the team feel about this new offense? Denard: “We’re confident. I mean, we’ve been playing [well], and we trust Coach Al to give us the right play and make things happen, because we have some playmakers.”
Are there other things we haven’t seen that you might show us? Denard: “We can’t tell them that …” Smith: “Not that I know of.”
(more after the jump)