Royce, how much did that pace on Saturday affect you guys, and is it just one of those things where maybe the pace got the better of you for one game?
“Yeah, the pace was pretty bad. We didn’t play to our full ability and we definitely are looking forward to picking it up this week.”
When you looked at it- have you had a chance to look at the film yet?
Beyond the pace, what were some of the issues you guys were having stopping the run?
RJS: “Just getting lined up. You know, everything was going so fast. Just getting lined up and getting the call since they were running a no-huddle offense the whole game. That was a big challenge. And just hitting a guy after so many plays, it takes a toll. Just had to find a way to get the W.”
Graham, coach Harbaugh was talking about how Jake [Rudock] doesn’t flinch and how he turns the page so well whether it’s a great play or a poor play. Talk about the effect that has on a team.
“It’s great to have a quarterback and have somebody who’s the leader of our offense who comes into the play the exact same as he was the play before. He’s not too high, he’s not too low; he’s unflappable. I think that gives us a quiet confidence about ourselves, and whether it was a bad play or a good play we’re ready to keep going.”
Graham, how’s your brother holding up, and what words of advice did you give him after his injury? Tough break there.
“Ryan’s doing fine. Playing a lot of Halo 5. We play a lot together. Maybe you’ll see us online one day if any of you guys play. He’s doing fine, and I just tell him that he had a great season and, you know, we’re taking it week by week. Take it week by week, he had a great season, and he’s going to come back next year stronger and better and ready to play again. You know, fight another day.”
[After THE JUMP: but does the injury affect R. Glasgow’s Halo ability? Also, more G. Glasgow, RJS, and AJ Williams]
The scoring run that Jehu’s [Chesson] on here: three receiving touchdowns in three games. Why it’s happening and how much of a weapon he is for you guys.
“Well, I would really say Jehu Chesson, Jake Butt, Jake Rudock, Amara Darboh, those four I think are playing as well as anybody in the Big Ten Conference as a group, and all four of those deserve any success or accolades for their performance that they’re achieving because they’ve really earned it all, all four, with their work ethic, with their dedication to being good and their seriousness about winning and winning performance at a very high level. It’s just wonderful, wonderful, and they deserve it because they’ve worked extremely hard for it.”
You said on Saturday that you thought that Jehu kind of looked like an NFL player right now.
Did you think that earlier in the year? What kind of changes went down where you were thinking he could play at the next level?
“Well, it was just the constant improvement in all phases of his game. I think the one thing he is improving at, the final piece, is tracking the deep ball. You watch him run, you watch him catch, you watch him block, cover kicks, the way he plays in all phases and now the deep ball. Tracking that is really coming along well. You see that improving, and I think that’s the final piece that he’s acquiring.”
Thoughts on a second straight road game and the challenge that Penn State presents?
“Uh…I acknowledge that it’s our second straight road game. Fully aware of that.
“Challenge that Penn State presents is a big challenge and our team will be prepared for it this week. Outstanding defense. Offensively, outstanding quarterback, outstanding running back, receivers that are outstanding, so…acknowledge both of those things. Formidable task, and it is a road game.”
Because you’re beat up especially on the defensive line a little bit, do you approach this week-
“We’re not beat up. Nobody’s beat up that I know of.”
Dipping into the depth chart a little bit-
“Do you know something I don’t know? We’ve got a bounce in our step. We’re ready to go.”
[After THE JUMP: “I’m like Abraham: I’m gonna die leaning on my staff. I think that’s the way Abraham said it.”]
Talk about what Ryan Glasgow’s meant to you, and any update on his status?
“Ryan’s a tough, hard-nosed player and he epitomizes what we stand for. Blue-collar, tough guy, so he’s been doing a great job for us all year long.”
He was in a sling today. Is that an indication of his status for Saturday?
“Ryan, like a lot of guys, are working through things. It’s that time of year. It’s that part of the season where guys get a little banged up, especially as physical as he plays. He’s just- he’s working through some things.”
Talk about that time of year for a minute. Everybody’s banged up some, you’ve been at it for a while; is it easier to coach because you’re in a conference race at this time of year?
“I just think when you’re coaching the right group of guys, which I believe we have- I mean, they love what they’re doing. Obviously it makes it a little better when you’re in the thick of things, but it’s part of the game. We have an experienced group that’ve been through seasons before and when you get to November your guys’re banged up a little bit; there’s been a lot of football played, but this is when you’ve got to play your best, so we’ve just got to fight through it and keep going.”
If Ryan can’t go, you’ve already lost Mone at that position. Is there any concern about being a little bit thin at the nose tackle spot?
“I mean, that’s…at every spot on the field you could say if someone wasn’t there- that’s part of the game. You know, you’re never going to be three or four deep at any spot, I don’t think. We have a lot of guys that have played well for us, especially at the defensive line, and we just keep rolling guys in.”
After Hurst, who else would be at nose? Where would that position go after Ryan and Maurice?
“Um, I mean, we’ve played a lot of guys along the defensive front at multiple positions. You know, Wormley’s played both inside and outside, Willie Henry’s played both inside and outside, so I think those guys. We’ve doing it all year long anyways in the rotation, so no matter what’s going on, that’s always how we’re going to play. Whoever’s healthy up front, we’re pretty deep up there, we’re going to play them all.”
[After THE JUMP: The Jabrill Formula]
“What’s happening today? Anything good? Who’s got a good question?”
/Siri goes off on someone’s phone; “I’m not sure what you said there.”
“Obviously Siri does not have a good question.”
MGoQuestion: You guys threw a fullback wheel route to Sione Houma, and it looked like it had some similar elements to the one Michigan State ran against you earlier this year. How often do you guys look at something an opponent ran, take similar elements, tweak it, and put it in the playbook?
“Well, I think that you are constantly looking at what other teams do. You’re looking at what defenses you’re going to see and how they compare to the defense that either you play or other teams play. Sometimes there’s just times where you’re gonna go look and you’re gonna say, ‘Hey, are they in this coverage during this time?’ or ‘Is this a team that runs similar type looks?’ Ball plays are stolen all the time from everybody and everywhere.
“You’ll see very often you can turn on plenty of games and say, ‘Boy, didn’t they just run this?’ or ‘Didn’t Michigan just run that?’ or ‘Didn’t Seattle just run that?’ or whoever it might be. It’s just constantly- you’re always looking and watching film and when good ideas or things that look like we could use, you always try to use them.”
Is Jake [Rudock] getting more freedom from you guys to make decisions in terms of plays than he had earlier in the year?
“No, I think he’s really just getting more aware of the entire system rather than half of it or three-quarters of it, so the more he’s aware of what we’re trying to do, the more he can get to certain guys faster or maybe where he can get rid of the ball quicker. He can hold the ball longer knowing that something’s picked up where maybe early on in the season he might have thought the protection scheme might not have known that it was picked up, so checked it down quick.
“There’s, I think, more just knowledge base, and as knowledge base grows you become more comfortable, and when you become more comfortable maybe it feels like you’re getting to different things but you’re really just going through and maybe early in your career as a rookie quarterback or first year in our system quarterback you can go 1-2-checkdown. Now maybe he feels good enough to 1-2-3-checkdown or 1-2-3-4-checkdown. I think you see it in the NFL with rookies to their second year. I think you [also] see it with guys throughout the season.”
Jim credited you with the screen game. Can you talk about how that’s coming along and how pleased you are with it?
“Everybody gets credit for that. It’s really- the whole screen game, I believe that you can get a lot of yards in the screen game, and if everybody is on the same page with it we can get different ways of doing it, different formations, different guys catching screens. I think you go get some gimmee yards at times, but then there’s also times when screens are called and they don’t look good [and] it’s just a ball thrown right at the dirt, so you gotta be careful about that with screens. But, nah, I mean, I know he said that but it’s everybody has everything to do with our screen game and it’s just one of those deals that we ran a lot of them at different places where I’ve been and have really enjoyed the different aspects of it. You know, you can be real creative in the screen game. It’s not always just a straight drop-back deal.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Rudock might be 53 years old, no one really knows]
Joe Bolden and Taco Charlton
Opponents only scored six touchdowns in the red zone on sixteen chances this year. What do you guys attribute your success in the red zone to?
JB: “Yeah, I mean, obviously as you get backed up- you never want to allow a team in the red zone- but when you get backed up it finally hits you and you can’t break. Ultimately when they’re in the red zone you want to hold them to three points. I think our mindset, our defensive mindset, is we don’t want them to have even three points. So, you line up to kick a field goal, we want to block it. I would say just the mindset we have when the ball gets down to the red zone.”
TC: “Yeah, to contribute to Joe, just give us a place to stand. That’s all we need. We just need a place to stand and we’ll make that stop. We have the confidence in ourselves. We know we have the coach in coach Durkin and all the coaches on the staff. They gave us all the abilities and we know we can get a stop if we get down there.”
Joe, your coach just got done talking about you guys playing the top three rated quarterbacks in the league the next three weeks. I know you’re focused on this one, but how much of an extra challenge do you take it when you face a guy who’s very efficient behind center?
“Yeah, a guy who knows how to manage a game, knows how to win football games, and having his ability playing- I think other guys on offense, when you have a good quarterback you have other guys playing off your quarterback, and it’s almost like a driving force for your team. Having guys behind the center and taking snaps with that ability, with that efficiency, I believe boosts your whole team: special teams, defense, offense. But really, when you look at all three of them and you look at especially Sudfeld, they’re all great players. Like I said, they manage the game of football very well.”
Talk about how the Michigan State loss opens the door for your Big Ten title hopes, and will you be rooting for Ohio State to give Michigan State a second loss because you need that to control your own destiny?
JB: “Yeah, it obviously helps us out. At the same time, not too worried about that. We’re worried about Indiana. Rooting for Ohio State is a very bad- I would say not a very good phrase. Obviously we want to get in the Big Ten championship, and for them to win that game here in a couple weeks would be awesome, but at the same time I don’t really care what happens there. All we care about is Saturday. We can’t get there without continuously winning.”
TC: “Yeah, we can’t control what Ohio State does or Michigan State does. We just control what we do, so we make sure that we gotta win to make sure we control our own destiny. Everything else we hope will take care of itself. Rooting for Ohio State? I don’t know if we can go that far with it.”
/silence while the microphones are redistributed
JB: “Nobody’s very talkative today. Used all your questions with coach Harbaugh.”
[After THE JUMP: De’Veon Smith and Ben Braden]
Is having a little bit more of a window to playing for the Big Ten championship something you even address with your team?
“I’m sure they’re aware of that, and…if not we’ll make them aware of it, but I’m sure they are.”
Just looking at some defensive stats: nine offensive touchdowns given up this year, twelve total. Can you talk about the evolution of this defense and the way it’s bounced back after those last two games?
“Yeah, doing some things that are great. But in terms of like answering the question of the evolution or how we got here or where we’re at and being in that position, we feel like we’re still asking questions. How can we get better? What can we improve? What else can we do to help our team improve? So, not so much the answering questions, more asking them about how to get better.”
Is there any one area specifically you feel like you guys want to improve more?
“No, not that list for you either. In all phases, in all areas. We’re constantly asking ourselves those questions.”
You weren’t happy about the intent to deceive call. Did you get anything that clarifies it more for you and how it’s going to be called in this league going forward?
“Yes. They said it wasn’t intent to deceive, it was intent to confuse. That was the own language that the official used. It’s…I take the rules very seriously, and understanding the rules, understanding the consistency, the clarity of rules, and not just the rules but the spirit of the rules and doing everything that we can to follow the rules, so yeah, I said I was offended after the game to have an unsportsmanlike conduct called on us and the language that they used…that’s offensive because we take it very seriously to know what to teach our players and tell our team.
“No, there’s still no rule in the rulebook that you can go back to and say that we broke. In fact, we asked for interpretation weeks ago and followed it to the best of our ability and…it needs specifics. What was it about it that made it an illegal play versus what would make it a legal play? I mean, everything else in the rulebook is specific, but this one seems to fall in a category that was left to judgment whether the other team’s trying to confuse the opponent, and that’s an awesome responsibility for anybody.
“And why have it? Why not specifically write it? How far can you be from the boundary, your widest eligible receiver during a substitution, after a substitution occurs? Is it in the bench area; has to be closer in the field to the numbers; outside of the bench area it can be closer to the sideline? But really there needs to be some specifics because that’s…that interpretation- we’ve put a lot of work into making sure we follow the rules and not just the letter but the spirit of them.
“Then you start thinking, playing the scenarios. I mean, what else could be deemed trying to confuse the defense? What would be next? Skipping the ball off the turf, if it were a backward pass where you skip it off the turf? Defense thinks that’s an incomplete pass, everybody stops, they pick it up, throw it, etc. I mean, those…need to have specifics on it. So that’s my feeling, yeah. Still remain offended by it.
“And I need some clarity and consistency on another thing I’m offended by: We’ve got a defenseless player covering a punt and he gets hit in the back, in our opinion, in the back of the head, which gets called a targeting foul. They go up to the booth and they say it’s not targeting, but no foul is incurred. It’s a…player, lines up a player- looks like he made a decision to hit him, hit him high, hit him in the back. At least should be a block in the back. Should be unsportsmanlike for making that play, so I’m offended for our defenseless player, so you can put that on the list of things. Top five.”
[After THE JUMP: “I love football, I love the University of Michigan, and I love coaching, and you can do all three of those. As my dad would say, ‘Who’s got it better than us?’ Nooobody.]