Can you talk about the importance of special teams today? “Well that was a big part of -- it always is a big part of every game, but to be able to knock some balls loose and start with great field position is a good thing for us. Obviously offensively having a short field, I thought that was a big part of what our kids were doing and what helped us today.”
How happy are you with all three phases of today’s game? “Well it’s probably as well as we’ve played with all three phases. We still had some opportunities from an offensive standpoint that we didn’t take advantage. Then we don’t field a punt and [it] backs us up, then we’re kicking with a short field … there’s always something. I can sit up here and go on a long time about that, but as a group, they played with a great toughness and complemented each other well. I thought the guys up front offensively were really working hard to make things happen. Fitz did a nice job. Denard did a nice job. Defensively, our front seven played well.”
With everything that was going on today, did you feel an additional pressure to win? “No. No. We’re going to win the game. We’re going to fight and compete and coach and motivate and do all those things.”
What did you do differently in kickoff coverage this week? “We really didn’t do anything differently. We challenged our guys, which you always do. For them to outcompete the guy they’re playing against. T-Rob hit him and the ball came out, and Cam hit him and the ball came out -- it was really just playing and competing as best we could, every guy who was in that locker room.” Were they going harder? “You know, I don’t know if they were going harder. It looked like about the same speed we do going down.”
How big was the blocked punt and converting it into a touchdown in terms of momentum? “That was huge. When he kind of dropped it there and ran -- yeah. Field position again is a huge part of it. We capitalized on a mistake in there that happened. The hustle that the guys showed, I thought, was great.”
Talk about Denard’s poise in the pocket and the challenge of having to run plays without a play clock in the beginning? “Well, you know, a couple things. Number one, I think the one thing we could do as a coaching staff and as an offense is make sure that we’re getting the plays in as quickly as we could. We had to make sure the huddle was set as quickly as we could get it set. If you’re a receiver or one of those guys coming in and out, you’re hustling on the field or off the field -- those personnel groups. The first one, the penalty we had, that’s on me. I should have called a timeout. For me not to do that, that’s bad coaching. I thought he did a tremendous job.”
How much has this defense grown since January? “The seniors on that defense have done a tremendous job. They’re prideful kids, the Mike Martins, Van Bergens, Woolfolks. We from day one have said that we are going to play and coach for our seniors. I think the young guys understand that and I just think fundamentally and technically they’re playing what they’re coached to do, and they’re playing together. That’s been fun to watch.”
How were you able to limit Burkhead? Was there anything you saw on film? “No. You’re just doing your job. If you’re a nose tackle you’re getting a double or a base reach. You have to play the base reach and get off and make plays. We talked about because of the physicalness that he likes to run the football with, that we wanted to try and get 11 guys to the ball all the time.”
Is that the best you’ve seen Denard play since you got here? “I don’t know. I’d have to rewatch it probably. I thought he did a nice job managing our offense. I think he took advantage of some creases that he found in there and accelerated through them pretty well.”
Could you have dreamt of a better way to welcome Nebraska to the Big House and the B1G? “Well I don’t know. They want to win, we want to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s Nebraska or Slippery Rock. We want to win the football game. I’m just being honest about it. We have a lot of respect for Nebraska. The pride and the tradition that they have. Bo Pelini is an excellent football coach. They’re a good football team.”
Can you comment on the time of possession disparity (42 min to 18 min)? “You play really good defense when you get to watch your offense. Believe me, and that’s part of it. Our offense, not every game, but having a little bit of an advantage in time of possession. One of our best defensive calls is them on the field. And then you look at the defense, I think we were 3 of 13 defending them in third down conversions -- you’re helping yourself defensively and getting off the field.”
With six minutes to go, the crowd was chanting “Beat Ohio, Beat Ohio.” Thoughts? “Well, we’re going to really go to work on that tomorrow. But that’s our next opponent.”
Can you talk about the momentum you have going into the Ohio State game? “You know, we won two in a row, right? There’s another to go win.”
Is this as close you’ve come to play the kind of football you envisioned when you started? “You know, we definitely want to run the football. We want to control it. We want to take care of the football from that standpoint. And we want to play defense as 11. We want to play defense where we’re stopping the run and then putting people in situations where they feel they have to throw the football. That’s where some of the uniqueness of what Greg does has been good for us.”
Can you talk about picking the spot to fake the field goal? “We had put it in. It’s the one Penn State used against us in ’95? I think it was ’95 up there. [We] wanted it on the right hash, [and] they gave us the look that we wanted. Even if we had kicked the field goal, Drew Dileo -- having him as a holder, he’s such a smart football kid. He did a tremendous job with it. You got it, you might as well use it.”
Thoughts on how Denard played on third down? “Well I thought he did a nice job. Believe me, because we were making low yardage on first down and on second down we went backwards a couple times. When you get into a situation [with] those longer third downs, I thought he was very accurate with the ball when he was throwing it. I think the throw that he made for the touchdown to Martavious Odoms was as good as a throw I’ve seen him make, especially on a long ball. It was a great catch by Martavious, but that’s where he had to put the ball.”
You’ve emphasized Ohio State since the first press conference. Why is this going to be different, and how does it feel to go into it with nine wins? “Well I think any time that rivalry is played, and believe me, we appreciate it always at the end of November. We have tremendous respect for that football team and that program and that school. It’s exciting."
"It's exciting! You get excited! Look!”
When you hear the fans chanting it, does it get you a little charged up? “Well it’s eight days, less than eight days.”
Defending the option, whose responsibility was it mostly? “Well it was more the ends. Our ends did a nice job on the quarterback. We tried to keep the backers inside because of what they were doing with the zone part of it and put it on the two ends. The one he got out earlier in the game, our end didn’t do the job he should have.”
Did you change some things on offense? Seems like Denard was making more checks at the line. “No. Not really. It was about normal.”
Don’t hate me, but as much as you guys dominated today, there’s a certain team down the road that won, so does that taint this victory at all? “Not at all. Not at all. We had our opportunities. Part of competitive sport and competitive life is you have to take advantage of the opportunities. So no. I really don’t hate anybody.”
Denard looked really patient in the pocket and made some good decisions. Is that the Denard you usually see in practice? “You know, I think he was a little bit beat up in the mid-year with some ailments, but I think he’s healthy now. I think he’s more confident. One thing I can tell is he’s taken ownership as a leader. That’s neat to see.”
News bullets and other important things:
- Barnum is "available," but Hoke won't say whether he'll actually play.
- Woolfolk did everything in practice fine.
- As did Denard.
Opening remarks: “It was another good Tuesday for us when you look at practice and preparation on both sides of ball. In the kicking game we really worked on the coverage game. In kickoff returns [Nebraska has] been very successful. They’ve got [Ameer] Abdullah, [who has], I think, 31 yards a return, so that’s field position, and that’s something we have to do a great job of covering -- kicking the ball and the coverage itself. In the punt game they’re averaging nine yards a return. It’s still pretty significant. We’ve got to do a great job of executing the hidden yardage you get from your special teams. We’ve got to do a great job as a team. If you’re punting the football, snapping the football, protecting whatever you may be doing, we’ve got to be very good this week.”
Will you be practicing at the stadium more these two weeks? “Well the kickers will. We don’t go up there at all as a team until game day. It’s a special day for us, and game day is important being in that stadium, but we were fortunate enough to have pretty good facilities obviously and get a lot of work done.”
Does Nebraska’s run game change how you prepare your secondary? “You know, not really. It obviously, when you’re a back end position, the discipline of your eyes and the alignment of your feet are such an important part of playing back there because you are the support at times. You are the last line of defense. You are a lot of different things, and for us, I think we’ve worked every week as far as the run game part of it, which we do a lot on Tuesday. More the passing game on Wednesday. Really work on crack schemes that they’ll run, which they do run -- they’re pretty daggone good at it -- and those kinds of things, just the reaction of where your eyes are, and your eyes will tell your feet where to go.”
(might as well jump. (JUMP!))
Opening remarks: “We’re really proud of our kids and how they played on Saturday, how they went out there as a team. I think we really complemented each other as a football team in a lot of ways. Offensively, taking the ball down on the first possession and scoring always helps you from a mindset and your enthusiasm when you play the game. Defensively, I thought our defense played awfully well. Played together. We had a fourth and 26 that was completed on us that we don’t like at all, and we needed to play better on the one drive in the fourth quarter. Matt Wile did a tremendous job on kickoffs, especially into the wind. Jeremy Gallon did a nice job in the punt return department. The thing I want to mention is those guys on the team really did a nice job, so that was a big plus when you look at the hidden yardage that’s always important in a football game. But I’m proud of the kids, how they bounced back, how they reacted, how they stayed together, how they complemented each other.
“Obviously we’ve turned the page after yesterday. We have a very good opponent in Nebraska, one of the traditional football powers in this country, and we’ll have our work cut out for us.”
Is this defense exceeding your preseason expectations? “We always have high expectations. I think the part of it that you like is -- and this is probably more what a coach would see than you may -- but when they come off the field, whether it’s good or bad, how they band together, stay together, [and] they listen. I think Greg and the staff on defense do a tremendous job of making the adjustments that need to be made, and the tremendous job the guys do of keeping each other on that edge -- that’s part of it. I thought they did a nice job staying together no matter what happened.”
Illinois had negative rush yards at the half, and they got 37 total. How did that change their offensive plan? “Obviously when you can get a team to be one-dimensional, if you can do that, and we were able to. The interior of the defense really shut down some of the zones and what they wanted to run. When you can get them in those down and distance situations that are advantages for you, we were able to do that and we were able to get some pressure. I thought the back end did a nice job of keeping the ball inside and in front, which is a big part of it. The capacity for big plays weren’t there as much.”
(more after the jump)
News bullets and other important items:
- Delonte Hollowell had his redshirt burned two weeks ago.
- There will be some rotation between Thomas Gordon and Troy Woolfolk vs. Illinois regardless of which one wins the spot in practice.
- Ricky Barnum still limited in practice. Hoke says he "will play," however.
Opening remarks: “I’m going to make a brief statement just regarding everything up at Penn State. One thing I can tell you, we have an utmost respect for what coach Paterno’s done on the field. It’s really a situation that’s obviously unfortunate, but it’s one that doesn’t affect us. We’ve got to worry about Michigan and the decision that we make in getting ready for this week and going to Illinois and winning a football game.
“Now practice yesterday was good. I like it. I liked how they competed. I liked how they came out, had a lot of energy, and they fought like heck.”
(more after the jump)
News bullets and other important items:
- Jake Ryan was MIA for most of first half due to a neck/shoulder injury of some sort. A "burner." He came back though and was fine.
- Hoke has not yet gotten a full explanation for Hemingway call.
- Denard left the game because he hit his elbow on a helmet, which caused his hand to go numb.
- Toussaint had a minor injury but could have re-entered the game. They used Vincent Smith due to the NASCAR passing situations.
- The timeout before Iowa's punt was because Hoke thought there were 12 guys on the field. There weren't.
- Hoke would have liked to have given Thomas Gordon some playing time but didn't get around to it.
Is there any second-guessing of your clock management in the fourth quarter? “No. We talked about that yesterday, and going into the two minutes at the end, knowing where we were timeout wise, I thought Al really managed it well, to be honest with you. We had four shots at the endzone. Two of them we had in our hands. I thought it was okay.”
What went into the decision to take the ball on opening kickoff? Also, are you disappointed you didn’t score on the opening drive? “Well, yeah, you’re always disappointed when you don’t score. It’s funner for you, it’s funner for me and our kids. We made a decision -- because 99.9% of the time we’re going to defer when we win the toss, but we had made a decision on Thursday, when there was going to be a significant wind, and wanting to have the wind in the fourth quarter was something that we really wanted to do. We just got lucky we won the toss, so we wanted to take the ball instead of [deferring], thinking they’re going to want the ball in the second half, then we can dictate us having the wind in the fourth quarter if we needed a field goal. So we thought that thing out pretty hard.”
Why did you use your timeout before the Iowa punt? “I called timeout because I thought we had 12 guys on the field.” Did you? “No, we didn’t. I didn’t count very well. As soon as I called it and counted I said, you know what, I hope we don’t need that one late. I talked about the kids’ effort. I had a pretty good effort, but I didn’t execute on that one very good for them.”
(more after the jump)
(Presser audio for this transcript courtesy of The Michigan Daily. Thanks Tim.)
This file photo seems sad given the current context.
Opening remarks: “Well that’s why you play 60 minutes of football. I didn’t think we as a team played as well as we could and should throughout the game, but especially the first half. We have to do a better job of coaching, preparation, all those things. I’m proud of the kids, though. They kept swinging away. Kept coming and fighting. We had some opportunities to get the ball back a couple other times where we didn’t get it done defensively. Obviously when you get into the redzone you have to score touchdowns.”
Your last possession in the first half really seemed to swing things a little bit. “Well, we [were] trying to make a play and put the ball on the ground. That led to a field goal. And the interception down there going in. Ya know. That does swing. When you don’t have the ball and you don’t score.”
Did you get an explanation on the flag (pass interference) that got picked up? “One guy said it was, one guy said it wasn’t.”
When Denard forced the throw that led to an interception … “I don’t know if it was forced, to be honest with you. You’re talking about the one at the end of the first half?” Yeah. “He had a receiver.”
Was this was a game of missed opportunities for you beyond the two turnovers? “At times we rose up and played pretty good third- and fourth-down defense. Third-down stop there late was huge. We need to do a better job on that. I think they were 4 of 12 on third down conversions, which defensively is okay, but there’s always six to eight plays in a game that really are going to define when you’re playing a good football team and a team on the road, and you think back and there are six to eight plays that determines who executed and who didn’t.”
What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”
How do you think you did against Coker as a whole? “He’s a good back, and I thought we put bodies on him. I think our guys did a pretty good job. I felt Mike Martin a ton, so until I look at it -- I’ll know a lot better.”
The missed extra point, when Dileo bobbled the snap … “He’s caught probably a thousand of them. It’s like anything else. It’s probability. It’s going to happen.”
Whose decision was it to keep Denard on the sideline? “Well it was really his hand's decision.”
What do you think of his play? “I think he played well. I think he keeps growing as a quarterback.”
Toussaint? “He got bruised up a bit, but that’s the kind of game it is.”
On that last drive, Denard was throwing a lot of jump balls. “What jump balls?” The longer routes. Seemed like he was throwing deep a lot. “Well on one we tried to run a rebel, and the rebel wasn’t open. The one-on-one coverage on the outside was.”
What did you think of your linebackers? “I could feel them. I felt them more the second half than the first. I think Kenny made some plays in there. I think Brennen Beyer played a lot of football. This is a good environment for a freshman to play.”
How did Brennen Beyer respond? “Good, I think. Again, until you look at tape, I’m not real sharp, so it’s hard for me to see it all.”
Did it looked to you like Hemingway caught the ball? “I didn’t have a great seat, but I know one guy in the back thought he did and the other guy thought he didn’t.”
Hemingway dropped a couple passes at the beginning but bounced back to make some good catches. “Yeah, Junior’s a prideful kid. I mean, these are all prideful kids. He didn’t try to drop any balls, I can tell you that. It’s good to see a guy who’s played a lot of football come back from adversity.”
What did you think of Jordan Kovacs today? “I like him. I mean, I like him. I think he did okay.”
You’re all about November. What do you tell your team after this loss? “It’s still November. We have a lot of games left. There’s a lot of football to be played, there’s a lot of things at stake, and number one, we have 24 seniors who are going to play their last three guaranteed football games at Michigan. We’re always going to coach for them, and we’re always going to play for them.”
That may have been Iowa’s best defensive performance in a while. Can you explain why they played better? “I can’t. I think everybody plays well when they play Michigan.”
Your offensive line took a step forward last week. How would you assess their play today? “Again, until I see the tape -- but I thought they did okay. I think Fitz had close to 70 [yards]. We’d like to have 170, but that didn’t happen. I think they did some good things, and I’m sure as we look at it, there’ll be some things they did real well and there’ll be some things we have to go back and fix.”
Do you think they played with more urgency in the fourth quarter or was it just better execution? “We went into 'NASCAR' -- we call it 'NASCAR.' I think that was pretty good for us. And we practice it a lot.”
Was it essentially just hurry-up? “Yeah, it’s different in two-minute, though. There’s a different dynamic to it.”
Are you surprised there was no pass interference call on the last play? “Were you?” Yes. “…”
Turnovers. Considering how much you emphasized it, how much does that hurt? “Well it always hurts. Turnovers always hurt. And that’s one thing that we’ve done a good job -- taking care of it and ball security. The thing we missed today though was we didn’t get any back. That’s where we have to revisit why and those kinds of things.”
What were some of the flaws in not being able to stop Coker or Vandenberg? “Flaws? We missed some tackles especially in that first drive. They hit the under route and the corner should have tackled him and it’s maybe a 20-yard gain. Instead it goes down the sideline and then we miss a tackle in the hole on a touchdown. I think the timing in their passing game, they did a nice job with the first-down throws and the max protection kind of things.”
Do you attribute any of this to being on the road? “No. I thought our guys loved it. I really do.”
Hemingway’s catch? “Yeah he caught it, but the referee said he wasn’t in.”
Did you think he was in? “Of course I thought my teammate was in.”
What’s your takeaway from this game? “Oh man. What we did good was we kept fighting. No matter what, we just kept fighting, and that’s the biggest thing we’re going to take from this game, and learn from my mistakes.”
Did they do anything defensively to surprise you? “Oh no. We just started slow.”
Are you surprised there was no pass interference on the last play? “We can’t let the game [depend on] the officials. We have to do it ourselves.”
What happened when you left the game for injury? “I just got hit a hit to the elbow. That’s all.”
Do you feel like you missed a lot of opportunities today? “Yeah that’s the biggest thing. Turnovers was the biggest thing. Coach Hoke always tells us we have to keep the ball. Keep the ball. No turnovers.”
How much confidence does the defense give you, knowing that they can make a stop this year? “Oh yeah. The whole time the defense kept telling me they would make a stop and give us the opportunity to score, so that’s what happened.”
Was the plan on the last drive to take so many shots downfield or was it just what you were seeing? “It was just what I was seeing.”
Offensive line? “They played great. Hats off to them, and I love them.”
On that last drive -- you’ve been in that situation before. What was going through your head? Were you calm? “Oh yeah. Everybody was calm. We just knew we had to try and make some plays.”
On second to last play, did you think about running at all? “I thought Vince came open a little bit so I just gave him a chance to catch the ball.” Did you think you had a running lane? “I don’t know. I was just looking downfield.”
Just the good times.
Can you talk about the resolve you showed on that last drive? “Yeah. That’s expected. We play Michigan [football]. We’re supposed to fight back. That was a physical football team, so getting down … [it] would be tough to come back on them. But I mean it’s expected for us to fight back to the last second.”
Why were you struggling to move the ball for the first three quarters? “It’s just a testament to what Iowa was doing defensively. They don’t do a whole lot on defense, but what they do do, they do it well. They’re very gap sound, and I think we struggled with that a little bit.”
How costly were turnovers today? “Definitely. Definitely the fumble before halftime, they went down and got a field goal. That was a big turnover, but the defense did a great job of only holding them to a field goal, because they could have gone in and scored.”
Why did you leave the game? “Just banged up. I’m all right. I’m good. I’m still living.”
Where do you think this leaves you going forward in terms of the division and conferece? “We really can’t worry about that. You can’t tell the future. You never know what’s going to happen in the few weeks. All we can do is learn from this tape and get better every week. Whatever happens, happens.”
What was disappointing about this game? “Just the overall performance. I felt like we were ready this week, just like every other week. We came out, and we didn’t play how we could have or how we should have. It was just disappointing really the poor play we had.”
Can you point to anything specific? “Probably just taking care of the football. It’s hard -- I haven’t watched the film yet, so I’ll have a better idea of it on Monday -- but just taking of the football right now. But the defense played great, I thought.”
What did you think of the final drive? “We practice it all the time at practice, so it’s nothing new to us. So we were in our element.”
Did you think back to the 2009 game at all? “Before the game, but during the game you’re so caught up in your assignment and what the defense is doing that you don’t even have time to think about what happened two years ago.”
Did it feel like that in the final drive? “I mean, actually I wasn’t in two years ago, but it may have had a little bit of the same feel. A little bit.”
Were you watching the replays on the board? “I actually didn’t even see it. I mean, we thought he scored a touchdown, so we were getting ready for our two-point play. So it was kind of disappointing that they did call it out.”
What was Junior Hemingway say about it? “I didn’t hear him. I just read body language, and he was confident that he was in, but the refs made the right call.”
From file, on right.
You played a lot better in the second half. Was there an adjustment made? “No, not really. We knew this was going to be a physical game and it was going to be punch for punch on both sides of the ball. We had to make plays right back, so we just didn’t play as well as we needed to today.”
Why do you think you struggled in the first three quarters? “I don’t know. We just have to, on our side of the ball, execute better. I just comes down to the little things. Guys missing tackles that they were supposed to make. Not executing and being in certain gaps. That’s something that we’ll have to break down on film.”
What’s your impression of Coker? “He’s a tough runner. We were putting bodies on him and getting to the ball, and he made plays.”
You’ve seen your offense score on last-minute drives before. Was there any doubt that they wouldn’t make it in with four shots down at the goal line? “No. We didn’t have any doubt. I was standing next to Van Bergen, and he’s like, ‘Man, I believe in these guys,’ and I’m agreeing right with them. It’s in their hands at that point, and we have their backs, and what happened happened.”
You guys seemed to be pretty excited when you saw Hemingway’s catch on replay. Why do you think it ended up not being a touchdown? “That’s not for me to tell. The referee made the call he made, and we can’t control that.”
Did he look like he was in? “Yeah. Junior, he does a good job with making plays on the ball. He’s a good player and he always plays hard.”
Hoke talked about missed tackles and missed assignments. Was it disappointing since you thought you had fixed those problems? “You know, you have to give it to Iowa. They played hard today, and Coker ran hard today like he does. We just have to get better on our side of it. It’s about us tightening down on how we play and getting better.”
What’s the biggest thing you need to shore up? “I think we just need to work on getting more bodies to the ball and swarming around. That’s something that I don’t think we did as well today. We just have to get better.”
There were a lot of freshmen in there, especially early in the game. Did you need to calm them down a bit? “I don’t know if they were too amped up. They know we have confidence in them and we just don’t want them to have any doubt in their mind, and I don’t think they do. Those guys, they’re very talented, and whoever’s in there, there’s the expectation for the position. Whoever you are, a freshman, senior, or in between. Whoever’s out there has to play and make plays.”
Where does this leave you guys going forward? “We have three more games and that’s all we can worry about. There’s a lot more football to be played in this league, and we can’t tell the future, so we just know that we have the next game, Illinois, and that’s all we can think about.”
What will be the seniors’ message to the rest of the team after this game? “I’m going to say, ‘Pick your heads up, we have to bounce back, and there’s nothing to hang your head on. I know it hurts. It’s gonna hurt. It should hurt. But that’s in the past now, and tomorrow’s going to come and it’s not going to be Saturday anymore. The game’s over. We just have to worry about Illinois, and that’s the next opportunity that we have.’ ”
This defense is becoming known for producing turnovers. Why do you think you didn’t get any today? Do you think it might be because you didn’t get enough people to the ball? “That’s probably one of the reasons. I don’t really know. Like I said, you have to give it to Iowa. They played hard today. They played well, and they had good ball control. But yeah, we just have to get better on our side of it.”
Third-and-one stops? “We’re always trying to get the ball back to our offense. Whatever we can do on defense to get the ball back in their hands, get it back to Denard and those guys or whoever’s in there is our priority. Whatever we have to do to do that. … We stepped up. We knew what to do. We had to make a play. Period. We did a good job of doing that.”
Was there an emphasis on putting pressure on Vandenberg? It seemed like he had a lot of time to throw on first down. “Yeah. They were doing some things with their play-action stuff, and they were doing a good job with that, so we just needed to adjust a few things, and I think we did a better job with that the second half.”
From file, on left.
Were you limited in what you could do today due to your knee injury? “No.”
When did you find out you could actually play? “They were working me into the lineup all week. I could tell that they wanted me to play, and I felt like I could play.”
Did this feel like a typical physical Iowa offense? “Oh yeah. We knew what we were going to get. We knew it was going to be a smashmouth football game and it was going to be a dogfight, and that’s what we got.”
Did your knee feel okay? “It felt great.”
Do you think the secondary played well today? “Not well enough to win.”
What could have you done better? “I think we could have done a better job of containing the football and cupping the football and not giving up big plays. That’s something that we’re certainly going to work on. I think we can improve on third downs. That’s a time when we have to get ourselves off the field, and I don’t think we did a good enough job of getting ourselves off the field today.”
Something about opportunities. (Sorry, couldn’t hear the question.) “We didn’t cause any turnovers, I don’t think. They won the turnover battle, and that was the difference in the game.”
Was it a lack of energy or lack of execution? “Probably a little bit of both. I think it’s something that’s happened to us quite a few times this year, and it’s something that we certainly have got to improve on. That’s one thing that we’re going to take from this game.”
Why do you think the defense has been starting so slowly? “I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I don’t know if it’s because we get wide-eyed when we get out there, but it’s definitely a concern of ours and something we have to improve on.”
I know you say “the expectation is for the position,” but does it matter at all that you have so many young players? “No. I think that, like you said, Coach Hoke always says there’s expectations for the position, and I think those young guys have done a great job of coming in and stepping up, but at the same time they’re going to continue to improve every game, and that’s what they’re doing.”
Why do you think the turnovers never came today for the defense? “I think they did a good job of keeping themselves out of third and long. I don’t know that they ever really had it. There were a couple third and longs, but not as many as we’d like. We didn’t put ourselves in good position to make those plays. They did a good job of running the football and holding onto it.”
Did you have any doubt that you were going to head into overtime? “I was ready. I think the whole defense was ready. I thought for sure we were going to overtime, but it didn’t work out like that.”
Was the loss due to the fact that you were playing on the road and you maybe don’t play as well on the road? “I mean, certainly it’s a tough environment to play it. Those fans are crazy, but that’s something that we have to be able to overcome.”
Does this game remind you of the 2009 game? “I mean, it was similar, but we were a completely different team.”
Where does this leave you guys going forward? “We’re only focused on what we can control, and that’s these next three games starting with Illinois. It’s going to be the biggest game of the season so far. We’re looking forward to the game. We still have to watch film tomorrow, get in and improve. We’ll turn the page on the next three.”
Is it different next to Troy Woolfolk vs. Thomas Gordon? “I think Troy did a great job out there, and we did a good job of communicating. Obviously it’s different because it’s been a couple years since he’s been back there, but I think he did a great job today and we did a great job of communicating.”