Niko Porikos grew up in an NTDP billet home. Cool story.
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.”
News bullets and other important items:
- Kovacs did everything during practice yesterday, should be good to go. [Ed: From what I've heard from various sources, Kovacs can play and wants to play, but the final word has to come from the trainers.]
- Hoke is also hopeful that Lewan will be able play on Saturday.
- Barnum is in the worst shape of the three.
Opening remarks: “I thought we had a good practice yesterday, which is always positive. We’re playing a football team’s that a good football team. Plays well at home. I think they’re 59-12 or something over the last 10 years. We’ve got to do a good job with the environment and the communication on both sides of the ball. Play with great composure and play with poise and then play physical football.”
What do you remember about the venue that makes it so tough? “It’s just tight. The bench is tight. Probably similar to East Lansing but this even seems tighter. [The fans] are on top of you, which is good, and they’re fanatical about their team.”
Now that Carvin Johnson has left, are there other guys that will need to fill into that position? “Not really. We’ve had a number of guys -- when we started that’s probably one of the deepest slots we were at to be honest with you. I think with the progress that Blake’s made, I think that’s helped when we’re able to put Troy over there.”
(Denard says that Jeremy Gallon can dunk, too.)
With Barnum getting healthy and Schofield playing well any chance we see one of two scenarios: Barnum takes over left guard, Schofield moves to right tackle and slide Huyge down to left guard or Barnum takes over right guard for Omehmeh? I'm partial to the former simply because of two 6' 7" 300 pounders on the edges, yes please.
It might be too late to make that change. While Huyge has some experience at guard, that came under Rich Rodriguez, when pulling was not a major part of the offense. Putting him at G seems like an invitation to have the same issues Omameh is having with a different player.
I could see the straight Schofield-for-Huyge swap if the coaches believe Schofield is a much better pass protector. We have no evidence that's the case since he's only played guard, but if I had to bet I'd guess he is. It's tough to take a senior who's only had one bad game out, though.
Do you think Borges is leaving our base offense (and by that I mean Denard at QB, lots of RB runs interspersed with a few Denard runs and passes) too early? Against Michigan State and Purdue, our first drives worked to perfection and our run game seemed effective.
Immediately thereafter, we started running a lot of crazy reverses, reverse fakes, and Devin-centric chicanery instead of sticking with what worked. Why? it drives me crazy every week. Also, we seem to love to fake the run before we've even established our running threat. For obvious reasons, this hasn't been effective.
For coaches that talked a lot about man ball and the desire to establish a RB, we seem pretty eager to abandon Toussaint and the run game.
I addressed this topic in a picture pages yesterday and got a couple inquiries about whether or not I thought Michigan's seeming lack of a base offense was a good or bad thing.
I'm not able to answer that yet. It's a thing. Whether it's good or bad is something we won't be able to tell for a while. I am sure I like it better than DeBord's zone offense, which was predictable and seemed to save every interesting tweak for the Citrus Bowl. I'm not sure if I like it better than the style of offense Michigan was using last year when the omnipresent threat of Denard's running often led to free touchdowns, or at least long drives before Michigan would turn the ball over. (YAY LAST YEAR.)
But you need opinions, no matter how flimsily justified. So: if I never hear "they did what we expected them to do" again it will be too soon. The only time someone's tried that this year was when Dantonio said something about how Michigan will run tunnel screens when Gallon is in the game as if he's a Calvin-Bell-style designated reverse guy. That is incorrect, so, like, thumbs up. Tentatively.
Why was Borges so terse on the bubble screen question – (btw did you ask it?). I wonder if it was because he expects the QBs to check into that play and it hasn’t been happening – perhaps he was protecting the players a bit?..
The process by which questions about football—as opposed to feelingsball—are asked at press conferences is like so: Heiko goes to the pressers and sometimes asks questions that I've asked him to ask. Sometimes he just reads a bunch of blogs and asks questions the blogosphere has implied he should ask. The option responsibility Q posed to Mattison after NW was the former. The bubble screen Q was the latter. This is what happened:
Is the bubble screen ever going to be a part of your offense? “I’m not saying one thing about any bubble screens.”
Heiko is in intensive care recovering*. In lieu of flowers you can donate to the EFF.
So… why did the normally accessible Borges fire that off when asked about the lack of a bubble screen? I'm guessing he thinks the bubble screen is stupid. I'd like to find out why he thinks it's stupid since everyone from Dantonio to Rodriguez to Lloyd Carr made it a part of the offense to punish teams that tried to cheat inside or deep. His perspective on the thing would be interesting.
I doubt that it has anything to do with the players not making that check. For one, the alignments that seem to open up the bubble are usually trips formations featuring the #2 WR on the line of scrimmage. The latest BWS bubble complaint:
That makes for an awkward backwards orbit by the potential bubble guy and puts the main blocker in a less advantageous position than he would be if he was on the LOS. It seems clear that the bubble is just not installed.
As to why Borges isn't saying word one about the bubble, there seem to be two possibilities:
- He is vaguely aware of the fan zeitgeist about this and is sick of these laymen bothering him about a stupid play.
- He is going to bust it out as part of Michigan's ever-evolving baseless offense.
Meanwhile, between morphine doses I'm trying to get Heiko to ask questions that are less confrontational.
UPDATE: AA.com has a slightly longer version of the quote.
"I'm not saying one thing about any bubble screens," Borges said. "Everyone wants to ask about that play."
Door number one, then.
*[This is actually the second time Heiko's gotten acid in his face asking about something strategic. He asked Hoke whether he'd ever considered a spread punt and got this answer: "no." End of answer. It's not a surprise that coaches don't take kindly to random people implying heir decisions are not optimal, but it's kind of fun to ask anyway. As long as you're not Heiko.]
Hindsight in re: Three and Out.
I know your criticism of the Hoke hiring, and I am not trying to bait you on this. With the benefit of hindsight, however, I keep asking myself whether a Hoke hire in 2007-08 would have been all that risky given what appears to have transpired (and actually did). It now seems like it would have been the safe move -- kind of like Bo elevating Gary Moeller, despite Moeller's horrendous record as a head coach at Illinois -- i.e., you don't lose to Northwestern in the late 70s solely because Illinois doesn't recruit well.
Obviously, what's done is done. But my opinions of Bill Martin and Lloyd Carr have been altered dramatically.
Let's just hope the Notre Dame coaching carousel of fun is not in UM's future. . . .
I just don't see how you can hire a guy who is vastly under .500 in the MAC. At that point Hoke hadn't had his 12-1 season or turned around the perpetually moribund San Diego State. He was 22-36 in five years at Ball State.
I mean, envision this situation: the fanbase is even more up in arms about than they were in the brief period between Hoke's hiring and kidnapping Mattison from the Ravens. Martin does not want to shell out for Mattison. Mallett still probably leaves. The team is just as much of a tire fire in 2008. You probably get Threet to stick around the year after, but did he prove himself much better than Tate even given another year to redshirt and learn a system? Eh… not really.
Michigan still turns in a losing season its first year and is 7-5 at best in year two, at which point the coach has had one winning season, period, and has overseen the worst period in Michigan football since the 60s. Can Hoke recruit in that environment? Can anyone?
Unless you believe Hoke turns the tattered roster in 2008 and 2009 into significantly more wins than Rodriguez does—like five or six—he's doomed. I think that's a stretch. You can't cure John Ferrera flipping from DL to start at guard, can't cure the Threet/Sheridan QB combo, can't do much about the disaster zone in the secondary.
Michigan ran a guy with two BCS bowl wins out of town after three years. Were they going to keep a guy whose high water mark was a 7-5 MAC season longer? This is a fascinating hypothetical, actually. They just might have.
It has been mentioned on the front page twice that Dungy was a broadcaster in 2007. This is off by a few years. 2009 was his first season out of coaching and in the role of studio analyst.
Er. Sorry about that, Bill Martin. Your coaching desires were crazier but less easy to evaluate than I expected.
Approved by NASA.
I was on Uni-Watch this morning, and this ad popped up:
Finally, the Elvis Grbac simulator we’ve waited 20 years for!
I'm all like… is that guy wearing #45? I don't understand.
News bullets and other important information:
- Kovacs ran around last night. Hoke says he's day to day. Van Bergen said Kovacs is expected back for Iowa. Who knows.
- Barnum injured his other ankle and is now "day to day."
- Lewan practiced. Has a knee injury on top of the ankle injury. Might get fewer reps in practice this week.
- Fitz Toussaint is -- surprise -- the number one running back.
- Desmond Morgan would have played more earlier but had a hamstring injury at the beginning of the season.
- McColgan is healthy but has been surpassed by Hopkins at fullback for those of you who were wondering. (Just me probably.)
Opening remarks: “Obviously we have a great challenge in going to Iowa City and play a very good Iowa team. Undefeated at home. That seems to be the way this conference is to some degree right now. They play awfully well and they’re a very well coached football team and have been for many many years. It will be the most physical game to this point for us as a team. When you watch them, personnel wise you look at Coker and what he’s done leading the league in rushing, and Vandenberg has done a tremendous job in there at quarterback. They have a great set of wideouts, but McNutt obviously gets a lot of the exposure because of what he’s done out there on the field. It’s going to be a great challenge for us and you play these last four, and when you get in November, you play for championships in the Big Ten conference, and that’s kind of how it’s been for many years. We look forward to it, we’re going to have a great week of preparation, and it’s going to be fun.”
How did the defense respond to the coaching during the off week, and where do you think you are on that side of the ball? “I think they responded well. When you look at it and you grade it and you look at it position by position, I thought up front the gap integrity that goes along with playing team defense and the appraoch that the guys played with and the demeanor they played with -- Mike, no question, was a factor in the game, not just in the middle but with his making plays down the field and those kind of things. Linebacker wise I thought we played downhill. I thought Desmond really did a nice job. I thought Kenny, I could feel those guys out there. Jake Ryan made some plays. Sometimes they’re unorthodox, but he’s a football player. In the back end, the two corners -- J.T. had the one penalty late that hurt us a little bit on that last drive, which was disappointing for us, but I think those two guys are settling in. Courtney’s done a nice job at nickel. Troy, for his first start back at the safety position, did some good things. I think there’s more that we can get from him there. I thought Thomas Gordon played up from where he did two weeks ago.”
What’s the status of Jordan Kovacs? “Day to day. He ran around, did some stuff last night, so we’ll see.”
How much of an adjustment did you have to make without Kovacs? “We didn’t do anything different without him to be honest with you. I think there’s some leadership there that he brings. I think there’s some football instinctiveness that he brings that is something that I don’t know if you ever make up for, whoever’s in there. He ran around and did things last night, so I was pleased with him.”
(mehr nach dem Absprung.)
Opening remarks: “It was good to get back out and play football and compete after two weeks ago. I thought our team prepared themselves well, and they came out and responded a little bit. [Purdue] took the ball down the first drive there and scored. I thought our guys held their poise together, went back and talked about it on the sideline and adjusted a little bit. It really wasn’t that much of an adjustment that needed to be done, but I was pleased with that.
“Offensively we rushed the ball well. Fitz obviously did a nice job, but I think overall they all did, and really it goes to your offensive line, so that was a good part. Didn’t like the end of the first half, because we needed to get seven points, not kick a field goal, and that’s something that we have to be able to do however we have to do it whether it’s running the iso up there or quarterback sneak or whatever. We’ve got to score points, and that was too big of a situation in the football game and having too good of field position not to do that with 1:58 left. That’s disturbing. The touchdown at the end was disturbing because at Michigan, the expectations are for the position and who’s in there, so we’ve got to obviously work that part of it, too.”
Can you talk about the running game, and did Fitz do a good enough job to win the top running back position? “I don’t know, we’ll see. I thought he did a nice job and I thought the guys up front did a nice job. We’ll see, we’ll look at the tape as a staff and see the things he did well. It’s always easy to see them when they do good things, because they’re usually biting up big chunks of yardage, but there are other things that go with it, but I thought he did a nice job today.”
How big was Mike Martin’s safety? “It was great momentum. When you score defensively, it always, for your team, brings a great momentum, a great morale and all those things. Mike has been playing good football for us. I think he’s continued to be a great leader for us and work hard -- I was real excited for him.”
What’s going on with Kovacs, and did his absence that hurt you on that first Purdue drive? “No. Again, the expectations are for the position. If you’re in there, there’s a way we expect you to play.”
Can you talk about how those guys played in Kovacs’s absence? “Well, I thought Thomas played really aggressive. Troy, we were moving anyway, so it was one of those things that worked out well. Troy’s got some makeup speak that other guys don’t have, and that’s good. I’d like for him to be a tad more physical at times, but I thought he did a good job. They tried to tempo us a little bit, so he did a good job of getting us in and out of what we needed to be looking like back there.”
Are you trying to achieve diversity on offense with Gardner? “Well, I think part of that is there’s no question that when you’re able to throw some things at a defense or team, and for us, the two quarterback system -- or whatever you want to call it -- formation, it forces guys to work on it. I think there’s enough variety, and in fact there’s a lot more that we can do with it, but it really forces a defense … you need to spend now ten minutes a day on that package or whatever. I think that helps us, yeah.”
You didn’t make much of a change after the first touchdown, but you looked a lot different after you came back. Was there a mental adjustment? “Nah, you know, we just talked to them. They came down the bench, [said], ‘Hey, we have plenty of football left in us.’ There wasn’t any yelling or ripping. It happened early in the year, too, when they’ve stayed together and they’ve come back and played well. It’s them communicating with each other, which is the good part.”
So Troy was moving to safety anyway? “Mmhmm.” What will your defensive backfield look like when Kovacs returns? “We’ll either have four, five, or six guys in there.” When will Jordan come back? “I don’t know.”
Overall thoughts on the defense -- is it getting better week to week in your mind? “I don’t know. I mean, I’m really thinking -- we’ll find out more next week. I think it’s a work in progress. Our linebackers, you could feel today. Two weeks ago I didn’t feel them. Today, playing downhill and playing physical through people, I could feel that today. If we can grow from that and keep that consistency, then we’ll get better.”
You talked about getting back to playing Michigan football. “Michigan football, as I know it, is playing defense. First and foremost. Nationally people think about Michigan football and playing defense and then running the football. Being able to run the football and knock people off the line of scrimmage. I think that’s what, in my mind, Michigan football is.”
Desmond Morgan got his second start. Can you talk about what you liked about him? “I think he’s a very instinctive football player. As a linebacker I think that’s critical. I think he’s a guy who’s got a nice burst and will be physical at the point of attack. I think he’s going to play a lot of football here at Michigan.”
There were 37 carries by people not named Denard. Is that what you envision for your offense? “Is that what they had?” Yeah. “Yeah, that’s pretty good. I think that’s a good number.”
Can you talk about the status of Taylor Lewan and Ricky Barnum? “Ricky hurt his ankle. Taylor -- I don’t know. His leg hurts. That’s what I know right now.”
Last week you were talking about how happy you were with how healthy the team is. How do you feel about that situation now? “It’s football. That’s why you guys on the team to compete, and they just have to keep improving. When their opportunities come, you have to take advantage of it.”
Can you elaborate about the resolve of this Michigan team compared with the last few seasons? “It’s hard for me to compare that to what happened before, but I’ve liked our team. I like how they like each other. Maybe that’s corny or whatever, but from where I sit, I’ve liked that they respect each other and they want to play for each other, in my opinion. It shows. It shows how they practice, and it shows out there today. Look, they’re on scholarship to get a great education and play football. They’re expected to do both.”
Three-way tie in the division. Thoughts? “Every game is a championship game. We’ve said that since Minnesota. There’s six to eight plays in a game that are going to be the difference. Somebody said Mike’s safety. Was that a difference in this game? From a momentum side, yeah, no question. Next week, we’re on the road and it’s a championship game.”
You mentioned a few times the offensive line responded well. Was that a specific area you guys challenged after last game? “No question about it. I can say that every week, though, because that’s where the game’s played. Those two lines -- that’s where the game’s played. You guys like talking about running backs and stuff like that. I like talking about centers and guards and defensive tackles, where the game is played. That’s the fun part.”
You said all week that you said the freshmen would play a lot more, and they did today. How did they do? “I’m going to kill one of them. Ah … It’s not fair. Read it in the obituaries.
"No, but I think those guys, they’re playing hard. They’re playing hard and there’s some talented guys. Blake is a talented guy and he’s got a good instinct. Desmond does. Frank Clark does, and Brennen Beyer -- it’s great that they’re getting all the time that they are, and they have a great attitude.”
Do you expect Kovacs to come back this year? “Yeah. Yeah.”
Taylor Lewan had a leg injury and he played through it. Does that lift the offense? “I think, yes. I think it lifts your team.”
Did Fitz have an injury going into the bye week? He looked more rested. “You know what, not really. He wasn’t beat up or anything. Smitty’s been the only one who’s been a little beat up as of late with an ankle, but nothing terrible. [Toussaint] saw things better -- the touchdown run was a great run for a lot of reasons, not just by him, but the receivers do what our receivers do down the field, and that’s an important part of it.”
Is safety a natural fit for Woolfolk? “Oh I don’t know. I think with the emergence with how Blake’s been playing -- I always believe you put your best players on the field. Troy’s probably in the top 11, 12, 13 guys on defense.”
When you get that kind of production out of Mike Martin, how does it change how you play defense? “I think it sets a tone for how you play defense. Doesn’t change how we play. We’re going to play the scheme and everything that we have, but I think when you see a guy who’s lining up over the football and rushing the passer, and then they throw the dig -- no they threw … I forget what route it was, but the guy made us miss and did that, and 16 yards downfield [Martin] is making the tackle. That means something. That means something, and I’ll be pointing that out, because that means something.”
Did you make a concerted effort to feed the backs? “Gosh, I wish. I wish it looked like that every week. We want to do our due diligence of making sure that we’re trying to pound the football.”
Are you concerned about playing so many freshmen on defense at the same time? “Nope. I don’t have any concerns about it because of how they play and how they practice.”
Do you feel like the defense was the biggest difference in this game? “I don’t know. I think we responded well defensively, and then I think I would tell you that our offense complemented our defense.”