"(I) think about 'The Lion King,' Simba gets hit over the head and (he's told) 'the past can hurt,' " Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. "'You can either run from it or embrace it and learn from it.'
Actual News, Injuries
Practice schedule: They'll start Friday afternoon, go Saturday morning, and have 4-5 practices in between payers' finals the following week. First 4-5 practices working on "our own things." Need that fundamental work - and it would be good because the teams play similar offensive styles. Start putting in a gameplan end of next week. They'll have 11-12 practices in Ann Arbor, and 4-5 at the bowl site. Practices: benefit to get some fundamental work in. Lots of guys getting first bowl game, exciting for them.
The guys who are out for the year, like Martavious Odoms, Van Slyke, and Mike Jones, probably won't be available for the game, but they might be able to practice. "We're hoping that Van Slyke and Mike Jones will be able to do some things in practice... just to get them back working a bit will be good."
Lots of players beat up, including Denard. From the BGSU game, he hasn't been 100%. Having time off from football will heal him up. "Probably the best he's felt since the first couple games." His fingers are fine, he should be 100% by first practice. JR Hemingway should be fine, Darryl Stonum will be pretty healthy. Guys who were banged up for last few games should be OK, including Mike Martin and Jonas Mouton.
Defensive position changes: Putting Roh back down on the line helped, some of the personnel moves were by necessity with injuries. "Some of the others coming back healthy, we may be able to lock guys in there." Some coaches experiment with position changes during bowl practices, but Michigan may not be in a position to do that with the practice schedule.
Open competition among kickers starting in Friday practice. "We'll address that in recruiting as well," but he's more worried about the guys getting the confidence to perform in a game. Will Hagerup is back, and will make the bowl trip.
Michigan will wear Blue uniforms in the bowl, Mississippi State will wear white (H/T: @MVictors).
On Mississippi State
Rich has had no chance to look at MSU film this year, but he watched them on TV a couple times. He knows Mullen a bit and is familiar with the spread, he knows a couple defensive players from past recruiting. They run some spread principles, so Michigan will practice with some "good-on-good" (offense starters v. defense starters) to get ready.
Knows they did well against Auburn (though he hasn't had a chance to watch that game), and it should be a good football game. The SEC had lots of options for the Gator bowl, and the final selection depended heavily on the outcome of the league championship game.
In the past, lots of coaches came to visit WVU to learn the offense, especially after the Sugar Bowl. Florida (and Mullen) traded ideas with Rich at West Virginia, but both offensive staffs have tweaked their schemes since then. PSU and OSU were among the teams who learned at West Virginia, so Rich was worried he might have shared a bit too much when he came to Michigan (jokingly).
Cowbells: WVU played against Mississippi State a few years back, and is thus familiar with that school's "more cowbell!" tradition. They (RR's WVU) rang cowbells all week in practice. Somebody at WVU called this week to offer up all the cowbells they still have. "Our guys will hear them in practice here the next few weeks."
About Mullen's comments on Denard: "Maybe he forgot about the Auburn game."
The experience of practicing in another big city for a big game helps the payers grow. The added practices help too. Freshmen, redshirt frosh, sophs, who need work should be improved.
Evaluation process/job security: "You have to understand what Dave's position is with all his coaches." He has to worry about doing his job. "There's always obstacles in recruiting," so it could hurt a bit. "We'll maybe have to work hard in January to close with some guys, but we've had to do that before." He's met with Brandon throughout the year to talk about football, etc.
"The progress has been slow, but it has been progress... There's a lot of areas that we can get better quickly, and that's gonna take the next step." Going to a bowl will help with that a bit, because they get practice time, and get to grow together as a team and program.
On reactions to the Groban song: "Everybody's gonna have opinions on things, and that's fine." Emotional state: "Every coach has their own personality. I've probably always been emotional at our senior banquets." Has always felt close to players, and this senior class. "I thought the crowd was really appreciative of our senior class."
Feel in coaching limbo?: "It's a unique situation, and you deal with it the best you can." Recruiting is going well, they'll sign 18-20 guys, and are exicted about the guys who are interested. "We tell them we plan on being here and being their coach, and telling them all the positive things about the school and the football program." Recruits can come watch practices if they're open to public, some local recruits in Florida might swing by. More important for recruiting is getting your name in the paper, and giving Florida-based M players play close to home.
Exciting to become bowl eligible, guys got excited again to be in a Jan 1 bowl, Florida guys were excited to be playing down there. "Staying together for another 2-3 weeks as a football family" will be good. "It's somewhat of a reward of course, you want them to enjoy themselves... you've got to remember that the main thing is to go down there and win the game." More prestige to playing in a New Year's Day bowl, "I think the bowl system is so neat for the programs and for the fans..." likes some aspects of the bowls vs. a playoff.
Familiar with the Gator Bowl. They do good stuff with fans, Rodriguez has been there within the past 4 years. At WVU, the team stayed out at Sawgrass, this year they'll stay downtown. Terrific venue, exciting for players and fans. "They do as good a job as anybody in the country." Gator Bowl as a player: "That was almost 30 years ago." Played FSU in a night game. Fell into a puddle of mud on kick coverage. Was cold for the rest of the half, because he was only on special teams.
Will look at past gameplans for bowl games. Doesn't want to try to do too much. The Georgia gameplan for the Sugar Bowl was a very simple one, because they didn't want guys to worry about big-game jitters, etc. "We have to make sure we don't try to do too much, in actuality probably do less." All coaches go into the bowl game - or any game whatever it is - thinking "this has gotta be the game." There's always pressure to win though, and they'll do their thing coaching.
Coach's poll ballot: "The two teams clearly had outstanding seasons... TCU is phenomenal, they're every bit as worthy of talking in the same conversation with Auburn and Oregon." Those top two played tougher schedules, so he voted them 1 and 2. RR will vote on conference lines a bit as well. Most coaches think their league is a bit better, even their team a bit. Part of the allure of college football is that there's a lot to talk about with rankings and such.
Denard being Offensive POY but not All-Big Ten: "I don't know if that's happened before. How can you be player of the year, but not good enough to be first team?" May serve as some motivation for Denard going into next year. It was a great year for QBs in the Big Ten.
Roundtree's mindset after drops: "He had a couple, but he had a couple big plays, too." Really proud of his year still, didn't realize how close to 1000 yards he was.
Gator Bowl Chairman Steve Tremel
Pleased with opportunity to officially invite Michigan. "To have a team like the University of Michigan represented there is just fabulous." It's been since 1991 that M has been there, so the Gator Bowl is excited.
MSU (not that MSU) is ranked 20th by the AP, and Michigan is a great program and team, so it makes for an exciting matchup.
"I promise this is not the weather you'll see on New Year's Day."
"Good morning. I would like to formally accept." Heard late afternoon yesterday, and accepted "with great enthusiasm." Gator bowl representatives have been working hard, and he's excited to work through everything with them.
Excited to play a top-20 team on New Year's Day.
Brandon did not take questions from the media.
This game means a lot to the seniors, but also the last couple classes that never got the chance to beat OSU. "If we could put a stop to that streak too, maybe start our own streak of beating them" would be a big deal to the team. "It's not really a rivalry when one team wins every year. We've gotta get back in the win column."
"These last few years have been a little different Michigan, I guess, than the previous years." This win would be huge. "In a way, it could help rectify the four losses we've had. Obviously, it doesn't make up for them."
Never played in Columbus - he was injured 2 years ago. "It seems like a fun place to play." Jealous he didn't play last time.
Shown progression last three years, doesn't think about playing for Coach Rod's job this season.
The team has been trying to play catch-up in all four losses. Want to try for an early lead, maybe run some clock "especially in Columbus."
"We definitely think we have the ability to play with anybody when we're playing at our best."
Different intensity in Schembechler this week. "Put some band-aids on your wounds and get after it. Leave it all out there this Saturday."
The many good DL they've faced lately bring different skills to the table. "Arguably the top 4 defensive ends in the country play in our league." Heyward's great, played since he was a freshman. He has the whole package, and will be a big-time NFL prospect.
Don't want to see turnovers, protection from the OL has to help avoid it.
Denard has played well, set some records, but the team has struggled at times. Schilling doesn't worry about whether Denard is B10 player of the year. Denard's always got a positive attitude, no matter what's going on in the game. He loves playing football, always smiling. "You can tell he loves to play the game, and it's exciting to be able to block for a guy like that."
"Obviously my blood always ran Blue. My dad walked on here." Exciting rivalry, surreal to be a part of it. He was at the game the last time Michigan beat OSU. Sitting in section 27 with his parents and brother. Been to several games in Columbus, 2002 Game. Several M-OSU games. Didn't go to 2006, but that was the first one he missed.
Converted a couple buddies to M fans, some of them are still diehard Buckeye fans. "I do have some friends who go to Ohio State, and we're excited to go down there." Expects to hear from his buddies, win or lose. "Hopefully I can shut them up for a year, but we'll see."
Thrown in the mix early last year, gradually has become more comfortable with the defense. One of the more veteran guys on the defense already. Excited about the development of the young guys.
Pryor - "He's very versatile. He's a big guy... he can run and throw." The offense has a lot of different packages. They should be a great challenge.
"Anytime that you can make an offense one-dimensional, you've got a good chance of playing some good defense. If we can stop them on first and second down and put them in third-and-long, obviously we can create turnovers that way. But that's much easier said than done, and we've struggled with that so far."
Lost to Dane Sanzenbacher both times they played in HS. "I'm still looking for my first victory against him." He's not a big-name guy, but makes huge plays for the Buckeyes. "I wouldn't say that he does anything great, but he does a lot of things very well."
"We know we're going to have to play a flawless game." Guys are looking forward to getting into the film room. "We're confident. We're excited about this challenge."
"I'm playing this week, no matter what." Had "a little head trauma," wasn't cleared to play in the second half. "It doesn't matter for this week, because I'm going to be playing."
Defensive players draw confidence from each other, looking at each other's work ethic, etc. Defensive struggles are a mixture of several factors, but everyone on D is working as hard as they can to fix what they can contorl.
"Our defensive goals each week are six 3-and-outs, three turnovers." If they can pull that off, the team will have a pretty good chance of winning.
Didn't know too much about Michigan or Ohio State in 2003. "I was just in Arizona, you know, chillin'." Can't take M-OSU rivalry away from college football. Glad they'll still play when the B10 goes to divisions.
The mentality of each guy on the team shows how important the OSU week is. Everything encompassed into one is what makes this game so important.
Has only heard about going into Columbus from a fan's perspective "I'm expecting the worst, and it's going to be exciting."
On the stuffed whatever: "Are you saying there's an animal on the sidelines? Next question."
Playing for RR's job? "No. We're playing for each other... It would be a great win for Rich Rod, for the team in general."
"I love Rich Rod as a coach. He's just a tough working guy." Has a positive attitude, despite what he's been through. That positivity wears off on guys.
Ryan Van Bergen
"I don't remember that one. I would have been 14." Probably just playing BBall and chasing girls in 8th grade. Charles Woodson with the Rose in his mouth is one of his first Michigan memories.
From the West side of the state, his mom is always heckled by MSU fans. This week, people are coming in to offer her encouragement. She's now realizing their ulterior motives, as Michigan can help send State to the Rose Bowl.
"A lot of the guys in my class, it's their last year. One of the big things for seniors is you never want to leave this program without beating Ohio State." Guys who have left say there's a feeling of emptiness. When you come to Michigan, you know your performances against Ohio State will make your reputation. "If you come out against Ohio State and have your best game, a lot can be forgiven."
Some criticism of the team is unjustified: they've been able to play with some of the top teams in the league. "For some reason, we haven't gotten that attitude to come out on the first play." Need to be able to come together and do that throughout the full game. Older guys, RVB included, need to help motivate everyone.
The defense's performance against Wisconsin - "Most of it was schematic. I mean, They schemed us really well. They had a play where they pull the tackle and a guard and the tight end blocks down. They scored 2 or 3 touchdowns on that one play. All of those were explosive plays." It's not a good thing, but there were positives to take from it, some guys played with a physical edge. "We can adjust our scheme and be ready for Ohio State X-and-O-wise. I think we can definitely play with them."
Terrelle Pryor, canon for an arm, fast, big, has a bunch of talented, fundamental WRs, good running backs. "They're a very dangerous and explosive offense, but I wouldn't want it any other way."
Team and program are making some big strides. "I think that next year, the guys we return, there's definitely going to be a chance that we're gonna be big-time contenders."
Mike Martin - Aggressive, relentless. Off the field, he's... "cuddly."
"Lot of time in the training room and rehab. I've been struggling a lot with my ankles this season, which is a pain." Trying to play through it, doing as much as he can. Tough to push off with his ankles. Big mental thing, trying to play through it. "Hopefully that adrenaline kicks in, you know?" Only one of them is a problem at this point. Trying to be a leader when he's been unable to make an impact on the field. Adam Patterson has stepped up well in Mike's absence.
"It's tough, obviously, being on the team and being a fan. Any fan doesn't like that." Doing whatever they can to reverse OSU's dominance. No matter what each team's season is like, they'll both fight hard.
Has talked to guys who played in the 50s and 60s about the game. "We're just gonna play as hard as we can and make those guys proud."
Would feel really good to stop he streak. Overcome a lot this season, trying to improve each week. Anything is possible. "It's not about Ohio State, it's about us and what we do." Not looking to be spoilers, looking to win for themselves. "We're gonna control what we can control."
"It's gonna start with us down in the trenches." Need to force Pryor to move his feet, get him off-rhythm. Need to get pressure, wreak some havoc.
"I think they hate us, we hate them. That's just how it is, that's what it is." That leads to getting each team's best shot, no matter what. Different sense of intensity in the air this week. "You don't really need a motivational speech to get excited for it."
"We're not gonna get ran off the field. That's not gonna happen." They'll play hard to the final whistle. "That's not us, that's not our team, and we won't allow that to happen at all."
OSU might have a couple tricks up their sleeve, but this game is more about going straight at each other.
Not worried about what their impact is on MSU, just want to win for themselves.
Stuffed animal - "That's the defense's thing. We're not gonna talk about that."
"I don't really remember the game" last time M beat Ohio State.
Gave OSU a serious look in high school, but felt right in Ann Arbor. Talks to Roundtree about it. OSU wanted him on either side of the ball. His dad was a Michigan fan, that played a role in his decision.
Split in Toledo between OSU and M fans among his friends. Hears "I'm an Ohio State fan but I'm also a Kevin Koger fan" from most people he knows.
Have to take care of the ball to have a chance to win. Can't turn it over 5 times against OSU and still win. Need to pay attention to details. "It's not anything the coaches can do. It's definitely on us."
"It'd definitely mean a lot to us. Every game means a lot but this one means a little more."
Rivalry hasn't lost its luster even though OSU has won a lot. Streak is a bit embarrassing "It's on us to stop it."
"Hate? That's such a strong word." Respects, but does not like them.
"I guess I have to agree with Koger. Got respect for them, but don't like them." Wasn't aware of the rivalry that much in HS. Looked at the FSU-Miami rivalry, and heard that M-OSU was a bigger deal. "You expect a physical team, a great coached team, and a great team." against OSU. You have to be even more prepared than past games.
Knew last year's game would be intense when he saw Shaw's altercation with an OSU player going into the tunnel. He's also seen video of the famous Woodson/Boston battle. "It's a big game. It's still a football game. Still a game."
1500 rush yards: "That's a great accomplishment, but I don't know what to say about it."
It would be a big deal to get invited to NY for the Heisman ceemony, but can't worry about it while there are still games to play.
"We can't come out flat like we did against Wisconsin. We've gotta perform all four quarters." Need to protect "the program" the ball. They've been making a few more mistakes lately, and that can't continue.
"I think our defense is one of the best defenses in the nation. I don't care what nobody say. We face them every day, and they just help us get better."
Pryor reminds Denard of Devin Gardner. Big, and he can run and pass.
He's going to ask Falk about the 'Shoe once he gets the chance. Iowa and Penn State were also tough environments.
Felt fairly healthy the past month. "90%, pretty good." Doesn't know when he got dinged up, but he's healthy enough to be as fast now as he was in the first few games. "I thought I was gonna break a couple of them, and I just fell" against Wisconsin.
On the fumble return, "I was thinking 'scoop and score' like you talk in little league." Patterson was encouraging him during the runback. Was exciting to be able to score.
It's a learning experience to be in his first year on the field. Helping the team was the goal all along, and he's glad to be able to do that.
Position change is good for him because it's good for the team "I'm a football player and I want to play, nothing to it but that." Everything is coming at him faster at the new position, and the field is a bit more compacted. Being physical is his biggest strength. It's not confusing to switch positions for the third time. He's just a football player and loves being on the field.
Wisconsin: "They have some pretty good backs, the o-line is big. We'll see how it looks this week." When they put up 83 on Indiana, his only thought was "that's a good team." "They put up 83 against Indiana, not against us."
The defense's attitude has changed. "'I don't care attitude' - in a positive way" has been the defense's calling card for the last two weeks, and they'll continue with it. If the opponent gets a big play, they have to move on and not care.
Found out he was going to start within minutes of the beginning of the game. Was excited to get his first start. "It's was kinda hard to relax, but you know." There have been points where he wondered if he'd ever get the opportunity to start. Was motivated to prove himself. Filling in for Mike Martin "It's a lot of pressure." Need to step up when he goes down, even though it might be tough to fill his shoes.
Going through the coaching transition: "I feel like it's an experience that's really prepared me for my future and for life." They aren't that different, but this staff is a lot more intense.
When Cam Gordon was returning the fumble for a TD,"I just kept trying to tell him 'keep going, keep going.'"
Team will be focused to prepare for Wisconsin. "Wisconsin always has a big offensive line, and they always have a good offensive line." You respect them, but the goal is to prove you can compete with them. "You also come in with the mindset that this is going to be a very physical game."
Wisconsin scoring 83 against Indiana has motivated the M defense to make sure they don't have a bad performance themselves.
On the defense: "I really feel like the swagger is getting there. Every game we play is a stepping stone." The defense is developing, and they learned this weekend what they can do if they play up to their potential.
"To go out there and to win these next to games is very motivating." Trying to show what they can do, and improve bowl status.
"If the team ever needed me anywhere, I would do it. That was my whole mindset." He's going to get his degree, and to play football and get playing time is just an extra benefit to that.
Since the Illinois game, the defense has been more loose, and they're translating it to the field. "It's a good way to go into the game. Our swagger and everything about our defense got a lot better, and it's perfect to go into the Wisconsin game."
Not worried about Wisconsin's 83 points against Indiana "I guarantee you they're not going to score 83 points on us." Wisconsin is a powerful team, but Indiana backed down a bit at the end, and Michigan won't do that, they'll fight to the finish.
Will miss running through the tunnel after doing it the last time this weekend.
"I hope they throw the ball my way a little more, I haven't seen much action lately." Wants the chance to build up some stats. You just had two interceptions: "Yeah, FINALLY."
"I've seen Courtney grow a lot even when JT was there." He'll be a great player in the future and has stepped up. Vinopal has stepped up in a tough position. Talbott and Christian have also done a really good job as true freshmen.
"We need this Ohio State win bigger than anything. That's something we've been waiting on, and our focus will be on that really soon. We've gotta take on Wisconsin first."
Main difference between Carr and Rodriguez eras is a major step up in the conditioning.
Lots of memories about touching the banner, etc., excited to have one more time to do that. Wants the seniors to leave with a win.
The change in coaching staffs has made for an unexpectedly interesting experience. "Hopefully this is the year that Michigan turns the tide." Ohio State "That's the big one obviously, and they've got us however many 6 or 7 years in a row." Winning in Columbus would set the program up for years to come.
Ryan Kerrigan is a great player. "We weren't running the ball very well, and got into third and long." That allowed Kerrigan to get after the QBs a bit more.
"The energy has been there the last two weeks" for the defense. Even though they struggled a bit, they want to prove themselves again at the end of the season.
Wisconsin is always tough against the run. Michigan is coming off a poor rushing performance against Purdue, so they'll need to be back on their game to have success.
There are keys to victory for every week, and ball security is on the list every week. "You can't win games with turnovers. The last two we were lucky to come out of there with a win."
It's always important to take care of the ball, especially against a grinding team like Wisconsin.
It's impressive that Wisconsin could put up 83 points. "I didn't really think much of it. Obviously Wisconsin's a great team, but it didn't make me scared or anything."
Important to send the seniors out with a win in their final home game. Glad they were able to get to a bowl game for those guys. "We all wanna win, for them it might be a little more important."
Denard responds well, even after he makes mistakes.
"We're not content with anything." Want to win the last two games. "We're gonna go and and we're gonna fight in those two games."
Tries to stay ready for the occasion when he gets the ball on the reverse, but isn't begging for it to get called.
Different receivers prefer different routes, but it's their job to work them all in practice. "If you're in that position, and they happen to call the play and you've gotta run that route, you're gonna run that route."
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
Shaw - "We'll see what he can do, and test in the next couple days, and see if he can go Saturday. Hopefully he'll be able to play..."
Martin and Mouton "We're hopeful that both can play." They'll be evaluated tomorrow and Wednesday.
"Perry would have been the starter, but Perry is still not 100%." He'll be the starter if healthy. "I'm hoping this week he'll be all the way back."
He has sent in some plays to the conference office each week, but this week he's going to follow up with them a bit more. "After this game there were more questions, I guess."
Personnel & Purdue
You try to project positions for guys when you recruit them, but some continue to grow when they get weight training, and they go through a progression. A couple more guys might move in bowl or spring practices - corner to safety, safety to OLB, etc. Probably would have moved more guys earlier if the team had stayed healthy.
Craig Roh will stay at DE. He's around 250, he'll continue growing and get up to 265. "I think putting his hand down makes him a lot more comfortable and that makes us better... Craig was a defensive end in high school, but he was athletic enough that we thought he could play some linebacker - and we still do."
Cam Gordon will stay at box safety. "He's a physical guy, he's a bigger guy." Not as much room to cover closer to the line of scrimmage. "We know that he's going to keep getting better, but the thing I like about him is he's a guy that loves playing football."
Denard can scramble to extend the play, but whether you choose to run or throw, it needs to be a good decision. He just had some bad moments in the last game. "I don't think he's hit a lull, he just had some bad moments in the last game... He was having a tough day, but in the last drive, he was the difference." QBs pooch punting: "Prior to this game, they were really pretty good at it."
Vincent Smith - "He's probably been the most consistent back we've had" not just running, but blocking and catching, too. "It has been almost a year since he tore his knee" and is looking faster. Each week he's getting speed, strength, and confidence back.
Michael Cox - "He's been a little bit banged up, but really it's been the other guys" that have kept him off the field. Toussaint can provide "a little spark" as he continues to get healthy.
Patterson and Sagesse played well. Talbott, Ash, and Wilkins are doing a nice job in practice. They'll be helped by the extra 15 practices with a bowl game.
Ezeh - "He was solid, he was OK. I thought Obi made some good plays close to the line of scrimmage." Fitzgerald was decent as well, as was Moundros filling in for Jonas Mouton. Even though Purdue has been struggling all year on offense, the backups should be commended for how they stepped in.
Vinopal - made a couple mistakes, but mostly kept things in front of him. "He's gonna keep getting better."
Carvin Johnson - "Really excited about him. Again, he's another true freshman that right now can play both safety positions."
Avery is a competitive guy, wants to get better. "I don't know if anybody in the country is playing as many freshmen or first-time starters as we are on defense." They'll get through growing pains, exciting for the future.
Kicking situation will be competitive in practice. "Seth has been kicking better in practice, but he didn't kick well on Saturday, so we'll see what happens this week in practice."
Hagerup has been better on kickoffs, part of the problem with coverage on kickoffs is they don't want their young guys starting on D and special teams, because they'd get worn out. "Our depth on special teams has been affected as much with the injuries as anything else."
Didn't play well, weren't ready to play for the conditions. "They had something to do with that, but we just didn't handle the conditions well, take care of the ball well, we were just kinda off-rhythm the whole day."
Both teams need to practice with wet conditions. The conditions were a factor in both teams' turnovers. "It was one of those games that I was glad we got 'em, because if we didn't, we would have been in trouble." Defense scored for the first time this season, made some key third-down stops.
On failed 4th down (Hopkins). "That was a product of execution. That should never happen."
Declined the penalty and let Wiggs kick the 43-yard FG because he was kicking with the wind and had enough leg to hit it either way, and Michigan would have still had the lead, FG or no.
Kerrigan "Some of it was he's a really good player, and some of it is we didn't play very well at times against him." He's an All-Conference-type player.
Last home game in the Big House is a big deal for the seniors. "We don't have a big senior class, but the guys that we have have been through a lot." Some things will be planned throughout the week.
Wisconsin "They're certainly a top-5 football team, there's no question about that." They made scoring every possession look easy. Wisconsin deflated Indiana and Chappell got hurt, which led to Wisconsin getting rolling and everything went downhill. "I don't know if any coach intentionally goes out and does it, it just happens." Throwing at the end is the coach's preference, but with the backups in, you can't ask them not to try.
Wisconsin is a bit different by being the only true power run team in the league. "You have a wide variety of both offense and defensive schemes anyway." It's pretty balanced, so you have to be able to defend all variety. Their offense all starts with the running game. "They'll come downhill at you, and they're very big up front." Nearly everything they do - bootlegs, play-action - comes from the run game. People make a big deal about playing a power run game after facing several spread teams. It's tougher to go the other way. "It's a little bit of an adjustment, and our guys will prepare for that this week."
Wisconsin's going to run the same plays whomever the starting RB is. "Clay's obviously the biggest one." Get to them quickly, don't let them get a head of steam. "Especially if you're undersized a little bit, like we are in spots, it's going to be tough."
On JJ Watt (above, right): "I think he's an All-American, in my opinion." Watt plays inside more than Kerrigan.
Beating Wisconsin or OSU would be a great signature win, but more importantly for the guys on the team who want to have success. They've stayed focused, and are ignoring outside negativity.
Will talk about the home finale throughout the week. A couple special things in practice for the seniors. "Probably have one or two of them come up and talk about their experience."
When they get introduced on Saturday "the greatest achievement you can achieve as a college student-athlete is going through your senior year." Speaks to the sacrifice you've made for the team and University. "The guys who are no longer around didn't make that same sacrifice, and these guys have. And they should be honored for making it."
Motivation and focus has been good all year. "I would think it'll be easy to motivate for these last two weeks, considering what's at stake for us."
RR thought the program would be further ahead by this point. "You find out what you have, and do what you can with what you've got, and move forward." The goal is to be the best program in America, and they're moving toward that.
Spending more time with the D. "Just a little bit more on Sundays, and maybe watch a little bit more in practice." Been doing the same amount of 1v1 repetition. "What we've done more this year is getting, say, our second offense, and having them run the opposing offense a bit more in practice." They have fewer guys available for scout team.
Talk about the offense not being a fit for the Big Ten is just talk. "I'm hoping that there's enough positive momentum and positive talk that all the negative stuff that's been out there gets pushed aside a bit." Progress is being made. "It's almost been par for the course" to hear negative talk, but they can't let it affect them. As long as you believe in the system and your people, you can keep pressing forward.
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
Denard was suffering symptoms similar to a concussion, so they held him out Saturday. Trainers came to Rich and said Denard should be held out. He was tested yesterday and should be fine. Will be full-go this week. Might have been the helmet-to-helmet, not positive. Denard's arm "felt a whole lot better" against Illinois, the knee isn't 100%, but it's good. "I'm hoping he'll be feeling as good as he's felt in weeks this weekend."
Teric Jones has a torn ACL and is out for the rest of the season.
Mike Martin is better, Mouton is limited with a chest muscle issue. He might be held out of full-contact tomorrow. Not sure if Mouton will be available this weekend. "I'll know more tomorrow." He was able to play through it for part of the game, so it may not be that serious.
Will know today if Fitz Toussaint will be available this weekend.
Perry Dorrestein could have played against Illinois if they needed him. He's a lot better now than he was the past couple weeks.
JT Floyd had his surgery. Troy Woolfolk is out of his walking boot, working out upper body only. Mike Jones is good after his surgery. Tae Odoms "is fine after his surgery." Not sure if any of those guys will be able to go in spring practice, but they're doing well.
"I think Craig [Roh] - that move putting him at end is probably gonna stick." That's his better position, and he's more physically suited for it than he was last year with more bulk. "Playing him at end, especially at open-side end is better for him." JB Fitzgerald played pretty well in the same spot. "Obi's got some experience, Kevin Leach played a bit too." Mark Moundros should be in line for more playing time.
Illinois and Team
They rotate through the backs by feel. Vincent Smith is the most well-rounded, Michael Shaw has good burst, and Stephen Hopkins is the big guy. If a fourth guy steps up, they'd like to roll 4 backs in and out.
Roy Roundtree is a good athlete with great ball skills, and he's getting bigger. He has a good feel for getting open. "Roy's got kind of a natural feel for that." They saw that when he was in high school. #1 jersey - "I'm not touching no number things... Nobody's asking for it - it might be because they don't want to deal with all the drama either, I don't know." Roy likes #12, even if it's not a top seller in the stores.
Mark Huyge has done well in place of Perry. "We wouldn't hesitate at all to put Michael Schofield in there either. Michael Schofield can play too. He's just a redshirt freshman, but he's ready to play." Ricky Barnum and Rocko Khoury are also good young players on the OL.
Been good most of the year with not turning the ball over outside of a couple games, but they're disappointed in their inability to gain turnovers. "We're not quite creating turnovers, and we talked about that a lot with the defensive staff." Are they not in position to make plays, or not causing confusion for the opponent? There's no simple answer, but they're addressing it. Through the turnovers, the team managed to bounce back.
"The things that our guys kept doing was they kept competing." Didn't matter if they were down, up, after a turnover, etc. Young guys kept their poise, even though many of them should be redshirting in a perfect world. "There's a lot of growing lessons happening." There was no one particular thing that led to turnover problems. There was a great play by Illinois, poor ball security for Gallon, Tate coming off the bench cold, a couple missed reads. "It wasn't all just one thing."
In light of some of the inexperience the defense puts on the field (which really doesn't happen anywhere else), they competed well. Forced a few 3 and outs, 5 or 6 stops. The offense put the D in a couple bad spots with turnovers, and they responded well.
"Illinois is one of the most athletic teams in the league, and we frankly have to get more athletic." That comes through development - size too. Have to address it in recruiting as well. "Recruiting is going well, and our strength staff I think is the best in the country."
Not sure why the wheel routes were open - not same RB, not same coverage. "To be open is one thing, to be that wide open is another thing." A couple guys just made mistakes in coverage. "I would expect we'll probably see a play similar to that in every game going forward (laughs), so we'll be working on it quite a bit."
"I thought we tackled OK. we didn't tackle great." Didn't get off blocks well, especially on the perimeter on options. Part of that is Illinois's ability.
Not worried about offensive swagger "but our defense needed some." A defensive play won the game at the end, which will hopefully give them confidence going forward.
On the final 2-point conversion, Illinois was running a rub route, Michigan was bringing 7 rushers. "They got us rubbed off pretty good, but the pressure got to him first."
If you had veteran corners, you can blitz more. Michigan doesn't have that, so they have to be careful and pick their moments. "Nobody wants to sit there and die a slow death." Working a lot on mixing up defensive looks so opponent won't know coverage pre-snap.
"I'm the hardest one on our defensive coaches, because I think there's a certain standard we should be playing at." Playing this many freshmen and young guys is probably unprecedented. "It was a perfect storm of injuries and misfortune that got us here."
Quinton Washington played goal line and short yardage D. "I think that move may stay." Not sure how long it will take until he's ready to play in base defense. "Hopefully he'll get a little closer this week with that."
Kenny Demens - "He was really pretty consistent in the game Saturday. This was one of his better games." He was in the right spot and made some big tackles. He's not really experienced, but this is his first extended playing time.
Ray Vinopal is a young guy, so will make some mistakes. He was well-coached in high school, and is a smart football player. "We make all of our own judgments on our guys. These recruiting sites really do a pretty good job for the most part rating them, but we don't ever make our judgments based on what a recruiting site rates them."
Courtney Avery - "They got the one touchdown on him, and he wasn't that far out of position." He was nervous, but didn't show it. "I think he'll be able to grow from that, and I'm really excited about him." Getting quality experience will add depth when Troy and JT return too.
Worry about opponents' athleticism for kickoff coverage. "We had been pretty solid all year covering kicks, but we let a couple get out of there Saturday."
When there's not dropoff between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd teams, you'll be a good football team because you can handle injuries. "We're there at some positions this year, but most positions we're not." QB, RB, and OL to a degree. "Nowhere on defense are we there."
Winning an exciting game is maybe even more important than getting the 6th win from an emotion level in the post-game celebration. "The guys have been through a lot, they have been. That's why I've been so proud of the focus that they've kept." Even when they've faced adversity, they know that have to move past it. "If it helps them have a little enthusiasm and a little pep in their step, that's good" to get confidence, etc. after a win. Even if some people didn't play well, they'll be more confident after a win and that's positive going forward.
Hasn't had a conversation with Danny Hope about what happened last year. Have only briefly spoken during the conference meetings.
Motivation won't be an issue, especially with Purdue getting wins in the past two meetings. Purdue has had some QB injuries, fast skill guys, two good defensive ends. "I want our guys to feel good for a couple days" but that doesn't mean they'll overlook Purdue.
They match up in certain spots with Purdue, particularly at QB and WR, but Purdue is athletic up front on the OL. "Defensively, we have some athleticism, but not enough. Not enough speed yet."
Not yet sure which quarterbacks Purdue will have back this week - if Rob Henry will be available.
On getting to a bowl - "No question it was a sense of relief, not only for the staff and the players, but particularly for the seniors." They earned the chance to extend their college career for one more game, and they'll get another month as members of the team.
Important if you have a lot of young players to get those 15 bowl practices. "We have a lot of young players that they're going to have to develop and they'll have to get ready to help us, especially on defense." Early enrollees can't participate in bowl practices. RR thinks that's a good policy.
Not necessarily more injuries (across the country) now, just more public. Guys are getting bigger and faster, so maybe there are more injuries. FieldTurf has probably saved 25% of knee injuries vs. Astroturf.
Injury report - want it to be fair to the kids by being accurate from the source. Families know first, but don't want to have incorrect reports published.
Won all three times he's been in a triple OT game. Couldn't imagine how tough it would be to lose one. "We have a hard time sleeping anyway as coaches. I can imagine how many plays you'd replay in your head over at night... there's so many plays that can make a difference in the game, and if you win them, you think about them and move on." If they won a 10-7 overtime game, it would be a shock (to only score that much), but they'll take any win they can.
Wins help the players stay confident for the future, prevent spiraling. "Even though it might not have been a really good game for them individually, it was a good game for Michigan." The guys get to enjoy that moment.
Assistant coaches tell Coach Rod about negative recruiting stories they hear on the road. "I think we have enough positives here that we can accentuate the positive."
Has never had a non-kicker/punter have to attempt an extra point. Thought Suh's kick was going to be good, and he just barely missed it.
[Ed-M: Added the video provided by Boyz n da Pahokee]
"It's an attitude adjustment... it can't just be some half-assed work ethic." Guys need to fight every game, every down. "We're gonna realize that shortly, and we'll get it done."
"Losing isn't good. Losing looks bad, and we don't deserve it. We've worked too hard, gone too far, and done too much, and this shouldn't be the outcome. It's going to change. I'm going to do whatever I can do, as much as I can do."
Every young football player coming in needs to make an adjustment to the next level. It comes with the experience of playing in college. "It's coming. It just needs to show."
The team has ability, and is showing effort. "It's just the mental apect, we need to improve our technique, we need to improve our reading skills. It's something that will come and I'm hoping it comes fast." The mental game is an acquired talent, you don't just wake up one day and know how to play football. Guys need to work at it, and they are learning it. "We're moving towards the place we need to be. We're just not there yet."
How to avoid pointing fingers at D? "We're a team for a reason. We're not an offense and a defense. We're a team. And when you point things at one side, it just kills it. There's a chemistry that we have as a team, and will build on for years to come."
Illinois is a good defense with a strong defensive line, and a good linebacker in Martez Wilson. "They're a solid defense, a very solid defense, but I think we should do well against them."
What was it like to miss last year's game? "I mean I've answered this question probably 300,000 times at every media event I've ever been to. Obviously it's not good. I don't like sitting at home watching it with my leg up."
Mike Martin's ankle injury - the only thing that hurts him is the physical injury. It's hard to come off that, but you adapt to the pain. No football player has ever been 100% healthy the entire season.
Rich Rod doesn't need his players to play psychiatrist with him. "He's his own man and he can handle himself. He doesn't need one of his players to mediate him and make sure he's calm."
What does the team think about media criticism of Rodriguez? "I could care less. I don't think I've ever read or listened to a single media thing that you guys have ever put out. So, I mean I could care less."
"We haven't had a team meeting yet, but from what I've seen from lifting today, our spirits are still pretty high."
The expectations on DL aren't on the player, but the position. Adam Patterson and Renaldo Sagesse have to step in for MIke Martin's production if he goes down.
The defense: "We spoke to each other after the game. We're all on the same bus... we told the young guys 'you're not a freshman no more. You're all a year into what, your sixth or seventh game.'"
RR's fourth quarter speech was about reminding players that the big stage is why they came to Michigan. They need to play together as a unit and step up, making the plays when available.
Scheelhasse can run and pass, and his teammates have been supporting his production very well. "He did it both with his arm and his legs." Have to prepare for dual-threat QBs every week practicing against Denard. A few of the guys Michigan has faced prefer to stay in the pocket, but seize the opportunity to run if they get it.
"Where we need to improve is our tackling and our third-down efficiency. We all take the responsibility for that. Me as a defensive lineman, I take a heavy burden on third down, because we need to get more pressure on the quarterback."
"The onus is on us. I mean the coaches, they can only do so much. The rest of it falls into the players' hands." Greg Robinson is a great coach, the players' execution in tackling, etc. is letting them down. "He's putting us in the positions, we're just not executing."
Nobody's gotten the Michigan defense's best shot this year. They haven't had 100% effort, execution, and responsibility in any game yet.
The team is excited every Monday to get back to work. They're disappointed with Saturday's performance, but can't dwell on it, need to try improving.
Not sure how the defense can force more turnovers: "If I had that answer, I'd be a coach right now." There's a necessary mentality that the team needs to improve. Same story on 3rd and long: "Those are key parts of the game that we definitely need to improve on. I don't know what it is, why we've struggled with it, but I'm sure the coaches know and we'll get into that this week."
Hasn't heard the rumors about Greg Robinson being demoted.
Players beat themselves up after the game about individual mistakes, not the play of the other guys on the defense. "What could I have done to help the defense play a better football game, and stuff like that sticks with you a little bit."
Ray Vinopal had a great week of practice, with a few picks. "He came in a little wide-eyed... for the most part, I definitely thought he played very well." He made some plays, didn't allow anything big.
They work on 3rd and long defense every day. "I guess that's not something you can improve on just in practice. It comes with game reps." They'll continue to improve with experience.
"Guys are still hungry. It's not gonna be like last year; We're gonna turn it around. We're just gonna continue to fight, and that's what this team's about... This group fights, they're hungry, these guys want to win. I guess that's just different than last year." They are different years, and there's no purpose i dwelling on similarities.
"We've been playing a lot of freshmen." Jibreel Black, Ray Vinopal, Terrence Talbott, and Courtney Avery have improved over 8 games, and will continue to do so.
Illinois has a versatile offense with a good running back, multiple offensive formations.