Air Force Postgame Presser Transcript: Players
Jake Ryan and Denard Robinson
Opening remarks re: jersey:
Ryan: “It’s an honor. Coach Hoke called me in about a week ago and told me I was going to be wearing 47. It’s been an honor. This game is awesome for me and just wearing it is amazing. I’m going to wear it with pride and represent him as well as I can.”
Did wearing that number give you any strength today? You looked like you were a mad dog out there.
Ryan: “I did a little research on Bennie. I just feel like he was a really athletic Michigan man. I feel like it’s just a number, but I’m representing someone, but I don’t know I guess a little bit. I kind of had pride in what I did.”
You guys seemed to struggle with the triple option. What was going on there?
Ryan: “Yeah it was just technique. We just needed to improve on our technique. Just get back to the benches and see what we did wrong, what we needed to improve on, and just go from there.”
Ryan: “No, just technique. I mean, we weren’t playing our technique, so we needed to get that done.”
After The Jump, more Denard and OosterJake, two Devins, Kovacs & Lewan.
How difficult was it to prepare for Air Force? Did it take a few series to get used to their offense?
Ryan: “Yeah. I mean, we prepared all week … Coming off that Alabama loss was tough, but just going through that week I think we progressed. Yeah I feel like I get that question a lot -- towards the end of the first quarter you kind of knew what was going on and knew what we had to do, and just got it done.”
Did you have a chance to meet any of the Oosterbaan family members who were in town?
Ryan: “Unfortunately I did not, but I would love to.”
Denard, can you talk about your chemistry with Devin Funchess?
Denard: “He’s one of the guys that always made the plays in practice. We knew throughout fall camp we were going to use him. His number was called because B. Moore went down. He played a heck of a game.”
Denard, you looked a lot better than you looked a week ago. What was different about this game?
Denard: “I think I calmed down a little more and just went out there and played Michigan football. We still have time to improve … we went out and played ball today.”
Denard, can you talk about your two touchdown runs? Is there a sense that if you break out into the open no one’s going to catch you?
Denard: “Oh yeah. Not to be cocky or anything, but once I get in front of everybody and I see the end zone, I’m [not] thinking about getting caught from behind.”
Did Air Force do anything in particular to take out the running back scheme-wise?
Denard: “I mean, I can’t really tell because I didn’t see what the running backs were seeing in the holes because I was making my reads and I couldn’t tell how they were reading it.”
You’re probably going to get your eighth B1G offensive player of the week award. You’ll be one behind Ron Dayne. Thoughts?
Denard: “To be honest with you, I’m more focused about the team winning the Big Ten championship more than me winning the Big Ten player of the week. Because that’s our goal is to win the Big Ten this year. I won’t settle for anything less.”
Jake, you had a career high number of tackles today. Any coincidence you got the jersey the same day?
Ryan: “I guess so. Bennie Oosterbaan was a really, really good athlete. Three-time All-American. He made a lot of plays on the football field and hopefully I can represent him like that.
What can you take away from this game if you’re not going to see the triple offense again the rest of the season?
Ryan: “We’re definitely going to take a look at the film. Just technique is huge in this game. They’re really disciplined. They come down hill real fast. They’re really physical. I don’t know. Just stopping the run I feel like is what Air Force did. They’re a huge running team. I feel like looking at what they did and how we came to it, I just feel like, I don’t know, we can progress from there and keep moving forward with UMass.”
Can you describe the high tempo offense that they have and what you had to do defensively to counteract that?
Ryan: “Um, I mean, yeah Air Force is really high tempo. We’re not going to play another team like them this year. I feel like … I don’t know. Just … I don’t really know how to answer that.”
What’s it like being on the defensive side of that type of offense?
Ryan: “I mean, it’s crazy. There’s different things coming at you all the time. You got the option, you got the dive, you’ve got to read what your key is, and what you have to look at is keying, and playing technique is a big part of that.”
Jake, overall how do you feel about where the defense is at after these few games?
Ryan: “I feel like we’re playing well. We definitely need to get better as we go on with UMass. We need to get better through this week and go from there.”
Can you talk about that final defensive series?
Ryan: “Before we came out, we always do the Law of the Jungle thing, so we did that. We all came together and I mean we decided that we needed to get this done and we needed to get this fourth down out of here. I don’t know. We all came together and it’s a defensive effort the whole time. We just needed to stop them and go from there.”
Denard, you had more carries this week than against Alabama … Does it help the team more when you have more carries?
Denard: “Whatever’s working. Just go with the flow and enjoy it. If the running back is running the ball 27 times I wouldn’t mind. If I’m running the ball 27 times I wouldn’t mind. I wouldn’t mind if we’re throwing the ball 27 times. Whatever it takes to win. That’s what I want to do.”
What works best do you think?
Denard: “Whatever’s happening in the flow of the game.”
Do you think this team is improving?
Denard: “Air Force is a good team. That’s a hard offense to stop. Not a lot of teams can stop the Air Force offense. I mean, we came out to play ball today and we played pretty well I think. We just have to keep moving forward and progress and get better at everything we do. That’s how I look at it. I think we did get better than we were that first week, so we just have to keep going.”
What kind of chemistry did you have with your receivers today, and what did the team take from last game and build upon for this game?
Denard: “We just had to get back up and fight and never give up. The receivers, we always had the chemistry. We just had to put it forward on the football field, the game field. We just went out here to play ball today, and we just played a little pitch and catch.”
In the passing game, are you more comfortable with being in shotgun or under center?
Denard: “How the coach calls it then I’m all for it. If you want me under center, it’s all good. Today I threw two touchdowns under center I think. I did throw the ball pretty well in the shotgun. I think whatever coach calls. [If] the offensive line gives me the time to throw the ball, that’s how comfortable I’ll be.”
What’s the identity of this team after two games, and what was the identity of last year’s team?
Denard: “This team, I feel like we won’t quit. We won’t stop. We’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to keep. We never want to give up no matter what.”
Ryan: “I think the Big Ten championship’s our goal, and that’s what we need to get.”
Did you know that Jeremy Gallon was with you step for step on your first touchdown run?
Denard: “To be honest with you, Jeremy, after we got off the field, he told me I ran past him. Is it true that he ran step for step? I don’t know. Yeah he told me I ran past him. He said I needed to slow down.”
Jordan Kovacs and Taylor Lewan
Jordan, what makes this offense so hard to defend, especially on the edges?
Kovacs: “Well I think they’re a very disciplined team. Very disciplined and a lot of the times I was responsible for the run on the options and they have guys coming and cutting you and cracking you and blocking you. Very disciplined team. They aren’t the biggest guys, the fastest guys, but they played tough, disciplined football. They executed very well. We didn’t execute the best we could at times. At the end of the day, we knew it was going to be a dog fight and we’re happy to get the win.”
Taylor, you were tough on the offensive line last week. What’s your assessment now? The running backs only got seven yards total …
Lewan: “I mean, that explains it. Seven yards from the running back -- that’s awful. What Denard did was good, and then there’s always room for improvement especially in the offensive line. We have to do a better job re-establishing the line of scrimmage. It’s going to be tough for this team to be successful if we can’t do that as an offensive line.”
What accounts for the discrepancy between Denard’s runs vs. running back runs?
Lewan: “Everybody has their day here and there. I think Denard had a day today, and that’s great. If we’re able to make holes for him, that’s good. There’s a couple times, tough situations -- there was a shark look on a 30 front, and we ran one of our iso plays to the left, and we had nobody to account for the other guy. There were a couple times where the running back was put in a bad situation. The running back will have more opportunities. If we keep progressing as a team, as an offensive line, we should be successful.”
What concerns do you have two games in regarding things you haven’t been able to do?
Lewan: “We need to do a better job of re-establishing the line of scrimmage. I said that several times and I’m going to keep saying that. That’s what Michigan football is. That’s what we have to do. It’s disappointing, like I said, when you have seven yards rushing from a running back. You have those guys, the Michigan men, the offensive linemen wherever they’re at watching each game and watching us. I think we need to do a better job of that. That’s the biggest thing.”
Jordan, can you talk about the choice of giving Jake Ryan the No. 47 jersey?
Kovacs: “Yeah. Obviously he’s a great ball player. He had a pretty good game today. I told him, ‘I want to wear it next week.’ Maybe that’s his secret. But he’s a great ball player, made some big plays for us today, and he does it every week. Great choice.”
Can you talk the cram session you needed to get prepared for Air Force, and did it take about to quarter to get used to them?
Kovacs: “Yeah. I mean it’s tough. It’s a very tough turnaround coming off that loss. And then you have to cram for this offense that we’ve never seen before. I haven’t seen it since high school. We put in a completely new defense. Everyone’s playing new positions, really. It’s a tough situation. We knew that they were going to score some points. I think that we can measure our discipline in this game. We weren’t the most disciplined at times, but at the end of the day we’re probably not going to run this defense again, and that’s okay with me. That’s a tough offense. Very disciplined guys. We’re happy with the win.”
Jordan, what are your thoughts on the freshmen linebackers playing during critical moments of this game?
Kovacs: “Yeah, I think that that shows the amount of trust that coach Mattison has with guys like Biggs and Joe Bolden. Those guys have really earned their stripes. They deserve the time in crunch time.”
How concerned are you with where the defense is at right now, or are you confident that everything will be better soon?
Kovacs: “Yeah. I mean, we know we didn’t play well enough the first game. We didn’t play Michigan football at all. I think today is a little different measuring stick. Obviously we gave up some points. We didn’t get ourselves off the field at times when we really needed to, but at the end of the day we’re not really going to see an offense like this again. We would have liked to have competed a little better. Like I said, the third and fourth downs are our biggest concern. We have to get ourselves off the field in those opportunities. We did it just enough today but we’ve got to do it much more often in the future.”
How do you get better at that?
Kovacs: “You need to turn it up a notch on third and fourth downs. Somebody’s got to step up and make a play. You have to execute. You have to hone in. You have to understand the circumstance. Most important thing is understanding the distance. You have to understand where the sticks are and where they’re trying to get to.”
Jordan, how much can you ascribe defensive problems to Air Force’s unique offense vs. your own mistakes?
Kovacs: “I think we had some missed tackles. Don’t get me wrong. I think we could have played much better defensively. I think we could have been more fundamentally sound. But it was a game where we really had to feel the offense out. Very good offense. Very, very diciplined offense like I said. We made our adjustments and at the end of the day we made enough plays. Towards the end of the game we changed our defense completely. We scrapped one defense and put in a new defense and tried to give them different looks because we weren’t doing it at the beginning of the game and obviously they took advantage of it.”
How much does having an inexperienced defensive line change what you’re able to do as a safety?
Kovacs: “Doesn’t change it at all. Those guys are in there for a reason. The coaches think that they can contribute and can play as well as the guys that are in front of them … The good players don’t let it affect them. I understand my job. The rest of the guys on the team understand their responsibilities, and I think that that’s -- if we’re the cohesive unit that we want to be, we’ll be all right.”
Can you talk about the potential for growth on this team because there are so many new contributors?
Kovacs: “I expect us to make some huge strides. I think that that’s one of the things that coach Hoke emphasizes is to get better each game. Do I think that we played our best ball today? No. Not at all. But did we play better than week one? Probably. A lot of that goes to some of the younger guys that are players. Even the older guys, like myself, I’m going to make strides each week, and I think that if we all do that we’re going to be all right.”
Devin Funchess and Devin Gardner
This question’s for Devin.
Funchess: “Which Devin? Which Devin?”
That was a joke. Can you take us through your day -- four catches all for 20+ yards?
Funchess: “Well, I just went out there and did my job like I was supposed to, like I was coached in practice to. I learned from Brandon Moore, Mike Kwiatkowski how to get off some coverages and things like that and it helped me through the game today.”
Did you see Brandon Moore’s injury as an opportunity for yourself?
Funchess: “Oh no I don’t take that injury as an opportunity. I was working hard in practice and it so happened that they needed me to step up this week and I had to step in and [do] the job.”
Devin Gardner, how do you feel like you’ve progressed over the last week as a receiver?
Gardner: “You know, it’s a totally different defense in the way they play. They played a lot of off coverage. There wasn’t a lot of tight man or things like that, so I’m not sure how much better I did, but I feel like I can get better. We just have to see as the year goes on.”
What is the biggest adjustment you have to make as a receiver?
Gardner: “It has to be blocking and being in the greatest shape of your life. I go to block the guys, and a lot of the corners are smaller so they like to run around and try to juke me and what not, and I’m not much of a tackler obviously since I don’t play defense, so it’s hard to judge, but I’m doing my best. I feel like I’m getting better every week.”
Other Devin, how do you feel like you are progressing in the blocking and getting used to the physical play at the college level?
Funchess: “Well this game, I slipped up on some of the plays I was in [because of] blocking. I have to come back this week in practice and get better and better to improve for next week.”
Same Devin, can you take us through your touchdown catch? What was that like?
Funchess: “Well in practice, I learn from the older receivers and tight ends. Like Devin over here told me to get it at the highest point, and I did. I had to get it at the highest point.”
Did you feel like you caught that ball towards the end, and did you hold your breath after they got the ball back?
Gardner: “I mean, I definitely felt like I caught the ball. I watched the replay as well as everybody else. I felt like the ball didn’t move and my elbow was underneath. They overturned it, and I have a lot of faith in our defense that they were going to stop them, so I didn’t hold my breath at all. I was just ready for the game to be over with. I knew they were going to stop them.”
Devin Gardner, what do you think of Devin Funchess?
Gardner: “I think he kind of stole my name, you know. People always yelling out, ‘Devin!’ and they’re not even talking to me, but you know, I feel like he’s doing really well. He’s catching the ball as you saw. He can catch the ball and run with anybody, so I feel like he’s doing well.”
Denard looked pretty sharp today and had some nice touch passes. What have you seen from him as a passer?
Funchess: “Who are you talking to?”
You I guess.
Funchess: “All right. Well. Denard. He’s a good quarterback. He has improved. And as you saw today as he put the touches on the ball, he’s making it easier for us to get the opportunity to catch it and putting it in areas where only we can get it and not the defender.”
Gardner: “I feel like the misconception is that Denard can’t throw the football, and he can. I mean, every quarterback makes mistakes. The throwback passers -- the greatest quarterbacks, too. Like you guys, everbody batters him about certain passes, and it’s not that big of a deal. He’s doing well and I feel like he’s getting better every day.”
Old Devin. Do you think of yourself as a quarterback still or are you now a wide receiver?
Gardner: “Well I definitely still think of myself as a quarterback. I just happen to be able to play wide receiver to help the team.”
How did your move to receiver transpire?
Gardner: “We saw we didn’t have that much depth at receiver over the summer, you know. It was kind of scary, honestly. It started off because in practice the receivers do a lot of running. You’re not going to be able to get effective reps if everybody’s really tired and gassed. So I was just giving everybody a break, and I got better and better as the weeks went on.”
If you keep having success at receiver, is there a point where you can see yourself moving there permanently?
Gardner: “I mean, I just feel like every kid has a dream. My dream is to play quarterback at the University of Michigan go on to the next level to play quarterback. If that opportunity presents itself, we’re going to cross that bridge when we get to it.”
After the Alabama game, Hoke said a lot of the issues in the passing game were on the receivers not getting open. Do you feel like you guys did a better job of that today?
Gardner: “Yeah I don’t feel like he said it was just on the receiver. I feel like it was evenly distributed. The blame should be equally distributed. I feel like everybody did better today.”
How much does it change an offense to have an athletic tight end like Funchess?
Gardner: “I love to see him catch passes. He’s really a wide receiver, he just happens to be a little bigger than the rest of us. I just love it and I can’t wait to get a chance to throw it to him as well.”
For No. 19, do you have a nickname?
Gardner: “Funchess. His name isn’t Devin. It’s Funchess.”
Funchess: “They call me D. Funch or Funchess. It doesn’t matter. When they say, ‘Devin,’ I look … And they’re talking to him. So I just say, just say my last name or ‘D. Funch.’ ”
Okay on that we’ll let Devin and Devin go.
Gardner: “He just told you his name is D. Funch! D. Funch!”