Something came up yesterday and I had to drive to Cincinnati, which is why this is late. I will post today's presser transcript later this afternoon/evening. Apologies for the whacky timing.
Desmond Morgan and Denard Robinson
Opening remarks about Gerald Ford’s jersey:
Morgan: “I’d just like to say it’s quite an honor and privilege not only to represent a former Michigan player -- obviously left his legacy on the program, was a standout person and player -- but on top of that the President of the United States. It’s an honor, and I’m going to wear it proud.”
Denard, what did you hurt and were you scared that it was going to be more serious than it turned out to be?
Denard: “No, it was just a boo boo. I mean, everybody gets hurt, so I mean, it was all good. I came back in and it didn’t bother me at all.”
Denard: “It didn’t bother me. I don’t know. It was nothing. Funny bone. Nothing serious.”
Denard, can you talk about the defense and how much you feel like you can rely on them?
Denard: “Uh, I think every great team has to have a great defense. It starts with the defense, to be honest with you. If they can stop people, we could score three points and win the game if they shut them out. They’re playing well and it was a team effort.”
How much do you think things changed for you defensively when Scheelhaase went out?
Morgan: “Obviously he’s a great athlete and great quarterback. He poses a threat running the ball and throwing the ball. We knew we had to contain him to win the ball game. When he went down, we knew they put their next best guy in there, and we had to keep going with the same game plan.”
Denard, when did you start thinking about Michigan State?
Denard: “Right now I’m not even thinking about it. This is a big win for us. It’s a championship game we just won, and we feel good about it because Illinois is a great team. We want to enjoy that right now, and tomorrow we’ll move forward.”
Desmond, can you talk about the defensive line and how it’s making things easier for the linebackers?
Morgan: “Definitely, you know, when we’re having success on defense it starts up front. Those three, four guys up there, you know when they’re playing physical, holding those offensive line[men] up, it allows us to kind of flow and make plays. We feed off each other, so our success is starting up there for sure.”
Denard, after your injury, did you need a big run to get you back into the game?
Denard: “I mean, I Just go with whatever we get. I don’t know. I just go out there and play football. Whatever I see, I just play with it. The offensive line blocked well today, so I had a lot of holes.”
Denard, this is the second game in the row that you’ve used a run-heavy offense. How comfortable are you with that?
Denard: “I’m comfortable with it because this is Michigan. This is how Michigan always plays. The running backs running well, and the offensive line, they come out every day and are practicing hard, and they put forth the effort today. I’m happy with them because that’s where it starts.”
On the 71-yard pass, a bunch of guys had key blocks. Did you see those blocks on replay?
Denard: “Oh yeah. I saw the last block by Mike Shcofield. He’s the right tackle. He came down from way back where, somewhere far back, and he made the key block to let him loose, so that was exciting watch him go down the field and make that block.”
How’d you feel about that TD lob to Funchess?
Denard: “Oh, Funchess always goes up and gets the ball. You enjoy throwing to that guy. He’s a great athlete, and I enjoy it.”
How close are you to where you want to be as a defense?
Morgan: “I think again we made strides. We’re not satisfied with where we’re at or you know, getting into the Big Ten, the way we’ve played yet. There’s obviously things we have to improve on and mistakes we have to build off of and get better at. It’s another step in the right direction and we’re going to keep moving forward.”
You don’t like talking about personal accomplishments, but does it feel like 10,000 yards of offense for you?
Denard: “To be honest with you I didn’t even know about that. I don’t look at the stats or none of that stuff. I just go out there and play football. The only stat I care about is turnovers. That’s the biggest stat I look at. I just go out there and have fun with the team with everybody winning.”
Collective defensive pride in shutting out a team?
Morgan: “Oh, you know, it’s a great accomplishment. When you can hold a team to zero points, especially a team that converted as well as they have on third down like Illinois. They’ve been explosive and put points on the board. It’s a great accomplishment. There’s obviously things we have to correct and get better at, but holding a team to a shutout is something to kind of hang your hats on a little bit.”
How much more aggressive and confident is this defense playing now compared with several weeks ago?
Morgan: “I would say the confidence has definitely risen. I think before, we weren’t really sure where each other were going to be or things like that, but I think we’re really comfortable right now, and we’re starting to come together and knowing where the guy in front of you is going to be on every play, how you’re going to be able to play off of him playing off the offensive lineman, things like that. I think everyone is starting to mesh together, just knowing each other’s responsibilities on top of their own and just playing off one another. I think that’s helping.”
For both of you, what’s the confidence level of this team right now? Are you going into games expecting to win?
Denard: “Every game you come in expecting to win. If you walk on the field and you think you’re going to lose, you’re going to lose.”
Morgan: “Basically the same thing. We’re feeding off each other. We have confidence in our offense. They put confidence in us defensively, so we have confidence in one another. I think that’s what is gelling this team together right now, so we’re just moving forward with that.”
How eager are you going to be to snap the streak against MSU?
Morgan: “Like Denard said earlier, we’re trying to enjoy this win tonight. We’ll break it down tomorrow, and I look forward to the next week. But they took it to us four straight years. That’s something we’re aware of.”
Can you talk about the improvement of the defense from week to week?
“Yeah, a lot of that goes into our preparation and our practice. Notre Dame week we just started off -- we had a real good practice, and we knew that game was going to go well for defense, and we just kept going.”
When that game was still relatively close in the first half, you held them on fourth down twice. How big were those plays?
“Oh, it was huge for our team and the momentum and just turning it back around to our side. We just wanted to make plays for our team.”
How much is the game and the pass coverage slowed down for you?
“That’s something that I really had to focus on coming into my senior year, playing the pass and zone dropping better. That’s something I took upon myself and [something that the] coaches instilled in us as a defensive unit that we have to be better in. For our practice, we studied what we study, and if it’s a pass skelly, we’re all over it. We have to be great. We can’t just be good at one thing. We still have to be better at that.”
How did it feel to get your first career interception?
“Awesome. There’s nothing like that. And having those guys just being there happy for me afterwards on the sideline, that was incredible.”
When Denard went out, did you guys say anything as a defense about how this game could be on you the rest of the way?
“We go into every game feeling that way, that we want to win the game on our side of the football. Just watching Denard go down like that, we knew we had to step our game up, and in essence, if they don’t score anymore points, then we win our game. If we stop them, then we did our job.”
Seems like this team is playing more aggressively and making reads faster. How come?
“I mentioned our preparation and, you know, the small things. We still do things like pursuit drills in practice. Once you get 11 guys to the football, great things happen.”
Is this a team that’s gaining confidence every week?
“I think so. If we keep practicing the way that we practice, I think the sky’s the limit for us on defense.”
At what point did you start thinking about Michigan State?
“Tomorrow. It’s in the back of our heads because it’s State, but tomorrow, that’s when we focus on Michigan State.”
How do you feel about your defense right now compared to when you peaked last year?
“I feel good about it. I feel like we hit that game where we finally knew that we could be a great defense. I remember last year, it was later in the season, but I feel good about us.”
Patrick Omameh and Jake Ryan
You guys mixed in some younger running backs. What kind of a boost do those guys give you? Was it nice to spread the wealth?
Omameh: “Uh, yes. We have some young guys, eager guys, who really want to go in there and prove themselves. They got an opportunity to do so today, and it’s something that energizes everybody. It’s something that we’re excited about.”
Jake, where do you feel like this defense is now compared to where you want it?
Ryan: “I think we’re at a good point right now. I think we’re definitely communicating as a defense. I think we’re definitely getting to the ball as hard as we can. A shutout’s always a great deal from a defensive perspective.”
How confident were you in Russell Bellomy?
Omameh: “One thing the coaches always emphasize is that the expectation is for the position, not necessarily the player who happens to be at that position. You never want to see your teammates go down, but when somebody does, you have confidence that the next guy is going to step in and fill that void.”
Taylor was pretty critical of the offensive line earlier. Where are you at now?
Omameh: “We feel like we are progressing week to week, which is our goal. We never want to feel satisfied with any progress that we’ve made, but we can look at the mistakes and continue to improve, which we will continue to do throughout the season.”
How important is cohesiveness to the defense?
Ryan: “It’s a huge part of the defense. Communication is the key to this defense. Without that, it’s nothing. We have to communicate and play our technique as well as we can.”
When Denard went down, did the defense have a little chat and talk about how this game could be on your shoulders?
Ryan: “No. I don’t think so. We have faith in Russell and he stepped in there and did fine.”
Six or seven weeks ago, Alabama put 41 points on you guys. What happened from there?
Ryan: “I think it’s just preparing. We did a great job preparing throughout the week. Just knowing our technique and knowing tendencies of the other team is always critical.”
Russell is a much different QB than denard. How much does it actually change things for the offensive line?
Omameh: “I mean, it might potentially have an impact on the plays that are called, but as far as offensive line goes, the play is called in the huddle. We just do our assignment.”
The losing streak to Michigan State. What has that felt like?
Omameh: “I mean, you never like to lose to anybody, much less a rival, and it’s something that we’re going to begin to focus on to shore up our mistakes from this game.”
Ryan: “We have to look at what we did this game. We didn’t play perfect. I think we’re going to look at it tomorrow and definitely come out there and look at what we did.”
What are your thoughts on having two of the legends jerseys in the linebacker unit, and what are your thoughts on Desmond receiving the jersey?
Ryan: “Devin -- er, heh, Devin -- Desmond definitely deserved it. [Ed: Alliteration!] He’s a great player. We were talking and having 47 and 48 as linebackers is kind of cool. Being lined up with each other is always great. But yeah, Desmond definitely deserved it. He’ll definitely represent the jersey.”
Do you feel like you’re playing at a B1G Championship level right now?
“I feel like we are. There’s always definitely room to improve. Tomorrow we have to look at the film and see what we have to do better and what we can definitely improve on, but I think we’re moving towards it and I think we’re getting our job done.”
Can you take us through the play where you missed the QB then doubled back to force the fumble?
“Yeah, I was actually coming around, I slipped. I went in there too fast and couldn’t plant my foot and cut, but I looked back and he was still in the pocket, so I got up and got after the quarterback.”
Patrick, in warmups it looked like Lewan wasn’t warming up. Was there any concern from you guys?
“Like I mentioned earlier, the expectation is for the position. We know whoever goes down, we expect whoever goes in for him to basically continue what we’ve been doing. We all have that confidence in anybody who gets put in the game.”