Iowa Postgame Presser: Players
Thoughts on your career as a Michigan quarterback?
“It means a lot. It means -- it’s hard to put into words what this means to me. Just being a leader on this team and being one of the guys that was picked by the team to be a captain and a leader. It’s kind of hard to swallow right now because it’s coming to an end.”
What have the past three weeks been like? When did you find out that you would be able to play today?
“I’ve been getting treatment a lot. They’ve been telling me a lot of this stuff, and I’ve just been getting treatment, and I’ve been day by day and been getting better. Once I got a chance to get the go-ahead, I went out and started practicing and started playing a lot.”
How desperately did you want to play in this last game? Did you have to lobby to get in the game?
“Oh no. I think everybody knew -- if they know me, they’d know I’d do whatever it takes for the team. I’m the kind of the person that if I go, I’m going to go. I’m not going to hold back because I do whatever my team [needs]. That’s my family.”
How does your elbow feel right now. If you had to, could you throw the ball?
“It feels pretty good. I threw the ball a little during warmups. You’ll see next week.”
Was it your idea or the coaches idea to have you play the role you did today?
“Coach. I mean, coach Borges, he [gave] us some good stuff. I was all for it.”
Earlier in the season it’s been you to Devin. Today it was Devin to you. Is that something that you thought about as a funny thing?
“It is kind of funny, but we never thought about it. It was just, ‘Let’s go do it.’ ”
What was going through your mind when you walked up the tunnel for the last time?
“Just all the memories that I had with the teams and just being with these guys. Everything that we went through, the ups and downs in the stadium, just memories that kept going through my head.”
Is there a memory that stood out to you the most this week?
“Not really. I mean, just thinking about it being my last time playing in college. It just blows my mind because time went by so fast. It just surprised me that it went by so fast. I guess we were having fun, and if we’re having fun, time goes [by fast].”
When did you get back to practice?
“This week I got the go-ahead. This week.”
So you didn’t practice the last couple weeks?
“I did a little bit, yeah. It was day to day what I could do and what I couldn’t do.”
Are you having any discomfort at all? You patted an Iowa player on the helmet and dropped your arm a little bit …
“No. No. I was good. I was good. You know, he made a good hit on me, so I gave him a slap on the hat.”
How would you evalute the job Devin’s doing?
“He’s doing great. He’s been playing well. We all have faith in him and we all knew he could do it. I’m behind him 100 percent. I support him and we support him. I mean, he’s done a great job and I can’t wait to see what he can do in the future.”
You’ve always been a running quarterback. How comfortable were you in the role you played today, and what was the challenge for you?
“Of course, going against the defense … I thought the offensive line did well when I did run the ball. When I did get a lot of screen passes, I felt like they did a great job blocking, and I just had to try to make a play.”
Do you think what you did today gives Ohio State some more to think about next week?
“Oh yeah. That’s going to be a great game. That’s going to be a physical game, but right now we’re focused on this win.”
You were over on the sideline when Fitz was down. What was that like?
“That’s our brother. It’s always sad, it’s always bad when you see one of your brothers on the ground. You can’t help him right then and there, so it was kind of a bad feeling, but he’s a strong guy, and I know he can bounce back. Our prayers go out to him.”
Was there a point after the injury when you didn’t know you were definitely going to come back? Secondly, how easily were you able to embrace this new role?
“I mean, when I had the time off and they said I couldn’t play those two weeks, I was just like, ‘Man.’ It was a bad feeling because I never missed a game. I only missed one game, and that was my first year playing football. I missed three games my whole life. It was different for me being on the sideline cheering them on. It was tough, but when I got the chance to get back on the field, it was no question. It was just like, let’s go out there and have fun and enjoy being with your team.”
Have you ever played a game before where you played quarterback and did not throw the ball? Were you tempted to throw at all?
“I wasn’t tempted. I mean, coach makes some good calls. I was ready to do what I had to do to try to help the team out.”
But you never had a game where you didn’t throw the ball when you were at quarterback?
“No, I haven’t.”
What was said between you and Devin before you left the field?
“I just told him to keep going and keep leading, keep playing your game and we’re behind you. That’s all.”
How would you compare what you’ve accomplished up to this point to what you thought you’d accomplish when you arrived on campus as a freshman?
“I couldn’t imagine what I [have done]. I don’t think I would have as much success as I’ve had. I think God blessed me to give me the opportunity to start for three years, to keep going at it and have the opportunity to graduate next semester. I feel like this is a blessing to be here. It means a lot. It means a lot.”
How surreal was it to be in the huddle and not call plays?
“It was different, but I mean, practice kind of made me know, ‘Okay, you’re not the one calling plays right now.’ I’m in the back of the huddle just listening to what’s going on, so it’s kind of different.”
Any thoughts on Michigan’s fans?
“It’s an honor to be playing in front of so many people. They cheer for you and they can’t wait to see you play and can’t wait to see the team come out of the tunnel. The winged helmet just being on the field. I want to say thank you to everybody that ever came out and supported us. And I know, me personally, I love them. I love the fans and we appreciate them.”
Jordan Kovacs and Kenny Demens
What did you do to slow Iowa down after it looked like they were moving the ball against you fairly well early on?
Demens: “We just kept our confidence up. We just stuck to our game plan. Stopping the run, playing well in the pass and third down. That’s what we did.”
Jordan, you and denard seemed to take a little longer walking off the field.
Kovacs: “We were reflecting on the Journey. Denard kind of said, ‘This is crazy, man.’ I can’t it’s already here.’ We kind of both looked at each other and said, ‘We know what next week is, and we’re excited about.’ ”
Hoke didn’t seem all that excited about the defensive performance. Are you used that that kind of scrutiny?
Kovacs: “I think that’s one of the things I talk about all the time, is the high standards that coach Mattison and coach Hoke set. I think that Iowa put together a couple of nice drives, and we didn’t do a good job on first down. I think the key to stopping them was on first down. You could get them out of their urnning game. But they had some success on first down and third down, and we can’t let that happen. But I think in the second half we did a much better job on first down, put them in first and long a couple times. We have to tip our hats to the offense, controlling the ball and controlling the game. Ultimately that’s what won us the game.”
You’ve had quite the journey at Michigan. What did Senior Day mean to you?
Kovacs: “It was bitter sweet, you know, because obviously it was a big win for us. That was exciting. But for it to be the last time in the Big House, I’m not ready for it to end. So it’s been quite the journey and I’m ready to ride it out, but it’s not over yet. We’ve still got a couple more.”
Could you hear the crowd say, “Beat Ohio”?
Kovacs: “I could hear them a couple times, yeah. I heard them chant it like you said early in the fourth and later on in the fourth. At that point we were just focused on the game, because I’ve seen some crazy things. We saw some crazy things last week, so I was staying focused. We’re going to enjoy the win tonight. We know what the next game is, and we’ll get into film, make some corrections tomorrow, and we’ll get ready to move on to the next game.”
What was Iowa doing with their tight ends early on?
Demens: “They got them in space, you know. I covered the guy -- they have some great tight ends. No. 86, he’s a big guy, he can run well. They just put him in space and let him do what he does, but we tried to make them just as one-dimensional as possible. We got some pressure in there and that kind of took things off of them.”
What does it mean to go through these last two years and not lose at home?
Demens: “It means a lot. It just means a lot. You know, after the game today I didn’t want to leave the stadium. I just wanted to stay. Just from where we came from and how we’ve come from the less successful season and just be where we are now. It just means a lot and you’re going to see the guys who you’ve grown up with, and it’s a great feeling. It’s a great feeling.”
Kovacs: “Yeah, I mean our message at the beginning of every year -- our season starts at home -- you’ve got to defend your home turf. We’ve been pretty successful the last couple of years and I think that’s ultimately why we’ve been a successful team.”
Do you ever look at what Borges draws up and wonder how you would defend that offense?
Kovacs: “Yeah. A lot of times I’m just happy we’re not playing our offense. We scheme obviously for the opponent, and when we go against our offense in practice, we just get plays where we’re like -- you just shake your head like, ‘I don’t know. I don’t what I would do. I have no idea.’ ”
What does next week mean to you?
Kovacs: “That’s a big game. That’s a big game year in and year out. It’s THE game. It’s going to be an intense game, it’s going to be hard hitting. But like I said, we’re going to enjoy this one tonight. We’re going to get in and watch some film. We’ll be ready. We’ll be ready.”
What does it mean to guys like Steve Wilson and Brandin Hawthorne to get some snaps on senior day?
Demens: “I think those guys were excited to get out. It’s the last one at home. Who doesn’t want to go out and play in the stadium like this on our last game? I saw their faces when they were going on the field, and they both had big smiles … I’m happy for those guys.”
There’s a lot of young linebackers on the roster. How much have you worked with them this season?
Demens: “I worked with them a lot. I just remembered all the guys when I started playing and how they took me under their wing, and just taught me how to watch film, showed me proper technique, how to defeat a block, and that’s something that I’m passing down, but they have great coaches, too. Those guys are quick learners. They’re going to do great here.”
What does it mean for the team to have Denard back?
Kovacs: “I mean, Denard’s a great kid. You guys see him on the field, but he’s an even better person off the field, and the way he’s carried himself off the field the last few week has been very impresive. But to have him back, that’s where you want him. You want him on the field, because you don’t want to see a guy like that struggling with injuries and whatnot. But he played very well today. Obviously he’s a very versatile kid. You saw him catch the ball a few times, run the ball, throw the ball. He’s going to be a key component of the offense these next few weeks.”
You said you didn’t want to leave the stadium today. What were those last moments like?
Demens: “I just felt myself kind of getting emotional and just looking around at the fans and just spinning around in a 360 motion and just thinking like, this is the last go-around. Normally I’m the first person to go up the tunnel, but today I was maybe the last person. I just took it all in. I just want to take it all in and keep those good memories.”
Roy Roundtree and Devin Gardner
You had six touchdowns today. Thoughts?
Gardner: “I mean, it was a great game. The line blocked well, and we ran the ball well. Denard ran well. Roy caught the ball well. Every receiver that caught the ball, they caught a tough pass, so I’m happy about that.”
How did it change things for you having Denard in there knowing he was going to take some of your snaps? Did it change your preparation at all?
Gardner: “That’s not a question for me. That’s probably a question for Iowa, how it changed for them. It was great for me. That’s just something else they had to game plan for but didn’t know. So it was great.”
Did it change your week?
Gardner: “No, it didn’t.”
This might be an odd question, but did it feel like a changing of the guard today?
Gardner: “I mean, I don’t really understand the question …”
Did it feel like like past, present, and future were all … one?
Gardner: “I know it felt great, because I knew that they had no idea what was going to come. They thought they knew. They would always yell out, ‘Denard’s in the game!’ But they didn’t know what play we were going to run, if that answers your question.”
Do you think that gives Ohio State a little more to think about?
Gardner: “It definitely does, unless they don’t want to. I mean, that’s fine with me as well.”
Brady said he’s noticed that you’re catching the ball with your hands more than with your body. Who/what/where/when/how/why?
Roundtree: “It was in the spring actually when coach Heck had us [do] the tennis ball [drill] and had all the wide receivers [practice] hand-eye coordination. Just something I really worked on this year, and using my hands away from my body only helps because if the defender’s on your back and you have strong hands, you’re good.”
Looked like the downfield passing game was really effective today. Whoaterenowy?
Gardner: “I mean, big plays, you know. Roy made big plays and Gallon made big plays. It’s really all I can say about it.
Roundtree: "Yeah, just some of the coverages that they were doing -- probably was blown coverage and Devin was seeing the open throws.”
You knew what was coming today before anyone else. How excited were you during the week knowing what you were going to unleash? Did you know it would work like this?
Gardner: “Oh yeah, because it really worked on our defense. They had a rough time. Every time after practice when we got in the locker room, they said, ‘Man, they’re going to have a problem with that. So that was enough for me. I felt like, I mean, if they knew the next day during practice what was coming and they still couldn’t stop it, I felt like the other team would definitely not be able to stop it.”
Alternating snaps with Denard could have put you off your rhythm. Was that something you had to overcome in practice?
Gardner: “I mean, it wasn’t difficult at all because we practiced it every day, doing it. I would come out for a play. It gave me a break and give me a rest and get my thoughts together anyway, so it was fine.”
Is there a sense of relief for you now that you’re getting your shot at quarterback?
Gardner: “I mean, I really enjoy it because I always thought of myself as a quarterback, and honestly, I never knew how I would perform either, just like you guys didn’t. It’s just refreshing to know that I can play quarterback at Michigan.”
How glad are you that Denard’s injury wasn’t serious enough that he couldn’t come back?
Gardner: “I mean, I was ecstatic. That’s my brother. He’s not just my teammate, he’s my brother. Any player on any team, I wouldn’t want that to happen. I would like for everybody to get a chance to play this great game.”
Roundtree: “I feel the same. I know he worked hard to get back, and thank God that he could go out there for the last time at Michigan Stadium and perform well.”
What’s the last thing you remember walking out of the stadium today after the game?
Roundtree: “Just getting the ‘W’ and going up the tunnel, all the media just taking pictures and the fans all screaming. I really got chill bumps, and I really enjoy my time playing here. I left it all on the field every play.”
You were around Fitz when he got injured. What was that moment like?
Gardner: “It was just heartbreaking to see Fitz in so much pain like that. Fitz is a really tough guy, and I’ve never seen his face grimacing like that. I just prayed that he’d be all right. I just prayed instantly, as soon as I saw him down. I just started to pray and hopefully he’ll be fine.”
Are you kind of surprised by your progress over the last three games?
Gardner: “I mean, not really, because after every game I get coached up. Those are the things you don’t see. I get coached up on everything I did wrong. I try not to make the same mistakes. Of course you’re going to make new mistakes. I threw an interception today on a cover-2 corner that I should have seen, and I fumbled the football. Those are new mistakes that I can’t let happen again.”
What’s it like having the other defense key on Denard so much?
Gardner: “Yeah, because they did it in practice, too. Frank Clark, we were on the tailback slow screen. He was like, ‘You know what’s coming! You know what’s coming!’ I was like, ‘No, you don’t. You have no idea.’ You think you do, but you don’t.’ And then we threw right over his head, and it happened the exact same way in the game today, and we scored a touchdown.”
What are you going to tell the younger guys this week in terms of going down to Columbus?
Roundtree: “Um, finish. Last game of the year, playing Ohio. Ever since the new guys got here, we’ve brought it up, and you know, we say, ‘Beat Ohio.’ I’m pretty sure they know this week is totally focused. It’s Thanksgiving break, so you get more time in the film room.”
This is the third straight week there’s been more passing yards than rushing yards. Is it fun for you to get more action downfield?
Roundtree: “It’s always fun catching balls, being a receiver, but our main thing, like I said earlier, is knockdowns. Plus we have to make the big plays when they’re supposed to be made, and I feel like we did a great job there.”
You haven’t lost a home game in two years. Reflections on that?
Roundtree: “Man. The guys stuck it out. We really became Michigan men, and we actually felt the tradition. I feel like coach Hoke really emphasized, ‘Don’t let anyone come to your house and take over.’ That’s something the seniors from last year did and the seniors from Team 133 did.”
How would you describe Devin’s improvement?
Roundtree: “Um. A lot. Just really calm in the huddle. Sometimes he’ll pull one of those moments off when you have to call a time out and you’ve already started a play or something. But I feel like he’s really stayed humble and let this team show confidence in what he can do.”
Coach Hoke said they started thinking about using you and Denard this way 18 months ago. Did you ever have an idea of that? Did you think it could be used in this fashion?
Gardner: “Oh no, I never thought that, because if Denard hadn’t gotten hurt, I would still be playing receiver and we would be winning games in a different fashion. I never thought I would be able to do things like this like I’m doing right now. I’m just thankful that I’ve taken advantage of the opportunity.”