Raymon Taylor should be good to go Saturday against Nebraska.
Hoke is being super coy about putting Denard on the kickoff return team.
Spread punts! I asked. Hoke answered. And ... he's just more comfortable with the traditional punt, it seems.
“You know, we had a good practice last night. Good energy. We have an opponent that’s an awfully good football team when you look at they’ve won 18 of 20 at home. They’re 4-0 this year. I think Taylor Martinez is playing his best football. You look defensively or offensively, they’re leading the league in scoring. Very good football team. They’re physical up front. Defensively you look at tackles for a loss and you look at negative plays that they create. They’re leading in sacks, I think they’re leading in TFLs. Very physical group. Playing in Lincoln a neat place to play because of their tradition and their passion that they have as a fan base about Nebraska football. It’s really a neat place to play. It’ll be loud. We’ll have to play our best football that we’ve played this year.”
Where do you think Taylor Martinez has made the biggest strides this year?
“I know his percentages and all those are up from throwing the ball. He’s taking care of the ball pretty well. I think it’s 14 to 4 in touchdowns to interceptions. Has no interceptions at home. I think that’s part of it. I think he was kind of banged up a year ago, in and out with an ankle. I think he’s been pretty healthy. I just think it’s a maturity and maturing in the offense. I think he’s surrounded by a physical group up front that we have to continue with.”
How much added significance is there to this game since the division race looks like it’ll come down between Michigan and Nebraska?
“I think they all do, to be honest with you. We looked at it during the bye week, that every game is a championship game, and this falls in that category. It is significant because it’s in our divison, but they all are. Every week.”
“I think he’ll be fine. I really do.”
He’ll play this weekend?
Do you want your team to consider the win against MSU a means to an end?
“I think when you think that way, you’re thinking honesty. Great rivalry, all that kind of stuff is important. Winning that game is important for multiple reasons why, but it’s a who’s next mentality. Who are you playing next? As you know, November and October is when you win championships.”
What do you know about Nebraska’s running backs?
“Well, you know, Burkhead’s a guy who’s very physical. Smart football player, very instinctive. I think he’s as good a back as we have in this league, and I think Abdullah’s a little different when you look at running style, which is a compliment to what they’re doing offensively and to their offensive line and personnel.”
What’s Matt Wile’s comfort range?
“Well, wind’ll always make a difference. He’s a 51, 52-yard kind of kicker, I think, watching him. That would have some consistency with it.”
How far has Brendan Gibbons come along since when you first met him, coming off the 2010 season?
“Well, you know, obviously I can’t tell you from before, but he works at it. He works at it. He has a lot of pride. How he works at it, he’s got a lot of support. I think Dan Ferrigno’s done a good job with him, because he specifically is with those guys. I think that’s part of it. I think confidence -- I think the best thing we ever did was go up to the stadium twice a week, because the different winds that you get, it’s a little different. Taking those guys up there during camp, now they go once a week.”
You’ve given up only 21 points in three B1G games. How will Nebraska test your defense in ways it hasn’t been tested so far?
“Two ways. I think their front, number one, because I think they’re physical and big, and they have the ability to combination block and move people off the ball. I think the dual threat with Martinez running some of the spread stuff, some of the same stuff that we run, but I think that is part of it. And the play-action game for them has been pretty good.”
You said there were some things you wanted to see defensively in the secondary. How did that play out to what you were looking for?
“Well, I thought the first drive in the second half, I thought we played a little looser, but that was a drive where I didn’t think as a defense we played as well. The combination of 11 guys playing together. I thought J.T. and Ray both went out there and played confident, got some shots down the field. A little beat on one or two of them, but I thought those two upheld playing corner pretty well.”
You said you wanted your corners to play closer to the ball--
Play tighter. Did you have your corners back off because you were loading the box so much?
“Depends. What personnel groups Michigan State had and calls that you go through. We had both safeties in when they were in 22 and 12 a lot, both close and not clean, true quarters, but close. And playing some man stuff with them which would have helped out vs. the run.”
Is playing in prime time and on the road a challenge for this team?
“I think they’re used to playing at night. I don’t perceive that being a problem, going to South Bend already, and the blueprint for what we’ll do, walkthroughs, meetings, eat, all that kind of stuff, will be pretty much what they’re used to. I think crowd-wise, it should be what they’re used to, but they’re pretty emphatic.”
Are you done with the babysitting?
“Well. Yeah. Shoot. I have to babysit myself sometimes, but I think they understand how we want to go through our business in a business-like fashion.”
You put Denard on the kickoff team. How long has that been in the works, and what was the intent of that?
“Maybe return a kickoff.”
How far has the defense come from the beginning of the year?
“Well, let’s wait till the year’s over. I mean, that’s when you’re going to know.”
How much control or ability does Denard have in audibling at the line of scrimmage?
“There’s usually probably 50% of the time where he has the ability to run pass or run run -- what technique do you want to run to? 1-5 side, 3-6 side, (Ed: According to Brian that’s just nomenclature for strong side with 1-tech and 5-tech/SDE or weak side with 3-tech and 6-tech/WDE) what do you want to do? Pass game-wise, he always will have a view. Him and Elliott kind of work together from a quarterback-center, identifying the MIKE linebacker and all those things, so he can do that.”
What went into the decision to put Denard on kickoff returns? Were you concerned with injury?
“I’m concerned you can walk down the street and fall off the curb. Really.”
Celebration penalty -- was that a teaching moment?
“It was a teaching moment, believe me. Yesterday that was what we started off with. Matt Wile, his squib kick was as good a squib kick as you could get. But if that kick, because it’s hard to control, hits a front line guy and they recover it and we’re kicking from the 20 and it hits a guy, he gets down, two seconds left, they could kick a field goal. Right? That’s a problem. And so yeah, there’s no doubt. You love the enthusiasm for the game of football and they’ve worked hard since last January, and that all goes through it, but that could have been very costly. Could have been one of those dumb penalties.”
What does it say that you can win without scoring a touchdown?
“Well, I think the last three plays, the offense had the ball, and especially when they went and had to spike it with nine seconds left. It was gratifying to see them execute as a coach and them being able to -- how much time was on the clock?”
“No, when we --”
“Got the ball back.”
Oh. Two minutes. Two minutes even.
“Was it even? Yeah. It was, you know, they did a nice job of operating and communicating and being in the right formations and those things. That, to me, is what you like to see out of your football team.”
And not taking a sack?
“Right. You’re growing. You’re learning.”
Was there an issue with the clock at the end?
“We’re trying to figure that out.”
You still don’t know?
“No. We haven’t heard from them yet.”
Was that a Big Ten issue?
“Well we want to know what Bill Carollo [Ed: B1G Director of Officiating] thinks. He’s the guy who’s in charge of the officials.”
Did you realize it in real time?
“You knew something was wrong, but you get one explanation from a guy on the sideline, and you have to trust that explanation and move forward. Now were they right? I’m not sure … I think we had one timeout left at that point. I think. Yeah, I mean, time’s always important. There’s no doubt. Now do you have to run longer routes and throw it down the field more? Maybe.”
How do you feel your clock management has been overall this year?
“I … I think the worst thing we probably did was, and we had it in and it was my fault for not doing it, was when they punted, we should have had two returners back. And we do that at times, especially with rugby punters and those guys because that ball rolled for maybe 12 to 14 yards. Field position-wise, that can hurt you. ”
MGoQuestion: Were you surprised by the fake punt based on how they were lined up?
“Hmm mm. Surprised by it? Probably. It was a good call. It was a daggone good call. Any time they work, they’re good. Because of how we were schematic on that one side, and we were going with middle return, so you’re forcing everybody out, so you really don’t get a chance to get eyes on.”
MGoFollowup: Were you aware that they could run a fake out of the spread punt formation?
“Sure. Yeah. They had done it before, right up the middle.”
MGoFollowup: What’s your opinion of the spread punt formation vs. the traditional punt formation?
“Uh, we don’t use it.”
MGoFollowup: Is there a rationale for that?
“I think, you know … I’m more comfortable with what we use. That’s the rationale.”
Re: Raymon Taylor, how important is it to not have injuries that might hurt chemistry within a unit, i.e. the secondary, this deep into the season?
“Yeah, well, all the injuries you want to try and stay way from, obviously. There’s a continuity. Courtney came in there and did a heck of a job, and so it’s nice to have that depth, but it would be nice to have everybody healthy and have that depth.”
Mario Ojemudia got pressure on that interception that Maxwell threw. Can you talk about how some of your younger players are contributing?
“Yeah, up front, you look at Ojo and Ondre both making some headway, making some progress. Jarrod Wilson in the back end. Joe Bolden’s been on special teams a lot, but we have a lot of confidence in him. Same with Biggs -- James Ross.”
Greg Mattison said he’s been pleased with the secondary but they haven’t been tested vertically. Were you happy with how they played this weekend against Michigan State?
“I thought J.T. had pretty good positioning on most of it. Ray, on the one where he got hurt, they called interference on him, but you look from a positioning standpoint, he was in pretty good shape.”
Can you talk about the goal line stand to hold Michigan State to a field goal?
“Yeah that was, I think a 17-play drive? 18-play? That was after the fake punt. That was critical. It was critical for us to hold them to a field goal. It was critical that Thomas played with his eyes and did a nice job on his fundamentals and keys.”
Based on how the division race is going, does Nebraska count as two games in the division race?
“Oh. I don’t know. I know it’s an important game. They know that.”
How would you evaluate the offensive line?
“I thought they were solid. Taylor and Patrick -- Patrick really played well. Him and Taylor. I think we were solid. We weren’t as good as we need to be this week.”
Is Taylor all right? He looked like he was limping.
“When doesn’t he limp?”
Fair. Why is he always limping?
“Some guys have got a walk like that.”
He just walks like that?
“Could be style.”
Do you like that style?
“As long as he’s not limping when he’s kick-sliding.”
What do you see from Nebraska’s defense?
“Them as a group, you have to take them as they are. The blackshirts and the pride that they have as 11 playing together. I mean, the negative plays and those kinds of things, those get you off schedule. When you get off schedule, you usually have a problem offensively. The tackles for a loss. I’ve always been one who loves Nebraska’s defense through the years. I think Bo, being a guy who really understands defense, I think they do a great job.”
Against Illinois, you used a lot of running backs. Against Michigan State Rawls didn’t play at all. How come?
“Some of it’s play calls. Some it’s who protects best, who runs routes best, who runs certain plays best, and then you kind of got in a rhythm with Fitz and then Smitty.”
Are you starting to become disappointed with Fitz’s production?
Should Denard have given him the ball on some of those earlier reads?
“There may have been one or two that he kept, but that decision’s a quick decision sometimes. And I think it’s always harder earlier, because you’re trying to digest what they’re doing to make sure you’re right in what they’re doing.”
They knocked down a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage. Who needs to do a better job there?
“I think it’s hard for a quarterback to do a better job. That’s a tough duty. Maybe a little too much penetration, where you get a little closer. Some of it Denard’s not a 6-4 quarterback. That’s part of it.”
On the Denard being on the kickoff team thing, did he come to you? Was this your idea? Was he all for it? Did you have to twist his arm a little bit?
“I never twist his arm.”
Because he might get a boo boo.
“Depends on how hard you twist.”
When did this plan hatch?
“Eh … Eh. It’s just a good plan.”
What are you seeing from your freshman receivers?
“I think Darboh’s obviously playing a lot on kicking games. He’s doing a good job on those teams. Jehu’s red-shirting, but he’s doing a tremendous job.”
What do you like about them as receivers?
“I think both kids are tough. I think they’re both kids who are big. I think they have similar but unique abilities in how they play. Both have good hands. Both are good, instinctive kids.”
How much of Dileo’s production was due to Michigan State not keying on him, and how much of it was his personal progress?
“You want to give him credit. And then I would say by design a little bit, where he lined up, it was advantageous.”
What do you remember about your last game at Nebraska in 2007.
“Yeah. Got beat 41 to 40. Dropped the ball on the five yard line.”