Ryan Van Bergen
This is not the greatest press conference in the world; this is just a tribute.
Does Hoke talk a lot about ‘feeling players’? “A little bit, yeah.” What did he say about feeling a player’s impact? “Um, as far as whose impact?” Anyone’s impact. “Oh he just talks about everybody doing their jobs. Everybody making sure that they do their job and make sure they’re aggressive about it, and when he says impact, I think he’s just talking more about toughness and mentality that you bring to the game.”
You scored a defensive TD against Wisconsin a couple years ago. What’s it like watching Herron score? “It’s just really exciting, especially for Brandon, to have that opportunity. When you score on defense, it’s something that’s unexpected. It’s just such a big bonus for a team, when your defense is giving you twelve points, you’re going to win a lot of football games. We’re pretty excited about it, and we’re going to build off of it.”
Mattison said, ‘We’re not going to sit back.’ How much do you enjoy playing aggressive defense? “It’s fun. We’ve been excited about it for a long time. Coach Mattison is an aggressive-style coach. Once we figured what [Western] was doing offensively, we tried to attack them. One thing we have to do better though is we have to improve our four-man rushes. Coach Mattison can’t call a blitz to get after quarterbacks -- we have to go put pressure on them ourselves and help out our DBs. It was fun, but at the same time we have a lot to do.”
What do you have to do specifically to get better rush? “Up front we need to get off our blocks quicker, and execute our moves. That’ll come. That was the first game.”
What’s Hoke like on the sidelines? “Passionate. He’s got a lot of energy. You can really feed off of him. He’s got enough energy for everybody on the team. He knows when to be tough, and when to come over and tell you in a calm manner what to do. He’s got a really good feel for everybody and all the players and their attitude."
Was it hard to get consistency on the D-line with all the substitutions? “No, no, not at all. [Western] came out with a no-huddle. Hats off to them -- we didn’t know they were going to do that. So the coaches did a really good job of rotating. I think we probably played 7-8 guys on the defensive line. We needed that. It was 120-130 degrees on the field I heard. If we weren’t rotating, it could have gotten ugly really fast. We need that rotation, and coach wants to get more guys in. He wants us to be able to go full tilt when we’re in the game, and I think we were more productive because of it.”
Is there a night game you’ve played in that stands out? “Night games -- they’re fun as far as atmosphere and stuff, but the thing that people don’t realize is how much it sucks when you’re waiting around in a hotel. We wait around in a hotel before the game, so you’re sitting in your hotel room. Coach is trying to keep you occupied, but you’re waiting to play a football game, watching other football games in your hotel room. That’s a big wait when you’re getting up at nine o’clock and you’re not leaving to go play until five. But it is a good experience.
“One that comes to mind is when we went to play Iowa in their stadium. That was pretty cool. It just seems like the fans are just that much more into it when the lights are on. I don’t know why, but it does seem like it’s more electric.”
You didn’t give up many big plays. What went well? “We had some good things happen as far as we’ve been trying to limit big plays, because that’s been an Achilles heel of our defense for the last couple years, but we definitely need to improve. There are things that they did, and we knew they were going to come after us with certain schemes, and we didn’t stop them. There has to be some adjustments made. We had some good things, but we had a lot of room to improve, and luckily we got in to watch the film yesterday, so we can start working on that.”
How did you find out you were an honorary game captain? “Coach Hoke told me, I wanna say Friday? I think? He told me Friday. It was a big deal. It’s a very big accomplishment for me to go out there with those guys. A lot of players have told me they look up to me as a captain and a leader. I was excited. It was a really, really cool experience."
Does Hoke give out any individual honors, e.g. helmet stickers a la Bo? “Not really. Coach Hoke is a big advocate for ‘the team, the team, the team.’ The individual awards don’t mean anything if your team’s not winning. The emphasis on the team has really helped our guys come together and helped our chemistry. Presenting individual awards isn’t going to be in Coach Hoke’s -- that’s not in his personality. Unless I’m wrong and maybe something else comes, but right now I don’t think there’s anything lined up like that.”
Where do you rank the Notre Dame rivalry compared with MSU or Ohio? “It’s a big deal. We’ve been playing each other a long time. The history goes back. I think Michigan was actually the ones who taught Notre Dame how to play football, if you look at the history. They were supposed to go to Evanston and play Northwestern, but we went down to South Bend and taught Notre Dame how to play football. I think that’s how it went down. It’s a big deal. This goes back so far, and there’s so much history. That and we’re so competitive in terms of most wins in college football. I know they take it very seriously, and we take it very seriously. It’s exciting to be able to play in it."
Did you watch the end of the ND-USF game? What did you think of their offense? “Luckily for ND, they have two very talented quarterbacks. They had their hiccups, but it was their first game. They’re going to get into their zone, and they’re going to start playing well, and we have to be prepared to see both [quarterbacks]. No, I didn’t see the end of the game. I wanted to, but nothing against NBC, but I did not like the program they had on while the rain delay was on, so I was like, uh, I’m just going to watch the other ones. I did not see the TV copy. I will watch the film copy though.”
Talk about Notre Dame’s O-line. “Big. Notre Dame’s got some big offensive linemen. Their biggest one, though, I wanna say his name’s Charles Stewart, I’m not sure. He graduated. He was their left guard. He was like 370, a really big kid. Their right guard, Trevor Robinson, I think is his name. He was a kid that Michigan recruited, and I was his host when he was here. Their center’s really good, too. He’s been there for two years, I think, and very experienced. Their interior line is really experienced. I think they have younger guys on the outside, but they also have a year of experience underneath their belt. So they’re going to be a good test for us as far as a defensive front and where we are in comparison to other teams, because Notre Dame’s offensive line will be as good as any we’ll see.”
(more after the jump)
"A play is a play." (gives condescending look)
How did Michael Schofield do? “You know, he did well. And he came, hung in there, played well, and listened to my calls, and did his job.”
How much does your role on the sidelines change when someone new is in the lineup? “Not a whole lot. Usually, throughout the game, I’d help both guards and kind of talk them through some stuff. When I want them to adjust something, I tell them. It’s no different.”
You’ve needed big gains from the QB to beat Notre Dame the last couple years. Will it be better now that there’s another threat at RB? “I don’t know if we’ve needed major gains from Denard. It was just how the game played out. It’s kind of all of his reads on runs that make those plays happen. So really it could have been either way. If they played harder on Denard we could have run the ball with the running back more. It’s just kind of how the game plays out and kind of how the defense approaches our offense. And coming into this season, we have a different offense, but in some way it’s similar, so it’s kind of up to how the defense wants to approach us."
(Molk hated this question. Someone asked it again, so Molk just repeated his answer, robbing the reporter of the angle he was going for. Tears.)
Can you talk about how pleased you were with offense from the standpoint of no turnovers and only one penalty? “It was good. It was a clean game. It was only 39 plays. It was a short game, especially when you’re used to 75, 80, sometimes 90 plays, like last year. It was good to get out there, good to get the first game nerves out for a lot of guys, and I’m going to be really excited to see where this goes.”
What took you guys so long to get started? Nerves? “Maybe. You never know what it is.”
Would you rather play a noon game? “Yeah. Just get in, get it done with. I can’t remember who I was talking to, but it would be kind of cool if we could have a game with no preparation at all. Just go in and react. That would be a weird game, [I’d be] kind of interested to see how that would play out with certain teams.”
How did you think the two RB’s did? “They both did really well. They hit their holes hard, ran the ball, no fumbles, nothing like that. Both are exciting to watch."
Denard's smile was too intense, so I had to use my zoom lens from several meters away.
Did you see anything on film? “I think there was a couple passes I shouldn’t have made. I should have thrown to somebody else. That was probably the biggest thing.” Was it a read? “I tried to force one of them. One of them I should have gone to the next read.”
How did you feel about your footwork? “I think I did pretty good, and still got some to work out, but it’s always time for improvement.”
Were most of those runs designed? “I think I scrambled twice. The other one was designed.”
What do you remember about the Iowa game your freshman year? "That was crazy. I came in the middle of the game, and we were down. It was cold, and me being from Florida, it was hard to adjust to the cold. We were trying to have some fun, trying to do what we had to do, but we ended up falling short.”
What do you remember from the ND game last year? “The whole game was crazy. Throwing the ball to Roundtree, him going to score, me running the long run, it was crazy. I enjoyed the whole thing.”
Do you think they’re going to defend you better now that they have film on you? “I don’t know how they’re going to play us. We’ll see how they play us, and we just gotta prepare, and watch their film defense-wise, because they’re a great school and a great team. You have Manti Te’O, you have the Smith guy, the safety, I mean both of those guys are great players. You gotta respect them.”
Did you feel faster on Saturday? “I mean, I feel fast. I feel pretty good, but I just didn’t break the long run. It’s alright. I like seeing Shaw and Fitz get out and just watching other people make plays like B. Herron. It was fun to watch everybody else have fun. I had fun with them.”
What about night game brings the best out of football players? “Oh man -- football is football. It’s Saturday, and everybody wants to play. It’s a big game, and everybody should be ready to play. It’s the University of Michigan, and that’s what we came here for, is to play in the big games.”
Coach likes how physical Fitz is as an RB. Can you talk about how he runs? “Fitz is a physical running back. I mean, if he has to run a guy over, he’ll run a guy over. He’s got tremendous speed. He’s one of the faster guys on the team. Fitz is probably one of the outstanding running backs on the team.”
How’s Hoke on the sideline? “You don’t want him to get mad. He’s just calm on the sideline. He’s just talking to us on the sideline. You never see him panic. If he has to yell at you, he’ll yell at you.”
You vs. Herron in a 94-yard dash? “All right, ask B. Herron what happens. He was talking a little trash before camp was over. He said he was going to catch me in practice. But it didn’t happen. But B. Herron is one of the faster guys on the team. He runs a 4.48, I mean, you saw him on Saturday, he couldn’t get caught. I knew once he got the ball it was ‘All right, that’s a touchdown.’ That’s it. I knew he could run and nobody could catch him.”
Denard and B. Herron came out at the same time. I couldn't get to both because I'm not made of dilithium, so here is a view of B. Herron from afar. I think he's saying something about shaving his head.