“Well here we go. We have another week coming up, and obviously this is going to be a huge challenge for us defensively because it’s a very very explosive offense. Watching them on film and watching what they’ve done so far this year, this will be a big test for us, so we’re looking for it. Going on the road and playing an offense like this, it’ll kind of [allow us] to see where we’re at.”
Do you use that at all to keep guys from getting complacent?
“We won’t get complacent. Believe me. That won’t happen. We’ve got so far to go, you know. I mean, again, I’m proud of the way they have played hard. I’m proud of everybody buying into try and run to the football as hard as you can, but there’s so many things we have to get better at, and they see that on the film, and they believe it just as much as we as coaches do. That’s what’s pleasing. They know where they have to get to yet and how far away they are. We just have to keep taking strides and keep trying to get better.”
How has Taylor Martinez been able to improve as a passer?
“Well I think their running game is the best, or one of the best in the Big Ten. Any time you have a really good running game, guys can get a little more open than they would if it was a true passing situation. He’s a good quarterback. I think the other thing is his offensive line looks a lot more athletic this year. They’re a very good offensive line, and they’ve protected him, and he’s a year older.”
It’s been only the second game in the last 50 years that Michigan has won without scoring a touchdown. What does that say about this team that you can win in that situation?
“It says we won. And I never think about that. Our job on defense is to try to get the ball back for our offense, to make sure we don’t give up big plays. Give us a place to stand, and we talk about that all the time. We talk about that in our meeting room. As long as the ball hasn’t crossed the goal line, then we have a chance. You know, I think two of the real big plays of that game was the third and one when we stopped them and then down there at the goal line where J.T. did a tremendous job of turning the ball in. We talk about it all the time, keeping the ball inside and in front. It was a classical example of him fighting to get outside, and that allowed Desmond and Jordan to go make the tackle. But that game’s over. To be honest with you, I’d rather talk more about Nebraska. That game’s over. That was a great deal for our young kids and for our seniors. Now it’s time to move on. It’s time for us to get ready for this huge challenge that’s ahead of us.”
You mentioned J.T. turning that ball inside. How much better has your defense gotten in defending the edge?
“Well, that’s everything. Our defense -- every defense will be measured always by that stat. You can watch any defense, you can watch anyone on Sunday, you can watch anyone on Saturday. If you let the ball outside your defense, then you don’t have a chance. There’s a lot of things that happen when that happens. One of the biggest things is the will to run to the football leaves you because there’s no chance for you to get there. That’s why keeping it in always gives you that incentive that if, ‘If I run real hard to the football, it’s going to be there, and there’s going to be a target there.’ We really have tried to preach that, and the kids have bought into that.”
Do you expect Raymon to play on Saturday? Is he practicing right now?
“Yeah I expect him to play. I know that’ll be the trainer’s call, and that’ll be his call, and Brady’s, but as far as I know, I haven’t heard anything different.”
How are the younger guys behind him practicing at corner?
“They all have bought in. They’re all practicing and they’re all getting reps. The one thing you know about us and the way we practice is the first and second units get equal reps throughout practice. It’s just for this kind of a reason, so that the next guy, and it’s always you’re measured by the expectations for the position. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman, if you’re a guy that was third team, all of a sudden you’re second team, all of a second you’re first team. It has nothing to do with that. It’s something Brady has always implemented, and it’s unbelievable how much it keeps coming through that by getting all these reps for the second unit equal to the first, that whenever that time comes, they’re closer to being ready than if you had just worked your first unit.”
You’re getting off the field on third down in Big Ten play. Is that an indicator that you’re getting closer to where you want to be as a defense?
“That’s a huge part of our defense. On our wall, that’s one of our very very big goals, and you can’t have a successful defense unless you do get off on third down. There’s a couple times I think -- there’s always times we can do it better, but that’s a combination of everybody. That’s a pass rush. That’s an execution of a pressure. That’s the secondary. That’s all of it. That’s always something that’s really really important to us.”
What kind of growth are you seeing out of Quinton Washington?
“Quinton keeps improving every game. Quinton playing lower, he’s playing with the technique that I always talk about, he’s getting better. You can see it. There’s times now where you see him play a block and you go, ‘Boy, that’s perfect! That’s exactly how …’ And like any player, now we have to do it play after play after play. It’s got to become a habit. That’s what your goal is for every player on that defense. But Quinton has really worked hard. He’s bought into everything. I’m happy for him. This next week will be a huge test for him also.”
Can you talk about how you deal with Nebraska’s tempo?
“Well, I don’t think they’re a hurry hurry team, but they go fairly quick. I think they want to get as many shots with their offense as they can. We’ve faced that before. That just puts the onus on us being more ready with the calls. I’m a firm believer that you have to get the calls in quick to your team so that they can digest it and get ready to play. That’ll be something that we’ll have to do a great job of, of getting the calls in.”
Something not very clear about not worrying about becoming too complacent now vs. at the beginning of the season I think? [Ed: Don't get mad at me for not typing this question verbatim, guy who got mad at me last week for not typing questions verbatim.]
“I think it’s more of a realization that you’re not that good. You’re complacent if you’re one of those teams that can run out on the field and nobody’s going to gain a yard on you. And our guys know that’s not the case. We have to play, and it’ll continue throughout the year -- you have to play as hard as you can with great technique and in the scheme to be successful. The second you don’t do that, you’re going to be so far below average it’s unbelievable. And I think our guys know that. I think they know the reason why some good things have happened for them is because they have done all those things. They’ve played hard or they’re playing harder. They’re playing with better technique. They’re playing more as a unit. If you ever stop doing that, they know that, and you’re going to become just as average as can be.”
A lot of people assume that their offense is similar to yours because of their mobile quarterback. How do they actually compare to your offense?
“There’s a lot of similarities. That we have to use as a positive because you get to get a lot of quality repetitions against a tremendous quarterback and some very good offensive athletes. It’s not like going against a scout team. We can go against each other and we have for so long that that speed shouldn’t be shocking to us. You know, even when we’re playing an offense that is not at all like ours, we still compete against ours so they have to flip that switch and say, ‘Okay, I have to play against that offense now.’ ”
Have you seen any evidence that Martinez throws outside the hash marks as much as he’s thrown inside?
“I think their passing game is like a lot of other people. It’s very sound. Because of his mobility and times he’s out of the pocket, it may look that way, but I don’t see anything that this is a huge tendency that, ‘Hey, he’s going to throw a lot more outside the hashes than he does in.’ I think he’s going to throw what you give him. If you play soft corners, then they’re going to throw the outs. If you play a little heavier corners, then they’re going to try to get inside on you.”
Has Craig Roh been as effective as he’s looked on film?
“He’s playing real hard. Real steady. He’s a very, very strong influence in there. A very confident football player that can help the younger guys by his play, number one, and being able to help them if they need help getting lined up.”
What more can he provide at that position?
“We have to get more sacks out of him. We have to get more -- if he’s consistent, and that’s 7 out of 10, let’s get 8 out of 10. Let’s get 9 out of 10. Let’s become as good as we can be. We aren’t close to that, yet. The good news is we have a lot of time to be able to do that.”
Is Abdullah much different than Burkhead?
“Yeah. He’s very fast. He’s more of an edge guy. He can get on that edge and he can go. Burkhead could, too, but he also could take it downhill and be a pretty physical running back, too. Burkhead is a very very good running back. Abdullah’s, he’s broken some big plays for them. He’s going to be a fast guy that we’re going to have to contend with.”
MGoQuestion: You held Michigan State to less than three yards per carry rushing, and you accomplished this without registering any tackles for loss. Moving forward, do you think this is the recipe for success or do you hope to generate more negative plays?
“Well you always want to be aggressive, but the thing you want to make sure you do, you don’t ever want to put your defense in a gambling situation. A lot of times when you’re aggressive, it’s good if you hit it, and it’s real bad if you don’t hit it. As long as the guys play hard and you keep it inside and in front, then you’re better off doing it that way than you are saying, ‘Boy, we have to come and get this guy now,’ and take a chance. There’s always times for that also, but my mindset is always try to do what’s best for these guys and see how you can get them to play within what we believe in.”