“How’s it goin’?”
“How we doin’?”
“Where’s your glasses?”
I don’t wear them every day. Yours look good though.
“You’re losing the effect. I’ve gone to all glasses. People started to think I was dumb. Now they just think I’m dumb with glasses.
"All right, you guys. Let’s have it.”
Were you surprised by how Purdue defended you?
“They played a little more 3-4 than I thought. They had -- it’s not like we didn’t prepare for it, but there was a little more 30 front than we thought, but the back end was kind of as we anticipated. There’s always a little nuance to handle Denard, the kind that guys borrow from other teams they watch on tape they think they might have had some success playing Denard, so they take pieces of that, and if they think it fits their team.”
Did you feel like they were trying to take away Fitz?
“Oh no doubt. If you watch the tape, they were following Fitz all over the field. Fitz had very good running opportunities on 17 carries. I went over the whole tape. It was the good news and the bad news though. We pulled a couple zone reads when they were all over Fitz, and Denard was wide open down field. It wasn’t like it was bad. It just didn’t make Fitz’s numbers look very good, but he helped us win the game, you know, kind of like a guy that has a sacrifice bunt. Helps you win the game. That was kind of the way they decided to defend us.”
Has that been happening more this year? The running game hasn’t really gotten going…
“The running game hasn’t gotten going?”
The running backs.
“Yeah, no, yeah. That’s been, yeah, a little bit. What kind of happened a little year is Fitz showed up big, especially toward the end of the season, and people have become kind of aware of him, and because we don’t do a heck of a lot of home position running, you know, under center -- we do a little bit of it, not like we will in the future and like, you know … so in that regard because you’re doing a lot of gun running, you kind of pick which guy you want to defend, and if they’re -- I don’t know, Fitz had big numbers against them last year. Who remembers --”
“Yeah. And I’m sure they hadn’t forgotten that, but they obviously don’t want to -- they know Denard’s a threat, too, but you kind of have to pick a little bit what your priority’s going to be. Last year it was more Denard, I think, and this year it was more Fitz. As long as you come out with something -- and that’s what I say every week -- as long as somebody rushes the ball, you know. Everybody’s coming back saying, ‘Well he didn’t run the ball very well.’ He ran fine. For the opportunities he had to run, there just wasn’t much there, but there was a lot for Denard. Maybe the reverse could happen this week. I don’t know.”
Does it surprise you that teams don’t try to take away Denard first?
“Yeah. I guess a little bit. You know, when we’re -- and you guys saw a year ago, and it hasn’t really happened this year, but I think if we keep going like we’re going at will, we’re best when we can threaten two ways. Now that doesn’t mean necessarily that both guys have to rush for big numbers every game. That seldom happens. But if one guy doesn’t get big numbers and another guy does, and usually it is a result of how they decide to defend you, at least in part, you know. It’s not totally that. You still have to block it. I don’t care how they defend you, you still have to block it, but people will overdefend certain phases of your game and make you play left-handed. That’s how most people defend, is they say, ‘Okay, let’s see what they do best. Let’s take away what they do best or what scares us the most and make them play to their weaknesses.’ I think that happened a little bit. Not that running Denard is a weakness, but from their perspective, because of what happened a year ago, they were just keenly aware of Fitz. ”
Would you characterize the Purdue game plan as a little more more risk-averse? If so, is that sustainable going forward?
“I don’t know. I can’t -- that’s a hard question to answer. I just know this: At the end of the day we just have to have enough equipment within our offense to counter-punch. I’m sure you know what I’m saying when I’m saying that. It’s hard sometimes, and as a playcaller it comes up a lot, too, is you can see pretty quickly what’s being over-defended and what’s being under-executed. That’s where your bottom line is with regard to adjustments and playcalling. If it’s over-defended, you need the counter-punch. But if it’s under-executed, you have to stay with your plan. You have to hope, ‘Okay, we missed this block, but we can’t go south on what we practiced all week, otherwise it turns into helter-skelter.’ So you come back and do what you’re doing and hope like heck it takes, knowing that maybe one play didn’t hit very good. And you get paid to coach. You go to the sideline and chalk it up, fix a little bit, and next time maybe it works better. You don’t want to beat your head against the wall. You don’t want to call it 10 times knowing it’s not going to get anything, but you don’t want to just abandon your plan, but that really is, I think, from a coaching perspective, from a playcalling perspective, from a schematic perspective, the key to offensive football is to discern what is being overdefended and what’s being underexecuted.”
MGoQuestion: Are you surprised that no one has really figured out how to defend the jet read, aka inverted veer?
“That’s an interesting football play. To answer the question, not really surprised. If you can get them in good scenarios, that play always has a chance to succeed because of a littany of options. So uh … I didn’t answer your question. I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised, and it’s just one more play in our arsenal. It’s not the whole offense, but it does present some problems because our quarterback can keep the ball or our halfback can run the ball and you get your two best runners touching the ball.”
MGoFollowup: I know you can’t speak too much to scheme, but is there potential for running play-action from the jet read?
“If there was, do you really think I would answer that?”
MGoRetort: Well you don’t have to say what it is specifically.
“No I’m just kidding ya. We play-pass every run we got. Every one we got, there’s some type of action off it, so yeah.”
Denard seemed like he was making better decisions and just playing a lot smarter. Why do you think he’s settled in all of a sudden?
“You know, it’s such a better question for him than me, but I don’t know. You know, we had two weeks to get ready for this. As coaches and as players, too, we spend a lot of time trying to fix our problems, knowing that we weren’t as good as we could play offensively. You have to identify the problems and admit where your shortcomings are both as coaches and as a player and address those. We had a lot of time to address them. I think that helped him reach a comfort level, okay. Had there been just a week? I don’t know. We probably would have been fine. I don’t know. But having two weeks just helped us get grounded, get back to where we were. I think his passing up to the Notre Dame game from a fundamental perspective had gotten a lot better. He had been doing things so much better, but I said that, and guys looked at me like I have 10 heads because he didn’t play very well against Notre Dame by his own admission, but we kind of went back and said, okay, what got us to that improved state? What are we going to do?’ Well A is footwork and 2 is decision-making. There was a strong focus on those two issues. From a playcaller’s perspective and from a game planning perspective, my job is to keep him comfortable. So all that combined, the long-winded answer to a simple question -- I’ve perfected that art. My mother says that anyway. But yeah …
“He played smart. The whole game. He threw a ball away where I think the Notre Dame game he probably would have tried to make something happen in there because he was trying to get us back. And not just decisions in the passing game, but decisions in our running game because that’s huge with our zone read game and with all that stuff. He graded really well. Yeah I was pretty happy with what he did. And the one turnover, to be honest with you, was probably my fault. We got a hard edge on a power read, and we didn’t show him enough of that. I’m not going to blame that one on him.”
Did throwing more short passes help?
“That helps a little bit, but he can throw the ball down the field. He’s got plenty of arm. He’s proven he can make those throws. No, I don’t think that’s it. I think we got a good, nice lead on them. We didn’t ask too much of him early. And as he got in the groove, things started to hit pretty good, you know. But I don’t think the length of the routes or any of that had anything to do with that.”
Is it still more about him settling down and doing what he can do?
“I think with any quarterback that’s the case. If you experience success early in the game, it’s like anything else. You start feeling good about it and settled in. If you don’t, and you get behind, your sense of urgency can cloud your judgment, you know. With anybody. Every quarterback I’ve coached. Settling him down is critical. Getting off to a fast start’s nice. Really probably the more important thing is if you don’t. Now what are you going to do? What if the first time you get the ball you go three and out? And God forbid the second you’re three and out. Maybe the score’s 7 or 14 to nothing. Now how are you going to react? Those are the times that test the quarterback’s mettle the most.”
Funchess had a pretty good catch.
“Ya think? Holy smoke. Yeah.”
How’s he coming along in your eyes?
“Yeah. Pretty good. Pretty good. He’s -- that was an incredible catch now. I had no feel for it from the booth because, 57 you know. I can’t see like I -- I couldn’t see the little -- I can see the down and distance and I’m fine with all that, but I couldn’t see how good a catch that was until I saw a replay of it later, but he had to reach back and catch that ball and there was a guy bearing down from the right, and just to hold it was a minor miracle. Jeff Hecklinski kind of went crazy, goes, ‘He caught that sucker!’ I go, ‘That’s why we recruited him.’ But to be honest, I was minimizing it. Then when I saw, I would have probably reacted the same way if I knew what a good catch it was. He sees better than I do. He’s got young eyes.”
MGoQuestion: Later in the game when Funchess caught the pass out of bounds, was that an issue with the route or was that just well defended by Purdue?
“No no. that was just they didn’t bite the screen. We had thrown that pass on Illinois the year before where we threw a quick screen on it where he faked and took off. We tell Denard if it’s Devin and a corner, throw it up. He’ll pull it down a lot of times. But Devin got pushed a little wide on it.”
MGoFollowup: So it was well defended.
“That was well defended. It was. That was one for them. It was a bad call.”
He still caught it. Does he ever drop anything?
“Everybody drops it once in a while.”
How good are his hands compared to --
“Pretty good. He can catch. He can catch pretty good.”
Are you detecting a swagger among the offensive linemen? This is according to Taylor Lewan.
“I was going to say, Are you going to go by Taylor? No, no. I mean, they’re gaining some confidence. It’s nice. Yeah. I think a little bit, but you know, they’re realists. I love linemen because they are realists. They know your’e only good as your last performance, and thye’re going to have to work hard. I want to say this, too. And I think this is just so crucial. The week -- the game week, not the bye week -- we had our three best pracitces maybe not since I’ve been here but certainly this season. So much of that tone was set by them. The Notre Dame game was a hard game. The guys took it very seriously, but they’re resilient, and they came back, and we had three good days, and I think they were confident. I know I felt the best as a coordinator, and I think the other coaches feel the same way about our approach to the Purdue game. Now the thing about that, you have to kind of bottle that, you know what I mean? We know the formula to success, and it starts out there when you practice. If we can continue to do that, I think we’ll continue to move, but when practices deteriorate, I think the performances do, too. There’s direct carryover.”
What did they do differently to set the tone?
“I don’t know. They were hurt by that football game. They felt like they should have beaten Notre Dame. They took it seriously. And we as coaches did the same. I don’t know any way to explain it other than that. I don’t know if there was any epiphany or --”
Is that the word of the day?
“There it is. You guys want a word? Maddy didn’t give me that one, though. … We felt that we had a better team than we were showing. Offensively, defensively, everybody did. Again, if we don’t win this next game, I’ll be explaining why we didn’t have swagger next week. You’re only as good as the last one.”
Have you had a freshman tight end catch as well as Devin Funchess?
“Oh yeah. We had one at San Diego State. Gavin Escobar. He could catch like Devin can catch. 6-7. Yeah he was really good. Now he’s not as fast as Devin, but he had tremendous hands, yeah.”
What does Drew Dileo add to the receiving corps?
“Nice, short guy. I love being around him because he’s the only guy on the team -- him and Gallon, they’re both shorter than me. They’ll say they’re not, but they are. I could eat soup off the top of their head. He’s so smart. Drew doesn’t make an error. A lot of times he’ll make sure the other guys line up right. If you throw him the ball, he doesn’t have the range because of his size, but he’s going to catch anything he can get to. Very tough, good blocker, reliable. You need something done? Send Drew. Whether it’s holding for field goals, or being an extra punt returner or running an option route or -- send Drew. He’ll do it.”
“All right. Did you count the bubble screens this week?”
“See, now. Forget it. That conversation is over. There was a bubble to the right with Darboh kind of missing a block. There was a bubble to the left where Jeremy Jackson tried to cut the guy.”
“If you don’t know what a bubble screen is --"
"How can you expect --”