“Well are we on game 18 or what? It seems like, hoo boy. Every week. This next one is as big as any of them or bigger because one, you’re in the title hunt. You’re still playing for a championship. And two, these seniors deserve to play a great game, deserve to have things be like they should be when you’re a senior at Michigan and you play your last game there.”
What do you take from surviving Northwestern?
“Well the thing that we saw in that game -- people wouldn’t have seen it -- that defense played unbelievably hard. There’s a play in the fourth quarter when there are 11 helmets truly hitting the ball on our sideline, and ironically the next play Craig Roh got a sack and it held them to a field goal rather than a touchdown. And you never know when that’s going to happen. I’m not a stat guy. Never have been. The only stat that matters to me is whether we win or lose. I don’t like it when teams run the football, but the thing that you also saw on that tape, one, that quarterback is a tremendous football player and a tremendous athlete. I think there were four or five legitimate sacks that we had them -- any other quarterback you probably would have had a sack -- that he changed from being a third or a second and long to a first down.
"And that’s where the perception is that you’ve got to get off the field. We’re not talented enough, and there aren’t many [teams] that are good enough, to be able to say, ‘We could have gotten off here, but we’re going to let you play three more plays.’ That happened too many times where you had just what you wanted and he made a play. And I won’t say that our guys didn’t, even though they could have, that young man Colter is -- he’s got my respect, I’ll tell you that. That guy is a football player. And their running back was a very good football player also. The greatest thing is that there are some mistakes again that we have to have corrected on some blitzes and things like that, but they played hard and they stuck together and gave us an opportunity, and our offense did a great job at the very end there and we came out with the win, and that’s all that matters.”
MGoQuestion: It seemed like your outside linebackers were getting edged pretty often. What was the issue you saw on film?
“The outside linebackers were walked out a lot because they were in a spread offense, they were spread out. Their wide receivers did a great job of blocking … I won’t say any more because the last time I said something, [I] got in trouble with it, but let’s just say we didn’t get off the blocks like you would have thought we could have. That caused some problems. And the speed of that running back and the speed of that quarterback. We didn’t play it as well as you’d love to have played it. That happened a few times, you’re right.”
MGoQuestion: Were there any similarities between playing Northwestern and playing Air Force?
“No. No. No. There were no similarities. Air Force is an option wishbone scheme. A dive, veer and all that. With Northwestern it was a get to the perimeter -- some people run what you call a jet sweep. They just do it with [their quarterback]. The thing you felt was that he couldn’t hurt you throwing, and then on that first third down, he puts a beautiful pass on a seven route that you’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, if he can throw it, too, you’re really in trouble.’ Again, I think the thing we took out of it is if you stick together, if you play extremely hard, there’s a chance of good things happening, and that’s what we’ll always build on.”
Are the adjustments or corrections different this week because you’re playing Iowa, which doesn’t have a mobile quarterback?
“No. The corrections can be lumped in a general deal that you’ve got to execute the assignment of the defense. Unless you’re really really much much better than everybody, you have to play it perfect or you’re going to have a chance of things not being like you want. I think our guys understand that. Now you have to do that. The thing you have to always do, and there’s a lot of reasons why you want to get three and out and get off the field, but whenever you start being on the field for quite a while, you have a chance of maybe not concentrating as well as you have to to play up to as well as you have to play. I think that’s something that -- third downs have always been big for us, and there’s a lot of reasons why, and that showed up in that game. You gotta get off the field when you can.”
Is there a way to coach a level of resilience?
“Yeah. I think that’s something that Brady has instilled. I think that’s something that when you come to Michigan, when you sit in that defensive room, there’s no talking about it. That’s what’s done. And that’s one of the points -- there’s a lot of football teams that after they didn’t get the fourth down stop that wouldn’t have kept playing. You’ve seen it happen a hundred times. I’ve been a part of some of them, when all of a sudden a guy breaks a five-yarder and gets a first down, and now it’s over. That defense just kept trying to execute. That defense kept trying to play hard. Brady -- people don’t talk about it -- he did a tremendous job with the time outs. I’ve been on games also where clock management at that time, you’re done. I mean, that showed some faith in our defense also, I think. You call those time outs, saying, ‘Okay, defense, stop them. Give us just some time left.’ And that’s what happened.”
Can you talk about Kenny Demens and the finish he had Saturday?
“Yeah. Kenny’s just -- he is a Michigan senior. He’s what this senior class is all about: a bunch guys that have bought in, a bunch of guys that have worked extremely hard and nothing has come easy for them, and they just keep coming back and believing every game. There were times Kenny, like other guys in that game, didn’t play great. You’d love every player to play a great game the entire game, but you know what? Not just those last two tackles, there were probably three tackles or two more tackles that he made leading up to that that, right at the end, when you needed somebody to do something, he did it. Not that he tried any harder, he just kept doing what he had to do, and he did it like a senior. That’s why it’s really good when a guy like that gets a chance to make a play at the end. That’s what keeps you coming back, I guess.
"And I can go right through them. They’re all that way. Craig Roh getting that sack. I mean, he was close to a couple others that if we would have contained it. He would have gotten him. When Jordan -- you can go right down the list. Will … I don’t want to talk about many because I’ll forget one, but all of them are that way. That’s what the two years of being here, what I’ve seen in these seniors, last year’s group and now this year’s group: it’s never perfect, but they just keep coming back. Like today when we put in the game plan, they’ll all be, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that.’ They’ll buy into it. They’ll study it. They’ll do what they have to do. That’s what makes them special.”
Is there any one senior you wish you had a full four years with?
“No. I wish I had the full four years with all of them. I really do. No I’d never say there’s one. They all bring something to this defense in a different way and then collectively you want them to win Saturday so they go into that last game with a real shot, you know. But no, I would never single out one … I’m just happy and fortunate that I’ve had a chance to be with these two groups, because they make you really be proud of Michigan, because that’s what I look at Michigan as being. It wasn’t pretty at times in that game, but you know what? The look in their eyes after that game. It was pretty.”
What does this senior class do to help the mindset of the younger players?
“That’s what I -- in talking to the team, the defense on Sunday -- I told every young guy to listen more intently than you’ve ever listened to what I’m going to say right now. I told them that what that senior class did at the end of that game, that’s Michigan football. You can do anything you want. You can be the most talented freshman, sophomre in the building. You can be anything. But unless you play with that resolve and unless you believe like they believed, then you’re not Michigan. And I told them again, when I was all done, I sad, ‘Trust me. Learn from what that group did there.’ Again, it wasn’t pretty. It’s not our expectations to play like that. We’ve got to play better than that, but that part of it was Michigan. That’s what every freshman should learn from.”
How hard has it been for you to see Denard not being able to play the last few weeks?
“It’s really hard because Denard absolutely loves this program. He absolutely loves football. He loves his teammates, and to see his action when he wasn’t playing is why you think more of him than you could possibly think. He truly is into that game, and he truly is trying to lead when he’s not out on that field. So it just keep reinforcing how fortunate you are to have a Denard Robinson. You want everything possibly good that could ever happen for him to happen. That’s how you feel by being around him.”
Will Campbell said yesterday he wished he could have played for you his first two years. What was your impression of Campbell when you first met him?
“Don’t ask me. Don’t ask me. You just asked about those seniors? When I first got here, I [was like], ‘Whoa, boy.’ I was like, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’ But you know what? It’s a whole process. I keep saying it. It starts with Aaron Wellman. It starts with him. That comes through Brady. This group has become more and more Michigan every single day they’re here. These guys, you would never know whatever happened to them before. It doesn’t matter. It’s what they are today. There’s something to be proud of.”
Was that a negative “whoa boy”?
“I’m not going to say it. I’m not saying anything. I’m not -- nothing. Like I said earlier, as a coach, you want to do anything you can to make sure they walk up that tunnel that last time.”