“I guess the first thing I would say is -- happy that we got a win. You know, not pleased the amount of yards that we gave up and not pleased with the option responsibility at times. You just want everybody to know -- I’ll take the blame for that as a coordinator. One thing we always talk about with our defense is we will always have enough bullets and always have enough in our package to be able to stop anything that somebody does. You know I think for a number of reasons, we maybe didn’t have enough or enough adjustments or I didn’t adjust soon enough to take away what they were doing. As far as the players, I really am proud of them for how hard they played. That game could have been disastrous had they not played as tough as they did on a number of situations. The thing watching the tape, in the crunch time at the end of the game, I looked out there at the end of the tape, we had seven freshmen and sophomores in there at one time, right during the heat of it. But I don’t fault our players. I know there’s things they could have done better. That’s always the case. Technique-wise, if anything, I point to myself as far as not having a little bit more expansive plan going into that game.”
Re: Getting pressure from front four, does that just take a while to develop in your scheme?
“This game -- every time they’re in third down, you just keep seeing the films that you watched where they ran the option and you’re trying to run a fire zone blitz or something like that where you’re trying to get pressure. Everything in that game, if you notice, we were a lot tighter squeezing, we were trying to line up tighter so we could squeeze the blocks and that keeps you from getting great pass rush. The thing that happened at the end of the game when they knew that we were going to throw it, you saw what we hope is in the future our ability to get to the quarterback. That game you really can’t judge by the pressure part of it because it’s -- even when you do pressure, you’re kind of holding your pressure that they’re not running an option. Whenever you do those pressure or any pressures, you’re really taking a chance on an option team.”
From a defensive standpoint, what can you take from playing an offense like that?
“Well I think the thing is, if we were doing it again, I would probably have a couple more defenses ready. And again, everything we do is to try to get our players to play the best they can, and I just felt in my heart that [against] an option team, if you give them too many things to do, they’re not going to do anything right. And option is completely 100% assignment. And then once you get past that assignment, then you’ve got to make sure you’re disciplined with your eyes so you don’t get caught and things like that. Like I said before, I looked back and I told the players that. We won’t go into a game plan like that again where I’m not going to give you enough bullets. And that’s what we did at the end of the game, if you noticed, we kind of went back to our base defense and played what they have played, and they played it -- it helped us. It would be one of those adjustments that you would have done, and we just did it because we had to at that point.”
MGoQuestion: Speaking of eye discipline, it looked like on the first play Thomas Gordon got blocked by the inside receiver because he was caught looking into the backfield. Would you have rather had him focus on the receiver instead?
“Oh yeah. We practiced that all week. Jake and Thomas were the exact same position in our scheme. A lot of people play the same scheme. You’re focusing totally on the slot. When he takes a certain course, you have to focus 100% on his helmet because if you don’t he’s going to cut you. Jake got cut one time on the exact same thing if you remember and so did Thomas. The thing that happens is you only have so much time to be able to practice that, and when we came back from Dallas, you’re right into it and you’re trying to practice that. They knew right away they had to be eye disciplined in everything they did. When we started playing it better at times, they did do a great job with their eyes. You saw a number of times when the safety came right down and made the hit one on one. Part of that also is whenever you’re getting one-on-one, which this offense makes you do, then you’ve got to tackle. That’s why that offense is a good offense. Plus they’re doing it every day of their life. That’s it. That’s that offense. Teams that run that, they’re doing it every single day. You’re trying to put in a defense to try and stop that in two days. Again, I’ll say it again, I could have done a better job. That’s why I’m proud of those players. I can’t say it enough when you watch the tape, stopping them to field goals two of three times, stopping them on fourth down, that tells that that defense has a lot of character. That tells that the defense has got something inside of them and we have to build on that.”
You mentioned the cut blocks. The rules on that changed a little bit this year. What are your thoughts on that?
“[How] they were doing it was totally legal. Anytime you come from inside out, you can cut. That’s part of that offense. If they were to come from outside in, then it would have been illegal.”
Is that dangerous?
“That’s football. That’s football. That’s what you’re taught hopefully as a young kid that you have to get your eyes on your key and you can’t overlook it and look in the backfield or you’re going to get chopped.”
Thoughts on how Bolden and Ross held up and whether they have a serious opportunity to get more playing time?
“That’s part of the group of the young kids that you were very very pleased with. They weren’t perfect, but Joe Bolden and James Ross went in that game and gave you a spark and made some plays. Now there were some things they didn’t do perfectly, but that’s young guys. But they keep getting better and better. And yes they’re definitely in the mix. Another guy that was in there maybe 17, 18, 19 plays was Mario Ojemudia, and he did some things. And like I said, when you look at it, just to look out there and to count eligiblity-wise, to have all seven of your front seven guys [be] sophomore eligiblity or less, and playing pretty darn hard. You look at Jake, I thought he did some really good things. I mean, everybody out there at times did some really good things. It’s just that consistency that we’re lacking right now. We’ve got to get going pretty fast. We understand that. We understand the urgency of it. We understand it as coaches. We’ve got to get going.”
Early last year, edge contain was an issue. Looked like it happened again on Saturday. How do you combat that?
“That was the scheme. The whole thing in playing that kind of offense, if you don’t squeeze the down block, he’ll block your linebacker all day, so we felt that it was important to tighten our guys down and to squeeze it, and they went to what they do. They started zoning us so they got to the outside. Again, those are the things you’re touching on that I should have done quicker of saying, okay, let’s loosen these guys and let’s see if the fullback can beat us. But it’s great to be able to look at that and get a win, and that’s the most important thing here, to make sure that the guys that did positive things see how they can build on those positive things.”
Do you see that as potential for growth?
“Yeah I think it’s a very positive. It’s what I kind of believed. I believed there’s -- watching these guys in the offseason, knowing a lot of these guys being a part of recruiting them, it’s in there. It’s in there, I believe that. Now it’s a matter of getting the technique to allow that to come out more, because if you don’t play with technique, all of that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter, and that’s what we have to continue to get on is to get our technique, so that our inner athletic ability and the inner Michigan heart is allowed to be that defense.”
MGoQuestion: A lot of times Air Force came out with two receivers lined up on the line of scrimmage such that the slot was an ineligible receiver. Do you coach your defense to use that formation as a run key?
“Yeah. We knew that. We knew that. In fact, if you watched that, you would have seen J.T. Floyd come over to him and know that he didn’t have to drop, and he didn’t. He became another run defender over there.”