“It was a good game. A good football win. The seniors got to go up the tunnel singing The Victors for the last time in the stadium. We put a lot of emphasis on that because of the struggles and what they go through when you look at a guy who’s been here four or five years. So it was great for them and great for our team that the younger guys, younger classmen went out there and competed for them. That’s an expectation. The guys who are seniors who were playing in their last game at Michigan Stadium, I thought they did a nice job of going out there and playing 60 minutes of football.”
How bittersweet is it to see your seniors play at home for the last time?
“It’s always difficult because I’m a very emotional person, good or bad. So pick your poison. But we get very tight and close with the players because we are there to help them grow. From a personal life standpoint to an academic, to social, to everything else, they’re one of your sons, and that’s how we look at it.”
When did you make the decision for Denard to play, and when did you decide on his role?
“I didn’t make the decision for him to play. Once he got cleared, he felt good healthwise. We had talked about doing this for 18 months. You know, Al, when he got home last week after the Northwestern game, that night he had nine plays ready. And then we put six more in. I think Al does a tremendous job of taking your personnel and the playmakers that you have on your team and having the ability to get them the ball and let their god-given ability take over.”
How much do you know about Fitz’s situation?
“He’s in the hospital now and he’s had surgery. I think we’ll leave it at that for now and make sure -- his mother wasn’t here, he had two brothers here -- but we’ll leave it for that.”
How important was it to try out the Devin-Denard offense before the Ohio State game?
“You know, next week really never had anything to do with it. We had to beat Iowa. We’re still in a championship race. We wanted to win this game for our seniors and also because we’re still in a race for the championship.”
Was there any thought of using Denard as a passer or did you just decide to give him a limited role?
“Well, I think it would be unjust for us not to use him in the best way that we thought would let him be the most successful. He’s throwing the ball a little bit, not throwing it a lot, so we thought this was the best. This kid has put up with a lot of criticism at times and also he’s been praised at times --”
[Someone’s phone goes off, ring tone is “The Victors”]
“That’s a good song. He’s a competitive guy who loves the game and loves his teammates, and he showed great maturity the last three weeks and great leadership.”
Along those lines, did you have to do any convincing with Denard to tell him that he wouldn’t play quarterback?
“No … He wanted to play. Where could he help us best playing?”
Can he throw the ball?
“Yeah. But not as well as he’d like to.”
Can you talk about Denard and how hard it might be for a senior quarterback to not call plays in the huddle?
“Well, I think it tells you what kind of kid he is. What kind of a young man, I should say. And his development, his growth, his character, and the integrity -- this kid had some unbelievable moments here at Michigan and Michigan Stadium and have had some moments that weren’t so good, but he’s grown within this team, and this is his team. Him and Kovacs, all the seniors have a big piece of it, and I know that Devin said it the other day: he has been the face of Michigan football.”
Devin had six touchdowns…
“Say that again? I’m sorry.”
Devin had six touchdowns. They looked pretty easy for him. Can you tell us about his development?
“Um. He had six touchdowns?”
He had six touchdowns.
“Did he really. See, I don’t remember that stuff.”
He was pretty good.
“I -- well, I think you answered the question. He was pretty good.”
Did you hear the crowd chanting “Beat Ohio”?
“Yeah, and I said to someone next to me, ‘We need to beat Iowa.’ ”
You haven’t lost at home in two years. Is there something to that?
“I think there’s always, and you see it all kinds of sports, playing at home is something that’s treated us well. Familiarity with everything. I wish I could tell you. I just think there’s a comfort, I guess.”
Have your teams always been so much better at home?
“I have no clue. Again, it’s something that I don’t think about.”
Is this your offense moving forward, or could Denard move back to quarterback full time?
“Um … I don’t know. I guess he could. I don’t know. It’s an option.”
When was Denard cleared, and what did he have to do to get cleared? Can he grip the ball?
When was he cleared?
“What’s today? Saturday? Probably six days ago.”
Is he cleared for good now, or do you have to go through another process? Is he day to day?
“He might be day to day.”
You talked about being an emotional person. You’ve just beaten Iowa, but what does the Ohio State game mean to you?
“It’s fun. Because it’s a great rivalry and there’s a lot of respect on both sides for those programs. For both programs. It’s fun. You asked? It’s fun. It’s going to be fun.”
You had a lot of success in vertical passing. How come?
“I think some play action set it up. And then I think Gallon made a terrific catch with concentration. The ball was where it needed to be, and it was defended pretty decently. I think one of the best throws and catches was an out on the sideline to Roy. I thought Roy did a nice job with his hands. That’s one thing I said this last week, but I thought Roy is catching the ball more with his hands and not with his body as he had earlier.”
When did you see that change for him?
“Eh, shoot. I don’t know. Some time. Probably in practice.”
It looked like you threw out things for Ohio State to think about. Is that something you planned to do?
“If I was that smart to do that, I would have done that. But no, we were trying to beat Iowa. We were trying to put our players -- because it would be selfish of us as coaches for us not to give these kids the best chance to win a football game. And whatever we do offensively or defensively or prepare, if we don’t do that then we’re short-selling this program and these seniors and these kids, and we’re not going to do that.”
You said you’ve been planning this offense since 18 months ago. What prevented you from using it earlier?
“How would I answer this …”
“Um. I would say, in doing it, it would have been done kind of like we did last year a little bit more when we had both of them on the field. And we just added to it. And we just added to it. And there’s a maturity level for everybody to be able to handle those things.”
So do you mean Denard at quarterback and Devin at receiver?
“Maybe. Sort of.”
Synergy between Gardner and the receivers?
“Yeah, and I think there’s a lot of truth to all of that. But I think our front’s blocking better. Part of it is the play-action game. Part of it is the play-action out of the I-back. I think that’s helped.”
How tough is it for the defense to prepare for your new formations?
Well, you have to spend some time on it. So sometimes that’s the biggest thing. You’re spending time maybe on a formation that was run maybe three times and thinking, okay, what can you do out of it, what can they do out of it? So as a coach, you’re spending your time, and then you’re taking practice time. So it’s time. And there’s one thing none of us have, is a lot of time.”
How confident are you that your team can quickly move on to Ohio State?
“Well they’re going to have to. I’m pretty confident in how our seniors have led and how we’ve gone to work every Sunday, win and lose.”
“Yeah. You know … we missed some sacks. We don’t tackle. They’re knocking us off the line of scrimmage earlier. It was awful.”
“We thought he’d be ready, but he’s not.”
Gary Moeller was honored today --
“Yeah, it was cool.”
What did that mean to you?
“Means a lot. Coach Mo as a person, as a coach, as a man. Means a lot. Means a lot to Michigan.”