Minnesota Postgame Presser Transcript: Players

Submitted by Heiko on October 2nd, 2011 at 9:19 AM

Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith

Why was the passing game better today? Denard: “We just clicked. We worked on it in practice, and we just had to put it forward in games, and that’s what we did today.”

When the last time you had a rushing, receiving, and passing TD in the same game. Also, can you talk about the game plan that utilized you in a unique way? Smith: “I was just put in the right place at the right time. The coaches know what I’m capable of. What I have to do for the team to help them out.” Was it fun? “Real fun. And the last time I threw a pass was in high school, but not like three [TD’s] in one game.”

When did the 2-QB thingy arise? Denard: “We’ve been doing that in practice. We’ve been working on it. Coach said he’d throw it at us, and just be ready. And he called it, so we were ready.” Were you expecting it that early? “Oh yeah.”

That was an unorthodox offense today. Is that exciting for you? Denard: “Oh yeah … Just going out and having fun with my teammates.”

Denard, how comfortable did you feel in the passing game? You looked more comfortable. Denard: “Oh yeah. I mean, we’ve been practicing getting it down with the receivers, and we were just on the same page.” How much you looking forward to going on the road? “Both of us are looking forward to that.” Smith: “I mean it’s just another football game, and that’s what we love to do. We just love to come out to compete, and it’s another night game.”

You guys have been putting up a lot of points. How does the team feel about this new offense? Denard: “We’re confident. I mean, we’ve been playing [well], and we trust Coach Al to give us the right play and make things happen, because we have some playmakers.”

Are there other things we haven’t seen that you might show us? Denard: “We can’t tell them that …” Smith: “Not that I know of.”

(more after the jump)

Vince, can you talk about selling the run on your pass TD? Smith: “Coach was just stressing that everytime I’m in a trick play, definitely set up the run. That’s the first thing the defenders are looking at, and just look upfield.”

Denard, what was it like to get the ball off a handoff from Devin? Was that completely foreign to you? Denard: “I did it my first year of football. I mean, I played running back my first year of playing football. It was easy. It wasn’t hard.”

Vince, we joked about the different things you’ve done today, but talk about your role on this team right now going forward? Smith: “Just stay positive. Whatever the coaches want me to do and the type of situations I’m in, just step up and contribute to the team.”

Denard, talk about Devin’s play? Denard: “Devin is probably one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. He’s a great, great quarterback. He’s got a strong arm and he’s going to compete every year.”

Two questions: Borges said he wanted to put you in better positions to throw … Is that something you talked about? Also, can you talk about the thing on your arm? Denard: “Oh. I had … took a shot, I guess, last week, and they just put … ” Smith: “He got a boo-boo.” Denard: “I got a little boo-boo.” What did Borges say to you? “He just told me just make the throws I have to make, and that’s it.”

Is it hard to keep playing when you’re blowing the other team out? Is it hard to stay focused? Denard: “Oh no. Coach told me, he said, ‘Nah, we’re not going to lose our focus. We’re going to keep going.’ ”

What do you think of your teammate stealing the show a bit, racking up all those touchdowns through the ground and through the air? Denard: “That’s my teammate, so I’m happy -- probably happier than he is! That’s what I like to see.”

The defense has had some issues in the past few years, but in the last few weeks they’ve allowed just 10 points. What do you see about them that makes them so good all of a sudden? Denard: “Oh man. Playing against them in practice, I mean, they throw some stuff at me and I be like, ‘Oh my God!” I know that once the quarterback they play against sees that, it’ll be the same way. They play great, hard defense.”

What’s the name of the package where you’re at running back? Denard: “I can’t … you tell them.” Smith: “We call it ‘Two.’”

Denard, you’ve been taking some flak from the media about your passing. Can you expand on how this game affects your overall confidence level? Denard: “I don’t read the newspaper anyhow, but I just went to practice, and I knew we had to work on just getting our timing right, and getting in rhythm. That’s the biggest thing. We got in rhythm today, and that’s what happened.”

Can you talk about how the defense’s focus on you opened up some holes for your running backs? Denard: “I mean, I guess they do that, and my running backs, they’re going to run the ball. That’s what they do. And the offensive line is going to block.” What’d you see out of Fitz and Vince today? “Yeah, they hit the holes hard. They’re going to compete every time they’re out on the field.”

Devin Gardner and Fitzgerald Toussaint

Devin, how does it feel to finally get out there and play some football for Michigan? Gardner: “It felt great. I just have been waiting for my turn to get a chance, and I felt like I did the most I could with it.”

When did you learn about the 2-QB package, and when did you know you were going to use it in this game? Gardner: “They make me aware that I was going to get in with the package. I think they brought it to me because they felt like, if we get our offense on the field, it’s going to be very effective.”

Devin, talk about the different dangers that formation presents to a defense? Gardner: “I think it’s really really dangerous because we’ve got Fitzgerald Toussaint back there as well and Vincent Smith. You guys are just going to have to wait and see, because it’s going to be pretty dangerous.”

Fitz, talk about running game today. >300 yards, and most of it wasn’t Denard. How important is it to continue to establish running backs? Toussaint: “I just have to say that’s more about the offensive line and about how we prepared on Tuesday and throughout the week.”

Can you talk about the play of Vincent Smith? Toussaint: “That’s exactly what we expect out of him. He works hard, and he’s a hard worker. He’s capable of doing those things.” Gardner: “I would just like to say … And he can paaaasssss.”

Speaking of passing, the double pass on the third play out of the 2-QB formation. What did you see there? Gardner: “By the time I got the ball, they were kind of closing in, so I felt like it was a smarter decision to just run with it.”

Can you guys talk about how important it was to get Denard going in terms of passing? Gardner: “Denard’s fine. He’s a really good competitor. He just loves to play football just like the rest of us. It’s really about the team, so he’s going to do whatever it takes for us to win.” Toussaint: “I agree.”

Fitz, it looks like you’ve won the starting tailback job. Do you feel like it’s your job to lose right now? Toussaint: “I feel like my main job is to go out there for Tuesday’s practice and just show up to play.”

How hard is it to maintain focus when you’re blowing out the other team? Toussaint: “It’s not hard. You just want to go out there and encourage the other guys. Young guys that’re going out there and playing.” Gardner: “I think it’s pretty easy because it’s a lot more fun. You can kind of let it loose and play. You’re not thinking too hard about your assignments and things like that. So I kind of think it’s easier to stay focused.”

Devin, do you guys lobby to use the funky plays? Gardner: “Even if we wanted to do that, I don’t think [Borges] would care much. He said it’s a dictatorship, so whether we want to or not, it’s going to be whatever he wants to do. I trust that he’s smart enough and he knows a lot of good things that we don’t really have to say anything. I mean, we try, but it really doesn’t work.”

Are you guys looking forward to playing on the road? Toussaint: “Yes I’m looking forward to it. As long as we have a great week of practice we’ll be prepared.”

Does a game like this send a little message to the Big Ten, like ‘Don’t forget about us’? Gardner: “I hope so. But if they do forget about us, they’ll have to play us eventually. We can’t really say what they think. We just know we have to play our game and do what we do.”

What does it do for team morale to have a ton of guys see the field? Gardner: “It’s really fun because we see each other in practice. Everybody plays well, but everybody can’t play on Saturday, so it’s just really great to see everybody, to see every other player play.”

Fans wanted to know why you weren’t playing more through the first four games. Were you ever frustrated about your lack of playing time? Gardner: “Not really. We were winning, so you can’t really get mad at that. I just wanted to be a part of the team and contribute.”

There’s been a lot of fuss about Denard’s passing. Talk about your confidence in him? Toussaint: “Him as a runner and a passer, I’m pretty confident that he can go out there and play well. Doing whatever he has to do, and going out there and having a great week of practice in order to prepare himself well for the game on Saturday.” So were you guys ever worried about it at all? Gardner: “No. He’s really fast.”

Devin, how much more is there in the 2-QB package? Also, how much more of the playbook have you not shown yet? Gardner: “I don’t know. It’s Big Ten play now, so I guess we just have to wait and see.”

Hoke talked about numbers on helmets. Whose decision was that? Toussaint: “Just to represent those before us.” Gardner: “I’m pretty sure it was a senior thing. We have a great group of seniors. I’m pretty sure they lobbied to get it done, and what the seniors want, the seniors get.”

Does being 5-0 this year feel different from previous years? Gardner: “Definitely, because we all believe and we’ve all bought into the new system and the things that Coach Hoke is trying to implement. I feel like it’s just a big belief on the team and it’s something we haven’t had in the past years.” Toussaint: “I agree.” Would you say if you disagree? Toussaint: “Yes.”

Craig Roh and Courtney Avery

Courtney, what’s it like to have the football in your hand and a whole lot of empty space in front of you? Avery: “It’s awesome. I can’t even explain the feeling.”

Craig, did the game plan change when you found out Marqueis Gray had a foot injury, and how well do you think you executed the game plan? Roh: “Well the game plan was just to line up our front. We knew that if you’re lined up correctly, we can compete with the best of them. It really didn’t matter who they had in there back at quarterback. It was just a really good effort by that front seven.”

Craig, did you sense Minnesota getting frustrated or demoralized? Roh: “I mean, you don’t really concentrate on the other team. You just concentrate on yourself. We were just getting checks in and we played a good game. That’s about it.”

Did you expect to dominate as much as you did on both sides of the ball? Roh: “I mean, we always believe that we can. We do have the ability to do that. We just have to play our techniques right. The more we listen to our coaches, the more we can dominate like that.”

How important was it to finish in the fourth quarter? Roh: “Yeah I mean that’s huge for us. There’s a goal for us every week to finish the fourth quarter. We have fourth quarter play and us finishing has been a huge emphasis since winter conditioning. We’ll have something at the end of our workouts to just finish. We just have to finish.”

Why is this defense better this year? Roh: “I mean, it could be a variety of things. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I’m just thankful to be a part of it.”

What do your accomplishments so far do for your confidence as a defense? Roh: “I’ll take this.” Avery: Go ahead, Craig, you got it.” Roh: “Um. Well it gives us confidence obviously. We know how we can play. Going further and further into Big Ten play, we can gain more and more confidence, but we’re still miles away from where we need to be.”

Can you talk about defensive backfield this season vs. last season? Avery: “We were really young last year. We had a couple injuries as you guys know. I just feel -- we feel a lot more comfortable back there now. We have a bit more experience and we have a lot of depth, so I think that’s great for the secondary.”

When you picked up the fumble, did you know you had such an open lane to the endzone? Also, did you run out of gas at the end? Avery: “I started slowing down a little bit. I may have run out of a little bit of gas, but not too much. I just saw the ball and I just saw open field, and I said, ‘No way I’m falling on this one.’ ”

You have a relentless attitude in swarming to the ball as a defense. Roh: “Yeah, our coaches, it starts with the way we practice. We’re not allowed to not swarm to the ball. Ever. It’s just natural in the games that we just -- even if one guy misses a tackle, there will be five more there.” Avery: “It’s just second nature now.” Roh: “Yeah.”

Was this as complete of a game offensively and defensively Michigan has played? Roh: “I mean, it’s our most complete game so far. We can still improve a lot, and we will improve a lot.”

Courtney, you played as a true freshman last year. How difficult is it to make the transition from high school to college for a defensive back? What have you seen from Blake Countess? Avery: “It is a lot of difference. A lot of people don’t really realize the big jump that it is. The game’s a lot faster, the receivers are a lot faster, but you get comfortable. I see Blake -- Blake’s doing a really good job. He seems really comfortable out there, and he’s doing a great job, and he’s going to continue to improve.”

Courtney, talk about depth that Blake Countess provides to the defensive backfield? Avery: “Great depth. We have -- it just really adds a lot of depth. We can rotate guys in and not take a lot of steps back or not take any steps back, so it’s great.”

Craig, does 5-0 feel different to you? Roh: “We have so far to go before we’re at that Michigan level, and today was a good day. But it’s a step forward to becoming a great Michigan defense.” Do you feel you have a better chance of maintaining the start? Roh: “Well just the emphasis that all the coaches have had on finishing. Even the second of the season. We’re going to have that at the forefront of our minds as we go into Big Ten play. So I think we will be improving every game.”

What do you attribute to the improved play of the D-line? Roh: “I think these coaches are doing a great job of giving us keys that we can take into the games. It really helps during the games -- it helps you play faster. As I said before, in practice they won’t let us not pursue to the ball [ed-M: this is the opposite of not failing to miss the non-ballcarrier], and I think that’s a huge thing as well.”

Do you feel like you have a swagger you haven’t had in previous seasons, and do you feel like you can control games rather than be controlled? Roh: “I don’t know about swagger … We just have so much fun out there, and I really do trust every guy on that defense. All of them are some of my greatest friends.”

Courtney, how often have you seen the 2-QB package? Avery: “I only saw it one time. I don’t know. How many times have you seen it?” Roh: “I don’t remember.” Avery: “I might have only seen it one time, so it was definitely something new for us.”



October 2nd, 2011 at 9:41 AM ^

Gardner on the QB to QB pass: “By the time I got the ball, they were kind of closing in, so I felt like it was a smarter decision to just run with it.”

So wait, Borges had lined up a QB to QB to WR double pass?


October 2nd, 2011 at 11:46 AM ^

I was disappointed that they didn't get the throw off, but then BTN showed a much wider shot of this play and Roundtree was def. held down the field and pulled free heading to the sideline... Not sure if this was the play, but there was a trick play where the downfield pass seemed set up and Roundtree had his jersey pulled way downfield. Again, going from memory, could have been a different play; I was disappointed that defensive holding was not called, but the hold caused the ball not to be thrown. 


October 2nd, 2011 at 9:42 AM ^

are just dumb.  "What do you call that package?....Are there many more secret plays, and what are they?...Are you guys swaggering now, feeling cocky?..."

Good grief.  It's as though the questions are designed to tip other teams and/or give them bulletin board material.

Magnum P.I.

October 2nd, 2011 at 9:53 AM ^

Devin was the top rated QB in his class. There is a stong chance that Shane Morris will be the top QB in his class. If they did a re-rank of the 2009 class, Denard would, without doubt, be the top rated QB. 

I'd say "Quarterback U" still applies. 

Blue in Yarmouth

October 3rd, 2011 at 7:51 AM ^

I have been hoping the same thing since he got here. It is clear that he can adjust his playcalling to suit a mobile QB and perhaps after this year he will be so in love with Denard and what he brings to the table that he decides to go that route in the future. I pray he does because I don't miss the days of the 6'4"+ qb statue standing in the backfield. No offense to those past, I just really like the dual threat qb's.


October 2nd, 2011 at 10:01 AM ^

When Denard says he's probably happier than his teammates are themselves when they succeed instead of him I actually believe him.   He seems like the absolute perfect teammate/leader for this team.

I know we've been 5-0 now three straight years but unlike the last two when game 5 started to expose serious weaknesses in the D this year the team is getting better every week instead of regressing.  Bring on the Wildcats!


October 2nd, 2011 at 11:35 AM ^

We've been 5-0 two straight years.  2009 we were 4-0, then lost to State.  We won our 5th game vs Delaware state a little later in the  season.

I really hope Persa is healthy.  I want to see how this defense can handle a quarterback like that, because right now, we are 2nd in scoring defense with 10.2 ppg.  I want to see some great competition for our defenders, and Persa can definitely provide that.

I remember when everyone was predicting, "How much can Mattison really improve the defense?"  Oh... This predictor says we can only move up 40 spots.  Oh... I think we're going to be somewhere in the 60's.  Right now, we're at number 2 behind bama.  I think the difference is with what Roh said in how they trust their defenders, and how they've completely bought into the new system.

coastal blue

October 2nd, 2011 at 11:51 AM ^

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The difference between us and say Alabama or LSU's defense right now is the competition. They've held some very good offenses well below their production, while we have really only played one offense I feel you could consider high quality and that was Notre Dame. And they shredded us.

The last two weeks have been very promising and I would want nothing more than for us to keep that ranking throughout the season, but I think we'll see our numbers drop (or rise, however you want to look at it) a bit once we get into the more difficult portion of the schedule. Not trying to be pessimistic, just realistic.


October 2nd, 2011 at 1:24 PM ^

I agree with you; but I'd also like to point out that the defense appears to be improving as a result of in-game experience and additional practice. This staff is doing a great job teaching these players, and it's clear that they're making strides. And the players are maturing.

I don't think we'd be shredded by ND to the same degree this week as we were in week 2.

It's not like we had a group of bottom-feeders on defense; these kids were highly recruited for a reason. It's obvious now that they weren't well-coached the last three years, and the fact is that they were also a very inexperienced defense.

So as they get more coaching, more experience, and grow a little, the defense should continue to improve.



October 2nd, 2011 at 2:05 PM ^

Not just the added experience for our players that will obviously make them better, but it's also this scheme Mattison is using.  I'm loving the blitz packages he's shown.  We have been improving week by week, and I can see it with our alligment and our assignments.  I remember week 1 vs Western, I think it was their first drive, Carvin Johnson was lined up on the wrong side of the field, and Avery was left to defend two receivers, which he did admirabley tackling one of them to save the touchdown.  I haven't seen any alignment issues like that since week one.  I've noticed the team is making adjustments as the game goes on.  If something isn't working, we adjust accordingly and keep trucking.

I wasn't actually saying our defense is 2nd best in the nation, or that we were comparable to Bamas or LSU's, but we are definitely making leaps and bounds in the right direction.  If Campbell can start consistently shredding blocks and hitting QBs we'll be in serious business.


October 2nd, 2011 at 12:04 PM ^

I'm not disagreeing with your main point, but IMHO our serious weaknesses on defense were exposed in our third game last year.

We gave up 37 points and over 400 yards in total offense to a mediocre 6-5 Div 1-AA team in a way-too-close-for-comfort 5-point win against UMass.

UMass scored more points against us—in our own stadium—than they did in all but one of their remaining D 1-AA games; they put up 39 against 4-7 Maine.

After that game, we knew we were going to have huge struggles in the B10 conference regardless of who we played.

This was our first shutout in conference play in 10 years.


October 2nd, 2011 at 10:27 AM ^

“Oh man. Playing against them in practice, I mean, they throw some stuff at me and I be like, ‘Oh my God!” I know that once the quarterback they play against sees that, it’ll be the same way. They play great, hard defense.”

I think he was saying "I be like Oh my God" when playing against them in practice last year....but for a different reason.


October 2nd, 2011 at 10:32 AM ^

All of these kids, they're just saying the right things. They're happy for each other. Even if Devin was disappointed that he hasn't seen the field he wouldn't say it. He'd say what he said. I liked the follow up, Fitz, would you say if you disagreed? And Fitz was like, yeah, of course. Great attitudes all around, and I can't wait to see how far these kids can go.


October 2nd, 2011 at 11:13 AM ^

I couldn't help but feel that some of the reporters were really trying to bait some of these kids into saying something controversial. Especially when they were asking about the difference between last years D and this years D. Instead of taking the bait though they all responded with grace. Love the group of kids that make up this team.

Blue in Yarmouth

October 3rd, 2011 at 8:05 AM ^

It was frustrating reading some of those questions as I also got the impression they were trying to bait the players. Not just the defense to dump on last years version, but also Gardner  to bitch about the coaches not giving him time and Fitz to talk about how good he is in comparison to the other RB's now that he is the number one.

Not one of these youngsters took the bait and all answered the questions with class and thoughtfulness that are well beyond their years. This staff (and the staff before) have truly helped to shape these youngsters into great young men. Thankfuly this defensive staff is shaping them into a great defense as well. 


Michael Scarn

October 2nd, 2011 at 11:06 AM ^

With all due respect to Charles Woodson, Denard has 100% become my favorite Michigan football player ever.  It's probably more because of his attitude and humility than his play on the field, and that's really saying something.  I mean hypothetically, if this kid won the Heisman, does anyone doubt that he'd probably just bring it back and give it to all his teammates?

Magnum P.I.

October 2nd, 2011 at 12:02 PM ^

It's not in context, but I think this quote from Russell Wilson is such a great contrast to the way that Denard thinks and feels about his role on the team.


Wilson completed 14 of 20 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 32 yards and a touchdown in the Huskers' first Big Ten game. If they have debutantes anymore, Nebraska looked like a debutante from the wrong side of town. The Huskers don't figure to lose too many like this, because there aren't many teams like the Badgers.

"This is a great opportunity for me," Wilson said.



October 2nd, 2011 at 12:27 PM ^

quote worthy football player I can remember. He dazzles us with his play, smile and attitude, which is why we love him, but man, you can't get an interesting quote out of him for anything. Not that that is unusual in a football player though, but even in that field he stands out

Mr. Yost

October 2nd, 2011 at 7:47 PM ^

They're taught not to say too much...you can tell Denard has done them more than Vince because they'll ask certain questions like "what's the play called" and Denard won't answer and Vince will.

Also the kid could still be nervous. Notice he still says "oh yea" to like every other question.

Wait, why am I responding to this idiotic assessment? He's not there to give interesting and thought out answers and generate discussion for a message board.


October 2nd, 2011 at 3:05 PM ^

I liked that he started out saying "I feel..." then quickky corrected himself and said "we feel..." TIMO this illustrates one of the biggest changes in the entire team in that all of the players are in it together and play for each other. Not only does it help this team but i think recruits will come in and see the infectious attitude and want to be a part of it.  I hope the attitude stays the same if they lose a game


October 2nd, 2011 at 7:44 PM ^

We held Alex Carder to his worst game of the year (less than 200 yards, no TD's and one Int.) He almost beat Illinois.  He put up almost 500 yards on UConn.  We have seen a very good quarterback in that young man.  It gives me confidence that we can deal with Persa as I feel that Western probably has similar talent to NW given the close games that both NW and Western gave Illinois.  Being on the road for the first time may take us down just a peg but I think this pass defense might just be for real. 

Mr. Yost

October 2nd, 2011 at 7:58 PM ^

That year is different...IMO this team is much better simply because we play defense this year.

I think we'll steadily improve.

IMO last year's team is 4-1 this season with a record something like this...

W vs. WMU: 42-35 
L vs. ND: 35-45 
W vs. EMU: 49-17
W vs. SDSU: 42-38
W vs. Minnesota: 56-13 

Ranked somewhere around #30.


October 2nd, 2011 at 8:23 PM ^

You know he had that huge smile out when he said it too:

Denard: “Oh man. Playing against them in practice,I mean,they throw some stuff at me and I be like,‘Oh my God!”

Good stuff

Blue in Yarmouth

October 3rd, 2011 at 8:16 AM ^

I love Mattison and what he has done for this defense. It is in such stark contrast to what we have seen the last few years it almost seems too good to be true. I know we still have some very good teams left on the schedule, but there isn't a doubt in my mind that if we still had the same defensive staff as last year, we would have given up way more points thus far. That gives me hope for this team.

We also see that this staff has helped this defense improve each game so far. The last few years it seemed that improvements were only being made in the offseason, and even those weren't very noticable. This year we make adjustments and improve as the game progresses which is awesome to see. 

My main concern is how much longer Mattison is going to want to coach. The guy isn't a spring chicken and I think he is a one in a million type of DC. I am praying that he is taking Montgomery under his wing and grooming him (as a youngster on the staff) to be his replacement once he leaves and teaching him everything he knows so that there will be a seemless transition when the big guy decides to hang it up.