Can you tell us what you’ve seen from Wisconsin on film on both sides of the ball?
“Very physical team. Number one defense in the country right now. Very, very physical on offense. Very good quarterback, very good running back. Really good in the lines on both sides, and skill positions as well. Talented players and very tough schemes to prepare for.”
Do you have an update on Karan [Higdon] and his status?
“We’ll get more today but seems good. Seems like positive news and update.”
You talked about Wilton [Speight] last week. Is he getting closer? Do you think he’s going to be cleared this week for contact is that still up in the air?
“Right now he’s cleared to practice, and we won’t—we’ll avoid contact again this week.”
So Brandon will be your guy again this week?
Update on Grant Newsome? How’s he doing?
“Been progressing well.”
Is Wilton probably going to sit out the last two? Have you made a determination on that?
“Don’t know. Don’t know. I don’t make that determination, that’ll be made by the doctors.”
[We don’t talk about injuries except when we do, and we do after THE JUMP]
What are the biggest steps that Rashan has made this year going from a guy who rotated in last year to playing more every down?
“His play again was exceptional this week. I thought our whole defensive line really set the tone in the ballgame from the very get-go. Up front five tackles or more for Rashan and Chase Winovich was about five. Think Mo Hurst was seven. Bryan Mone, Aubrey Solomon, you could feel that the tone was being set the way they were running to the football and the way they were playing. That’s been—Rashan specifically has been consistently really good all season. Just the effort, the execution to finish down after down.”
What have you liked best about the three-game winning streak and do you believe in momentum? Does it exist in college football week to week? What you guys have done the last few weeks, does it help you at Wisconsin?
“Um…what I’ve liked best about it is that our team has won those games and improved each week. That’s been the best part. Two things you really strive for coming out of a ballgame: come out as healthy as you can, win the football game and improve. Does that help? Yes. To improve, yeah, that definitely helps.”
I mean, momentum, Jim Leyland would always say there is no momentum, it’s the next day’s pitcher. I’m asking you in football do you believe in week-to-week that things build, that your team’s confidence is built with a three-game winning streak going into a tough game?
“Yeah, I believe you can improve. That’s what we strive to do. That’s our goal. Be better today than we were yesterday, better tomorrow than we were today.”
About a month ago you go to Penn State, big national game, didn’t go so well. From there until now, what’s the biggest difference in this football team from that day when you guys got back from the plane ride to right now heading into another big one on the road?
“Not to pick one, but I think we’ve improved.”
Mentally, confidence-wise, improved in specific individual areas, or across the board?
“Across the board.”
Is Ty Isaac’s a long-term injury? Is he week-to-week or what’s his status?
“I think we’ve got positive news on him this week. We’ll know more as the week goes.”
Quinn Nordin, your kicker, has gone through sort of a mini-slump as of late. What does he need to do to respond and rebuild himself these final two weeks of the season? Maybe ‘rebuild’ is too strong a word, but just to respond.
“Yeah, I mean, make the field goals. It’s what we ask all of our players to do: execute their assignment, do their job. In this case, put the ball between the uprights.”
Are you seeing anything in practice with Quinn? Is it just not translating? Obviously he’s making the kicks in practice or you wouldn’t be putting him out there, so what’s not translating in the game?
“Yeah, there’s---I mean, it’s a process. He made ten in a row. He’s missed three now and you need the execution on gameday as well.”
Are you seeing—
“I’m not going into all the kicking nuances and specifics. It’s really simple: he’s got to make the kicks. It’s a meritocracy. If not him then we’ll give somebody else a shot at it. That’s where we’re at.
“Similar to last year with Kenny [Allen]. I mean, you look back at the Wisconsin game, Kenny missed three in that ballgame and it was the same message last year: ‘Kenny, Kenny, you’re going to make this next one or somebody else is going to kick the one after that.’ So Kenny responded to that and we’re very hopeful that Quinn will do the same.
“Other than [that], next thing to do is… would be to give somebody else the opportunity to go out there. Just like we would at any other position.”
A video on the one—
“Strap on the iron jock, kick the ball through the uprights.”
A video of a throw to Peoples-Jones saw him getting raked pretty good before the ball arrived. I’m not asking you to comment specifically on that but is there a process that younger receivers go through to learn the physicality that they’re going to face?
“What specific play are you talking about? Raked? When you say ‘raked,’ what do you mean?”
It looked like his arm was pulled down as the ball was coming to him.
“Yeah. Um… there was one of those. There was another one [/pantomimes being horse-collared] where the DB had a hand on the back of his jersey horse-collaring him and was [/sill pantomiming but with more gusto]—wasn’t able to catch the ball and go make the play. I don’t know what to tell him at that point. I mean, that’s—the officials have to step in at that point and they have to see that and they have to make the call. He was interfered on another play which there was a call made, but yeah, don’t know what to tell him. Lift more weights so they don’t grab you and horse-collar you from making the catch? That’s… facts are that’s a penalty. Needs to be penalized.”
Kind of a loaded question following up to that: your defensive-line play has been elite this year; you don’t draw a whole lot of penalties. Do you feel that’s a product of maybe guys letting things go across college football, and have you seen on film where maybe these guys may have gotten the benefit of the doubt on those calls from time to time?
“Who’s ‘those guys’ and what are you talking about specifically?”
I’m talking about this year—
“The opponents against our defensive line?”
Yeah. I’m talking about overall in college football, do you think holding has been—is there less holding called these days than maybe in the past and is that just a product of more letting things go?
“Okay, yeah, that I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t have the data on how many holding calls have been called across college football.”
Okay. Do you think your defensive line should have gotten the benefit of more of those calls this year?
“Again… good question. Thanks for bringing it up.”
You guys have gone back-to-back with Ruiz in there at guard. Has he won the job and how are you liking how he’s doing?
“I like what Cesar’s done. Mike Onwenu has been out. He dressed for this past ballgame but he wasn’t 100% for the ballgame, and I think it benefited him not playing in the game. He’ll be back this week I anticipate and we’ll see who’s the best to play that position.”
Have you found out more about Cesar there?
“Found out a lot of good things about Cesar. Been very happy with the job he’s done. He’s acquitted himself very well.”
We see what Devin Bush brings on the field physically. Talk about the mental side of his game and what he brings in that area.
“To talk about the mental side of what Devin Bush brings to the game, it’s outstanding. He’s a product of a football family, both dad and mom. Athletic family. Sister’s also a heck of an athlete and a collegiate athlete; softball player at Florida State. Blessed from mom, dad, and god with good athletic ability and strength. Also a really good mind. Smart. He’s book-smart, he’s football-smart, and he brings all that to the ball club.”
When he squares up and hits somebody, how much of it is technique and how much of it is upper-body strength, because it’s like the end of the line for the ball carrier usually.
“Both. Yeah, both. Tackling, yeah, it’s balance, it’s positioning, technique, strength… flexibility. A lot of things.”
Can you talk about Chris Evans’ season? You mentioned something about it helped another player to watch. Did it help Chris to have an opportunity to have competition where whether it was Ty or Karan and now he’s back playing really well. Can you talk about his season and how he’s kind of come and moved up?
“Yeah, what was the first part of your question?”
“Yeah, no, I got that. You said a bunch of things there and—”
He was the man—
“You said some things that I said and I was just—could you go back and say that again?”
You said that it helps somebody to watch a little bit.
I believe you did.
“I don’t really—”
“Well, anyway, I can talk about Chris.”
“Let’s make it easy. Chris’ season. Be glad to.”
Yeah, how about that.
“He’s been good. Really good. I was a little worried early on. There was times I’m wondering, is Chris going to be in a sophomore slump? And that didn’t take place. There was a ballgame or two at the beginning and then I think he hit a couple games there where he was just really getting unlucky. The plays weren’t blocked as well and the assignments weren’t on point when he was in the ballgame. Then Karan would get in and it was just kind of the luck of the draw, the hand that he was dealt.
“Then, yeah, about games seven, eight, nine, it started to even out. He was getting the turn in there when it was blocked better. It takes all 11. I know some people scoff at that but it’s a fact, and he was getting those carries and then making plays out of when it wasn’t blocked exactly clean. He has really surged both catching the football out of the backfield and running, getting the tough yards and getting the perimeter yards, breaking tackles, getting yards after contact. I mean, he is surging.
“I think he is back to even better than he was as a freshman right now, and I think the early concerns was was he going to slump? No. After really watching the tape I think it was kind of the luck of the draw when he was in there. He’s in a great place now. Been extremely valuable to our football team. Like the way he’s running the football. Like the way he’s protecting the ball, like the way he’s catching it out of the backfield, and he’s blocking better, too. That’s improved, so we’re—right now Chris has made a good, significant jump.
“He’s an ascending player, and that’s a pretty high mark because his freshman year was outstanding. It was on the scene. Came out of that freshman year as our top back, and I think he’s back to that place and then some now.”
You mentioned Nick Eubanks Saturday. How close is he? And Tarik [Black], could he be back these last few games of the regular season?
“No, I don’t think so. Nick and Wilton will be in the same category this week. They’ll practice, they’ll be in a red jersey, they won’t have contact. Don’t know if either one will be cleared by the time we get to the game on Saturday but they’ll be reintroduced back into practice per the doctor’s clearance for being able to practice but not being able to have contact yet.”
And Tarik is not—
So do you not expect him back for these final two—
[/throws hands to the side]
Potentially bowl practices?
“Yeah, not going to go to the crystal ball right now on that. Really just have the doctors make those decisions and do my best to report those to you when I know that information.”
And Lavert [Hill]? Any update on Lavert?
“Yeah, he’s in the concussion protocol.”