Jack Miller, Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan
Devin, we ask you every week but do you feel like you’re getting closer to 100%? It looks like every time you take a big hit it aggravates it a little bit. Is that just part of the game?
DG: “Yeah, sometimes but I fell like I’m getting healthier and healthier. I’m just doing everything I can to contribute as much as possible.”
Talk about your ability to read defenses. Have you made progress in Nussmeier’s system would you say?
DG: “Yeah, I think so.”
In what sense?
DG: “All of it. Making reads and getting us in the right plays, things like that.”
Devin, is it frustrating at all because there’s times where it seems like you want to put your foot down and run but it doesn’t seem like it’s there?
DG: “Yeah, it’s always frustrating because of the type of player I am and what I’m usually able to do but you’ve got to find a way.”
How limited would you say you are feet-wise with your ability to run?
DG: “I’m getting better. I mean, I’ll see on Saturday.”
How much is that changing what’s called for you, because you can have audibles and you can make decisions but is it your decision that you’re maybe not going to push it in terms of getting out and scrambling or is it Nussmeier’s?
DG: “This past week I didn’t have to scramble much so luckily I didn’t need to.”
On that 10-yard run it looked like that was one you tried to take off on…
DG: “Yeah, I probably would have scored [last year] but I got the first down and that’s what the team needed and it kept the chains moving, so that’s the most important part.”
[More after THE JUMP]
We know it’s a team effort when you guys run the ball well but how’d the team grade out on Saturday compared to weeks previous and how much of that is Drake finding the holes?
JM: “Yeah, the offensive line did pretty good. There’s always room for improvement, but there was obviously some good things out there. Drake obviously had an awesome game, made us look better at times and things like that and that’s what you need, that’s what you hope for as an offensive line. All 11 were doing their job and we were able to be successful.”
Week-to-week have you guys continued to see you guys grade out better?
JM: “Yeah, I’d say there is improvement week-to-week.”
Jack, do you guys feel like you were blocking better for Drake as the game went on or was it about the same? When you look back at the tape-
JM: “I saw your article today. You seemed to think we blocked better as the game went on.”
I mean, am I wrong, I guess? What’s your take on that?
JM: “No, I think yeah we did block a little bit better. I think Drake made us look better. It’s kind of one of those things where if we didn’t cap everyone or you didn’t get to the safety, which is sometimes all you can do, he would make guys miss and turn maybe a four-yard run into an 18-yard run or whatever it was. So probably a little of both.”
Do you feel like you found some of those cracks a little easier?
JM: “Yeah. Yeah.”
Is it a style thing with him?
JM: “Probably, yeah. He just- he’s kind of one of those backs, or at least the way he played the other day, where he would get hit with a three-yard gain and turn it into six. Just put his head down for a couple extra yards, and at the end of the day that ends up paying off.”
Jake, you guys seemed to play your assignments pretty well against Indiana. Are there similarities between this offense and Northwestern and things you can take forward?
JR: “Yeah. I mean, it’s just that tempo offense. We haven’t really watched a lot of film on Northwestern- I’m going to start today- but they’re a good team and we’ll be prepared.”
In terms of not being able to throw the ball- Indiana. How much easier does that make it, even when they’ve got different variations of running plays, for a defense?
JR: “Yeah, that’s huge. The front seven did a great job and the secondary did a great job this past game. It’s just a defensive effort and everyone played their assignments and their technique.”
Jack, do you guys feel like you did a good job maybe blocking out some distractions that may have come up from Dave Brandon’s resignation or just anything this week? You guys as a team, do you think you did well?
JM: “Yeah, absolutely. As kind of has been the whole season there have been distractions outside of football but I think the team was able to come together and kind of say, ‘Hey, all we can do is go out and play’ and that’s what we were able to do as a team.”
Do you think reading stories or maybe seeing what we write counts as a distraction or no?
JM: “Uh, no. It’s just part of what happens when you play football at a program of this caliber.”
Is what Drake showed on Saturday, is that something you’ve been seeing in practice? I don’t know if he was ever running scout team when he was so far down the depth chart [but] have you guys seen that in practice?
JM: “Yeah. He obviously shows flashes where he can be a really good back. He does some great things and credit to him. It was his time and he got his number called and he showed up so I’m not surprised by that at all.”
Jake, when you switched positions back in the spring of whatever it was you said it was going to take some time to get used to. How long this season did it [take to]happen; you’re making plays every week now, you’re getting awards at this point. How long did it take?
JR: “Yeah. I don’t know. I guess it took some time. The Appalachian State game was…I don’t know. That was the one that kind of was tough on me, I guess. My first game as an inside linebacker was tough but I got used to a lot of things and I’m playing a lot better than I used to. I’m learning every single week and just playing what I’ve been taught and what coach Mattison tells me to do and it’s been working out.”
Is there a game where it clicked or just a gradual thing?
JR: “Just a gradual thing. Like I said, I’m learning every single week.”
Jake, on the forced fumbles: you did that two years ago too. You had a number of them and then obviously last year…what do you do? Do you have a technique? Do you kind of see the ball at a certain point or is it all instinct?
JR: “Just hitting the guy. You’re always looking for the ball but it just happened to hit my knee, I think, on one of them. But just being there and trying to stop the run and being there as a presence, I guess that gives that running back a sense of ‘Where do I go next?’ and maybe he’s not caring about the ball that much.”
Devin, I think Brady last week on his coach’s show described your ankle as ‘messed up.’ How bad is it? How much pain are you in?
DG: “I’m not in pain right now, so that’s good.”
But during a game? Is it challenging?
DG: “Yeah. Its’ football though. I’m a football player. Sometimes you get banged up.”
At this point, three games left, how are you approaching this? You didn’t want to come out of the Michigan State game. You want to see this thing through. Do you think about it game-by-game or winning out?
DG: “It’s game-by-game. Our next game is Northwestern and that’s totally, wholly what I’m focused on. I’m not focused on anything else but getting the chance to go to Evanston and get a win.”
What did last year look like at the end of regulation against Northwestern? Do you remember the chaos of it and what it looked like to you guys from your vantage point?
JM: “Yeah, it was nuts. I didn’t think we were going to get the field goal off and obviously what a team effort it was for the offensive guys to get off the field and the field goal unit to get on there and get it done, it was. It was chaotic. It was an awesome win, so hopefully this year doens’t have to be all that dramatic to get a win. We’ll see what happens.”
Devin, you were going off as Drew [Dileo] was going on. Did you even know what was going on?
DG: “I was just trying to get as close as I can. I threw it and then Gallon was getting up and they were just waving everybody to come off so I just, like, tried to hustle off. I didn’t even think we were doing a hurry-up field goal but that’s what we were doing and we came back and kicked it and made it and got a chance to have another shot and go in overtime and win it.”
Did you guys talk to him about that slide afterwards?
DG: “I didn’t see it. I was running off the field so I didn’t see it till like a few days later. Everybody was talking about it and I was like, ‘What slide is everybody talking about? He just held a field goal.’ But I guess he slid in and stuff so, I mean, I guess people talked about it. I think everybody was just happy we got a chance to win the game.”
I think you guys have all been there a few times now. There’s a little bit of a home crowd environment at times. Is that kind of exciting to get out there with that much maize and blue out there and do you notice it when you’re in Evanston?
JR: “I think you notice it, for sure. It’s kind of like half and half, I feel like. There’s a lot of alumni and a lot of fanbase out in Chicago and it’s great for us so it kind of goes both ways.”