Cesar [Ruiz] had a couple lapses in pass pro but can you talk about how he run blocked and how he acquitted himself after you saw him on film?
“Yeah, really just the one in pass pro where he didn’t track the 3-technique. Thought the 3-technique was looping wide and got his eyes back inside. Yeah, the rest of the game he acquitted himself very well. Everybody on the offensive line, it was a memorable game for offensive linemen in this game.
“The other thing I was really impressed with with the offensive line and our whole offense was the amount of hustle. There was an early run with Karan [Higdon] and Cesar got up off the ground and was sprinting in pursuit. Mason Cole was sprinting in pursuit. It was a memorable game in terms of the effort and the hustle and the pursuit by the offense.
“The receivers, the way they blocked, Donovan had one of those decleaters in the game. Eddie McDoom had his most physical game in terms of blocking. Nate Schoenle was very effective as well. There was no loafs in the receiver group, you could say. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity to catch passes, but their gray undershirts were still sweaty. They were really working hard to get the team to victory and it showed up in a lot of areas.
“It showed up defensively. The hustle, it showed up on special teams and yeah, really good play that way. Cesar was right in there. Just looked athletic, you know, getting up and chasing our backs down the field and trying to get in on the action and get the block, so very impressive.”
After you got a chance to watch the film and go back and re-evaluate, how do you think Brandon [Peters] handled his first start and everything involved. Obviously wasn’t asked to throw a lot but with everything involved, how do you think he handled that?
“Very well. He was very effective in the first drive and yeah, there was two throws he should have hit that came up short and that was my feeling after the game that we’ve got to keep him more loose during the game. Had a screen pass that could have gone really big. It was the one time we had three offensive linemen that not one of them picked up a block. I think it was a screen to Chris Evans that should have really gone, should have really busted out.
“But yeah, good. Could have hit a couple more, but nothing close to an interception. Nothing close to turning the ball over even though he took some big shots it the pocket. Thought he held onto the ball well and did the things to keep us from losing the ball game. Did the things to help us win the ball game. Know he can execute all throws, so feel good going forward.”
[After THE JUMP: Peters’ progress, Speight update, Ben Mason’s nickname, and the time to bounce]
When you look at Karan Higdon’s performance, what kind of running back does he remind you of that you’ve seen over the years?
“Well, I think the most impressive thing right now about Karan is a 200-yard game this week, he had a 200-yard game against Indiana. He’s scoring touchdowns, gaining yards, getting yards after contact, and doing it in Big Ten games. A lot of times backs, they compile stats when they’re out of conference, but to me those statistics, what takes place in conference, is a bigger indicator. He, Chris, both had huge games in this ball game.
“The reminder question, I’m not coming up with a guy just yet right now.”
Last week you talked about how—
“I will say this, though. Sorry, let me just go back. Been around a lot of great backs. I mean, Frank Gore and Toby Gerhart and Stepfan Taylor, Kendall Hunter, a bunch of really good—played with Marshall Faulk, played with Jamie Morris and was a kid watching Harlan Huckleby and Gordie Bell and Rob Lytle and all those guys and never can I remember being associated on a team where backs had as many 50+-yard runs as we had in this one ball game. Forty-seven, count that one, there were four or five long runs.
“And the backs, the impressive thing to me about the two backs in this game is they were making people miss inside the box. When you have low safeties that are playing and getting down to linebacker depth by the time the back’s across the line of scrimmage, there’s gonna be somebody unblocked. You have 11 on offense, 11 on defense. Take the quarterback out because he’s handing off, he can’t block anybody and the back himself can’t block anybody so that’s really nine blocking 11, so the back’s going to have to make somebody miss to come out clean, and they were making people miss inside, making the linebacker miss or getting to the soft shoulder and running through the arm tackle and then bouncing.
“Our backs are doing a really good job right now of not just bouncing. There’s a time to bounce. There’s always a time to bounce, but initially they were getting those long runs because they were making people miss inside and then bouncing. Very impressive.”
It seemed like the box score shorted Khaleke [Hudson] a couple of TFLs. What did you guys see from him overall and speaking of things you haven’t seen before, eight in the game I guess is what he’s credited for now.
“Eight TFLs, three sacks, 15 tackles, one forced fumble, and could have been two blocked punts. He was everywhere. You don’t see that everyday, the kind of performance that no. 7 had. It was outstanding. And there was other great performances as well. I mean, that was—Khaleke was a shining star.”
Last week you talked about wanting to see how Brandon handled being the starter in practice, the week of practice. Do you like what you’ve seen from him from a day-to-day standpoint consistency-wise to say that you’re comfortable with him as your starter now going forward?
“Yes. Yeah, Brandon will be the starter again this week. God willing and the creek don’t rise, he’ll be starting the game. He had an excellent week of practice. But a real exclamation point on the ball game that he had last week. Great to see him start and the team to get the win. That’s three quarterbacks on our ball club that have started and won a ball club for us. There’s a couple others in the country: Maryland’s another and Houston, so we’re one of three clubs that have done that. Yeah, feel like onward.”
How has Wilton been progressing and is there a chance he could return to the field pretty soon?
“Yes, there is. I think there’s more second opinions to be had but I know Wilton’s really excited about his most recent CAT scan. It’s kind of stunned maybe the—not to sound over the top, but I think some of the doctors are a bit stunned that it’s so far along and he’s healing well. Young guys can do that sometimes. Good bloodflow throughout their body. Noticed it with—and these guys are right there and they’re not—they’re young and they’re healthy and he’s healing fast.”
You mentioned the wide receiver blocking and so many other positives from Saturday. Is there a key this many weeks in to keep guys doing those things at this time of year?
“Yeah. I mean, you can’t motivated the unmotivated and we have players that are self-starters and willing to motivate themselves because they want to do well. It was really—it was at a high level, this ball game, the way that—I mean, you look at kickoff coverage and guys were running down there. Ben Mason had maybe one of the best hits of the ball game on their best special teams player.
“There was examples throughout. Defensive line all graded out a winning performance and they were knocking them back. Thought there was one span where Minnesota had 135 yards of total yardage and then 20, 15 minutes later in the game they had lost 20. It was down to 95 or… so it was—there was impressive things. Secondary covered well. We tackled good. Made good adjustments. Good team win.”
After the Rutgers game Patrick Kugler said that they heard the chatter that the O-line wasn’t consistent all year and they took it upon themselves to win that game. Looks like they had a similar role this past weekend. What are the major changes you noticed from the offensive line these past couple weeks?
“Improvement. Just, you know, it’s improving in precision and timing and strain and hustle. Always felt the ‘improvement leads to success’ theory.”
What’s a guy like Stephen Spanellis add?
“Very physical player, very smart player. Highly motivated player. Very, very sharp and focused. And he’s a guy who’s really changed his body over the last year. Some do, some don’t, but the ones that are really motivated do. And, you know, they call Ben Mason ‘Bench Mason.’ I’d take that as a compliment if I was Ben Mason. Warms the cockles of my heart to hear that, and Stephen Spanellis, though he doesn’t have a nickname, he has done a fabulous job in the weight room.”
Quinn Nordin: have you talked to him and what improvements are you making to his kicking game?
“Well, we’ll work on that this week. Talked about it after the game. What we saw as coaches was picked his head up too early, got his left side ahead of the right, out of sync, and pulled the ball to the left.”
You were without Ty Isaac, Grant Perry, Michael Onwenu, and Tyrone Wheatley. Do you anticipate having them back Saturday?
“Yeah, there’s a very good chance. There’s a very good chance that all could be back Saturday but questionable.”
If Wilton comes back healthy do you open up that quarterback competition, does he return as the starter, or is that an ongoing competition?
With Wilton, if he comes back healthy, is that an ongoing competition with him and Brandon or have you made Brandon the starter the rest of the way?
“Well, as we’ve said always, when somebody’s back that’s when we’d address that. Back out there practicing and competing.”
Will he be back to practice this week or he has to get another scan today or…?
“There will be things he’ll be able to do. Isn’t cleared for contact, but cleared to do some throwing and exercises.”
We saw Nico Collins go out of the game. Do you have any status update on him?
Back to the offensive line, is this part of—you mentioned improvement with the offensive line. Is this a rhythm thing with the offensive line and running backs or running backs benefiting from the offensive line or are the running backs just picking it up more? How is this flow going? Is this a lot to do with the offensive line, the success on the ground?
“Yes, it does have a lot to do with the offensive line, the backs, the wide receivers, the tight ends, quarterbacks. It’s all 11 improvement. The precision. Back when you were asking where does this go, how do you get better, talked at length about how it’s all 11.”
Do you feel like there’s some rhythm there now?
“Yeah, feel like we’ve improved and we’ll continue to strive to see how good we can get in that phase.”