Bullets of informative information:
- Michigan State. This is a rivalry game. Rivalries are important.
- Vincent Smith getting held out for his hamstring was precautionary. May be back this week. Maybe not.
- Hopkins is "back."
- Frank Clark's decreased playing time was due to rotation, not due to injury.
- Denard is fine.
“You know, obviously it was a great team win the other night. Played well as a team. Played together. Probably our most complete game when you look at the offense and defense. In the kicking game I thought we did some very good things. Had some penalties that we don’t want to have when you look at hitting the returner late and we had two defensive offsides penalties that we need to be a little more poised and a little more composed about that. A couple dropped passes. I think we were 9 of 14 on third downs, probably could have been 11 of 14. Missed assignments, I think we had 10 of them on offense. Defensively, early in the game I thought they ran the ball a little too well, so we have to do a better job with the integrity of gaps and getting off blocks. Best we’ve played, but a long way from playing championship football, so we have a lot of work to do. We’ll go back to work.
"This is a great week because it’s a rivalry game and those are always special, always fun. At the same time it’s another championship game, which we’ve started that run two weeks ago. We have to prepare like we have, and I think we will because we’ve done a nice job to this point and the maturity of our team – I think we are maturing, so we just have to keep going forward.”
What do you think is the biggest difference on film between this year’s Michigan State team and last year’s?
“Oh I think both teams are different. I mean, they lost some guys to graduation who were very good football players, we lost some guys who were very good football players. Defensively, I don’t think they’ve skipped a beat. Offensively, I think Maxwell’s doing a great job and can throw. We all grow up and we all mature differently, but I think both teams are very different than they were a year ago.”
How much do you look at what Michigan State did to stop Denard the last couple years and then gameplan for that?
“Well, you always do that. You always look at what people have done and see if it’s worked, and if it’s worked, then you want to find some ways to maybe attack it a little differently. At the same time, it’s guys getting off blocks, and they do a good job of that. It’s the flow to the football, and I think they do a very good job of that. Again, it goes back to the front on both sides of the ball if you want to be successful.”
Are you going to look to get Rawls involved earlier in upcoming games?
“Oh I don’t know. I think it just depends on how the flow of the game goes as much as anything.”
How important is it to have the more physical football team on the field this Saturday?
“Well this game is always in my recollection been a very physical, feisty football game. There’s a lot of pride in both universities and programs, guys who are out there representing. Our guys know their guys, their guys know our guys – a vast majority -- so it’s always a physical game.”
Denard has improved the last two games in terms of balance and limiting turnovers. How much of that is his personal improvement vs. Borges changing up the game plan?
“Oh I think it’s probably a combination of both. I think that always is. I think Al’s always had a great plan and very good plans. It’s our execution sometimes that needs to be better, but at the same time I think there’s growth in Denard and what he’s been doing.”
This Saturday is Willis Ward Day. Have you done anything to educate your players about him?
“You know, not as much as we will. We’ll get back together today a little bit. They’re on fall break. Haven’t done a lot of it. Obviously with Desmond, he knew the story and those things because of Gerald Ford and the support that Ford gave Willis.”
Has Denard’s improvement opened up the game for Roundtree?
“You know, I don’t known if it’s opened him up. When you have the opportunity and you can run the football, I think you have the chance to open things up in the throw game. I don’t know if it opened up Roy more.”
You completed nine passes to nine different receivers. What can you say about the balance?
“It’s very unique to do that. And to be honest with you, if you would have told me that before the game, I would have said, ‘Nah, it won’t happen that way.’ But it did.”
How much do you explicitly use the losing streak as motivation this week?
“Well when you play in a rivalry game, your motivation better come from within. It’s not something you put up or something you do. It usually comes from within. We hope as college athletes we understand that.”
Can you talk about Rawls and Hayes and their progression? Did they earn their playing time this week?
“Yeah I think so. I think both of them have progressed. I think both of them have matured. I think both of them have a grasp of the offense. That’s always where it starts. If you understand it better and you’re not just throwing a guy in there on runs, that kind of helps. With Justice it helped. Vince we didn’t play. He was nursing a bit of a hamstring, so I think it gave him some opportunities that were very positive.”
How do you feel about the punting game overall, and with Wile, is tumbling the ball back something he’s learned or is that an innate ability?
“He’s known it. All kickers and punters have gurus. There’s a guy out in San Diego who worked with Matt. He worked hard with it when he got home over the summer, and he’s worked hard here on it. It’s kind of the en vogue way to pooch punt. He’s done a nice job with it. I think, Will -- you guys would know better than I -- I think he had one opportunity. Did he punt once? I think he did. He’s been doing a nice job. Again, I’m not a punting coach, but at practice and stuff, he’s done a nice job.”
What’s Vincent Smith’s status?
“He should be fine. He was better yesterday. As much as anything, we were precautionary, held him back, because I think he would have tried to go.”
We didn’t see a whole lot of Frank Clark on Saturday. Was he limited by injury?
“No. No. Just rotation.”
Denard? Lingering effects?
“Nope. His boo boo? Nope.”
What about Hopkins?
Can you talk about your defense? Seems to be getting better every week.
“I don’t think we made any adjustments from a coaching standpoint and a schematic standpoint. It’s just that we’re playing better. We’re growing up a bit. We’re more experienced every week, every play.”
How much have you heard about the Michigan State game from alumni, and how important is it for this program?
“I think it’s important because we’re trying to get our fifth win. We’re trying to get a conference championship just lieke veryone else. That’s important. Obviously the in-state -- you know there’s a pretty direct line drawn in the sand about if you’re University of Michigan or Michigan State. You understand. And for being here eight years before, you understand the game itself and what goes into it.”
What’s your most vivid memory of this rivalry, good or bad?
Seems like Mario Ojemudia is getting more time. What do you see out of him?
“He’s an athletic guy. He’s played with pretty good technique and fundamentals. I think he’s improved with that part of the game. He’s athletic. When you get more athletes on the field in certain situations and certain teams. He’s just kept, again, like a lot of the guys, the guys who haven’t played much before this year, they’ve taken it personal that they need to improve for their teammates.”
When you look at the game Jake had Saturday, is that the kind of game you point to and say he could have that every game once he reaches his full potential?
“Oh I don’t know if -- that’s a pretty good duty. We have high expectations for him, for the defense. But you know, he is unorthodox. What he has that I think most of our guys have [is] pretty good instincts. He’s pretty relentless to the football. That’s where he makes some of those negative plays is the effort that he’s going to play with.”
[Tanscript courtesy of Kyle Meinke. Thanks, Kyaw.]
You said before you want your cornerbacks to play tight coverage. How much have they done that the last couple weeks?
“It depends. When you’re getting into coverages -- three-deep, two-deep, man-under, base man with free safety help, zero man with no help -- it just depends. The thing I like about J.T. and Raymon and Courtney, their fundamentals are better. Their squareness to the line of scrimmage. And both of them, particularly Ray, is a pretty aggressive guy and suits him best. Now, can it get him in trouble sometimes? Sure. But I’d rather him be aggressive.”
How much does physicality go up in a week like this?
“There’s differences in what you see and what you play against, from both sides of the ball. An aggressive defense, which they are, they have physical guys on the outside, when you look at their corner play. They have physical linebackers. So from an offensive perspective, you try to get that idea of how they’re going to play, and they’re leading the conference in every category. They’re playing very good defense.
From a defensive standpoint, you’re not going to play spread, you’re going to play against good old fashioned two-back football, one-back stuff with downhill vertical running. The last two weeks we’ve faced two teams that were spread teams, and this is not a spread team.”
As a coach, do you feel any pressure to reverse momentum in this rivalry?
“No. We just got to go out and play. We just got to prepare them Sunday through Friday and get ‘em ready to play.”
The way this series has gone the last four years, does it change perception from this program of the series, especially in comparison to the Ohio State game?
“That’s probably a pretty good question. I don’t know. I think it’s an important one of the rivalries we play in. In-state and the passion of both schools and teams and fans, yeah, it’s important.”
MSU was struggling on offense. Do you show your team tape of what they can do, or of what they’ve done?
“I don’t know. That’s your interpretation. When you understand what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to do it, and with what was a young quarterback, I think you can look at any of those tapes and know you have your work cut out for you at the line of scrimmage. Bell is a hard-nosed north-south runner that can punish you.”
You always talk about getting multiple people to the ball --
“That’ll be very important.”
-- With Le’Veon Bell.
“It’s important every week, but when you have a big back … he’s got over a 1,000 yards, or near it, doesn’t he? Yes or no? I’m asking the question. Just right there, right? That’s a pretty good back.”
You said your most vivid Notre Dame memory was a loss. You said your most vivid Michigan State memory was a loss. In these rivalry games, do the losses hurt more than the wins feel good?
“Every loss hurts. You always remember losses.”
What did you think of the clock in the 2001 game?
“I remember the 12 men on the field, and there was a coach on the sideline who was in charge of that substitution -- which was me.”
You still kept your job right?
Speaking of clocks, you’ve controlled the time of possession the last two games but you’ve been able to mix in some big plays. How does that change a game?
“I don’t know if you’re changing a game. I know we play really good defense when our offense is on the field. That helps in a lot of ways. We’ve been fortunate enough in some of the big plays last week, some guys did a great job scoring touchdowns, but you look at the receivers downfield blocking and harassing, and the linemen who got down the field. Mike Kwiatkowski on the first touchdown by Gallon, he did a tremendous job. You get big plays by efforts of other guys. Obviously Denard, if he gets north and south, his speed is a factor in it. Controlling time of possession is always important to us.”
Al says he wants Denard to make plays, not miracles. But when he can almost make miracles, how fine of a line is that?
“Making miracles is trying to not stay within the framework of what we’re trying to do, from an offensive standpoint, and it probably happens more in the passing game than in the run game. From that part of it, I think that’s what Al is talking about. Did you have another question?”
If he hasn’t thrown picks the last couple games, I gather he’s doing a better job of that?
“That’s pretty basic. If you don’t throw interceptions, then you’re throwing the ball better. Right?”
Could be lucky. I’m not saying he his, but …
“Could be. We all could be lucky.”
The other part of that is how unique of a player is he?
“He’s got something a lot of people don’t have. His ability to start and stop, and then accelerate and his vision is pretty good. He’s got a good burst.
Is this game on even footing with Ohio State?
“They’re all important.”
But you always say the Ohio State game is most important. Is this game closing in?
“They’re all important.”
They’re all the same then?
“They’re all important.”
But it takes on added importance because they’re in the same division?
“Yes. That helps.”
Would you be more inclined now, having seen what the running backs can do, to pull someone who’s struggling?
“I think so. That’s a fair assessment. They got some good work. It was good to see Justice get someone good work. He brings something different. And with Thomas, he brings something more, catching the one ball on a critical third down. That’s not something we’ve done a lot with him, but he ran a good route and secured the football in a little bit of traffic.”
What do you like best about how the defensive line has handled itself, and are they were you thought they’d be at this point?
“The second half of that, that’s hard for me. I would probably say they should be better, you know. We’re going to drive them and they should be better. Have they developed some? Yeah, apparently they have, but we’ll go back to playing a physical football team, which this is going to be, it’s just a whole other way of playing football.”
Is Devin Gardner still taking reps at quarterback?
“Yep, he is on a daily basis.”
So in an emergency, he’d be ready to go?
“Yeah, we’d finish with Russell though. Russell’s a good quarterback, and he’s had a good fall camp, and he’s had a good fall. We have a lot of faith in him.”
Was he pretty excited to get his first completion?
“Yeah, he … eh, the daggone fumble, you know, was really, the ball just didn’t get up enough, it slipped a little bit and he has a lot of confidence in what he’s doing.”
You don’t wear red. Do you not wear green either?
Remember the last time you did?
Does getting Bellomy early work give you guys confidence in him?
“Yeah, I think it does. I think it always does. The more guys get to play game experience and you get to evaluate them off game experience, all those things are important.”
Is there one thing you liked from Bellomy?
“I liked how he got himself ready during the week. But Denard comes out, he’s taking snaps, he’s getting himself to ready to go. He was composed and calm and he wasn’t overexcited.”
Jake Ryan doesn’t seem like he has any idea how good he is.
“What are you saying?”
That he’s awfully good, but doesn’t think about it that way. Is that the way he is?
“I think he’s just one of those kids who loves to play football and doesn’t think about the other stuff. He doesn’t think about himself, besides exactly what he has to do on a certain call. But he pretty much is pretty normal. He goes about his work, he’s intent on it, he gets himself ready, he’s just fun to be around.”