- Joey Burzynski is out with a torn ACL. Drew Dileo should be fine.
- Amara Darboh is out of his boot.
- Offensive line is still subject to change.
- Team will take Tuesday off and resume practice Thursday and Friday.
- Offensive game plan vs Indiana was to use a lot of double moves to take advantage of Indiana's corners' tendency to jump routes.
- Defensive game plan was to not get frustrated.
“It was great to win the football game the other night. Obviously we don’t like winning games when we give up that many points. We have to do a better job defensively in some areas. Offensively, obviously, it was a great offensive performance. I think playing itself, going into the game to take advantage of some of the things that Indiana did defensively, some of the double moves, the play-action game out of the two-back and 12 personnel sets were really good. And it helped that we were able to run the football. I think the guards that played did a nice job. Was it perfect? No. But I think all three of them did a nice job. The unfortunate thing is Joey [Burzynski], we’ll probably lose for the year with an ACL. You look at your depth and you look at the last five games you’re going into, you need everybody. We’re fortunate Chris Bryant is still a guy that will compete, and Kyle Kalis is a guy who can compete. That helps you a little bit but you feel bad for Joey because he’s worked so hard to get to this point.”
Where is Ben Braden right now?
“He’s still our left tackle to some degree, backing up Taylor [Lewan]. He’s probably had as good a two weeks consistently as he’s had. So I think those redshirt freshmen, about this time they start understanding, but they also understand it’s a long season. That’s a little different for them.”
You played Kyle Bosch. He looked smooth, I guess. Is he fundamentally ahead of where most true freshmen are? What’s his biggest asset?
“A couple things had helped him. Number one, coming in in January, I think that helped the learning curve a little bit. I think being here with [Aaron] Wellman during the summer, I think that is huge. Taylor, and how he’s pushed Kyle. I think that’s helped. And he reminds me of a guy who, every day, he can knock you off the football. David Baas was that kind of guy, and that’s who [Kyle] reminds me of. Believe me. He’s got a long way to go to meet those kinds of expectations, but he’s a physical guy. He’s got some areas that he has to do better. Obviously the big test in two weeks, you’re playing one of the top five defenses in the country and in our conference in all the categories. We’ve got a lot of work to do before then.”
This was the third starting offensive line combination. How confident are you that this will be the right group going forward?
“How confident? I don’t know if I’d say I’m confident. I liked the progress that they made. And even the guys who didn’t, who weren’t starting, the weeks that they had were significant in their development. The competition that we always have, I think, is helping us as a football team.”
How much will a game like that help their confidence going into the bye with Michigan State?
“I think that’s important. I think it’s important to be out there on the field, to have the reps, have the snaps. Obviously winning the football game helps a little bit because whenever you win, when you make your corrections, it seems to be a little bit easier. I think that helps.”
You mentioned Kyle Kalis is competing still for the guard spot. How has he responded to losing it?
“I think he’s probably responded like you’d like him to. He’s had a good week of practice. Came out and was physical. Really understands that we’re going to need him. The next five games I can assure you we’re going to need every guy that we have in both fronts to play their best football.”
The other guy who went out was Drew Dileo. Any update on him?
“The only guy who will be out is Joey [Burzynski].”
Looks like Devin Gardner is doing a better job of stepping up in the pocket. Has he improved on that, and what has this game done for his confidence?
“I think there’s no doubt. We think there’s no doubt that he’s done a really good job every week in the fundamentals. He’s got a place to step up, also, which helps. I think that part of it has been a real positive. We really think that he’s getting better weekly. There were two times the other day where I’d like to see him just throw the ball out of bounds when he got out of the pocket. But he’ll learn from those, too.”
How confident are you that this team is capable of playing for the Big Ten title, and what does this team need to do to make that a reality?
“Well there’s no doubt that we’re confident about that. From the standpoint that we need to keep improving on both fronts. That’s something we have to do a better job of. I thought coming out of this game, we need to shore up some things from a playing the ball aspect on the back end. There were about four balls we had our hands on that you would have liked to see us come down with. That’s something that you think you don’t have to coach a whole lot, but you do and you’ve got to put them in situations so they’ll have that confidence. You do it during the week, but we have to emphasize it a little more, and we have to tackle a little more. I think our safety production in tackles needs to be a little better.”
You said you weren’t sure what this team’s identity is. Are you hoping to get that answer this bye week?
“I doubt we get the answer until you go back and play. Obviously Michigan State is a heck of a test. They’ve been a very good football team. I think we’ll find out more after that game.”
What’s the focus this bye week?
“We’ll go Thursday and Friday this week, and then Sunday. We’ll start cleaning up things we didn’t like. I think the timing -- you never know until afterwards -- is probably good for where we’re at. We’ll take some time, heal them up a little bit. They’ll lift and do everything. Coaches will be in a little more, start working on Michigan State.”
How is this bye week different from last?
“The only difference is we get Tuesday off this time. I thought that was important. They’ve done a nice job as a team preparing, and get them a little healthier, get them some time away from us, which is always probably beneficial to us and them in some ways. They’ll lift and do their normal lifting and running that they’ll usually do. As far as practice, we won’t go until Thursday. That will be some cleaning up certain things we need to fix, maybe looking at some personnel things, and then get ready for Michigan State?”
How much has Funchess’s emergence contributed to opening up things for Jeremy Gallon?
“There’s no question that’s a big part of it. The theat that Devin [Funchess] is vertically down the field. I don’t think there’s any doubt he had a lot of attention from Indiana and their secondary. That in turn helps obviously if you’re going to combo or double a guy or whatever. It helps another guy out.”
Thoughts on Jake Ryan? How is he coming along?
“Yeah, I think you’re always a little apprehensive. At least I know I am. But I think the more snaps that he’s played, the more comfortable he is. Believe me, he never said he wasn’t comfortable, but as a coach, I would like for him to be comfortable and feel good about how he feels. I think he’s done a pretty good job.”
You made some big plays at the end of the game.
“There were three drives or three possessions in the fourth quarter where they made some plays. We fumbled going in, they get the ball back, Thomas [Gordon] comes up with the pick, does a nice job reading the quarterback. I think that was significant because it enabled us to go in and put the ball in the end zone. We responded there, and we responded later in the fourth quarter. The sack at the end was obviously good to get. We’d like to have a little more earlier, though.”
How is Amara Darboh coming along?
“He’s coming along. He’s out of the boot, moving around. I think they’re happy with his progress.”
How good does it feel for Fitz to get carries and produce?
“Well the production part of it was huge. I know Taylor [Lewan] talked after the game about how much pride the offensive linemen have in going to work for Fitz. They think so highly of him because of how he’s come back and what he went through to come back. They want to do a great job for him.”
“I thought they were more on guys. The change in structure from last week to two weeks from now, the movement and where guys fit the defense.”
How much appreciation do you have when you step back from the game and watch performances like Devin’s and Jeremy’s on film?
“To be honest with you, I probably should more so, because all the records … But at the same time you’re thinking as a coach, what can we do better? What do we need to clean up so we can play better?”
Did you know going in there were going to be so many opportunities for big plays like that?
“No, I think that we thought some of the play action stuff, especially when you can run the football, that would help. Some of the double moves, which require good protection, require some sort of hold on safeties, especially in quarters, I think it really helped us because you’re putting that corner out there all by himself. They have very aggressive corners. They like to jump moves and jump routes. If you could protect it long enough, you had a chance to get down the field.”
Jeremy said it seemed like Indiana forgot about him because Funchess was out there.
“I think Jeremy was being cocky.”
You see him do all that, and he’s pretty even keeled. Can you talk about Jeremy’s accomplishments these past three years?
“I think Gallon’s a guy who’s always been tough, who’s always worked extremely hard. Haven’t had issues. Him and Devin [Gardner], Drew [Dileo], and really all of them, but him and Devin being as close as they are, with the work that they do on their own with the timing of routes and all those things. Back shoulder throws, all those things that you need to do as a quarterback-receiver [combo], they do. You watch Jeremy blocking. We all watch him catch it, but watch him block. He’s intense about it.”
Big plays have hurt you the past couple weeks. Is there some schematically you need to change?
“I know that from a schematic standpoint, I don’t think there’s anything we would want to do differently. From an execution standpoint, yeah. We need to do some things differently. We gave up five plays of 20+ yards, which is something we can’t do as a defense. When you have opportunities, and we talked a little bit last week, you’ve got to make those plays when you have opportunities there. Like I said, we had our hand on the ball four other times. We don’t come away with the football.”
When you go against a hurry-up offense, how do you balance lining up correctly with just getting set?
“You know, we only had two problems during the game. The one time we were going to switch a personnel group totally, and Quinton [Washington] kind of got out there late, but they weren’t hurrying, so we were able to line up. I think the two other times, we got there, didn’t get a good stance like we’d like to, and some of that is just being a little lazy. We have to make sure we do that. You don’t want to be in the same defense every snap because if you are, they’re going to get a great read on it. What Greg [Mattison] did was got us into three-man fronts to four-man fronts. Took away a couple throws to the X because some of the three-man front stuff, which they love to do. He’s their leading receiving. We made them hold the ball a little bit. We have to do a better job when he does scramble obviously in rush lanes and those things without slowing [our defensive line] down. When we slow them down, it seems they don’t get the pass rush we want.”
The third quarter was so fast. Were you guys on defense just sort of mentally or physically wiped?
“When you prepare for an opponent -- we started last Sunday, talking about number one, we’re going to need possessions, we’re going to need points. Defensively, don’t let them frustrate you. That’s part of the thing. They try and get you off balance a little bit, and that’s why I thought Greg, really, going into the game and calling the game, had the right variations.”
Did you think they got some of your guys frustrated?
“They could, I think. The first touchdown Ray [Taylor] was still looking at Thomas [Gordon] trying to make sure he knew the call. Shouldn’t happen, but it did.”
What happened with the blocked field goal?
“I don’t think [Brendan Gibbons] got underneath it enough, because the penetration wasn’t significant.”
Because of the hype around the Michigan-Michigan State game, do you need to ramp that down this week?
“Yeah. We’ll do something with Michigan State. Believe me, we’ll talk about them, the personnel. You hope the guys are watching the game Saturday, and I know they will.”
More strategic than emotional?
“Yeah, probably will be, but there’s got to be some emotion to it, too.”
You ask a lot of your tight ends. What has Jake Butt done to increase his ability to block?
“I think technique and fundamentals as much as everything. I think he’s going to be a good tight end here. He’s a good football player. He’s tough.”
Has his progress allowed you to experiment a bit more with Devin Funchess?
“If he didn’t have him -- I think it helps. AJ [Williams] has gotten a little better. He’s got to keep making progress. I think Jordan Paskorz, he was out for about four weeks with a hand that he had to get fixed up, but he played some plays in there that were significant.”
Seemed like you were still running power, just out of the shotgun.
“There was some power, there was some jet read, all that kind of stuff. It’s still trying to get some power runs.”
Do you think Fitz and Devin are just more comfortable in space?
“I don’t know, because you look at the big shots and the big plays, most of those were two-backs.”
On the ground, though. With Fitz.
“I don’t know. I think Fitz is a pretty good I-back runner.”
How difficult is it to play offensive line as a young guy? Kyle Bosch only had early-enrollee time. What allowed him to step in there?
“Maybe he was a little further along. He was from a physical standpoint. He’s a pretty strong individual, and I think that helps. He’s driven, which helps.”
What about Erik Magnuson?
“I thought Erik did a good job. Erik’s very athletic. You see it on pass protection. When a guy makes an inside move and he may be beat early, he’s got such good feet that he can make up on the guy pretty well. From a physical standpoint, his pad level was pretty good. I think for young guys, sometimes it’s having your hands inside and elbows in, when you intially punch. He was pretty decent.”
For a guy who’s been a tackle for so long, is it hard to switch mentality?
“It’s a different space, no doubt about it, that you’re playing in. Mentality? You have a little more combination blocks that you deal with. Cut-off blocks. Front side doubles and those things that are a little different because you’re the post guy, but it’s no different than him being the post guy on a five-technique when he’s an offensive tackle.”
Does one game set the offensive line? Do you think this is the best five?
“Off of this game? It probably was the best five for that game.”
Could it change?