- Devin Gardner is still "beat up." He'll probably practice tomorrow, though.
- The offensive line is young. Reacted poorly to the environment and didn't play their technique well in pass protection.
- Running back needed to protect better, too. Fitz is the best pass protector on the team, so it looks like they're out of options. This-may-or-may-not-be-significant-alert: De'Veon Smith was removed from the travel squad for vague reasons.
- AJ Williams will be back Saturday. Drew Dileo should be back as well.
- Hoke doesn't think Taylor Lewan should be suspended for the facemask thing. Says it's "unacceptable" but if it were suspension-worthy he'd have suspended him already.
- Keith Heitzman injured his hand last week in practice, so he didn't travel. He may take a while to come back.
- Willie Henry played a good game. He'll probably get more playing time moving forward.
- The last two long busts were because of a mismatch in personnel, which got them run over.
“You know, coming off not the way you want to start the five-game stretch, the meat of your schedule, Saturday is something we’re all disappointed with and everything that we have to do from a coaching standpoint and a playing standpoint. Obviously it was evaluated and we all need to do a better job, and that’s just a part of it. We had some opportunities we didn’t take advantage of during the course of the football game, and that’s a credit to them. We’ve got to do a better job. Offensively, we have to get Devin a little more of an opportunity because there were plenty of them down the field. Execution’s a part of that. Always is. When you’re sliding protections or whatever it might be. Defensively, I think our defense kept us in the football game for a long time with bad field position. Needed to make some stops more in the second half. Didn’t get that accomplished. Some third downs. The score right before the half is never a good score. And then them taking the ball for six minutes or five minutes to start the second half even though they got the field goal. Again, it’s posessions. Trying to get possessions. We had a really good day yesterday, which is a really good thing. The attitude of our team, they came in and worked like heck on the evaluation part of it, and we’ll work like heck out in practice. That being said … ”
Seemed like you had success giving Funchess the ball. In hindsight, do you wish you would have made more quick drops to get him the ball?
“There were some quick throws in there, but there were plenty of opportunities I wished we would have given Devin [Gardner] another half a click to step up and throw. Because there were a lot of opportunities down the field.”
How do you fix the issues on the offensive line?
“It’s a youth problem as much as anything. The only fix is the experience. I wouldn’t trade [Kyle] Bosch or [Erik] Magnuson or Graham [Glasgow] for anybody. Or the guys they’re competing with.”
You only got Fitz eight carries. None of the other running backs were mixed in …
“Well Derrick [Green] got a couple snaps. And when you got into a protection game, for a young guy, it’s not a great time [to put him in].”
Did you plan on avoiding running back carries?
“I don’t think so. From a plan part of it, I really thought it was a very good plan. Would we have liked to have run the ball better? More? That’s kind of dumb. Yeah. We’d like to. We’d all like to do stuff better. As far as getting him more touches, it would have been great to.”
How is Devin’s heatlh?
“He’s good. He’s fine. He’s beat up. Just like Andrew Luck is today. Beat up.”
“Drew is coming along. He’s healthier every day.”
Will he play on Saturday?
“Yeah. I think so. I haven’t gotten full word, but knowing Drew and how he’s progressed, yeah.”
You mentioned a good day yesterday. To whom does it fall to make sure that you don’t have that carryover psychologically to the next game?
“Number one, it falls on me. That’s why our Sunday was a little different in how we did some things. The leadership, coaches, captains, seniors, Desmond Morgan, guys who have played a lot of snaps. But it starts with me first.”
You said part of the problem was the youth on offensive line. You can’t do anything about it.
“Yeah, you just have to keep every day grinding. That’s all, and showing them the looks and doing everything you can. At times there’s a comfort level. Sometimes guys in an environment may want to try and set – and I’m talking pass-protection wise – a little further out than they should or a little too fast. They over set. I’m just using that as an example. If they just fundamentally keep to what they’ve been doing, there’s an excitement that I think guys get. And you see it in different guys. But we just have to keep grinding.”
After the game, you said the pass protection was about more than just the offensive line. What were some of the other issues?
“The back’s got to be able to pick them up a little better. I think there’s probably one or two where the quarterback needs to step up and feel it a little better. There’s sometimes the timing of a route. It’s hit or miss. You got ten guys good, one guy bad, it’s like anything else. That’s why it’s a great team sport. You have to have them all on the same [page].”
The first day you were hired, you said the goal was always the Big Ten championship.
Four games left, it looks like that’s no longer a possibility.
“Is it possible though?”
Yes. But how do you get these guys to get motivated for the rest of the season even though it’s out of your hands?
“I don’t think you know our team very well. How they feel about each other and how they feel about Michigan and how they feel about the personal pride that they have.”
What was different about Sunday?
“We just did some things differently that were good for us.”
Seems like a couple times this game you were pushed around.
“I don’t know if it was pushed around. I don’t agree with that. We got ran over once. Twice. With a mismatch. But other than that, there was just not being in the right place a couple times.”
In hindsight, was that one of the more demoralizing moments you’ve ever had as a head coach?
“No. I didn’t feel demoralized at all. Disappointed. But demoralized? That’s kind of … I didn’t feel that.”
In pass protection, was there anything else you could have done to take the pressure off the offensive line?
“I think running the ball helps you. Any time. I think that helps you in a lot of different ways from your play-action game and all that. I think there were enough guys to protect.”
Is this a defining moment for your captains? In 2011 you were in the same place but you finished pretty well partially because of the leadership.
“Well not just the captains but the whole group of seniors because of what we ask of them. Yeah. There’s no question this is a time when your leadership always either steps forward or stays the same or steps back.”
Fitz had a rough time in pass protection. Have you considered any of the other backs?
“They’re still in the mix. Fitz is our best pass protector. Has been. Derrick and some of the other young guys, it’s pretty difficult.”
What’s the status of De’Veon Smith and Keith Heitzman? Neither traveled.
“De’Veon didn’t travel because I took him off the travel team. Heitzman has a little bit of a hand issue.”
Is it because Smith didn’t earn a spot?
Will Heitzman play on Saturday?
“I don’t think so. It’s kind of day to day. He practiced a little Thursday, but he wasn’t as effective as we’d like. We’d love to have him, believe me.”
Is Funchess being coached by Ferrigno or Hecklinski these days?
Is it because he already knows the tight end stuff?
“Heck knows the tight end stuff, too. If there’s anything that’s dual a bit, it’s easier to have the guy in one room the whole time.”
The cameras caught Taylor with his hand in an MSU player’s facemask. What’s your assessment on that?
“My assessment was it’s not what we want to portray or be, and he and I have had a discussion regarding that. It’s not who we are … If I think he should have been suspended it would have been done.”
With Jake Ryan healthier and Brennen Beyer playing SDE, how nice is it to have both on the field at the same time?
“Well Cam Gordon played a really good football game the other day, too, at the SAM. Having him and Jake in the sub packages, both those guys, I think it’s really good for us. I think Brennen has always been a guy that can wear a lot of hats. Smart, tough, good technician.”
What does he give you there that you may have been missing otherwise?
“I think number one it’s the quality of the football player.”
What’s it like to have an Athletic Director who’s so involved with your football program?
“I think it’s always nice to have people to work with that are positive.”
AJ Williams? Is he back this week?
Was his absence noticeable? Would it have made a difference?
“Well we changed a little bit. We used six offensive linemen in there a lot.”
Is the youth on the offensive line an anomaly? Will it be different going forward?
“Yes. Should it be? Yes. When we got here, we had eight scholarship offensive linemen. That number is usually 14.”
How much would that make a difference?
“I think I’d be wrong if I didn’t say it takes a little developing physically and mentally because of the position. I’d also be wrong if I didn’t say there’s guys who have done it and guys who have done it at a quicker pace. Kyle [Bosch] has been here since January. I think he’s coming along pretty good in some instances. Did we all have our best moments Saturday? No. Coaches included.”
How many scholarship linemen do you have now?
“15? Isn’t it 15? Yeah. 15.”
Did you guys perceive this being an issue against Michigan State? Or is this not acceptable no matter what?
“Number one it’s never acceptable no matter who it is. The expectation is for the position, and it always has been this way and it will always be this way. Do we need to do a better job? Yeah. The coaches do. I think that’s always something that we look at. We have to be able to push forward. The kids have responded well. Was it representative? No. You get seven sacks and you snap the ball 20 yards [behind you], it doesn’t help your positive yardage.”
Did you tell your staff you need to coach these guys better?
“Yeah. We all have to.”
What do you have to do defensively in a game like this?
“Well you need to steal some possessions, which means we have to create some turnovers. You have to give your offense more opportunities. That’s part of it. Getting off the field. Third downs, we weren’t great. Especially in the second half and the last drive of the first one. Getting off the field again creates more opportunities for your offense.”
What jumps out at you about Nebraska?
“Ameer Abdullah is a really good back. They’ve play two or three good quarterbacks since [Taylor] Martinez has been out. The two that I’ve seen are very capable of running their offense and do a good job of it. Physical offensive line, and that’s part of their trademark. Defensively, especially up front, Willie Henry had a very good football game the other day. Willie’s gotten better as the year has gone on.”
You said you would have suspended Lewan already if you thought he should be. He pushed the line a bit, though, with the twisting of the helmet.
“It’s not acceptable.”
Was it the heat of the moment?
“Trying in some ways to get our quarterback out of harm’s way in the pile. Some of it was he got overtaken with his emotion. He’s kind of one of those guys, as you all well know, who is a very good teammate.”
Do you think what he did was just as bad as what Will Gholston did two years ago?
“I’m not going to judge that. That’s for somebody else to judge. You guys will write about it.”
You said having the bye week was overrated. Why?
“Here’s the thing about having two weeks: they get to rest. How you approach it is getting them some rest and at the same time doing some things for the next opponent. But you want a fresher team.”
So it wasn’t about making adjustments.
“Well we did the first bye week. We adjusted the offensive line. Did some things we needed to do. It’s the first thing we talked about. Where are we at the next five games with personnel? Do we have the right personnel on the field? Do we have the right guys in the kicking game?”
Devin’s beat up. Does he need a couple days to recover?
“He’ll probably need yesterday and today.”
Do you expect him to practice tomorrow?
What was he like yesterday?
“Like any quarterback who gets seven sacks and a lot of helmets in different parts of your body.”
Was it your decision to take him out of the game or Devin’s?
“No. It wasn’t his decision.”
So it was yours.
“Yeah. Now he was a warrior. Did he do everything perfectly? No.”
Where is Jehu Chesson now compared with the beginning of the season?
“He’s come a long way. Look at the special teams part of it and what he’s done. As a gunner on the punt and the kickoff. He’s made a significant amount of plays. As he’s grown into a guy who’s a receiver who’s very good for us. He can stretch the field. Went up and made a nice play on the ball. One thing he wanted to do, he said yesterday, ‘I wanted to finish.’ ”