News bullets and other important items:
- Jake Ryan was MIA for most of first half due to a neck/shoulder injury of some sort. A "burner." He came back though and was fine.
- Hoke has not yet gotten a full explanation for Hemingway call.
- Denard left the game because he hit his elbow on a helmet, which caused his hand to go numb.
- Toussaint had a minor injury but could have re-entered the game. They used Vincent Smith due to the NASCAR passing situations.
- The timeout before Iowa's punt was because Hoke thought there were 12 guys on the field. There weren't.
- Hoke would have liked to have given Thomas Gordon some playing time but didn't get around to it.
Is there any second-guessing of your clock management in the fourth quarter? “No. We talked about that yesterday, and going into the two minutes at the end, knowing where we were timeout wise, I thought Al really managed it well, to be honest with you. We had four shots at the endzone. Two of them we had in our hands. I thought it was okay.”
What went into the decision to take the ball on opening kickoff? Also, are you disappointed you didn’t score on the opening drive? “Well, yeah, you’re always disappointed when you don’t score. It’s funner for you, it’s funner for me and our kids. We made a decision -- because 99.9% of the time we’re going to defer when we win the toss, but we had made a decision on Thursday, when there was going to be a significant wind, and wanting to have the wind in the fourth quarter was something that we really wanted to do. We just got lucky we won the toss, so we wanted to take the ball instead of [deferring], thinking they’re going to want the ball in the second half, then we can dictate us having the wind in the fourth quarter if we needed a field goal. So we thought that thing out pretty hard.”
Why did you use your timeout before the Iowa punt? “I called timeout because I thought we had 12 guys on the field.” Did you? “No, we didn’t. I didn’t count very well. As soon as I called it and counted I said, you know what, I hope we don’t need that one late. I talked about the kids’ effort. I had a pretty good effort, but I didn’t execute on that one very good for them.”
(more after the jump)
Would you have been able to run the ball on one of the last four plays if you had that timeout? “Might be able to.”
Toussaint’s health? “He’ll be fine. He just got banged up a little bit. When we got into the situation where Vince is more of a throwing situation, the two-minute part of it, you really had the guy you wanted in anyway.”
Is shotgun three-wide your preferred offensive set? Denard looks more comfortable in that formation. “No, because I think it’s different. I think when you go what we call ‘NASCAR’, which is not two-minute -- there’s two differences to it -- you limit the defense a little bit. Iowa’s not a huge subsitution defensive football team. Never have been. But you limit them a little bit to what they can do because you’ve got a little more engaged tempo, so you limit them a little bit, which obviously helped us to some degree. Now we’ve done that same thing three other times this year. In one game we were three and out, so we used no possession time. We weren’t in any kind of situation not to try and score quickly.”
That said, is shotgun three-wide your preferred set? “No. No.”
What did Troy do in practice to beat out Thomas Gordon, and why didn’t we see Thomas Gordon at all? “I think we should have taken an opportunity to get him in a little bit and just didn’t for one reason or another. We just thought Troy was going to start the football game once Jordan came back. We were going to go with those two guys. And they’ll compete like hell -- heck -- this week [to see] who’ll be the guy. It’s not like Thomas had made some mistakes.”
When you’re trying to bounce back from a difficult loss, is it more difficult to do it on the road? “We can’t worry about being comfortable to be honest with you. If the question is do you like playing at home better than away? I think 100% of teams in the country will say it’s always nice to play at home. I think our kids are pretty daggone resilient and they’ll be in pretty good shape.”
What are some of the challenges of playing at Champaign? “I think it’s very similar. I know it’s going to be a sellout. In fact I think they’re bringing extra bleachers in or something like that. And it’s Michigan. If you’re Michigan, you’re going to get people’s best. It’s just the way it is. It’s a good thing, so it’ll be fun.”
Did Jake Ryan not start the game? “No, he did start the game.” But he didn’t play very much in the first half. “He got a burner on the first play of the game.”
Is it difficult to remove your third-leading tackler (Thomas Gordon) off the field? “It is, but you have to feel pretty good about the guy that’s on the field, too. It all comes down to competition and where guys are. Thomas is a competitor.”
Did Troy outperform Thomas in practice? “Yeah he had a better week.”
Can you talk about your expectations for the quarterback position and how those have they’ve come along? “I think we’ve progressed. I thought Denard played a really good football game. He tried to make a play and lost the ball at the end of the first half. … I thought he grew as a quarterback. In those environments I think that’s when you do grow.”
Did you get an explanation for Hemingway’s non-touchdown call? Was it out of bounds? Was it not a catch? “Not completely yet -- have I gotten that explanation. To be honest with you, on the field, there’s not enough time for them to come up -- and they’re not going to take the time to come up and say this is what we decided. They reviewed it and went through the proper channels and all that stuff. It’s just the way it goes.”
When you watched it on film again, did you think Hemingway was in? “I thought Junior made the catch.” In bounds? “Oh yeah.” Did he finish the process of catching the ball? “See that’s where everything gets diluted. What is that rule? I thought he caught the ball.” And he finished it? “Mmhmm.”
You’re okay with mistakes only when they’re aggressive. Was Denard’s fumble in that category? “Yeah. I do. You guys have been around him more than I have. How many times have you seen him make a play from something like that? A bunch. When you’re confident and gifted, yeah he’s probably got to have better ball security and that, but those things are going to happen now and then. I don’t think it has been a regular thing.”
Championship is out of reach-ish. Do you change your approach and how you talk to your team? “No. Not at all. I don’t think anybody in here can tell you what’s going to happen a minute from now, let alone four weeks from now. There’s a lot of football still left to be played. We’re guaranteed a certain number of opportunities and our seniors, we’re going to play for them. We’ve got three more of those opportunities guaranteed for them that we know of. You don’t know what’s going to happen. I think 10 wins is always significant.”
Do you cite any other games from this weekend to emphasize that anything can happen? “The only thing I asked our guys yesterday was did anybody think Northwestern would go into Lincoln and win. And only one guy said yeah, they picked it.” Who? “Not telling you.”
What needs to happen for the deep ball to be more effective/consistent? “I think we’ve got to put a little air underneath it at times. I think that maybe is part of it. I think the one to Roy, there was a little bit of friction for him through the route that slowed him down a little bit, but at the same time, there’s also conditions of the game. I’m talked about weather. You can throw it one way maybe a little better when you have the wind. I think that’s what happened the one time.”
What do you make of the unpredictable nature of the Big Ten this season? “I don’t know. I just think it’s competitive teams. It’s a competitive league, and you’ve got to play your best.”
Jake Ryan’s burner -- is that a stinger? “Yeah.” Is that persisitent? “He’ll be all right. He came back in the game, made a great play on third down at the end of the game to get the ball back for our offense.” It’s not lingering? “He’ll be all right.”
How’s Fitz Toussaint? “He’s good. He’ll be fine. He just got bumped up a little. And he could have gone back in, but we got into the two-minute and got into the NASCAR, and that’s kind of Vince’s deal. If you watched the game and watched him pick up the linebacker blitz the one time, you know why he’s in there.”
How has the deuce formation been evolving the last couple weeks? Also, it looked like Iowa was sniffing it out pretty well. “I think we had the one boot. We had the one throwback. We had the one Denard on the jet series. I really can’t tell you how many of those opportunities we had. Four? It’s all right. I think it serves a purpose to some degree.”
What are your biggest concerns looking at Illinois? “I think they’re very athletic as a football team overall. From the offensive standpoint, their offense -- I think the quarterback’s throwing the ball well. I think he’s improved that part, not that I watched them a lot a year ago, but I think he’s throwing the ball pretty well, Scheelhaase is. I think Ford is a back that can get some tough yards. Plus he’s got a pretty good jump, cut, those things. I think they’re big up front offensively. Jenkins is the leading receiver I believe in the league. There’s some other guys out there. They’ve got some weapons offensively. Defensively I think they’re a very athletic defense. I think they were ranked up near the top in a lot of categories, and they’re very athletic. I think they move well. And they do a lot. They’ve got a lot of coverage. A lot of different fronts. A lot of different zone blitzes and man blitzes. It’ll be interesting to see how they want to -- for our offensive linemen, your targeting issues that you have to have are a big part of it.”
What’s the difference between NASCAR and two-minute drill? “It’s just a little different on the play selection. Calls.” Is NASCAR just as fast-paced? “It might be even a little more tempo.”
Would you like to see Kevin Koger get more catches in the redzone? “Yeah, if they score. Kevin Koger’s a heck of a football player. He’s a tremendous leader on our team. He does a great job at the point of attack and blocking. He’s a tough guy. Kind of dinged up an ankle a bit and went right back out there. Yeah it’d be nice.”
Kelvin Grady made an appearance toward the end of the game. “Yeah, some of it was personnel. Some of it was -- our receivers do a lot of work down the field blocking, down the field routes. You have to rest them sometimes. It was good to see him have some production.”
Brennen Beyer and Desmond Morgan? “I think both of them handled themselves very well. Really happy with Desmond’s flow to the ball and how he plays the game. I think Brennen played a lot when Jake went out there for two series. He got his feet wet in there in the heavy package. I think both those guys have a very bright future.”
How do you think Blake Countess played? “Good.” What did you see on film? “He plays pretty conscientious. He’s a pretty good technician. He’s got good hips, good feet.”
Do you pay attention to what’s going on at Penn State? “You know, well, believe me, that’s … I wouldn’t even know how to answer that question. We’ve got Illinois to worry about.”
How did your offensive line grade out? “You know what, not too bad to be honest with you. The run game, there’s a couple other issues we had. We got beat inside once where we didn’t feel we should have, but for the most part, they did a pretty good job. On targets. On guys. Even at the end of the game when they were bringing everybody, they did a pretty good job of getting Denard enough time to set his feet and do those things.”
How did you think Toussaint ran the ball? “I thought he ran it hard. I thought he ran it well. Shoot, a three-yard gain, a four-yard gain’s a good play. I think he did a good job. I couldn’t tell if every cut was the right cut. You’d like to see him accelerate out of a couple of those at times, but I thought he played well.”
What happened with Denard’s hand? “Elbow. He just hit it on a helmet and his fingers went numb. The humerus bone. Funny bone. Was it funny?”
Are you satisfied with what you’re getting out of the Deuce formation? “Yeah, I think we’re getting what we need to get out of it right now. We’ll see what else there is to it.”
What was the team’s reaction to the Hemingway catch? Do you feel like you were robbed? “No. I never carry much money with me anyway. Mrs. Hoke doesn’t give me … It’s football. It’s football. That stuff happens. Our kids played hard.”
Did you have any moments of being angry about it? “Maybe. Believe me, you want your kids to win. You want them to have success. They work hard. They invest.”
Barnum? “He’ll do more this week. Hopefully we’ll get him back.” Seems like Schofield has been sort of entrenched. “Well because of all the experience he’s had. I think that obviously is part of that. He’s done a pretty good job. Michael’s growing up, and that’s a positive. With Ricky coming back, if he comes back healthy, then it makes us better as a team.”
If Taylor Lewan couldn’t play, what would your offensive line have looked like on Saturday? “Huyge would have gone over. Schofield would have probably moved out. Hm. It’d have been interesting.”
Previously you said Wile would kick longer field goals. Is that still the case? “I think [Brendan] has done a nice job. Pleased with him. And I like the other guy, too.”