- The comeback
- Shea Patterson's performance
- The defensive shift from first to second half
- The holding call against Higdon. Yes, there is righteous outrage.
[After THE JUMP: I still can't believe they won that game, honestly]
Coach, you had a big deficit to overcome and it culminated with a big drive, then punching it in. What do you take from your quarterback on that drive and just, the team as a whole?
“Well, that’s a lot of guys, really left it out there. Played their hearts out. Tested in the ballgame and had to show what we were made of. And, like what we’re made of. Starting with the quarterback, really, I thought he really, really stepped up big. Took the game into his hands in a lot of ways there, in the second half. Defensively, there’s gonna be a lot of people to single out, who played great. After the first quarter, our team really, really played tremendous defense. Allowed just over 100 yards in three quarters of football. So, lotta guys — Donovan Peoples-Jones, punt returns, everything, he was leaving it out there. Josh Uche, some of those speed rushes he had on the edge were huge. Chase Winovich, the entire ballgame, thought Rashan (Gary) really played great. We started getting our hands on some balls there, when we needed to, after the first quarter in the secondary. Hurrying the quarterback, and also the adjustments our coaches made throughout the game, especially after the first quarter and the first half, were superb. They were really working. So, hardworking night on the coaching side. Great to see Quinn Nordin make those field goals, we needed every point we could get. And also Kwity Paye, thought he really stepped up. Bunch of guys, Josh Metellus … lotta guys really showed their mettle tonight.”
Coach, how big was it for the defense to shut this team out in the second half, and given the huge gap in penalties, does in underscore just how tough it is to go on the road in the Big Ten?
“Penalties should be tough on the road? Tougher on the road than — Warde Manuel told me to let him handle that. No comment.”
How about the defense in the second half, shutting them out?
“Just great. Don Brown had some tremendous calls, a couple that really stood out, we got a free runner to the quarterback and that was big. Cause he was sitting in the pocket, he’s a big guy, was making some really accurate throws. Receivers were catching balls in tight windows. We started getting our hands on some of those balls in the secondary and we started applying pressure. That really helped us stop their running game, too. They played a hell of a ballgame.”
Talk about how your depth on the defensive line factored in, especially in the second half of the game when you were able to finish off so many of their possessions with sacks
“Yeah, it was really impressive. The guys in the middle, (Bryan) Mone, Lawrence Marshall, and then (Mike) Dwumfour would come in and he was really active all night. The ends, I think Chase had one of his better ballgames. Just the way he was flying around and hustling all night. I mean, play after play after play after play. Kwity Paye, also showed up, as I said, Josh Uche. Two of those speed rushes went fast and powerful. Good, Aidan Hutchinson got some time as well. I thought the linebackers were running good, making tackles. We missed a couple tackles on the first couple drives, but thought the tackling was really sound the rest of the ballgame.”
When a game — you get behind on the road like this, it can really go sideways. What can it do for a team when they can scrape together a win like this and prove something to themselves?
“It can do a lot. Like I said, talked about it at halftime. We were being tested, this is time to find out what we’re made of. And our guys really responded, and they were in a kind of fashion where nothing was — had to be done, it had to be made by players. I think coaches had some tremendous adjustments, but I said, guys like Shea (Patterson), Nico (Collins) stepped up and made a couple tough catches. And Karan (Higdon), thought he had a heck of a ballgame. Guys up front, really grinded all night. And got it done. Was a lot for a team.”
Jim, did you get an explanation on that holding, on the Shea run?
“Yeah, I asked for it specifically, just to make sure they didn’t come back later and say it was some other player. Cause they called it on 22, they called it on Karan, and so I asked the referee, ‘Go ask the side judge who he called it on.’ Just so it wasn’t some different explanation days from now. So he came back and said it was on the running back. Holding the linebacker. The whole stadium saw that the linebacker tackled our running back. It was a zone read. Faked it to the running back. Their linebacker tackled him, and Shea ran for 28 yards. Then they tacked on 10 yards for holding. Phantom call.”
Coach, you chose to receive instead of defer, is that gonna be a game to game thing just by feel? And then to what do you attribute the slow start offensively?
“I thought they had a good plan. They have a tremendous coaching staff, their players were playing good. Yeah, just, they were playing good, and we didn’t make the first downs on our first couple possessions. And then they made first downs, made drives, scored the ball in the red zone. They had a really good first quarter, both offensively and defensively.”
And then choosing to receive or defer, is that a game to game thing, just by feel?
You mentioned getting your hands on the balls. In their first couple possessions, they do that quick tempo, short yardage passing. How did you make adjustments to stop that?
“Yeah, just seeing the ball. Seeing the ball more in the air. Kinda made an adjustment in the coverage and kept the ally. Continued to dial the blitzes. They did a nice job. They were prepared, they did a nice job blocking our twists, so we countered that with an adjustment, and got home free three times. They were well-prepared coming off of a bye, that’s that kinda stat. … Great coaches and they were prepared — as soon as we saw that they were picking up that twist, we went to a different one.”
Jim, I know you mentioned a halftime challenge, the guys were being tested, about the same way Notre Dame started. You guys think you’ve grown a lot in those four games. What — at halftime, are you like, ‘We’re gonna find out now how far we’ve gone?’ What does this whole thing show you?
“Yeah, just, I mean, what you’re made of. When you take that out and continue to execute, you can execute better than what you did. So yeah. Pretty self-explanatory. Got the mettle, you know, got the gravel in the gut to win a game on the road, under tough circumstances.”
Jim, somewhat of a unique road game, where half the crowd is Michigan fans. You went in there down 17-0, they never let go of your team. Can you talk about that, how much impact that had on your team?
“Yeah, I think that was great to see, coming in and out of our tunnel, they were showing their support. And yeah, Go Blue, that’s what I say. It’ll be a happy flight home.”
Can you talk about Nick Eubanks’ contribution?
“Oh yeah. Didn’t I say him earlier? Nick Eubanks made the big play. That ball was in traffic, highly contested, Shea threw it on the back shoulder. Probably the only place it could’ve got completed. And Nick really showed great body control, and caught that ball. (Zach) Gentry as well. He made the big play for us, both those tight ends did a great job. And it was good. We adjusted. We were trying to hit that seam a few times a night and did. Quarterback was on the money.”
As you mentioned in that last quote there, Shea had to make a lot of tight throws late in the game. What can you say about his resilience late in the game?
What was different offensively today, especially in the first half, than the last three weeks? It was a good performance, especially in the second half, but what was less explosive than the last couple weeks?
“I’m not really comparing them to the weeks before. No question, did a great job … we really called a great game all game long. And the players played really well. And just found a way to win.”