“No air conditioning in this locker room.”
[Ed. A- This presser took place in the back corner of a room adjacent to the sweltering visitor’s locker room]
Was that done on purpose or—
[Smirks] “There just wasn’t.”
How’s Wilton [Speight] doing?
“I think it’s—I don’t think it’s anything structural. I think it’s soft tissue. We’ll find out more.”
“Yeah, he’s just working through something. Yeah.”
Can you tell us where?
“Nah, nah. I’ll let you know when I have more information.”
Wilton going down was unfortunate but then John O’Korn came in. This was the biggest crowd Purdue’s had in over a decade. Hostile environment with a lot of pressure in his face today, he made a lot of third-down conversions, throws on the money. What did you think about his performance physically and mentally today?
“I thought John was really playing great. He was seeing things really good right from the time that he came into the ballgame. Ran the offense well. Made big plays. Throw that he hit Gentry on the seam route down the middle, that was a big-time throw. And he had others. I thought he played great. I’m really proud of him. Proud of the whole team. As you say, when you go beat another man, gotta do that in a football game. Then you’ve got to go against the crowd, as you mentioned, and you’ve got to beat the elements. Nothing can make you feel more like a man than that, all three of those things.”
[After THE JUMP: halftime adjustments, O’Korn’s day, and what Harbaugh learned about his team in the crucible of Ross-Ade]
What did you think of his ability to escape some sacks and then turn them into big-time plays, especially the third down in the third quarter in particular?
“Yeah, that was a big play. That was a long drive. Couple 80-some-yard drives by the ballclub and key play was when John was able to escape what looked like a sure sack and find Donovan and get us back into sequence and first down. Did that a few times during the game.
“Had to overcome some 15-yard penalties. We were having trouble. Guys, they were getting tired and we had guys cramping and they dug deep today, and John did a lot to make up some of those deficits from penalty and keep the team on the move.”
Looked like you physically wore them down. They only had 10 total yards in the second half.
“Don made some great adjustments at halftime. I think they came with a total of double-digit trick plays on the day and they got us on a couple of the high plays, but third down, pitched a shutout. I think we were 13-0 on third downs defensively. That was huge, so give a lot of credit to Don Brown, these coaches, and the players. Most all the credit, greatest share, to the players. They had to dig deep today. It was a test.”
What did you learn about your guys today?
“That they can win in the late rounds. That’s a great thing to learn about your ballclub. You never know quite what the character is of the team when things get tough. Lot of people start groping for alternatives and our guys dug deep and finished them off in the late rounds of the ballgame.”
Devin threw a lot of those punches. Talk about all that he did today.
“Devin Bush? Yeah. He really played well. Played really smart the entire ballgame. He’s a heck of a good football player. Comes from great bloodlines. Just darn good. A lot of guys. Every guy out there, they left it out there on the field today.”
The endurance that they had, guys were coming strong right to the end.
“Yeah, yeah, they sure did. They were not looking to tap out. Our guys were looking to tap in. I was really proud of them.”
Jim, you mentioned Don’s adjustments as the game went on. In the second half offensively you had almost 300 yards. What did you adjust offensively at halftime?
“Went a little more to the play-action pass. And we kept running the ball, too. We stayed patient with the running game and brought a little more play-action, especially on first down. Took some shots to loosen them up a bit but just stuck with—yeah, made a few adjustments and the guys adjusted well.
“But yeah, it was good. Greatest share and credit to the players. They’re the ones out there. We had some guys cramping on the offensive side of the ball and they’re limping and they’re going back in and I was really proud of them. They weren’t looking for a soft landing place.”
Talk about your tight ends and what they gave you today.
“Yeah, they played a lot. That was part of the plan, to go with a bigger personnel group. Had extra O-linemen in there at times. Cesar Ruiz did a real nice job there. The tight ends: Bunting, Wheatley, Gentry making the big play, hitting McKeon in the flat a few times was critical. McKeon had a heck of a day. Yeah, they’re all acquitting themselves well. Can’t have too many of them. They’ll all play in our offense.”
Did you think that was a late hit on Wilton and they had two targeting calls, so it was sort of a chippy Purdue defense. Chop blocks, too.
“Eh…huh? They had some chop blocks, yeah. And a couple late hits.”
There was one where [Wilton’s] sitting and he’s hit by a second player. He looked like he was fine when he was sitting up
“I didn’t see that. That’s the first I’ve heard of it, too.”
What does a battle like today do for your team going forward? How does this move them forward to the next step they’re going to have to take?
“Onward. Move on with humble hearts and have a happy flight home will be what we do next. Next week we have improvement week so we’ll set our sights on that for next week and then onward to—back to action.”
Does John’s performance today reopen the quarterback competition?
Had to ask.
“He played great, yeah. He really did. John played a heck of a ballgame. Really proud. Happy for him. Like I said, he came into the game seeing things really well right off the bat. Acquitted himself great.”
Chase Winovich again, another big game for him. Talk about him.
“Yeah, Chase was…to have his high motor still, the way he was hustling. Hustle, hustle, hustle from him. Had a great game and looked like he was in great shape. Looked easy for him and it wasn’t.
“Those were tough elements. He played great though. All the guys on the defensive line, they all did. Somebody asked earlier, ‘What do you think of your ballclub?’ I didn’t know until today. What’s the character of the team like? You got a great glimpse of it today, what it is. They dug deep and won the ballgame.”
You’ve been very public in supporting your former quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Do you agree with the President that he should be fired and that he’s disrespecting the country?
Those are comments made last night about Colin Kaepernick and other football players who kneel, and I know you wrote something supporting him.
“No, I don’t agree with the President. That’s ridiculous. I mean, check the Constitution.”
Did you get a sense of how long Wilton’s going to be out?
“No, I don’t know.”
I know you had a lot of obstacles in that first half and second half. Do you feel like this team grew closer?
“Uh…I would think so.”
Any update on Kekoa [Crawford]?
“No, not yet.”
Why are you rotating Runyan? Is he giving you a different—what is he doing when he comes in, because you’ve been doing it a lot.
“Yeah, we were trying to keep Mike fresh, you know. So we’re platooning other guards. Took place a bit today. Old school.“
Last week settled for field goals in the red zone quite a bit. This week capitalized on touchdowns. What adjustments allowed for that and what kind of confidence do you have in your offense going forward?
“I thought it was really good. Three for three in the red zone. Felt like those would come and they did today.”