News bullets and other important items:
- Hawthorne and Campbell did well enough to get more playing time.
- Woolfolk played really well for a guy with one arm. Has a sweet cut on his nose, but his ankles are fine.
- Borges calls his offense a westcoast/spread hybrid (not transcribed)
- Wants less shotgun to feature tailbacks more. “The best teams don’t depend on one player, yet they have that one player that can win for them. But when push comes to shove, I want the ball in his hands.”
Opening remarks: “I guess 2-0 is a good way to start. I think we have to still play much, much better on defense. We’ve got to correct some of the mistakes that are allowing some yardage. The one thing I wasn’t happy with was one of the bigger plays that broke on the run, that was the first time all year we didn’t pursue like we had to on the back end. That was something we talked about that they’ve been doing a good job on so far. We just have to make sure we crowd that football and make that ball be inside, but it was a great win for the program.”
Did you see good enough play from Hawthorne to give him more playing time? “Yeah, oh yeah. He showed some things in the spring. He showed some things in the fall. And then he sprained that ankle. One thing I’ve been impressed with him was even when the ankle was not good earlier, he came out and practiced hard, and limped and tried to do everything he could. He shows you he’s a tough kid. I was happy for some of the things he did, and he really helped us.”
Are you disappointed in the defensive line, and are you concerned about having to blitz so much? "I don’t know if you’d say I’m disappointed. We’ll always blitz, and we’ll always pressure. You’d like to make sure we can get pressure from a four-man rush on a more regular basis. To be able to do both, then you really have it, and that’s something we’ll address, and that’s something we’ll work on right now.”
Did creating turnovers help solidify the defense during the game? “No question, no question. Our ability to get those turnovers -- this was a really good offense. Make no mistake about it. This was a very, very good offense that we played against. There’s a great deal of experience on the offensive line. We won’t face a wide receiver than Floyd. The tight end, in my opinion, is a big time football player. Their offensive line is all older. That did help us a great deal to be able to [get turnovers], but its’a mindset that we’ve been able to build, that no matter if teams are moving the football on you, as long as you have a place to stand and they’re not in the endzone, something good can happen. The other thing, when you’re getting turnovers -- I think when you get turnovers it means they’re around the football. We’ve all seen times before where the ball’s lying on the ground and there’s nobody there to get it. We’ve got to keep doing that. That’s something we’ve got to keep doing until we get better at our fundamentals and get more seasoned.
Was Notre Dame’s last touchdown due to a breakdown in communication? “No it wasn’t. We didn’t execute it exactly like we wanted to. I’ll be dead honest with you, there’s sometimes calls a guy makes that afterwards you say, God I wish I hadn’t made that call. That was the same call we got the interception on earlier in the game. It looks exactly like the blitz, and we had blitzed right before that, and they knew we were going to blitz the closer they got down there, so I just thought to myself, you know what, maybe we can do the same thing. Show that blitz and come out of there. We didn’t execute it as well as we did the first time, and they hit it. I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m not always 100%, and if it was all over again I probably wouldn’t have called that.”
Is disguising coverage more important in college than in pros? “The thing about disguising is you’ve got to be pretty experienced. A lot of times out there you’re just saying, ‘Guys, make sure you’re in the right place.’ Disguising is the next phase. The first thing we have to make sure is we don’t bust on coverage and make sure we’re in position to make the plays we can make. As they get more seasoned and as they get better, then you can say, ‘Okay, now you got that down, now let’s make it look like this and go to this.’ But we haven’t been able to disguise as much as you’d like to, and we’ll get there.”
How many of your linebackers are you comfortable with? I’m comfortable with anybody on that football field. Anybody that practices and goes through what they go through … Anybody on the field for Michigan I feel comfortable with, because that means they’re the best. We just have to keep getting them healthy, trying to make sure they’re 100%, making sure they’re improving. You’ve got a bunch of linebackers there that haven’t played a lot of football. You get thrown in a ballgame like that, for them to make some of the plays they made, I’m proud of them. There’s always mistakes. The one thing I’ve said all along that I’m so proud of this defnsee about is they come in everyday after the game’s over trying to correct those mistakes. I hope there’s someday where we don’t have to correct those mistakes but that’s what we’re working on right now.
Longer runs when Mike Martin dropped into coverage. How do you protect the middle of field? “The same blitzes that hit the quarterback from western -- [Notre Dame] obviously saw that and didn’t want that pressure to come at them, so what they did was check to a run whenever they saw that look. We have defenses that look exactly the same that are run defenses, and it’s the same thing. I called the pressure thinking it was pass, and in the back of my mind, I’m thinking I should have called the pressure for the run because maybe they’re going to do that, and sure enough they did do it. And the next one they ran it on third-and-seven. If a team’s going to run it on third-and-seven, you aren’t ever going to pressure if you’re worried about it. And some of the overloads on both sides -- they aren’t great run defenses.”
What do you see from Martin that allows you to drop him into coverage? “He’s a very good athlete, and he’s a very intelligent football player. And that’s what it takes. A bigger guy like that, showing that he’s a defensive lineman and then dropping out, can cause problems. You can only do that when a guy’s enough of an athlete to do it. I don’t want to do it too much because he’s a great run player, and all of a sudden he’s dropping out, and they’re running the football at you, it’s not very smart.”
What did you see from Will Campbell? “I thought that when he went in, he gave us a spark. I thought he played with a lot of passion, and that’s a big body that can move. Again, everybody buys in and everybody steps up the way we want it at different times and at different levels. And he’s one that when he was out there, he said, ‘Okay, I’m going to do it the way they want it done.’ I do believe he’ll probably get more playing time. We’re rotating anyhow, but I do think he’s earned it by what he showed right there. The biggest thing the guys have to do is earn it at practice. The game is the reward for how you practice, so they’ve got to continue to practice hard and go out there, and that’ll be their reward.”
Does a healthy cam Gordon allow you to do some different things? “He was a safety, and a very good athlete, but all those factors -- most of [the linebackers] are pretty good athletes and can cover. I don’t think we ever think, ‘well Cam’s not in there, we can’t run this defense.’ ”
What have you seen from Craig Roh the last two games? “Craig played much better. Craig played much better in this game than he did the first game. I think Craig’s another guy that all of a sudden he sees that the bar is higher than maybe he expected it to be. He’s bought in, and he’s going to be an outstanding football player. I’ve got all the confidence in the world. And just to see the way he’s practicing since that first game and then played better in this game, I look forward to him playing much better in this game.”
In the past two games, the other team has moved the ball on you easily at the beginning, but then you seemed to figure them out. Can you explain that? “Maybe I need to do a better job with the pep talk. I looked at that, and I don’t know if it’s us adjusting. I think every game you have to adjust. That’s part of coaching, and that’s part of the players really understanding our whole package. That’s why I always talk about bullets. If something isn’t working, then you’ve got to have something else to go to. We were fortunate to call some other defenses that the kids executed very well, and got some big plays off of them. I don’t know if that’s adjustments, that’s maybe just the way defense is, if you have enough in there, don’t stay out there and let yourself to continue to not do well. Change it up, and do something until you find that mix, and luckily our players kept playing. A real credit to them. They believed all the way, and they played all the way. That’s why we’re going to be good. That’s why our defense is going to be a Michigan defense. We’re not there yet, by any means, but as long as those players keep doing that, then we’re going to be fine.”
How many kind of defenses do you run? “We’ll always put in different things each week. We’re never going into the game with the same game plan, and usually it means pressures. I don’t think you can say, this is our package in the spring, and it’s the same thing you run throughout the whole year, so we will always tweak things, we’ll always add some things, we’ll take something out. We have a number that I kind of look up on the board, and I say this is the number of defense we have to have in this game, and no more because you can’t get enough practice time on them. I look at how many times I can call a defense in a practice to decide whether I can call it in a game, because you don’t want to put a defense out that they aren’t prepared with.”
Has that number changed every week? It’s usually a set number. It all goes by what they can handle, but I don’t know what you’d say the number is, but I know when I look at that board, if I see too many defenses on that ready list, I’ll be taking them down by tonight or tomorrow, saying, ‘No no, we can’t, this is too much.’ I’d like to do it, we’d all like to do it, but it isn’t going to get called. Or if you do call it, you’re hoping it’s run right, and that’s not fair to the kids.”
Are you hesitant to play Troy Woolfolk because of his cast? “No, no. In fact, after watching the film, Troy Woolfolk played unbelievable for a guy with one hand. He made one tackle with one hand that might have broke. I was proud of him. He’s a Michigan man. He came up to me before the game, and said, ‘Coach, you can count on me, I’ll go. I think there’s a lot of programs where people -- seniors and everything -- might have said, ‘Oh, I can’t go.’ Not him. I’m proud of him for doing that.”
(Borges after the jump. ball.)
Opening remarks: “Hey guys, What’s up?”
When you watched the film, did you see any missed opportunities and go over them with Denard? “Well yeah, we had a few. We had a few and it wasn’t just Denard. It was some other deals, too. We sputtered so bad in the first half of the game. We had a couple chances -- they’re a solid team on defense, now. I don’t want to not give them any credit, but it became real evident at the beginning of the game from the configuration of their defense that they were not going to let Denard run the ball outside. It wasn’t going to happen. They had that happen to them a year ago, and they were set up where they would force him to beat them throwing the ball or running the ball inside. So you have to take your shots and when you take your opportunities your bombs have to land. And they did, eventually. They did. It took us a while. So goes the game. He ran real well a year ago, and eventually passed real well this year, even though he did not have a good completion percentage, but when you’re facing a team that’s crowding the line of scrimmage that much, completion percentage is way overrated. You got some bombs land, and maybe you miss a few passes before you reach that point.”
What went wrong with his bad passes? “Generally when he throws the ball bad is because of his footwork or rushing throws. When he got his feet set, he made some really good throws. He threw just a gorgeous corner route to Kelvin Grady, right on time, perfect trajectory. He’s very capable, but he’s still learning all the nuances of the offense, and in a pressure packed game like that, there’s a lot of stuff going on, it’s easy to forget about some little things. All told, he was not bad. He did what he had to do to win the football game. Rushed for over 100 yards anyway, when you consider how -- I think anybody who thought that they were going to let him to do what he did to them a year ago is crazy. That simply wasn’t going to happen. If their defense was really bad, that could happen, but that wasn’t going to happen, so he was going to have to beat them in other ways, and he found a way to do it.”
Can you talk about the throw with the defender around his ankle? “It was funny. It wasn’t [funny] at the time, but the guy was wrapped around his ankle. The guy was dangling at his ankle. He looked left, he looked right, then all of a sudden spotted Junior, then spun a tight ball to him, right in stride, I think he caught him in man coverage. It was a phenomenal play. I promise you, I didn’t draw that one up. I drew up the start of it, but I didn’t draw up the end of it.”
Have you found a way to use Denard’s talents? “I think we know how to use him. We said we wanted him to carry the ball 15, 16, 17 times, but no promises. There may be games he carries it more, maybe less. But in terms of how we’re using him, I don’t have any reservations about that. That’s our issue now. We’ve only run like 80, 90 plays in two games. Our tailbacks would be getting more carries if we were getting more turns.”
Are you not concerned about tailbacks? “Of course I am. I’d be more concerned about them if they had more carries and you weren’t getting the yield that you wanted. The first game, though, we had a chance to get them rolling a bit, they weren’t doing too bad. But in this game, we just found one heck of a time getting into any rhythm, in the first half of the game in particular. When you’re not rhythmic, you’re not getting first downs, you’re not converting third downs, you don’t get the turns, and you don’t get the snaps. I had talked to Brady a couple times on the phone. I told him, I’m trying to find something here to get us off. Second half started and it got better, but first half they did a nice job defending us, and our execution was lacking.”
Was there a problem with O-line play? “It was everywhere, not just up front. Some of it was [Denard]. Some of it was on the flank. It wasn’t just the offensive line. Offensive football is about getting in sync. Running repetitive, successful plays, gaining confidence, and starting to feel it. It’s like a hot three-point shooter. He gets one, gets another, and the rim starts looking big. The rim never got big till the end of the game. As you learn the offense better, guys understand what you’re doing better, it starts to flow. We haven’t reached that point yet. We’re going to have growing pains. Hopefully they’re not excruciating, and so far we’ve had some. Three turnovers is my biggest concern out of all of the concerns. That’s my biggest concern. But if you don’t do the damage, and we didn’t do so much damage we lost the game, you’ll get to the point you want to get if you’re patient, and I think I’m talking to me more than I’m talking to you.
What are your thoughts on throwing jump balls? “I’ve changed my thinking on this as a coach over the years, particularly on deep balls. I remember way back when I was coaching at Oregon with Chris Peterson, and we were talking about throwing the ball deep, and I always used to have the philosophy that if you throw the ball deep, overthrow them so the ball’s not intercepted. And I remember Pete telling me, he says, ‘We got a couple guys who can go get it. Let us touch it.’ I argued with him. Today, he was totally right. The ball has to go up to an area where [the receiver] can touch it. Now, you have to make it so that only the good guy can get it, and when it is a jump ball, the worst you can get is an incomplete pass.
Is throwing jump balls part of your game plan? “We don’t want to throw it up for grabs. But we want to give our receivers, who are good receivers. Jeremy Gallon, who’s not a big tall guy, but can go get high balls, and Junior Hemingway, who is a big guy. We want to give them a chance. And Roy Roundtree, for that matter.”
Was it significant that the pass to Roundtree at the end was almost identical to Desmond Howard’s catch? “I didn’t even think of that, but if I saw both, it would probably bring a tear to my eye right now. No, I thought it was cool. I remember the play you’re talking about with Desmond, and it was awesome. So was Roy’s. Roy went up and got the ball, and he got interfered with and still caught it. Now, that’s competitive juice. That’s impressive.”
Had the pass to Roundtree not worked out, would you have had a say in what to do next? “No, that’s Brady’s decision. Wasn’t mine. Up to that point I was just spitting out calls. But at that point that’s just Brady’s call.
“I’m going until [Brady] says stop. You don’t have time to stop all the time. And he’s great about communicating, and telling you what the heck’s going on. I hear people saying, ‘How come he doesn’t have a headset on?’ I talk to him during the game so many times, and he keeps me abreast during game management. He’s on it. He may not wear headsets all the time, but I know exactly what he’s thinking all the time.”
How has Vincent Smith done as a third-down back? “He plays probably between 20-25 snaps a game, and he is invaluable. He blocks so much bigger than he is. He has really good receiving skills. Has great football IQ, so doesn’t make many errors. And he’s tough, and that toughness resonates with our team. It does. If there ever was a leader by example, I think Vince is that leader.”
Did you have to calm down Denard at halftime? “No. He’s always the same. Every time he comes off the field, he gets on the phone, starts explaining to me … and sometimes we agree, and sometimes we don’t. But he’s great. I told him at the end of the third quarter, “We’re going to find out if you’re a quarterback now. I want to find out if you’re a quarterback, because we’re losing, and if we’ve got a chance to get back in this thing, we’ll make something happen here.’ And he answered the call.”
Were you surprised that Gallon was as open as he was on that second to last play? “Yeah, I probably was a little surprised. When you’re calling plays, I don’t really think about that very much. I see the result and think about the next play. 15 years ago I’d be jumping up and down, some guy would be like, “Al! Call the next play!” but not anymore. Even before [after Vincent Smith’s TD] I remember saying, if [Notre Dame] scores quick, we’re going into last three. Last three plays, now, get them ready. If they don’t score, great. We’ll win the game, but if they do, we’ve got to get ready. You won’t see me jumping up and down in that box much until the game’s over. Maybe once in a while.”
Are last three plays the same three plays every game? “No, that changes every week, and it depends on how they defend you late in the game. That’s part of our film study is to see what kind of defense they have.”