By Steve Kornacki
Michigan football coach Brady Hoke and Steve Kornacki will talk Michigan football each week on MGoBlue.com. On Sunday night (Aug. 31), the two discussed the Appalachian State victory and the upcoming Saturdaynight (Sept. 6) showdown at Notre Dame.
Q. Now that you've analyzed the video from the 52-14 win over Appalachian State, what do you know now that you did not realize walking off the field after the game?
A. I thought Jack Miller, I liked his whole preparation going in there. You look at the tape and he was pretty solid for us. There were plays that he had that he probably didn't want to have, but from the standpoint of we had some explosive plays in the rushing game and those are huge. Defensively, I thought the energy the whole team came out with was so evident.
Q. The Wolverines played with plenty of excitement and energy.You called a timeout with1:08remaining in the second half after an Appalachian State second-down play deep in their territory. That sent the message that you weren't satisfied with the big lead and wanted to score again, and the team played with that same kind of urgency.
A. That was evident in their preparation when we went through fall camp and how they approached every day. They really got locked in to the plan on both sides of the ball and had great energy. The energy that the crowd had was great, and I can't say enough about the students. An hour before the game, I'm out there watching special teams and there are so many people there. It was nice. It was a great crowd, and we really want to thank them because they create a lot of energy. The students did a great job. And for a12 o'clockstart, that was awesome.
A. And we talked about the effect that you have to have in the kicking game in the first games. Being able to force them at that point in the game with that much time left, we're going to try to score again. But, the kicking game executed perfectly. Ben made a heads-up play. The neat thing was seeing Devin Funchess and Royce Jenkins-Stone that was blocking all the way in. And that was neat to see. The best receiver, I would think in the conference, is out there on punt return and wants to be on that team.
Q. And you have more starters on special teams than ever before, don't you? And that's pretty significant. Can you explain that approach?
A. We made a big deal that if you are not good enough to start on the kicking team, how can you be good enough to start on offense or defense. I mean how can you do that because of the emphasis we are putting out there, I think there are six starters or seven starters on the kickoff team, punt return team. A lot of guys, Raymon Taylor and Funchess. Devin came to me and said, 'Coach, I want to be on that team!' And that's part of what these guys have been; there's not a phoniness to it. It's what they want to be.
Q. There's a hunger!
A. Yes, there is.
Q. You spoke after the game of improvements being needed in all three phases of the game. Can you give us some specifics in that regard?
A. Well, we had nine negative plays offensively. In the red zone, and (offensive coordinator) Doug Nussmeier considers the red zone starting at the 25(-yard line). And the NCAA counts it at the 20. Defensively, we probably count it at the 14.
Q. Really, I think fans will find that interesting. Can you explain why you look at the red zones as being longer than the 20 on offense and less than 20 on defense?
A. From a defensive perspective, on the other side of the 14 it's just something that I thought the field shrinks that much right there. So, that really is the red zone area. You look at it offensively and Doug considers it the 25, and a penalty pushes us out of there. The stats said we were 6-of-6 in the red zone (with five touchdowns and one field goal), but Doug doesn't think so. I think we would've been 6-of-8, according to Doug.
Q. So, those yardage differences are really about raising the bar?
A. Yes, he's a very motivated guy with how we want to project ourselves offensively and what we want to be.
Q. After watching tape of Notre Dame, what are you expecting from them Saturdaynight in South Bend?
A. No. 1, we will get their best. We're going to go down there and give them our best. Having Everett Golson back, you know he had a great day the other day and can hurt you in multiple ways. Their defense, I think with the coordinator, Brian VanGorder, who was at Auburn and Georgia, and was in the NFL, and I've known him for a long time, I think some of the things they did, when you look at their tape, that there is a pro influence to it. It reminds me a lot of when Greg Mattison came here as our defensive coordinator. But the same kind of style with some of the things he does.
Q. You've probably been in situations like this before, but with VanGorder at Auburn and Doug Nussmeier having been at Alabama the last two years, they've matched up before with game plans against one another. Talk about that familiarity element in this game.
A. They've done it before. They've both done with different personnel. We haven't talked much about it, but I think it will be interesting to see how that chess match plays out.
Q. Are you beginning to see the continuity in the offensive line that you want?
A. You know what, there are a lot of things to be pleased about. But there are, of the negatives, we've got to play at better pad level (on blocks) throughout the games, throughout the blocks. I think there was some good communication that they had. Now, there were a couple times that us coaches tend to gloss over the positives and focus on the negative things. When you get into combination blocks, when you get into that kind. You know a receiver missed a block on an outside zone where he was coming to crack the safety down. And all of a sudden, he went up to the corner. Some of that's communication, and some of that's recognition. So, as we keep building that's what we want to keep doing. And hopefully, we won't make those mistakes.
Q. Quarterback Devin Gardner and wide receiver Devin Funchess had really big games for you and combined for three touchdown passes. What can you tell us about what you saw in breaking down their performances on film?
A. Well, in talking it over with Doug, there were some precision things in the passing game that we didn't like. You know, like he was 13-for-14 with three touchdowns with Funch. All those things are great, you know. There's certain things that we know need to do a better job with. Like the route that was run that we weren't happy with.
Q. You were pleased with the play of your center, Jack Miller. Can you tell us what you liked most about his blocking and leadership on the line?
A. What's caught my eye all through camp has been Jack's consistency and his leadership with that group of offensive linemen. We put a lot on Jack and we put a lot on Devin (Gardner) to do some things like that. It's just how Jack has come out and approached every day. He's always been a hard worker, but there's an intensity that he's going to the job with.
Q. Your team set single-game school records with 9.7 yards per rush and 10.2 yards total offense per play. What did you like most about the efficiency there?
A. You hit big plays when all 11 guys are working together on the mechanics of the footwork and the handoff and all of that kind of stuff. I thought the receivers downfield, Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh and Dennis Norfleet and Funchess. When you see guys running downfield, and there's one long run Derrick Green had down the sideline that Jack Miller's halfway down the field with a linebacker. Here's (right offensive tackle) Ben Braden passing Jack up and going all the way downfield and just holding the guy off. It's just that intensity is what you want to see from your team.
Q. And your guys are buying into that kind of blocking. You know, everyone remembers the catches with Desmond Howard winning the Heisman Trophy. But he, along with John Kolesar and Chris Calloway, really solidified the tradition of receivers at Michigan taking a lot of pride in their blocking. Do you talk about that tradition with your receivers?
A. Oh, yeah. You aren't going to play there if you aren't going to block. That's part of it. The whole team concept of explosive plays really comes from those guys staying on blocks, and that's not an easy job to do. You know, without getting a penalty. So, they really ignited some of those plays. The two backs (Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith), you've got to give them credit, too. They both ran in their style. They're both big backs, but Derrick's a little different from De'Veon. I mean, De'Veon, he wants to send a message when it comes to football.
Q. And you like that?
A. Oh, I like that.