Sept. 5, 2011
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "As far as last Saturday, it was good to win. You can never anticipate what happened and all that [weather]. But it was good to win the football game, and we think we learned a lot team-wise. When you look at where we need to really improve, it was good to get out and obviously play someone else besides yourselves because we did that for four weeks.
"But there is a lot that we can learn from the film. There is a lot that we can continue to learn from the film and improve on. Hopefully we've got to make a great improvement because the test obviously gets much bigger this week.
"This is a great rivalry game and one that we're excited about. Obviously, there are some other things that go along with this game this year with playing at night, the first night game, and the throw back uniforms and all those things.
"The one thing we talked about as a team is we can't get caught up and distracted and all those things. That field will still be 120 yards long when you include the end zones and 53 yards wide, and that's not going to change, and that's where our focus has to be and how we prepare this week to play our best football and make a lot of improvements."
On injuries to Troy Woolfolk and Cam Gordon ... "Troy just sprained his ankle, his other ankle. And it felt better yesterday. I think emergency-wise, he could have gotten back in on Saturday. He's doing a good job, and Paul Schmidt, our trainer is doing a good job with treating all of those things.
"Cam, he tweaked his back early in the week. It felt better, but still just didn't feel good enough. There was no sense for us to try and put him out there where he could prolong the recovery process, I would say.
On if he anticipates Woolfolk and Gordon playing next week ... "Yeah, I do."
On his evaluation of the play by the safeties ... "Obviously, (Thomas) Gordon played a terrific football game. When you look at his production and the things that we asked him to do, I thought he played pretty well. He missed one tackle in there, but I think he played well.
"I think Marvin (Robinson) is getting his feet wet a little more and in game atmosphere kind of situations. There is a lot with the communication that we need to have going on back there. He's got to be more vocal. He's not a real vocal guy anyway.
"I think Thomas played well, but there were some things that he wasn't satisfied with that he needs to improve upon. But I think he's had a tremendous camp. We asked him to do a lot, because obviously when Troy went down, he moved into nickel, and in that situation I think we were okay there. I think there's a lot that we need to do a heck of a lot better this week."
On Notre Dame's quarterback situation ... "To me it doesn't change anything in our preparation. With the style of offense that Brian (Kelly) runs, I think they're both very talented. I think they'll make the decision that is best for the team, and we can't worry about that. We've just got to worry about how we prepare. I don't think it changes the offense in any way at all."
On the most memorable Notre Dame game in which he has been involved ... "I was looking at that, and I think I was here in those odd years. We played Washington two years and didn't play them. I think we played UCLA two years, and didn't play them. I think those two years. I think in '97, when they were inside the red zone three times and defensively those guys stood up and didn't let them get any points."
On how Brandon Herron and Courtney Avery ended up starting vs. Western Michigan ... "Some of it has to do with what kind of defensive set we were in. Courtney was the third corner coming in, Troy (Woolfolk) goes to nickel, (Thomas) Gordon comes on the field. So I don't think that played a part in it, just what subgroup you were in.
"The other one was when Cam (Gordon) started hitching up with his back a little bit, we had to get another guy who had some experience, some reps in the design of the defense that we were in. And I keep going back to that because it depends if we're in a dime or a nickel or our base where they all lineup. But that was really the only reason."
On why there are countdown clocks for Michigan State and Ohio State, but not Notre Dame ... "Those are Big Ten Conference games. I think that's always part of it. I think in-state rivalries and obviously the rivalry in the last Saturday in November is pretty special. [Notre Dame] is important as anything. I remember Coach Schembechler always talking about how you get a gauge on where you're at as a team because it's going to take the national spotlight. And it is an environment where you have expectations of how your guys are going to play."
On what he learned about the team during the WMU game ... "Here's what I thought. Rushing for 190 yards in three quarters of a game, that was a good thing. The defensive staff made some adjustments that needed to be made -- pressure on the quarterback was pretty good, the man-to-man coverage.
"We've got to be much better this week because of the talent that Notre Dame has. But I thought there was a flow to the game then. (Brandon) Herron takes the ball back, and we come back out and it's a three and out. So we were starting to get some flow and momentum."
On improvements that need to be made ... "We've got to play run defense. We've got to play tighter coverage and zone. We've got to be able to pressure the quarterback with four guys at times or three guys at times. From a defensive perspective, we had some missed alignments that were based on communication that you can't have or lack of communication, so that's a big part of it.
"I think from an offensive standpoint, we took care of the football which was big and always will be big. But there were a couple of decisions that we need to make better decisions with. We've got to do a better job staying on some blocks down the field because there are some opportunities for some other bigger plays in the run game.
"Our routes, we broke a couple of them off early, which our receiver has to be more disciplined within the scheme, especially when you're in a timing phase of your passing game.
"And then in the kicking game, our kickoff coverage will get a lot of attention from where we place the ball on the kick to how we get off blocks going down the field. So that's huge.
"Obviously, we're going to give a lot of attention to PAT and field-goal protection on the inside. You can't get knocked back, and that was part of the one that got blocked, a big part of it was because we got knocked back out of there too much. The other part of it would have been the snap was a little high. It took (Brendan) Gibbons a little longer to approach the ball because of that.
"And I could go to the punt team, and I could go on and on. Kickoff return, better decision than taking the ball in the end zone, getting on guys a little better. I mean, this could be a marathon. But I know I don't have the time for it, and neither do you."
On if changes will be made on the kickoff coverage unit ... "Well, you could. Obviously it's competitive and you're evaluated. If we're not doing the job we think we have from a competitive standpoint. Because part of getting off blocks is being competitive and having the intensity of what you're doing. So that part of it, believe me, was addressed yesterday, and will continue to be addressed during the week.
"But there could be some different faces on there. You know, it will be a fun week. Let's just put it that way."
On the defensive line providing leadership for the entire defense ... "I think we played okay. You guys have heard me talk about hearing football. You also want to feel guys during the course of a game. I felt No. 32 (Jordan Kovacs) during the course of the game, you know, an impact. To some degree, I thought J.T. (Floyd), you could feel him out there a little bit.
"I never felt our front like we need to, not to be specific. So I think we played okay, but I think we need to play at a higher level and a higher standard."
On if the 39 offensive plays were a large enough sample size to assess the offense ... "I think there are some things that are still out there in talking to Al (Borges) and the offensive staff. I think there are some things that we didn't get to in the offense that maybe we'd like to have gotten to a little more.
"Yes, it wasn't many plays. We also saw some things that we wanted to get done too."
On the play of left guard Michael Schofield ... "I thought Mike did a nice job. It wasn't a perfect game by any means. But I think he answered the bell, and I think that he did a great job. I think Ricky (Barnum) and him will obviously compete this week like we normally do. But I thought Mike handled himself very well."
On his opinion of playing starters on special teams ... "It's one-third of the football game, and I think we're crazy if we don't have in a segment of the game the guys who can perform what they're asked to do at the highest level not out there on the field. I mean, that's part of it.
"You hope to be able to find some of those guys, depending on what you're asking them to do, that can really perform at a high level. And maybe it's not a guy who is a starter for you, but it's a guy who is going to give you great production in the position."
On if Michigan will need an outstanding performance from Denard Robinson to beat Notre Dame ... "I wish I could really answer that, because with only playing 39 plays and all that I don't know if we know that yet. Obviously, he's got a skillset that's different than a lot of guys, but I don't know if I'd have an answer for that yet. This week will be a good test. They gave up 254 yards to South Florida, and had 504 yards total offense. They're playing good defense, and they have a lot of guys back, so we'll find out."
On Denard Robinson's grasp of the offense in the limited chances vs. WMU ... "Yeah, I thought he made good decisions. He threw the ball well. It was good to see some vertical runs by Fitz (Toussaint) and Michael (Shaw) when he was in there. And Vince (Smith) had a nice seven yard run in there off the lead play, so it was good to see that part of it."
"But I thought he felt comfortable. I thought his timing on -- I think there was an out to the field to (Jeremy) Gallon that was well timed and well thrown."
"He threw the one -- he left (Kevin) Koger a little too much -- was a good throw though and a good catch by Kevin. He did some things, setting his feet, getting the ball off on time, all of those things."
On the atmosphere of night games and keeping players focused during the day ... "We talked about that yesterday about being distracted. As a coach or a player, it's a long day. Because we all have a nervousness to us, butterflies, whatever you want to call it, so it's a long day.
"What you try to do is have enough involvement with them that they're just not laying in their hotel room all day so you get them up, you take walks. You do walkthroughs, you watch film, you do all kinds of things to occupy them.
"At the same time, it's a thin line giving them time to make sure they're relaxed and getting their mind right. We've done a lot of this.
"We did San Diego State night games. The last year at Ball State we had seven night games, and they were Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday kind of deals. So I think we have a pretty good plan for how we'll do it. Again, this is a new group of guys, so you've got to communicate and go through that plan."
On if the team will practice at night to help prepare ... "No, we won't do that. Never really have. It really is just how you structure the day. From how you eat breakfast, when is pregame meal, when is chapel and devotion. I mean, it's all that and walkthroughs and all that stuff."
On if it was necessary to blitz against WMU to get adequate pressure on the quarterback ... "You'd like to get more pressure. If you can pressure a guy pretty good with four guys, that would be good. Now to their credit, there were a lot of three-step plays in there where that ball was coming out quick. And as you get those down and distances a little longer, especially in your money downs, your third downs, you get those a little longer, then the five-step, seven-step drop stuff becomes more of a factor."
"But part of when you go to pressure them, you've got to be able to play man-to-man coverage, and we were able to play a little tighter man coverage than we were in some of the zone blitzes or whatever you want to call it."
On who will start at running back vs. Notre Dame ... "I think we'll probably go with Fitz (Toussaint) to start things out. I think Michael (Shaw) did a nice job too. They both handled themselves pretty well. Fitz tried to deliver the body to people, and Mike did too on the one sideline. He's got to keep his head up and not his eyes down. They're both physical at the point of attack."
On the first down play calling ... "I like how Al (Borges) calls the game. We went a little fast paced that one series in there. There was a little bit of a changeup. It didn't go as well as we'd like to. But Al will change things up. I think his mix of personnel that are in the game, from four wides or 11, 10, 22, whatever. I think he does a good job on it."
On his impressions of freshman kicker Matt Wile ... "I think he handled it pretty well. It can be daunting for a young guy. I thought his kickoffs were pretty good. We'd like a little more location, and then I thought he did a nice job there in punts."
On honorary captains ... "We'll have an honorary senior captain for every game, which is a representation of the rest of the senior class."
On his role on the sideline, wearing a headset or not ... "It can vary -- game management to talking to guys, coaching guys, teaching guys. I mean you're not done on Friday. Keep coaching and teaching. That's what I like to do.
"I usually have the headset on with the defense because, again, that's where my expertise is, and that's where -- and I just listen, basically to make sure I know what the calls are so if I've got to grab a guy or whatever. Then offensively I'll have it on situationally."
On Jake Ryan and whether he will play even if Cam Gordon is healthy ... "Again, it's a weekly, everyday battle. We'll see. How did he do -- he did some good things. Then he needed to do a couple of things better. It's like on our whole team."
On what concerns him about Notre Dame's offense ... "I think number one, their personnel. They've got personnel. I think their three wide receivers and both quarterbacks, even though I know the one young man struggled a little bit. (Dayne) Crist struggled a little bit the other night. But they're both proven.
"Their offensive front, there are four out of five guys back who have played a ton of football for them. They're a physical front. Cierre Wood, the running back, I think is a really good running back, and the guy behind him, (Jonas) Gray is very good.
"The tight end is a guy we tried to recruit at Ball State out of Ft. Wayne, we thought he was really talented. If we had gotten him, that would have been a great coup for us. But they're a talented football team."
On what Jordan Kovacs does so well ... "He's smart. He's a smart football player. He understands the game. He can dissect the game. He studies the game, and he approaches it in a championship manner to how he wants to play. You know, he studies it well."
On Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith ... "He's a good football player. Their whole football team is talented. They're good. He's good."
On the comfort level with playing man-to-man coverage when blitzing ... "I think there are some guys who have shown some abilities to play man. I think the thing we have to be is multiple enough though, and we have to be multiple enough in what looks we give also pre-snap. That's another thing we need to work on."
Junior Quarterback Denard Robinson
On reading his opportunities to scramble vs. WMU ... "I was pretty pleased, I think I did it the way we were supposed to do it. What coach taught me."
On Notre Dame's defense... "I don't know how they're going to play us. We'll see how they play us. We just have to watch their film. They're a great school and a great team. Manti Te'o and (Harrison) Smith, both of those guys are great players. We have to respect that. They're going to be somebody we have to watch film on constantly and try to get better to beat them. "
Last week you told the media that we'd see on Saturday that you were faster. Did you feel that way? ... "I feel faster. I feel pretty good but I just didn't break the long one. That's alright. It was fun to watch everybody else have fun so that was great. And I had fun with them."
On playing in a primetime night game... "Football is football. It's the University of Michigan and that's what we came here for -- to be a team and be in games like this. That's the biggest thing."
Fifth-Year Senior Center David Molk
On needing Denard Robinson to have a big game to beat Notre Dame last season ... "I don't know if it was that we needed major games from Denard. I think it was just how the game played out. It's all his reads on runs that make those plays happen. Coming into this season, we have a different offense, but in some ways it's similar."
On how dangerous the offense is with Denard Robinson in addition to a true running back ... "Plays are plays. Plays where Denard ran a lot were basically reads on the plays. There are two sides to a play. So it could be either way -- a good running back game or a good quarterback game."
On how the offense performed against Western Michigan ... "It was a clean game. There were only 39 plays, so it was a short game, especially when we're used to 75, 80, sometimes 90 plays like last year. It was good to get out there and get the first game nerves out of the way and see where this goes."
On playing night games ... "We've had night games in the past. We had a night game against Penn State a couple years ago. There's just a lot of sitting, sitting, sitting, it's almost like you just need to get your mind off of it."
Fifth-Year Senior Defensive Tackle Ryan Van Bergen
On what it's like to score a defensive touchdown and what it does for the defense ... "It's really exciting, especially for Brandon (Herron), to have that opportunity. When you score on defense, it's something that's unexpected and it's just such a big bonus for your team when you're defense is giving you 12 points. You're going to win a lot of football games. We were pretty excited about it and we're going to build off of it."
On what it's like to play on such an aggressive defense ... "It's fun. We've been excited about it for a long time. Coach Mattison is an aggressive coach. Once we figured out what they were doing offensively, we tried to attack. One thing we need to do is improve our four-man rushes. Coach Mattison can't call a blitz (every time) to get to the QB. We have to be able to put pressure on him ourselves. We have to help out our defensive backs. It was fun, but at the same time, we still have a lot to do."
On what Coach Hoke is like on the sidelines ... "Passionate. He's got a lot of energy. You can really feed off of him. He's got enough energy for everyone on the team. He knows when to be tough and when to come over to tell you in a calm manner what to do. He's got a really good feel for all of the players and their attitudes."
On whether it was difficult to be consistent with constant defensive line subs ... "No, not at all actually. They came out with the no huddle. Hats off to them, we didn't know that they were going to do that. So the coaches did a great job of rotating. I think we probably played seven or eight guys on the defensive line. We needed that. It was 120 or 130 degrees. If we weren't rotating, it could've gotten ugly pretty fast. We needed that rotation, and coach wants to get more guys in. He wants us to be able to go full tilt when we're in the game, and we were more productive because of that."
On night games ... "Night games are fun, as far as the atmosphere, but the thing people don't realize is how frustrating it is to be waiting around in the hotel. We wait around the hotel before the game. Coaches try to keep you occupied, but you're waiting to play a football game, just watching other football games in your hotel room. That's a big wait when you're getting up at 9 o'clock and you're not leaving to go play until 5 p.m. But it is a good experience. One that comes to mind is when we went to Iowa. It was a pretty cool experience. It seems like the fans are that much more into it when the lights are on. I don't know why, but it does seem like it's a little bit more electric."
On being named captain for the WMU game and what it meant ... "Coach Hoke told me Friday. It was a big deal. It was a very big accomplishment for me to be able to go out there with those guys (David Molk, Kevin Koger, and Mike Martin). A lot of the players have told me they look up to me as a captain, as a leader. It was a really cool experience."
Fifth-Year Senior Linebacker Brandon Herron
On what he did to be able to score the touchdowns ... "(On the play) when (Jordan) Kovacs sacked the quarterback, and forced a fumble, we saw something in the offense so we made a check. This led to me coming off the edge, opening up a hole for him (Kovacs) to get through. The tackle didn't really pick me up, so I was able to run around him. I heard and saw the hit, saw the ball on the ground and just went for it and next thing you know, I'm running into the end zone."
On whether the experience has been overwhelming ... "I wouldn't say overwhelming. I've just been ecstatic and happy that something like this has happened. I just feel like, when I was out there, and after the game, this wasn't supposed to happen to me."
On the night game and the experience ... "I think it's going to be great. The first night game in (Michigan Stadium) history. About two weeks ago, we went to the stadium around 9:30 p.m. We kind of do this as a tradition. All of us go down with the coaches and we all talk about our goals for this year and we all get time to sit around the stadium and think about the plays that we're going to make on that field. The lights were on, and we got a feel for it. It looks like heaven, if you ask me. All of the lights, all of the maize; I am proud to say I play football at the University of Michigan."
On following up his performance ... "I just know that I have to come out and play hard. Just know that I have to be comfortable out there. I have to think, and react. Just play football, just be me."
On the Notre Dame rivalry ... "Notre Dame is obviously a big game. It's a rivalry from before my time. It's just as big as Michigan State or Ohio State. Any game is big in our eyes. We don't want to take any opponent lightly. With that being said, it's just as big as any game on our schedule."
On what it's like to be a part of the first night game in Michigan Stadium history ... "I am going to be happy. I get to make history, being a part of the first night game. But at the same time, we can't allow that to distract us as a team because we know we have a job to do."