Sept. 12, 2011
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "Saturday was obviously very exciting in a lot of ways: the crowd, the passion, how I think both teams played 60 minutes of football. It was a neat environment, fun, all those things --obviously a record crowd to see a college football game. It was good to have the outcome the way it did. It was hard fought, not a perfect game, when you look at offensively and defensively things that we need to get a lot better at if we are going to be any kind of football team.
"We need to focus in on those things and, as a team, we have got to do a good job of coaching, No. 1 and teaching, and then playing. Our expectations are high and we won't get that way if we don't possess the ball enough offensively to help the defense, and if we don't do a better job in third down conversions from a defensive standpoint."
On the play of Brandin Hawthorne ... "I thought Brandin got in there and did a nice job and made some plays. I think it was good to see him be productive in that role and part of it. I think he did a nice job of reacting and seeing the ball and focusing in on keys and those things and then finishing plays. That was good to see from him. He had been banged up about the last week of camp a little bit. He practiced but he had an ankle problem, and still does to some degree, but it was good to see him play at full speed."
On the adversity of overcoming a 17-point deficit and then coming back again in the final 30 seconds ... "Our team stayed together. At half time we went in and asked a pretty simple question: 'have we played our best football; are we playing our best football; are we coaching our best football? And it was a unanimous no.' And I think (offensive coordinator) Al (Borges) and the offensive staff did a good job in some adjusting that they did. You have to give Notre Dame a lot of credit. They are a pretty good football team. Their biggest Achilles heel right now is they have turned the ball over, and you can't do that. And I'm not coaching them, but I'm sure Brian (Kelly) is sick about that. But I thought the guys complemented each other as a team and they stayed together."
On how he will get the team to refocus on Eastern Michigan this week ... "We were going to spend Sunday cleaning up, talking about the things that we did and didn't do, did well and didn't do. Then we are going to move forward. Eastern, obviously, they are 2-0. They are a confident team. I think (EMU head coach) Ron (English) has done a nice job. They are averaging 331 yards per game rushing the football. That's pretty impressive. I don't care who you're playing.
"I think you've got a staff over there of guys, when you look at it with Mike Hart and Kurt Anderson, Steve Morrison, who are all products of this program as players, and understand about coaching hard and doing those things. And you know just from being around those guys, that's how they coach their kids and you can tell; with Ron's influence as a defensive coach and defensive minded guy and that aggressive personality guy, that's the way they are playing football. They are impressive. They have got 10 sacks in two games. They are doing a lot of good things."
On if Denard Robinson had a great game or a bad game against Notre Dame ... "I think a little of both. He made some plays when we needed to get some plays made, which a guy of his capability and caliber can do, but also we need to make better decisions at times.
"He was the first one to come off the field on one and say, 'My footwork was bad.' So that's good to see. So the whole thing is a process to some degree, but we are learning every day."
On the health status of Fitzgerald Toussaint ... "I don't know much of his history. What's important is what we are doing today; it's what we are doing tomorrow. I think he'll be okay. He just banged up his shoulder a little bit against Western (Michigan) and didn't see as much as what we would like to for him to be able to be ready for the Notre Dame game."
On if there is a concern that blitzes might be making linebackers vulnerable in run defense ... "Honestly, it shouldn't have been. It's open for a second and then we have got to execute a little better on closing it off.
"You can get hurt, no question. If they want to take that gamble, depending on who they are, depending on down and distance, they could check into a run, and sometimes you want them to. But you've got to execute the defense when you want them to. Does that make sense? It does to me."
On if blitzing has been a necessity to help the front four put pressure on the quarterback ... "I think, yes, we have had to be more aggressive to answer the question. But I think at the same time, we have -- you've got to look at your matchups pretty hard, and what you're going to do to your guys in the back end and how you feel about that. So I think that's all part of it. It all goes together."
On what he did after the Notre Dame win ... "I have a lot of family in the Midwest, believe me. We had 35 or 40 people at our house: nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters, in-laws, whole deal. So everybody found a place on the floor and went to bed. But it was late, 3:30 a.m. maybe by the time you say hello, talk to everybody and be as gracious as I can be."
On the overall health of the team ... "We are pretty healthy. We have got some nicks and those kind of things. But trying to think of Brandon (Herron) or Cam (Gordon), Cam is going to see what it feels like tomorrow. He feels better. Brandon Herron felt better, but we'll see what he's like. I think Fitz (Toussaint) is going to be fine. I don't think we are in too bad of shape."
On Denard Robinson's explosiveness in the fourth quarter ... "Well, the rush lanes kind of [opened up], and he did what he's coached to do, step up, step up in it, and keep pushing the pocket up when you feel it on the perimeter. And it was pretty open. Now, they were spying at times, one of the linebackers, but in that situation, they were playing pretty far off, so it bought time for (Jeremy) Gallon, and it really brought time for the sell routes to cross and take and suck their secondary that way and Gallon was there by himself."
On whether he is still identifying the defensive playmakers ... "I think we still are. That's a great question. We still are. Practice and all that stuff is one thing but game time is a little different. It was good to get Will (Campbell) some snaps and against good competition. Like I said, [Notre Dame] is a good football team. They have good personnel. And you know, right now, the difference for them probably is turnover margin."
On the number of linebackers he feels comfortable rotating into the game ... "I think J.B. (Fitzgerald), all of those guys would feel pretty comfortable. I think it's who you identify who is going to take most of the snaps. You work through. Kenny (Demens) is pretty solid in what he does and J.B. has an opportunity to get in there and rest Kenny a little bit, which is important in the fourth quarter. I think at the WILL, Desmond (Morgan) started the game, (Brandon) Herron came in and did a good job and Mike Jones is a guy who has played both, Brandon when he gets back. There will be a rotation and it really depends some on what package we are in, if we are playing out of a base front or if we are getting into our dimes and nickels."
On his evaluation of the defensive line as a whole ... "I think we are not near to the expectations that we have. I think the kids feel the same way at that position. I think there are things that Ryan Van Bergen has done at times really well, and I don't want to get specific, but I think we have got to feel those guys more. We have got to be able to get a little more pressure with four guys rushing the quarterback, so you don't put J.T. (Floyd) or Courtney (Avery) out there on an island. I think we are a work in progress in a lot of degree. Some of it is because of a little difference schematically and how you tackle on scrimmage and tackle on blocks and get off blocks. We would think we would be further along."
On why the offense has been successful in all five trips inside the red zone ... "I think we have got a pretty good package down there. The kids are executing. I don't think it's any more than that. I think certain teams defensively always are going to have certain things they like in the red zone and I think the kids have been executing what the plan has been."
On stopping Notre Dame on three third-and-short situations ... "Well, I think we have executed. We executed; guys got off blocks. Jake Ryan on the one did a nice job of coming off the outside and they didn't have a guy to block. They did a nice job of bending to the hip of the back; instead of running up the field, he bent to the hip and makes a good play on the same play. Will (Campbell) knocks the tackle back about two yards, which really hurt the puller -- it's a split zone or plunge play. So he couldn't kick out the other guy coming off the other edge. It was a good call by (defensive coordinator) Greg (Mattison), but they executed it. I think that's the biggest thing; we have got to consistently -- how we play up front, getting off the blocks, and making plays, gap fits and all that stuff, are always part of it, but we have got to play with a little more aggression in how we are doing it."
On the play of freshman kicker/punter Matt Wile ... "I think Matt's done really a good job. I thought his kickoffs were really well done. He had a squib kick at the end. I don't know if it could have been any more perfect for where we wanted the ball and the track that it took. [On a punt, long snapper] Tommy (Pomarico) was a little high on the snap it, it kind of shows you the athleticism (Wile) has. And then on the one kickoff return, and our kickoff coverage was much better, Matt makes a tackle on that and does a good job of getting down the field."
On Marell Evans ... "I don't know when it will clear up, but he's doing a great job being the best scout team linebacker in the country."
On his expectations for the defense ... "I would hope they would have the same expectations. We set the bar pretty high. (Defensive coordinator) Greg (Mattison) does; that whole defensive staff does. I don't know if it's too high. But we have got to play better."
On the test of maturity this week is coming off of a high of beating Notre Dame ... "I can tell you one thing. Eastern is 2-0. They have not been 2-0 since 1989. They have 331 yards rushing a game. If that doesn't get our attention -- I would hope there would be enough maturity in that room with those seniors to understand we are going to correct mistakes and do all those things and then we have got to move forward fast."
On the need to develop a running back behind Denard Robinson ... "I think it's always important. It doesn't matter if you're a pro set or you're a spread. You've got to have somebody besides your quarterback running the football or you're not going to have your quarterback very long. So it's important in either. I thought (offensive coordinator) Al (Borges) did a great job of adjusting to what they were trying to do to Denard, especially in the zone read stuff. I mean, they were not going to let him run the ball outside. I think that's happened the year before and they were not going to let it happen and they did a good job."
On how many running plays he would like to run each game ... "How many plays would we like offensively? Oh, I'd like to run 90 offensive plays a game. Now, that's what I'd like to do. Reality isn't that. I don't know what the average is any more, the way games are played and the time and all. There are probably 67 to 73 plays average-wise. If we play 90 plays a game offensively, it's really going to be good, because our defense is doing a heck of a job. Watch them."
On playing Will Campbell more ... "I think he did some good things in there. We'll see how he practices."
On Martavious Odoms' injured hand ... "I think that's put him back a little bit during camp, put him back a little bit and so I think that's part of it. He's getting more and more involved, engaged, and the special teams, too."
On the play of the special teams ... "Kick coverage I thought was good. Punt coverage I thought was good. We had another opportunity on the punt coverage, had a heck of a collision, but I think we thought the guy gave a fair catch signal, and we kind of broke down, which we never want to do. I thought that was much better. I think, you know, statistically speaking, I think it was like 14 yards a kickoff return, which is drastic from 31.6."
On how the plays made by Jeremy Gallon late in the fourth quarter will help his confidence ... "I think it's got to help him. That probably helped him and it also helped him as when the guy intercepted the ball, over the top. And it's a great coaching/teaching moment. You've got to become a DB when those things happen. And it was good for him to see that and learn that."
On Jake Ryan playing with his hand down on the ground at times ... "In our nickel package, our sub package, he plays one of those ends. He's not a bad pass rusher for a young guy. He's got some abilities there. He may be in that position at times."
Senior Linebacker J.B. Fitzgerald
On the comfort level of the linebacker corps this year ... "It's different; everything is a little bit changed up when you change coaching staffs. However, I think our level this year is really good. We're learning a lot and I think we've all been really comfortable with the game plans and the schemes so far, especially the last two games and the fact that we have been able to have a lot of depth coming into the game is really good for our defense. I would definitely say our comfort level is high right now and we're going to keep working on it."
On avoiding a letdown against Eastern Michigan ... "I think it all starts with focus and leadership. Coach Hoke has obviously put a huge emphasis on this game, and we can't take it lightly. You can't take any game lightly because that's when bad things happen. The upset is in the mind of the favorite, so we have to stay humble and stay focused to what the game plan is. It was an incredible win on Saturday, but it's over now, unfortunately, and we have to move on."
On maintaining defensive coverage when blitzing ... "We have a lot of different pressures that show from different areas. We need to mix it up and do a good job of disguising what we're doing so they don't always know and so they can get caught. I think we saw it on Saturday when (Jordan) Kovacs went down and got that pick in the second quarter. You have to be able to disguise well and that's how you have a good defense. You don't give it away; we were giving away our blitzes a little earlier on Saturday, but being able to disguise those is important."
On whether he's having fun playing in the current defensive scheme ... "Absolutely. I think we really embrace it and when you play to perfection or as close to perfection it's a lot of fun. Hitting the quarterback is the defense's number one goal, hit the quarterback and make sure he throws a lot of picks and get a lot of turnovers for your offense."
qOn the success rate of forcing turnovers this season ... "This year so far it's just execution. We've been executing pretty well and we've been getting a great result from that, getting turnovers, and getting the ball back to our offense. I don't think it's scheme versus anything else, I just think you need to execute, and the execution is there and the results are fortunately coming."
Fifth-year Senior Defensive Tackle Ryan Van Bergen
On trying to wind down Saturday night after the Notre Dame win ... "I couldn't even sleep. I just had adrenaline and was all jacked up. Once you watch the film and stuff, you see the mistakes you made and it becomes more of a process of it's time to improve. It's over. It's like a 12-hour, maybe more than that, process. I only got about three or four hours (of sleep). I just couldn't sleep. I was too excited."
On balancing the excitement from the Notre Dame win with focus for Eastern Michigan ... "You enjoy it. Saturday night we enjoyed it. Sunday we watched some film and enjoyed the highlights, and then it's time to move on. Eastern is a good team. They're 2-0 for the first time in a long time. We got to prepare for that, and we got to play a game Saturday."
On chest-bumping Director of Athletics Dave Brandon after the game-winning touchdown ... "It was kind of interesting. I was going for it, and I don't think he knew. When you see the player, you're making eye-to-eye contact. You start gathering for the jump, and you have it timed out. You practice this kind of thing, and we didn't rehearse this. You can tell that he is kind of rusty, but I think he'll come along."
On keeping the faith to make a comeback when the game looks dire ... "We just know we have the players that capable of making plays. When you have Denard Robinson on your team, 30 seconds is plenty of time to score a touchdown. He can run 100 yards in under 10 seconds, so we don't need to worry about 30 seconds being on the clock. Denard Robinson can take the ball down there himself, and he's got receivers who can make plays. As you can see, one-on-one they are dangerous. We never give up as a team. We persevered. That's something we've talked about all offseason. We've called on it, and it worked out for us."
On making the multiple key stops on third-and-short and translating that to stopping the run ... "I think it's just an attitude and a mindset. You practice a lot of short-yardage situations through camp and through the week during preparation. We pride ourselves on stopping the run on third-and-one, and we do a great job all the time in practice on that. I think it's just an attitude of we know they are going to run the ball. I think we just need to trust our reads a little bit more on first downs when we see run coming at us. We'll be better on first down and second down. We look at the film, and we have improved a little bit since last week once we got everything figured out after the first two drives. We'll improve again coming up for this next week."
On the difference between creating more turnovers this year than in past seasons ... "Emphasis, I think, in practice. We emphasize that regardless of what the tempo is, whether we are in shoulder pads or not. We're always trying to strip the ball from our backs. If there's incomplete passes, we're always scooping and scoring those in practice. Every ball on the ground is our ball regardless if it's incomplete or if it's a fumble. Anything like that we're going to get that ball. It's something we do it practice, and you can see it translates to the game. Turnovers are big. Turnovers decide a lot. The top of the AP charts are the teams that get the most turnovers and have the biggest turnover margin. We haven't been at the top because of that reason. When you look at it now, we're probably creating some of the more turnovers in college football. Hopefully that's a trend we can maintain because that's only going to do good things for us as a team."
Fifth-Year Senior Wide Receiver Junior Hemingway
On jump ball play designs ... "I would just say it works out like that sometimes. Before the games, the receiver coach told me I had to win all the jump balls, those balls going over the top. Denard (Robinson) put it up in the air and I made a play on it."
On wearing the Desmond Howard Michigan Football Legend patch ... "It was an honor. I talked to him before the game in the locker room. He told me, 'keep your emotions down for the game, stay composed, and just let everything come to you and you will be alright.'"
On feelings after the game and preparing for Eastern Michigan University ... "After the game everybody was like, 'I can't believe it, did that really just happen?' We just thought about it and we had a lot of will to win. We showed a lot of heart tonight. All night that is what we thought about. But, the next day we started to think about Eastern. We watched film on the mistakes we made, and we started to think about Eastern."
On looking back at the first night game in the future ... "It was a part of history. It was the first night game in Michigan history, had the most crowd attendance and set an NCAA record. It is going to be something I'll be able to tell my kids, grandkids, things like that. It's a great feeling because that was a good game, a great game."
On becoming a more consistent receiving group ... "We know we need to make sure to catch everything that is one thing coach harps on in practice. That is one thing we pride ourselves on. We make every catch, regardless of where it is at. If it is in our vicinity, we have to catch it. Saturday night, we dropped a couple of balls that we should have made, but you have to move onto the next play. You are not worried about the last one, because if you worry about the last one it will affect the next one. You just have to have a short memory."
On keeping the faith going against Notre Dame ... "We just kept fighting. We never broke apart as a team. The defense got some stops in there and we came out onto the field and we had a lot of inconsistencies in the offense. But, we stayed together and stayed composed, Denard stayed composed, the offensive line stayed composed, the receivers stayed composed and the running backs. There was no doubt in our minds we could go out there and score. We never thought during that game we were going to lose. We just continued to fight."