B.J. Askew | Julius Curry | Victor Hobson | John Navarre | Tony Pape
Senior Fullback B.J. Askew
On if Saturday's game was frustrating
... "Any time you get into the red zone you want to come up with a score. We had a tough time doing that but we will get it taken care of. Sometimes that is just the way it goes and you are lucky to come out with the win and look forward to the next game."
On the second-half running game ... "At Michigan our number one thing is running the football. That has been stressed since last year and we are going to just keep pounding away as much as we can. We are just trying to take advantage of the opportunities that we have and get it done."
On what the team can do to get better first-half results on the ground ... "You never know how it is going to go. You just go in there every play. You do the same thing you did in the first half you do the second half. If it happens, it happens, and if it does not, it does not."
On if there is a different attitude on the field goal team when a fake is called ... "You just go out there and line up like normal. Then we do a fake and there we go."
On what he says to the kickers to bolster their confidence ... "The only thing that I have done with them is to talk to them. I tell them that when they kick extra points it could be good from 50 yards. I say do not change your technique when you are kicking from outside 20 yards. It seems like they are changing their technique but you really do not have to. You just kick it the same way. I am not a kicking coach but they kick all day long. That is all they do. I am sure that they know what to do more than I do but I just tell them to kick it like they do extra points."
On if he has ever tried kicking a field goal ... "Yeah, I have and I was unsuccessful."
On what the coaches say after a fumble ... "The most that you can tell them is not to do it. You do not plan to fumble the football. Sometimes it is just a good play by the defense and sometimes it is the running back's fault. You just have to keep doing drills in practice to hold on to the football. That is the best that you can do."
On the fumble problems ... "It is really stressed. The previous series we did not run through the gauntlet and have guys stripping the ball. We changed that after the Notre Dame game. Everybody who carries the football has to run through the gauntlet. We do it for 10 minutes. In practice we have the demonstration guys always reaching for the football. There are a lot of things that we have changed to try to help the problem. I think we will get better as the season goes along. I know that when (Chris) Perry got back in (the Utah game in the second half) he was holding the ball. I do not think I will see another fumble out of him."
On the poor spacing on the screen pass ... "The crease I was trying to get into closed because the tackle got knocked backwards so I had to go back around him. I looked up and saw that everybody was on the other side to I told John (Navarre) to just throw it to me. That was a long five-yard gain."
On watching other Big Ten teams ... "I caught a lot of the Cincinnati and Ohio State game and the Michigan State game. You see teams with big, physical guys. We are just going to take it one game at a time starting with Illinois. When you look at the game outside of your conference it is kind of like a preseason so the mindset is different when you are getting ready to start the Big Ten. We have to bring our 'A' game and be ready to go."
On the postseason ... "We really do not control our destiny. We just want to make sure that we win every game and then where we go is where we go."
On his weight gain ... "I stopped at 238. I do not want to gain any more than that. I can feel the difference and I play more snaps than I did last year. There are times in there where I get a little tired. It helps me a lot in there as far as blocking and I still run well so it is okay."
On the gauntlet ... "You have guys on the right side and the left side for about eight yards. You run towards the line and the first two guys hit you to slow you down. You have to keep running with one hand on the ball because if you put two on it you defeat the purpose of the drill. If you have the ball in your right hand the guys on the left side are pushing you into the guys on the right side who are trying to get the ball and get you off balance."
On quarterback John Navarre ... "John is the type of guy that lets everything just roll off of his back. He knows that he is going to take a lot of criticism and he honestly just ignores it. I do not see a difference in his confidence at all."
On the Illinois crowd ... "When they are in the game the crowd is loud. I get tired hearing, 'First down Illini.' That was killing me when we were there my sophomore year. That just drove me crazy. They are loud. The most important thing is that we have to try to get on top of them early so that we can take the crowd out of the game."
On playing at fullback again ... "As a sophomore I was still involved somewhat but a lot more this year as a senior. That is really the difference-maker. When you have a guy who is having his last time out you want to take care of him as much as you can. I seem to get the ball an even number running and passing."
On if he was rooting for Cincinnati on Saturday ... "Actually I was because I am from Cincinnati. But we really need Ohio State to win because if they would have lost to Cincinnati it would have shown the Big Ten Conference as being weak and the points would not have been as good for seeing who does get to go to the bowl games."
On the Michigan State game ... "I watched the game. We had a few guys in there and we were rooting for Michigan State. Notre Dame beat us and they beat Purdue so it is like somebody has to beat Notre Dame. That last 1:12 got them. (Charles) Rogers is definitely a tremendous athlete and we are going to have to take care of him when it is time."
Fifth-Year Senior Strong Safety Julius Curry
On his performance vs. Utah
... "I think that it is a good start. There are a lot of plays out there to be made. The last few weeks I made some plays and did not make others. This week I played pretty well. I made the plays that were in front of me. One thing that we are trying to do as a defense is to get the ball back for the offense."
On preparing for the Big Ten season ... "We are very excited about the Big Ten. There are a lot of teams that are doing very well this year, like Ohio State and Michigan State. Unfortunately Michigan State lost last weekend but they are doing really well. The first four games are over and now we are just looking forward to the Big Ten which makes your season. We would like to go the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or whatever bowl game that we can go to."
On the team's postseason goals ... "We have both the Fiesta Bowl and the Rose Bowl in mind. We are not out of the race."
On Michigan State's loss ... "I do not like to see any teams in the Big Ten lose. It is always upsetting when a team like that loses to a team that is out of our conference. I saw the highlights. It is upsetting that both teams from Michigan lost to Notre Dame. Notre Dame is a good team and they came up with some big victories."
On playing a big part on both defense and special teams ... "I do not think about it much. Special teams is doing a great job setting up returns. The coaches worked with me and I worked really hard in the off-season catching punts. It became a routine thing to go out and catch the ball after making a stop on defense."
On Illinois' receivers ... "Illinois has four of the best receivers in the Big Ten this year. They all are good. Everyone is averaging over 11 yards per catch and that is hard to beat."
On Zia Combs and Markus Curry stepping up vs. Illinois ... "It puts them in a position where they have to make plays and stand out. Either they are as good as everyone says or they are not."
On his talk with head coach Lloyd Carr ... "He said that I have to play like the player that I am and the player that I was in 1999 and 2000. I took that and put it in my back pocket. I said that I am going to go out there and do it. I have been playing good but I have not been playing great. This is my fifth year and now I have to play great."
On if he worries about his shoulder ... "I never really thought about it on the field."
On his evaluation of his performance ... "I think the main thing is that I was playing well but I wanted to be more involved. I wanted to be making bigger plays rather that just making a tackle. I wanted to help the offense out on defense as well as punt returns. I was doing well on punt returns but on defense I need to stand out more. That is what my team deserves from me."
On if he felt he was making an impact on the field ... "I actually did. The previous games I felt that I did my job and did mess up too much. This game I was in position to make plays and I did. But without those 10 other guys on the field there is no play to make."
On what he said to his brother Markus after the game ... "I just tell him to remain focused and not get down and to not worry about what happened last week but worry about what is happening this week. He has bounced back from a lot of things in the last year and a half and I think this is just another thing that he has to bounce back from and show everyone that he is a great cornerback."
On how Markus took not playing ... "He took it pretty hard. He learned from his mistake. He has a lot to prove to the team and everybody back home."
On being surprised that Markus did not play ... "I was surprised, but it is up to the coaches to make the right decisions. They decide whether Charles Drake, Cato June or I play in the games, and they decide everyone who plays on offense or defense. They are making the right decisions on who plays on game day.
On his brother's unfortunate incident this past summer ... "It affected me a lot. It allowed me to cherish life a lot more. The relationship got a little tighter and the team got a little tighter because Markus wasn't the only one who was shot. It just made the team get a lot closer. This year I think is a special group. We lost one game but we can bounce back like Markus and Carl Diggs bounced back. One of the things that we are focusing on this year is bouncing back from adversity."
On teams passing away from Marlin Jackson ... "I think that it is a big possibility. That is also like making a scheme to not run against Victor Hobson. We have 11 guys on the field so they are going to have to do a lot of scheming. We have a great defensive line, our linebackers are solid, and the defensive secondary is holding up. So we are becoming a very good defensive unit."
On his shoulder surgery and when he was 100 percent back from that ... "A month and a half after surgery is when I felt that I was on the rise. The first few weeks I could not move it but maybe two months later I was lifting weights again. My body heals pretty fast. I wasn't expecting it and neither were the doctors. I feel that I am a strong person and I have faith in God to heal me, and he did."
On when the injury occurred ... "Against Western Michigan last year. They ran a draw and I ran up on the play and tried to give a big hit, and right on contact my shoulder slipped right out. By the time I got off the ground, I didn't realize that I was hurt because the nerve had already stretched. I tried to get off the ground, but my shoulder was just dangling."
On starting the Big Ten and knowing more about the opponents ... "A lot of the players keep coming up in the scouting reports, especially with the underclassmen and watching them grow older. Brandon Lloyd is a great player, and I have been watching him as a sophomore. A key to the game will be stopping him from making big plays because Brandon Lloyd is a big-play guy."
On Illinois being a tough place to play ... "It is very loud down there. We have a lot of support from people in Illinois. When we make big plays the crowd is loud but when they make the play it is a little louder."
On being surprised with Illinois' 1-3 start ... "I am very surprised because they have all of the talent to be undefeated just like most of the teams in the Big Ten. It just comes down to big plays. We allowed some big plays that led to our loss, and that is one thing that teams have to keep in mind. The teams that usually make the big plays are successful."
On the Illinois quarterback situation ... "I think the quarterback that they have this year is a good quarterback. I heard he is a transfer basketball player too. He is tough and he is accurate with a strong arm. They also have the receivers. Kurt Kittner gave the receivers a chance to catch the ball and I think that this guy is a good quarterback that gives them the same opportunities, too."
Fifth-Year Senior Outside Linebacker Victor Hobson
On the playmaking of the secondary
... "It gives you a relief because the guys up front work so hard every down. That is what people do not see when they get the quarterback to throw a bad pass or maybe somebody is in his face and he does not know what to do or he is hesitant for a second. That is a real relief for them. It is just good to know that you have guys like that in the secondary that will make plays like that."
On the fourth quarter the last time Michigan played at Illinois ... "That was a hard-fought game and it was close all game. I remember the score going back and forth. At the end we were able to put it together and come out with the victory. It was a hard-fought game."
On Illinois' struggles this season ... "I am surprised by that. I try not to pay attention to their record because when we were going over the scouting report yesterday they have a lot of solid players, guys that have been starting for three or four years."
On the defense's goal against Illinois ... "We always want to stop the run and try to make the other team as one dimensional as possible. That makes it easier on us. We just want to go out and stop the run and make them pass the ball. Obviously they are able to pass the ball very well because they have four returning receivers, a quarterback who can throw the ball and an offensive line who can block for him."
On differences in Illinois' offense ... "Their overall attack it pretty much the same. Their offensive coaches put together good schemes and they attack those points which they feel are weak points in the defenses. They have done that since I have been playing them and they continue to do that. They do a good job at that."
On the performance of the defense ... "I am happy where we are but we could be a lot better. We have shown the signs of a real good defense at times but then right after that we might have some mental errors here or there and give up a big play. I think we need to be more consistent as a group. We have the talent to do it and we have the experience. We just need to come out and be more consistent."
On the team's need to prove itself on the road ... "We definitely feel that need. Coach (Lloyd) Carr always talks about how mediocre teams cannot win on the road. We have to go out and prove ourselves because last time we were on the road we could not do that."
On the importance of the fourth quarter ... "We want to be able to win in the fourth quarter as a team. Most of our games have gone down to the fourth quarter and that is something that we have expected. It is something that Coach Carr prepared us for before camp. At the same time, we as a defense have to do a better job. We gave up points in the fourth quarter last week, and going through the season we have given up big plays in the fourth quarter. That is something as a defense we have to work on and focus on to make sure that we are mentally prepared to go into the fourth quarter and win."
On his performance ... "I need to just try to make every play possible. There are plays out there that you guys might not see but I see them on film and the coaches definitely see that I could have made them. I will never say that I am at where I want to be at because then I am getting complacent. I always want to get better and I think I can play better than what I am doing."
On if he would want to be 3-1 and tested or 4-0 and not tested ... "I think I would want to be 4-0 and feel we got tested at the same time. We are 3-1, we have been tested and that gives that much more confidence going into the Big Ten. We are going to get better as a team. Illinois is a good team. Their record so far does not show how good they are as a team. It is going to be another test for us."
On if the intensity increases for the Big Ten season ... "There is a certain intensity that you have to have every week. Given our schedule this year, the way we opened up with Washington and played Notre Dame, we pretty much had to keep that intensity from the start. There is no room for a letdown. You cannot relax even a little bit, especially now that we are in the Big Ten season where every week is like a championship game. We have to keep the intensity up and stay focused every week now."
On the inside linebackers ... "They all are coming into their own in their own way. Carl Diggs had a good game last week. He can still improve and he knows that. Zach Kaufman had good games the last couple of weeks. The young linebackers behind them, Scot McClintock is able to come in and give Carl Diggs breaks here and there. Lawrence Reid is also there."
On if the defense has confidence in Scot McClintock making the right calls on defense ... "We always set the expectations for the position. When he comes in we have to expect he to look over at Coach (Jim) Herrmann and get the signal and be able to make the right call and get us set up. It is something that maybe in the first game we might have been a little nervous for him but after that first play when he made the right call we knew there was no difference."
On if he ever makes calls on the line ... "I guess sometimes everyone sees something different. There are certain calls that the line makes to us or that we make to each other if we feel it is going to be a run or a pass. Communication is the key to the whole defense and you cannot keep any secrets. We all are vocal with each other and let everybody know what might happen or what we think might happen from what we see on film. We all are vocal out there."
On if offenses are trying to go away from him ... "I do not know. If that happens then everybody on the weak side will step up and make plays."
Senior/Junior Quarterback John Navarre
On the fans booing
... "I did not hear it but it bothered me when I read about it. I do not understand it. Fans have an opinion and you are not going to change that. We are playing our game, we have our goals, we know what we what to accomplish, we know what we are doing and we know how we want to play. That is what counts."
On if the fans did not understand Utah's defense ... "I think that is an underlying thing with every game. A lot of people do not understand the situation and the circumstances. That was the third best rushing defense in the country. They were very talented and that was a very physical game and the guys played hard. Some people do not understand that just because we are not throwing 50 points on the board means we do not have a good outing. Everybody says a 'W' is a 'W' and it is. We executed fairly well on offense. We did some good things and the defense played an outstanding game. It was a close ballgame and there was a touchdown at the end that made it closer that it should have been. If you change five plays in that game we could have scored 24 or 27 points."
On if starting at Illinois as a redshirt freshman will help him this Saturday ... "I think it will. Any time you get a chance to get into a foreign place where you have been there before and you know what to expect that is definitely an advantage. It is a tough place to play. I think if we get in there and get control we are going to be all right."
On Illinois' defense ... "They have a very traditional defense. They have stuck with what has been working for them. They have some good leaders in (Eugene) Wilson and (Jerry) Schumacher. Those guys have been there for a while. They have lost a few guys but they have the same philosophy and mentality. When you keep that mentality, kind of like Michigan's defense, you are going to be good. They are going to stay aggressive. They were aggressive last year. They are going to stick with what works and that has worked for them in a couple of other games too."
On how the turnovers affect the flow of the offense ... "The one positive thing that comes out of that is that yes, we have had turnovers that have stopped drives, but as an offense we do not get down. We come back the next drive and know that we are doing good things and executing. The ball was just bouncing the wrong way. We are not having mental breakdowns on offense. We are not doing wrong things. Guys are not missing assignments. The only thing that is happening is the turnovers. That kills the drive. That is what Coach Carr stresses here every day. Turnovers are key in any ballgame. It just stops what you are doing and it gives the other team the ball. Just because we are not putting the points on the board and we have the fumbles, we are not having breakdowns on offense. We do not have guys missing assignments and guys not where they should be. We have worked very hard on that in practice and guys are doing it. That is the positive thing."
On if finding a groove on offense has been difficult with the turnovers ... "When you put it that way yes, it is tough to find a groove. Any kind of turnover that stops a drive makes it tough to find a groove. But going back to what I said earlier, we have never felt as an offense that after a turnover that when we go back out there we are going to just turn the ball over again or miss a field goal. We give ourselves opportunities every time. We have had plenty of opportunities to score points. The positive thing is that I have never felt a negative sense from the guys in the huddle or the guys on the sidelines of what are we doing wrong. We are doing the right things. We are executing well. What we are not executing is ball security. That is the positive thing. Guys are very positive and we know what we can do and that is how we are going to look at it."
On the fine line between a completion and an imcompletion ... "The fine line is timing. Timing is invaluable in a game where you have guys who have played in the game and are experienced. You have practiced with these guys for months and months. That is timing. I am not saying we do not have timing. I do not think it is something to get all worked up about. I think it is something very easy to fix. We stressed that in practice on Sunday. Nobody is worried about it. I am not worried about it as a quarterback because I know the talent that we have, I practice with these guys and I know their abilities. I know they can catch the ball. I do not think that is an issue at all. As far as the fine line, I can throw a ball behind a guy and he can still get his hands on it. Maybe he should have caught it, but if he is in an awkward body position and I throw the ball behind him that is a very, very tough catch. The fine line is if I do not make that throw or he does not make that catch that is a first down that we could have gotten. There were a lot of third downs out there where if I make a better throw or a guy makes a catch we keep a drive alive. That is the big thing that we have to fix and it is an easy thing to fix. That is what we have to do going into the Big Ten season where teams get a lot better and the competition is fighting for a Big Ten championship."
On the balls batted at the line ... "The ones that I had batted down, I was on time on all of my drops. There were not timing issues. That was a good thing. Like I said, we are executing well on the offense. We did not have any timing breakdowns. They had a very good defensive line. Some guys got in there. That stuff happens as you go through a game. I have seen games where when you watch film and you thread the needle on a couple of plays and you wonder how they did not bat that down. And then you go on Saturday and look at the game. We had a touchdown on one of the plays where they knocked it down. And their guy was just sitting there waiting to knock it down. That is how it works out and it goes both ways. That is how you look at it on game day."
On the experience of playing at Notre Dame ... "I think it gives you confidence. The reason I say that is that when you look at the film, you think that if you could have made two or three more plays, we would have won that game. You focus on what you can do as player and what you can control. We had some opportunities and if you make those opportunities happen, you come out with a win. The positive thing is that we have the capability to go into a hostile environment against a good ballclub and as many mistakes as we made we still gave ourselves countless opportunities to win a football game. We were down, we made mistakes, we were looking but we came back and had opportunities."
On the offense this year compared to last year ... "We are more balanced. We are running the ball better. We are more efficient in the passing game. We are getting the ball to everyone all over the field. I think overall we are balanced. I am happy with the execution and the coaches are too. We are very demanding in practice of our offense. The players embrace that. That is what we want and everybody knows that that is the way it is going to be if we want to win a championship. Nobody is disagreeing with what we are doing. That is the positive thing. Everybody wants to work hard and everybody knows what it takes to win and the demanding part of it is that we all are on the same page. That is the encouraging thing. If we take care of the turnovers we are better and we execute better. I think we are ahead of where we were last year."
Senior/Junior Offensive Lineman Tony Pape
On the second-half running game
... "I think the difference is both wearing the other team down and a decision on our part to just take it to the other team. We have a mindset that we are going to go out and wear other teams down. Sometimes when our back is against the wall we just come together as an offense. We make a decision on the field that we are going to have to run the ball and possess it and take time off the clock. The main focus this week is to come out strong. We have come out in the second half and played really strong but we have been kind of lackluster in our first half play so that is a big concern this week."
On whether lack of production on offense is frustrating for the offensive line ... "The backs running the ball is just as much on us as it is on the backs. Our job is to block the defenders before they have a chance to hit the back. If we do not block them it is on us. We take just as much responsibility as the backs do."
On what the team needs to do to win the Big Ten ... "I think that we just need to take it one week at a time and not look ahead to things. Every team we play is going to be a game and every team is going to come after us."
On Illinois' defense ... "Illinois, despite what they have been doing in the previous weeks, is a great team and they have great players. All of their best players are back from last year. They are still going to be competitive and they are still a great team."
On if the difficult non-conference schedule is an advantage or disadvantage ... "I think it helps us in the fact that we are ready to play on the road. We went into Notre Dame and now we are ready to go into those big games on the road. I think that experience is going to help us in the long run to compete in the Big Ten. Going into Notre Dame, there were a lot of guys who were going on the road for the first time so even the loss helped us."
On if a loss to Notre Dame is more valuable than a win over a lesser opponent ... "That Notre Dame game was a heartbreaker but it was also a learning experience. You can either learn from it and build on that or it can hurt you as a team. I think it helped us as a team and brought us closer together."
On the play of the offensive line ... "I think we are playing really well. We are running the ball well but we need to protect John (Navarre) a little better. We have allowed too many hurries and I think we need to give him more time back there."
On Utah's defense ... Their defense was amazing. They were tough and they came every down. I feel like we had to work for every yard we got. Other games the other team's defense broke here and broke there but we had to work for every yard we got in that Utah game."
On the criticism of John Navarre ... "Everyone is tired of everybody talking bad about John and him getting booed in the stadium. John does his job and a lot of people do not see that. I do not know what they expect of him but he does his job and he does it well. I think he is doing a great job."
On Illinois' defensive line ... "They are very athletic and very talented. Their defensive ends are clicking and they have some great inside guys that can play the run very well. They have the linebackers coming back so they are a very good defense."
On Illinois' fans ... "Their fans absolutely hate us. It is definitely a tough place to go and play because their fans are right on top of you. They are screaming obscenities down at you. It if funny to hear it but it kind of gets in your head a little bit because those fans are tough and it is tough to play there. They really get on us."
On hearing Michigan fans booing the team ... "It is tougher to hear your own fans boo rather than the other team's. It is heartbreaking. They are supposed to be your fans and they are supposed to be on your side. We want to impress the fans but it is tough to see that happen. I have never heard anything like this happening before."
Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423