Sept. 26, 2011
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "It's good to win football games; it's bad to lose games. So it was good to win. I thought from a perspective as a team, I thought we played as well as we have to this point for the first quarter and three quarters. Then I think we struggled a little bit for one reason or another. From an offensive standpoint, can't turn the ball over four times. That does nothing for you as a team. I thought defensively they hung in there and played hard. I thought our front played probably their best football to this point of the year. It's got to bet much better as we get into Big Ten play. And offensively, three and outs and turnovers in the third quarter, you know, time possession affects you as a football team in a lot of ways, momentum and all those things. We've got to do a much better job of executing, being more consistent, blocking at the line of scrimmage, and so we've got a lot work ahead of us.
"In the kicking game, I thought Matt Wile did a nice job punting the football, and I thought his kickoffs, he really placed the ball well. He had one kickoff that was in the middle of the field, but everything else I thought he did a tremendous job. That was a sign of a guy who is maturing as a freshman."
On whether Will Hagerup will automatically take over the punting job from Matt Wile ... "Well, they'll compete. We're going to compete in everything we do. I think that's an important part of your development as a program, and I think that's how you improve as a program. So they'll compete during the week."
On Cam Gordon's status ... "I think he's just not 100 percent yet. I think he's just not where he needs to be yet."
On scoring points on every trip inside the red zone this season ... "I don't know if there's magical answer. I think part of it is always you have some pretty good luck if things are going well. But I think we're blocking it decent. I think the different options that (offensive coordinator) Al Borges presents to some degree within the offense, it makes it a little tougher to defend."
On the root of Denard Robinson's passing concerns ... "It's definitely not all him. I mean, route running, we blew two routes and didn't convert on another route. That's part of it. He's got a lot of pride, and he's going to also help himself with some of the technical, technique, and fundamental parts of being a little more patient with his feet and doing a good job of that."
On scoring 14 points in the first quarter vs. San Diego State and repeating that effort ... "It would be great to replicate it every week. I think we had a great week of practice. I think our preparation was good. I think from a defensive standpoint, they really did a nice job of preparation. I thought (defensive coordinator) Greg Mattison did a nice job with the plan, and I thought Al Borges did, too."
On Troy Woolfolk's injuries and him not being effective when hurt ... "He ran last night; did everything we normally do.
"I don't think so. I haven't seen that yet from a coach's perspective. I think he's being physical, which is always one of the first things when guys are a little beat up you worry about. But I think he's being physical and doing a nice job of breaking on balls. Fundamentally and with his techniques he's been pretty good, so I don't think so."
On running the option a few times vs. San Diego State ... "We've worked that since spring. We've run that against each other, and it was really because if they're going to play a lot of man coverage, which we thought they would, it's a way to really back people off from man coverage. Because if you've got your pitch man and whoever is going to take the quarterback, all those things when you're going to play man and you're going to blitz, you have to be right."
On competitiveness in the Big Ten this season ... "I haven't seen a lot, to be honest with you. We pretty much put the blinders on with what we have to do and that's the truth. It's a great league. It's a competitive league, and it has been.
"This is an important game because it is a league game in our expectations as a program. And then I would say the other part is that Brown Jug, it's pretty important to us. We would like to keep it here in Ann Arbor."
On the Brown Jug and how he emphasizes its importance to the team ... "We did that last night. Once again, it's one of those important traditions when you're involved with the University of Michigan football team. We talked about the history, we talked about it's the oldest trophy when you look at trophy games in the history of college football. It was the first. It means an awful a lot. We want to keep it in Ann Arbor."
On playing five straight home games to start the season ... "I don't know if it's helped. It's always good to play in this great stadium with the passionate fans that we have. Being at home is great. Has it helped us as a team -- maybe, youth-wise and all that. But we like playing here."
On his familiarity with Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill ... "Jerry and I obviously competed against each other at the MAC level, and he and his wife Rebecca are two of the finest people you'll have ever be around. Our prayers for him and his family are there. He's a great person and a terrific coach."
On Jeremy Gallon as a punt returner and receiver ... "He's very consistent. He does it all in practice and all that kind of stuff. He's really consistent. I think he has a nice feel for it, hand-eye coordination, all those things to go along with it. We're real comfortable with him being back there. We are about a block away from springing him again for a decent return, and I think all that will happen.
"I think that punt return unit really worked their tails off last week, and it showed in where we were at as far as having things set up for him."
On not getting a true read on the team until its first road game ... "I don't think we'll find that out until we get there. Until we leave Ann Arbor, then we'll find out where we're at."
On the improvement of the linebackers from spring until now ... "I think we need to play better there. I think Jake (Ryan) has improved a lot since spring, but I don't think we're playing near as well as we need to at that position. I think Kenny (Demens) gives you some great leadership and does a pretty good job playing downhill. I think (Brandin) Hawthorne has come on. He missed some fall camp because of an ankle, which set him back. Desmond Morgan is a guy who has a very bright future, I think. Really I think we were better a week ago, but I think we've got a long way to go at that position."
On if the defensive linemen are responding to the challenges he has presented to them ... "I don't know. I think they have a lot personal pride and pride in ownership of who they are. So when you have guys who have that kind of pride their expectations and our expectations kind of meet and you get a little better. So I think we're making some progress. I thought Mike (Martin) and Ryan (Van Bergen) played their best games of the year to this point. Was it good enough? No, because we have to play a lot better."
On Mike Martin's feeling that last week was the team's best practice ... "I think that's always a transition you go through. How hard you want to practice, how physical you want to practice, how demanding we are from a fundamental and technique standpoint. There are a lot of things that we have demands of them. I think that and their personal pride helps."
On Ricky Barnum's availability this week ... "We'll see. He twisted the ankle up and went back in the football game. He's sore."
On the backup quarterbacks if Denard Robinson has to come out for a series or more ... "I feel pretty good about Devin (Gardner). I think we all do. I think Al (Borges) does, too. I think he's had a very good fall camp, and I think to this point he's conditioned himself and prepared himself to play.
"That's what that guy has to do. I think that he's talented and gifted and smart and can do a good job running the offense."
On the top two running backs being Vincent Smith and Fitzgerald Toussaint ... "Those are the two that got the snaps the other day. They both practiced well. Vince (Smith) played well; Fitz (Toussaint) played well."
On if situations dictate which running back will be in the game ... "Not necessarily. There are some protection things with Vince (Smith) we have liked for a long time, but I really think that Fitz (Toussaint) has done a really good job. He's a tough guy, and he'll stay in there is and take a guy on."
On respecting Minnesota, which appears to be struggling ... "I think your consistency as a coach in how you handle everything weekly. One week is not different than another. For us we play for the Big Ten championship, and obviously this is the start of the Big Ten part of the schedule.
"I don't think there are any secrets that we've got to play a lot better than we have within the Big Ten. Minnesota got beat by North Dakota State, who is as good a football team. You don't want to schedule them, I can promise you that, because they're well coached and tough. They always play well. I don't know how many national championships they've won.
"Then (Minnesota) gets beat by (Southern California) 19-17 out in the Coliseum. I do know USC has a lot of athletes."
On Minnesota's weapons ... "I think MarQueis Gray, their quarterback, and they're using two quarterbacks. I think he's averaging almost right at 100 rushing the football. He's talented. We tried to recruit him out of Ball State out of Indianapolis. He's a big guy who has got very good feet.
"They're playing two guys at times in there. They move the ball. I think they're averaging 179 yards a game, and almost 170 throwing the ball. It's something in that range. But they got a lot of talent and play very aggressive defensively."
On what scout team quarterback he'll use to simulate the Minnesota players ... "We'll use the guys who have done a good job for us. Jack Kennedy has done a good job down there. Russell Bellomy came down and did a nice job for us last week."
On the differences between the Minnesota quarterbacks and their styles ... "Gray is a big guy. He's 6-4, probably 6-5. He's a bigger guy. Probably more physically like Terrelle Pryor. He's a bigger guy when you look at him physically. They both have good feet. They both read the play very well. I don't know if I would say they're different styles."
On when to run the option with Denard Robinson ... "We don't have the midline, you know, the true triple. We're not built for that, nor do we run that, so it's more of a speed option."
On if the players were excited to see the Little Brown Jug at their meeting ... "I think they know it's an important part of the legacy of Michigan."
On Will Hagerup's punting in practice ... "I think he's done a nice job of coaching and helping Matt (Wile). Those guys all have a little uniqueness to them about where the ball is when they drop it. I try and watch and try and give them a hint now and then, but I think he's done a nice job."
On Matt Wile working more on field goals if Will Hagerup earns the punting job ... "(Kicking) is open every week. It's always open. (Wile) kicks field goals; he punts; he kicks off."
On how to simulate game action for Devin Gardner ... "The way we go after each other, he gets used to the speed of the game. We go one on ones probably 25 minutes a day. It's physical. That's why we do it, to prepare guys."
On other players he would have liked to get into games ... "It would have been great to play a lot of guys. Quinton Washington, I would have liked to have been playing a little bit more as a defensive tackle. It's just not one position, and so there are a lot of guys would have liked to get to that point with, but we haven't."
On the interceptions thrown by Denard Robinson against San Diego State ... "The one was a pretty good break up by their guy and a nice effort. The other one he should have got to the smash route."
On cornerback Blake Countess ... "I thought he did a nice job. I think he's a talented kid and I think he'll be a really good player for us. He's smart and understands the defense and has a good feel for it."
On who stands out on Minnesota's defense ... "I haven't looked much at their defense yet. I know (Kim) Royston. I think that's their safety. He's a football player. He sticks out. (Gary Tinsley) sticks out."
On improving each week ... "This is such a mental game. It's played from the neck up. This part in the year, you know, you've done all your heavy lifting and you've done all your conditioning. It is now time that knowing your opponent, knowing what the game plan is, knowing your reaction, where your eyes, all those things should be. So that's a big part of it."
On how much the offense changes inside the red zone ... "We've been in jumbo personnel; we've been in heavy personnel, we've been in 11 personnel; been in 12 personnel. So I would say it changes."
On how well Denard Robinson has avoided contact when possible ... "As best he can. He's done all right. He's gotten out of bounds at some opportune times, but he's a competitor. First play of the game, he went after the guy who was going to be locked on him. I mean, he's a competitor."
Fifth-Year Senior Defensive End Ryan Van Bergen
On where the defense is compared to pre-season expectations... "We have come a long way I think since camp. It is really hard to judge that because we have only had four games because of where we are, especially when it comes down to the Big Ten and stuff. The thing that is promising is we have seen the glimpses where we can be a great defense. We have not been great all the time, we have not been great most of the time, but when we are playing well, we could be one of the best in the country. One of the things is we have to stop saying is 'we can be' and start actually being that, because there is no reason that we cannot. We have enough depth, we have enough talent, and we just have to start executing better."
On the strengths of the defense... "We played really well in the red zone. We have had good red zone defense, and we have had some really good short yardage stops -- third-and-1, fourth-and-1. We are really good at that situation. We can kill drives; we have had some three-and-outs, like the last game. We step up to the plate when we need to. We have done some good things, but we are not where we need to be as far as that needs to be consistent. It cannot be a question of 'are they going to do it this time?' it has got to be something that we know as a defense. Our offense can trust in us and our coaches know that we are going to get the job done every time when we come out on the field."
On differences between this defense compared to past seasons... "That (short yardage stops) is one of the biggest differences. Turnovers is one of the biggest differences. Another one is big plays, I think the big plays have killed us. In the past couple of years we have had some plays that have gone for 50 or 60 (yards), we have seen plays like that. I really think that there is a shortage of those plays this year and that is just because of our philosophy on defense. We are a little bit more technique sound, so that is another big difference for helping us out."
On how practicing short yardage defenses has shown results... "I don't know, probably because we practice it so much. It is something that we do, we practice it a lot. We have a lot more guys in the box. Coach Mattison is not afraid to load up the box and say 'alright try and boot out and see if you can get outside of us.' We will load the box up and we will play our best against your best and you know where we will be and we know what your run is so let's see who can get lower and push each other off the ball. That is something we pride ourselves in as a defensive line and front seven."
On goal of keeping other teams out of the end zone... "I think it goes a long way to credit Coach Mattison because of what he emphasized when he got here. He kind of got the order of things, the number one thing was keeping people out of the end zone when they get into the red zone. He went down the list, no big plays, and we want to stop the run and obviously limit some of the yardage people are getting. But at the same time, if you are not scoring you are not going to win the game. When Coach Mattison came in he said we are not going to let teams in the end zone. We have given up yards, but as far as a bend and don't break mentality we have been doing pretty well at it."
On passion for leaving a mark in Big Ten Conference play... "I know I speak on behalf of the senior class as far as guys who have been here for four or five years, we are hungry to get into the Big Ten schedule because everybody who is on this team has been 4-0 at one point. Everybody has realized that does not mean anything once you reach the Big Ten schedule. Coach Hoke says championships are won in November and our November record is not very good. We are anxious to get into the Big Ten schedule because what we do in the next two months is what will be remembered of our team forever. That is all we have left as seniors and I think our team is very focused, we kind of have tunnel vision. There is a lot of stuff out there that could distract us as far as being ranked and I think we moved up this week, I'm not sure. We are 4-0 and playing well, Denard (Robinson) is playing really well, I think he won another award this week. There is all of these other outside things, but when it comes down to it, we want to get W's when it comes to the Big Ten Conference and we are excited to get in there."
Senior Tight End Kevin Koger
On being home five games in a row... "I think it is more unusual than anything. I don't think we really think about it that much, just because we haven't traveled with Coach Hoke yet and we will next week against Northwestern. It will just be a different experience. Like Coach Hoke says, we have to create our own atmosphere every game. That is what means the most."
On the importance of the Little Brown Jug rivalry game... "I would definitely put it up at the top. I mean it is the oldest rivalry game in NCAA, so it definitely means a lot to us and we want to keep the Jug where it belongs."
On things that others can do to make Denard Robinson more successful in the passing game... "We just have to get open. That's what it really amounts to. We're not being very detailed in our execution right now; receivers running routes of different depths and dropping passes. We just have to help him out. Everyone is putting the blame on him, but it's not really all on him. You know he is going to take all the blame himself because that is just the type of guy he is, but we just have to help him out a lot more than we have been."
On the success rate in the red zone... "We have been focused on taking care of the ball. In the past couple of years, we haven't had the greatest success in taking care of the football and we didn't on Saturday, but we are just looking to finish, and that has been an emphasis and we have done a great job so far, so hopefully that continues."
On being ready to start the Big Ten season and what needs to be done to contend for the title... "First and foremost, we have to finish. We've heard Coach Hoke say that a lot. But I think that we have to be more physical up front. I think it starts up front with the offensive line and the defensive line. If we start there and control the line of scrimmage, we will be successful."
Junior Quarterback Denard Robinson
On the passing game... "I guess we just have to get on the same page and work on our timing more and more. Every day we will practice and try to get better."
On his accuracy... "I think it is going to be alright. I have been practicing well. I just have to put it on the field."
On red zone success... "(We have) a big offensive line and they work on it hard. You have to run it fast, run it behind and they give us a hole to get in there."
On bouncing back from mistakes... "I have beaten myself up about it. But I'm glad I have teammates who take the pressure off of me and tell me 'look, you got to get right.'"
On correcting incomplete passes... "This whole season I have been priding myself on not missing guys. I know I have to do (things) to get better."
Fifth-Year Senior Center David Molk
On the intensity of last week's game... "We came off strong, we knew what we were going up against going into the game and we just came out guns blazing."
On if the intensity is something that can be replicated week after week... "It should be. It's everyone getting down and studying the film, learning their opponent to the nth degree, and when you know them, you can beat them."
On getting a feel for what coaches want in practice... "It's still kind of new to everyone, so we still have to get used to it. You get to know how the season is going to go, how the coaches are going to act, how everything should play out, and I think we're getting use to it, and the more comfortable we are, the better we'll play."
On how to improve the offense... "Consistency. There were a lot of drives where we lost three-and-outs where we just weren't getting anything done. Those are all opportunities that we had, that we should've done well with."
On his captaincy and Kevin Koger telling Denard Robinson 'It's not all you'... "It's true. Because sometimes (Denard) will take a lot on his shoulders and he'll just kind of go crazy finding the play by itself, and trying to make that hole, make that run, make a pass out of nothing, and he doesn't need to. He can rely on everyone else around him and when he does is when we play the best."
On success with the team in the red zone... "We've done well. We have a different more powerful running game this year. I think it got put a lot on the coaches, and Coach Borges is calling plays really well."