Oct. 10, 2011
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "No. 1, thanks for coming. Saturday, I think we learned a little bit more about ourselves as a football team, in good ways and bad ways, learning that you can't turn the ball over. That's an important aspect that we have got to do a better job, and the decision making at times, fundamentals at times, techniques at times.
"The other thing I think we learned is that from a defensive standpoint, you need to get off blocks. That enhances your ability to make tackles. And I think that we learned that if we hang together, good things can happen and that if we play with aggression, then we play a little better football."
On why the team plays so much better in the second halves of games ... "From the offensive standpoint, I think we see something different pretty much all the time and how people want to defend us offensively and really defend Denard (Robinson). So I think Al (Borges) does a tremendous job and his staff, Darrell Funk and Heck (Jeff Hecklinski) and Fred (Jackson) and Dan (Ferrigno). I think they all do a tremendous job of getting together and talking during the course of the game, or the first half, and you know, putting their ideas down and making the appropriate adjustments and changes.
"I think the same thing, defensively. I think Greg (Mattison) and Curt (Mallory) and Mark (Smith) and Jerry (Montgomery) do a tremendous job defensively. And the kids have been willing and they are listening, and I think they are learning."
On Michigan State's defensive line ... "They are extremely talented, aggressive, well coached. Coach Gill was one of my coaches in college. Their defensive line coach, he is a tremendous motivator. He knows the game, does a great job coaching them. Those kids play with a fire for them.
"You look at their defense as a whole and I think the whole team is very well coached, because I have a lot of respect for Mark D'Antonio. He's a defensive coach, and his mindset and vision of how they are going to play defense; I think they are athletic. I think they play with good team speed, and they are going to be a physical presence out on the field."
On how a 6-0 record helps him forge an identity for this team ... "I don't know. I think you gain a little bit of confidence as long as that confidence is coming through understanding the preparation that helped you move the dial -- and from a fundamental and technique standpoint, which we talk about and stress every day, and an attitude to prepare each week for and how we prepare. So I think we are learning lessons as we go."
On winning easily compared to winning while overcoming adversity ... "I really think you gain some confidence because of how you stayed together and how you respect each other. That's probably the most significant thing I've seen out of our guys is that respect that they have for each other, the respect that they have for their opponents and I think how they have prepared to this point. You all look for the cracks as a coach, the mentality of your team. Sometimes I've gone into games and I go, 'we are not near ready,' and we play great. And there have been times when you think you've been ready and you don't play as well as you want. So I don't know if there are any real secrets out there. But it's just us trying to get better every week."
On how the team is performing based on his preseason expectations ... "I never judge anything by preconceived notions of where we would be. We just know that we have to go to work every day and that we have got to play Michigan football: take care of the ball, play physical at the line of scrimmage and play for each other."
On the similarities among the defenses presented to stop Denard Robinson ... "Similarities, there are some. I think probably the one that was the most different would be how San Diego State did, which you kind of knew that with the uniqueness of what they do defensively. With Northwestern, they faced that offense all spring, they face it all fall camp and they were determined to make it a perimeter game on both sides of the ball to be honest with you. And then I think Notre Dame, the way they defended us as some people have mimicked to some degree with how they play their safeties."
On what he remembers about the loss at Michigan State in 2001 ... "Well, we lost the football game. Somebody was in charge of substitutions on defense and we had a penalty that helped them get down the field and that was me. We had too many guys on the field. So I remember it."
On the Michigan State rivalry and its recent history ... "Obviously the guys know what the history has been. The rivalry is a tremendous rivalry because of the passion for both schools that people have. The alums, people within the state, you kind of draw the line that you're a Spartan fan or you're a Wolverine fan and that's what makes college football and that's what makes it so exciting."
"It's an important part of recruiting. It's an important part because it's a Big Ten game and how that all goes for you during the course of the year."
On what it's like playing at Spartan Stadium ... "It will be fun. It's a fun place to be because of the passion and the fans, on both sides. Obviously there will be some Michigan people there. That's why you go to places like Michigan and Michigan State; to play in those games and represent your school. It will be fun."
On if the Michigan State game is the most physical game of the season ... "Oh yeah, I mean, it was always going to be a dogfight and every year, it was always going to be two teams that were going to be physical at the line of scrimmage on both side of the ball. It was always going to be guys playing their best football and playing as tough and physical as they could. So I agree with Lloyd Carr. I always thought
On watching film of last year's MSU game to see how Denard Robinson was defended ... "To be honest with you I haven't looked at it yet, because I'm looking at their offense right now. But I'm sure Al (Borges) and that side of the ball have probably been through it."
On the challenges that MSU's offense presents, starting with quarterback Kirk Cousins ... "I think he's as good a quarterback you'll find in this league. I think he runs the offense, manages the offense, gets them in the right things as far as play-wise, and I think he's very accurate with the football. Their running backs, they have three backs who are all very capable, very good.
"I love the fullback, Todd Anderson, because he's a prototypical, hit-you-in-the-face guy, who is going to lead block well, he's going to protect well, B.J. Cunningham out at the wide receiver (position). And I think the tight ends and the use of the tight ends are a big part of it and that presents challenges from a defensive standpoint."
On the physicality of past games against Michigan State ... "It usually always was. Just thinking back, it always was. I'm a defensive line coach. They were going to try and pound you off the football and you had to match that intensity. You know they are going to punch you in the mouth and you'd better punch back."
On having to improve along the lines against Michigan State ... "I don't think there's any doubt we have to be better everywhere for us to win the football game. We have to be better at every position. We have to be better coaches, we have to be better trainers in how we tape ankles and all those things."
On MSU's defensive line presenting a great test for U-M's offensive line ... "I think so. There's not any doubt that their physicalness at the line of scrimmage and their ability to penetrate and all those things and be disruptive are a big part of what they do defensively -- pressure on the quarterback. For us, we have got to play our best game to this point in all areas, but specifically up front."
On Taylor Lewan coming out of the game against Northwestern for a period of time ... "He came out because he was over on their sideline and he thought that he had to come out because he thought the official told him to, 'get out.' The official was just telling him to get out of their sidelines. I'm telling you the truth. It was funny. I don't know what he thought. But it was funny. He was blocking, he blocked a guy into the sidelines. He finished it, and that was funny."
On MSU's Jerel Worthy's tattoo and his play ..."It's a tattoo. As a player, I think he's physical. He's a very good athlete. It's funny because I was watching tape of Northwestern against Michigan State from last year last week and then watching their defense, studying Northwestern's offense, and he's got a great sense in timing from a fundamental side on movements and those things and plays with great leverage."
On Devin Gardner playing more like a quarterback against Northwestern ... "There were some more quarterback plays when Denard (Robinson) came out because of his boo boo. I think (Devin) did a nice job of being a quarterback."
On Devin Gardner showing his readiness to play by finishing the series when Robinson came out ... "Yeah, and I think that's all part of it and what you want to see from a guy like him that, any snap could be in the football game. So that was good to see."
On Denard Robinson getting too excited at the start of games, which leads to high throws ... "I don't know -- against Minnesota they weren't. Believe me, he's excited and excitable. The big thing is he's got to let the game come to him sometimes."
On the overall play of Denard Robinson ... "I like the way he's handled the offense and the transition all the way through and I think he's improved every week because there's always some additions or tweaks that he has to manage. I thought from spring to fall to fall camp to now, I think his growth has been very good."
On the motivation to snap the losing streak against Michigan State ... "I don't think I'll have to remind our guys what the outcome has been. These are college students, and they are in classes and stuff like that. So I would hope that they are smart enough to understand we haven't played Michigan football the way we need to."
On the MSU defensive line coached by Ted Gill ... "The kids will play hard and they will play for him. That's something that's always important. They will execute how he's coached them. He's a very good technique coach, very good motivational coach. He did a great job -- and this is 1978 -- he can coach you up."
On his relationship with MSU head coach Mark D'Antonio ... "I know Mark decently well. My brother and he probably know each other a little bit better. Mark was at Youngstown and my brother was at Kent and both of them being secondary coaches by trade, I think their conversations were always there."
On U-M being overrated in the national polls ... "We are not a Top 10 team. You take care of the football, and defensively, you don't give up 300 and whatever it was yards throwing the football."
On the importance of the MSU series ... "It means an awful lot. It means a lot because we represent a great university. We have got great alums out there. And it's a Big Ten game. It's an important game. It's a tremendous rivalry in college football, and you can say all of the local, state, regional standpoint, but also a national standpoint. It's Michigan-Michigan State. I kind of get geared up when Oregon is playing Oregon State, because that's a great rivalry. Those are fun."
On the emergence of cornerback Blake Countess and the injuries to Troy Woolfolk ... "Sure, (Troy's) banged up a little bit. He tweaks his ankle every now and then a little bit, and his hand is getting better, which is a good thing so he can use that more appropriately on fundamentals and techniques.
"Blake is a young guy who plays at a high rate. You watch him go down on kickoff, he plays at a high rate. He plays fast. Fundamentally he's pretty sound. He has good change of direction in those things and has burst to him. But Troy has been beat up, also."
On a win vs. MSU meaning more than other games ... "For us, we have an expectation and goals to win the Big Ten Championship. You're not going to do that by losing a football game."
On the operation of the two countdown clocks in Schembechler Hall ... "They are operating properly, and because at game time, I think it was 12:01, I think we synced it up."
On the injuries to MSU's offensive line ... "They are big, which is the normal case. They are good sized. I think they have had some guys get nicked up a little bit from the start of the year. But I think they are physical. They are well-coached. When you look at zone stops and combination blocks and doubles, those things, where the shoulder tip is, all of those things; as a defensive line coach, I think they are really well coached and I think they are physical."
On the keys going into the second half of the season ... "Our keys are we have got to improve how we are playing football, period, from a fundamental standpoint to a toughness standpoint to how we take care of the football and how we manage the game. And we have got to coach better."
On if he really isn't happy with the team's overall play ... "I really don't because we can't be satisfied with anything. And after every game, I tell them, it's great to win, but there's always a bug. And they know that. They have been around long enough now. We would like to get perfection."
On if the one thing to fix after the Northwestern game is limiting turnovers ... "That, and our perimeter play from a defensive standpoint of fundamentals of getting off blocks and those things, probably as much as anything."
On plays or formations that MSU will present that U-M hasn't seen this year ... "They go with five guys on one side of the ball. They did that on a 13 personnel. There will be something. In the kicking game, there will be something from an offensive standpoint. There will be something different. I wish I knew what it would be; we may have a chance to work on it. But there will be something, definitely."
On if MSU has an advantage coming into the game after a bye week ... "I don't know. I've been on both ends of it. I know one year here we had a bye week before we played Northwestern and we probably tried to out-coach ourselves and do too much and change.
"I don't know. I really don't. Are you healthier -- maybe. Are you fresher -- maybe. But the schedule is the schedule. Whatever it is, you've got to go play it. And there are no excuses."
On if it is good to have a bye week after a physical game like this one ... "I don't know. I really don't. Maybe get rested a little bit. If you don't play your best and lose, I can tell you, you want to go back and play, soon."
On his concern with MSU's fullback and its power package ... "I am. And their tight ends, they are big tight ends and they are big, physical guys. So if they get in 22 personnel or those powers that they run or power pass, I think they do a great job with. Their tailbacks, blocking the edge, fullback in the flap, I think they do a lot of stuff that we do, which is kind of nice. But they do it very well and they are physical as they do it."
On Michael Shaw earning more playing time at Northwestern ... "I think some of it's situational, but I think also, he's fought himself back into playing a little more, and he's been more physical. He just practiced better. We evaluate every day."
Fifth-Year Senior Defensive Tackle Ryan Van Bergen
On the motivation after losing three in a row to Michigan State ... "We're really motivated. This is our seventh game of the season and we've won six so far, this is the next obstacle we have to conquer to get to the Big Ten Championship, get to where we want to be. There's a little more added to it because of the in-state rivalry, but as far as games go, it's just another game for us. We want to win, we want to be 7-0, and we just want to keep rolling."
On the defense's overall success in the second half of each game this season ... "Scheme adjustments. We've made some big adjustments at halftime. We came in and coach Mattison and all the defensive coaches -- coach Mallory, Montgomery, Smith -- all sat us down by position and we went through some different things and simplified our defense a little bit because of the adjustments we were making -- we were making some extreme adjustments -- and different techniques even in the second half. In the second half we've been pretty good. I don't know what it is about this season, but we don't give up many points after halftime. That's the signature of good adjustments and good defense."
On the ability to limit big plays by opposing offenses ... "That's all a credit to the secondary. The secondary this year has a new philosophy of keeping the ball inside and in front. With the exception of Jordan Kovacs, who we put in the box every once in a while, those guys -- the free safety and the two corners -- do a tremendous job of just funneling the ball inside because we've preached running to the ball. You'll see defensive linemen run to the ball 30 yards downfield, and as long as they keep the ball inside and in front we'll get guys down. Somebody's going to bust a 25-yard gain on us, but the thing that can't happen is teams going for 70 yards on a run or over your head on a pass. We've got guys who have played well and that's part of their fundamentals in the secondary and they do a great job. Because of what they're doing we've been successful against the big play."
Senior Tight End Kevin Koger
On the importance of getting a victory against Michigan State ... "It is going to mean a lot. We have not seen Paul [Bunyan Trophy] in a long time. It will be nice to get him back to Ann Arbor.That would be really nice."
On Denard Robinson's early game excitability causing mistakes ... "He is a fast guy so he is kind of jittery all of the time. I guess you could attribute it to it a little bit. He has calmed down, last week in the second half of the game he calmed down and he played great. Much better than he did in the first half, so I guess you can attribute it to him being a little excited."
On the passing game starting to click ... "Definitely, we just have a problem getting into a groove early in the game and once we settle down offensively we do get into a groove. That is when you see us succeeding."
On the meaning personally of a MSU victory ... "It means a lot. It is a rivalry game; it is a great team we are going to play. It will be a lot of fun playing at noon on ESPN and all of that great stuff. They will be in those Nike combat uniforms, and it will be a good atmosphere."
On getting a legacy win for the seniors ... "It (would be) and we have to start it off right. We can start something great here, we are on the road, and we have a lot of confidence going into Saturday."
On the Northwestern game preparing U-M for road games ... "It helped a lot. We had a lot of fans there; it almost felt like a home game for us. There is a lot of support coming out of the Chicago area for us. It was good for us to be on the road and get a win for the team."
On what the team needs to improve ... "Definitely special teams, we are doing okay on offense and defense, but special teams we really need to improve, kickoff covering and kickoff return we have not got that much out of our team. That is definitely one area we need to improve on."
On not allowing turnovers to happen ... "If we turn the ball over we are not going to win. It is just that simple. They are too good of a team for us to put the ball on the ground and throw three, four or five picks. If that happens, we will not win."
On confidence from a 6-0 start ... "It means a lot. We have not been 6-0 before, but we have had fast starts and they have dwindled and we just have to finish. Coach Hoke always emphasizes finishing and that is really what we need to do."
Senior Center David Molk
On the intensity of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry ... "It kind of starts and you really don't know and you don't understand it as a freshman coming in and really not until you play in the game you don't know what it is like. Once you get that first play, that first series, you understand that this is a hitting game, this is a physical game, and this is me vs. you all the way."
On Denard Robinson struggling against MSU last year ... "They always are a good run defense. They are this year, and they always are. They are solid in the box and they put people in it and they are hard to run on. It is going to be a task this week."
On offense making halftime adjustments ... "Once you get to a new game and once that second half starts and everything starts working you just go `ok' were going with it. Now that it has happened a few times and we understand what he is doing and we trust him we just come out in the second and go."
On gaining confidence from a comeback win ... "It is kind of hard to say because on one note we were poor in the first half and we could have been better. We could have had a higher confidence and being a better team out of the gate, but we weren't. Also, at the same time it is good to know and understand that we can come back in the second half."
On personal understanding of U-M v. MSU game ... "Since I have been here five years and now understand what this game means and truly know what it means to this state and the people living in it; it is a big game."