Oct. 15, 2012
Press Conference: Brady Hoke | J. Kovacs & D. Robinson
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "You know, obviously it was a great team win the other night. Played well as a team. Played together. Probably our most complete game when you look at the offense and the defense. In the kicking game I thought we did some very good things. Had some penalties that we don't want to have when you look at, you know, hitting the returner late and then we had two defensive offsides penalties that we need to be a little more poised and composed about that. Couple dropped passes. I think we were 9 of 14 and third down. Probably could have been 11 of 14. But, you know, it's missed assignments. I think we had 10 of them on offense.
"Defensively early in the game I thought they ran the ball a little too well, so we got to do a better job of the integrity of gaps and getting off blocks. Best we played, but a long way from playing championship football. We got a lot of work to do. We will go back to work. This is a great week because it's a rivalry game. Those are always special, always fun. And at the same time, it's another championship game, which we've started that run two weeks ago, so we've got to prepare like we have. I think we will, because we've done a nice job to this point. And the maturity of our team, think we are maturing, so we just got to keep going forward."
On the biggest difference in Michigan State on film this year from the team U-M faced last year ... "I think both teams are different. They lost some guys to graduation that were very good football players; we lost some guys that were very good football players. Defensively, I don't think they've skipped a beat. Offensively, I think (Andrew) Maxwell is doing a great job and can throw it. And so I think we all grow up and we all mature differently. I think both teams are very different than they were a year ago.
On how much he reviews how Michigan State defended Denard Robinson in the last two meetings ... "You always do that. You always like to see what people have done and see if it's worked. If it's worked, then you want to find some ways to maybe attack it a little bit differently. At the same time, it's guys getting off blocks. They do a good job of that. The flow of the football, they do a very good job of that. So, again, it goes back to the front on both sides of the ball if you want to be successful."
On if he plans on giving Thomas Rawls more carries earlier in games ... "I don't know. Depends how the flow of the game goes as much as anything."
On how important it is to have the most physical team on the football field this Saturday ... "This game has always, in my recollection, been a very physical, feisty to some degree, football game. You know, there is a lot of pride in both universities and programs and guys who are out there representing. Our guys know their guys; their guys know our guys a vast majority. So it's always a physical game."
On how much of Denard Robinson's play in recent weeks has been personal improvement and how much has been the game plan ... "I think it's probably a combination of both. You know, I think it always is. I think Al has always had a great plan and very good plans. It's our execution sometimes that needs to be better. At the same time, I think there is growth in Denard in what he's been doing."
On what he has done to educate the team on Willis Ward Day ... "Not as much as we will. You know, we'll get back together today a little bit. Haven't done a whole lot of it. Obviously with Desmond (Morgan), he knew the story and those things because of what Gerald Ford and the support that Ford gave Willis. More so the team will."
On if Denard Robinson's play in recent weeks has opened up more plays for Roy Roundtree ... "You know, I don't know if it's opened him up. I think when you have an opportunity you can run the football, I think you have a chance to open some things up in the throw game. I don't know if it opened up Roy more."
On the team completing nine passes on Saturday to nine different receivers ... "It's very unique to do that. To be honest with you, you know, if you would have told me that before the game I would have said, 'Nah, that won't happen that way.' But it did."
On if he will use Michigan's four-game losing streak against Michigan State as motivation heading into the game ... "When you're playing rivalry game, your motivation, it better come from within. It's not something you put up or something you do. I mean, usually comes from within. So I would hope we're college student-athletes and we understand that."
On if Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes earned the playing time they received against Illinois ... "Yeah, I think so. I think both of them have progressed and matured and have a better grasp of the offense. That's always where it starts. If you understand it better and you're not just throwing a guy in there on runs, you know, that kind of stuff, I think that helps. I think with Justice is it helped a little bit. Vince (Smith) we didn't play. He was nursing a little bit of a hamstring. So I think it gave him some opportunities that were very positive."
On how he feels about the team's punting game, and how Matt Wile learned to tumble the ball backwards ... "Well, he's known it. You know, Matt has an -- all kickers and punters have gurus. There is a guy out in San Diego who worked with Matt, and he worked hard with it when he got home in the summer and he's worked hard here on it. It was kind of the in-vogue way to pooch punt. He's done a nice job with it. I think, Will, you guys will know better than I do. Did he punt once? I think he did. He's been doing a good job. Again I'm not pickup trucking coach but at practice and stuff he's done a nice job."
On Vincent Smith's status for this week's game ... "He should be fine. He was better yesterday. You know, I think as much as anything, we really, as precautionary, held him back. I think he would have tried to go."
On if Frank Clark is hurt ... "No, no, just rotation."
On Stephen Hopkins' status ... "He's back."
On Michigan's defensive improvement ... "You know, I don't think we've made really any adjustments from a coaching standpoint and schematic standpoint. It's just that we're playing better. We're growing up a little bit. We're more experienced every week, every play."
On how important Saturday's game is for this program ... "I think it's important because we're trying to get our fifth win. We're trying to win a conference championship just like everybody else. That's important. I mean, obviously in-state, you know, there is a pretty direct line drawn in the sand if you're the University of Michigan or Michigan State. So you understand, and from being here eight years before, you understand the game itself and what goes into it."
On his most vivid memory of the rivalry with Michigan State ... "Probably 2001."
On Mario Ojemudia's development ... "He's an athletic guy. He's played with pretty good technique and fundamentals. I think he's improved with that part of his game. He's athletic. You know, when you can get more athletes on the field in certain situations and certain teams. I mean, you know, I think he's just kept -- again, like a lot of the guys, the guys who haven't played much before this year, they've all kind of taken it personal that they need to improve for their teammates."
On if he thinks Jake Ryan can have games like he did last week every week ... "Oh, I don't know. That's a pretty good duty. I mean, we have high expectations for him and for the defense. But, you know, he's unorthodox. What he has that I think most of our guys have, he's got pretty good instinct. Also, he's pretty relentless to the football. That's where he makes some of those negative plays, is just the effort that he's going to play with."
On how physical the team needs to play against Michigan State ... "You know, there are differences in what you see and what you play against from both sides of the ball. An aggressive defense, which they are, they have very physical guys on the outside. When you look at their corner play, they've got physical linebackers. So from an offensive perspective, you kind of get that idea of how they're going to play the game. They're leading the conference in every category and playing very good defense. From an offensive standpoint, you're not going to play versus a spread. You're going to play versus good old fashion two-back football, some one-back stuff, but downhill vertical run. And so the last two weeks we've been against two teams that were obviously spread teams. This is not a spread team."
On if he feels any pressure to reverse the rivalry with Michigan State ... "No. Just got to go out and play. We got to prepare them from Sunday to Friday and get them ready to play."
On if winning the in-state rivalry changes the way this rivalry is perceived ... "That's probably a pretty good question. I don't know. I think it's an important one of the rivalries that we play in. Obviously in-state and the passion of both schools and teams and fans, yeah, it's important."
On if he prepares the team for what the MSU offense is capable of instead of what they have done lately ... "I don't know. That's your interpretation. I think when you understand what they're trying to do and how they're trying to do it and with what was a young quarterback, I think you can look at any of those tapes and know you got your work cut out for you from the line of scrimmage. (Le'Veon) Bell is a hard-nosed, north-south runner. He can punish you."
On getting multiple players to the ball against Le'Veon Bell... "It's important every week, but when you got a big back, and I mean, he's a -- I want to say he's got over 1,000 yards, or right near it, doesn't he? Yes or no? I'm asking the question. Just right there, right? I mean, that's a pretty good back."
On controlling time of possession ... "I don't know if you're changing a game. I know we play really good defense when our offense is on the field, and that helps in a lot ways. We've been fortunate enough in some of the big plays last week. Some guys did a great job who scored the touchdowns, but you look at the receivers down the field blocking and harassing, and the linemen that got down the field. Mike Kwiatkowski on the first touchdown by (Jeremy) Gallon. I mean, he did a tremendous job. You get big plays by efforts of other guys. Obviously Denard, if he gets north and south his speed is a factor. Controlling the time possession is always important to us."
On offensive coordinator Al Borges saying he wants Denard Robinson to make plays, not miracles ... "Well, Al is talking about making sure that -- making miracles is trying to not stay within the framework of what we're trying to do from an offensive standpoint. Probably happens more in the passing game than in the run game. So from that part of it, I think that's what Al's talking about."
On Denard Robinson's rushing ability ... "He's got something that a lot of people don't have, his ability to start and stop and then accelerate. You know, his vision is pretty good. He's got a good burst."
On if Saturday's game against Michigan State is on any even footing with Ohio State ... "They're all important."
On if playing in the same division as Michigan State amplifies the rivalry ... "That helps, yeah."
On if he would be more inclined now to use another running back if another player is struggling at the position ... "Yeah I think so. I think that's a fair assessment. They've got some good work. It was good to see Justice get good work. He brings something different. With Thomas catching the one ball on the critical third down, you know, that's not something that we've done a lot with him. But we ran a good route and secured the football in a little bit of traffic."
On what he likes best about the defensive line and how he would access where they are at this point in the season ... "You know, the second half of that, John, that's hard for me. I would probably say they should be better, you know. I mean we're going to drive them and they should be better. Have they developed some? Yeah. Apparently they have. But, again, I'll go back to playing a physical football team, which this is going to be, and it's a whole different way of playing football."
On if Devin Gardner is still taking snaps at quarterback ... "Yeah, he is. He is on a daily basis."
On if Devin Gardner would be ready to play quarterback in an emergency situation ... "Yeah, we would finish with Russell (Bellomy), though. We would finish a game with Russell. Russell is a good quarterback and he's had a good fall camp and a good fall, so we got a lot faith in him."
On if seeing Russell Bellomy get earlier work against Illinois gave him more confidence in Bellomy ... "Yeah, I think it does. I think it always does. The more guys get to play, get game experience and you get to evaluate them off game experience, you know, all those things are important."
On what he specifically saw from Bellomy that he liked ... "I liked how he got himself ready. I liked how he gets himself ready during the week. Comes out, he's taking snaps and getting himself ready to go. He was composed and calm and he wasn't overexcited."
On the running backs combining for six receptions this season ... "You know, I think you got to look at screens and how much we've tried to throw. I can't tell you that off the top of my head. You look at a couple that were dropped earlier. I wish I could remember a couple of those, too. Not screens but routes coming out. Really just depends on what somebody is going to give you. Can you get the five men out, or do you got to keep a guy in to protect? So kind of runs that gamut."
On how Jake Ryan is handling the success he is having this season ... "He's one of those kids that loves to play football and doesn't think about the other stuff. He doesn't think about himself, besides exactly what he needs to do on a certain call. But he pretty much is pretty normal."
U-M Senior Defensive Tackle Will Campbell
On which area of the defense has made the biggest strides ... "I'd say the biggest improvement would probably be in the back end, with the DBs, in their coverage skills. We've been working hard up front to get to the quarterback but they've been covering very well so far."
On the motivation for this week's game ... "We're motivated. Every day, since Sunday, we've been in the weight room lifting harder. We've put more weight on the bar because of this week. Everybody has been motivated because it's such a big rivalry and we're trying to beat Michigan State."
On the improvement from the front four ... "It's us working harder on our technique, watching our man. 'Visual key' is what we hear every week. We're just trying to do what the coaches tell us to do."
On getting a win against Michigan State ... "We're just looking at this Saturday like it's another championship game. It's a state championship game as well. But, it's just another rivalry and we're just trying to come out with a win."
U-M Fifth-year Senior Safety Jordan Kovacs
On the defensive improvement over the last few weeks ... "I think we did have our struggles at the beginning of the year. I think that it was those struggles that have kind of allowed us to be the defense that we are today, and we are continuing to improve. We did make some big strides in the Notre Dame game and we stopped the run. I think that the front seven is where we have made the biggest improvements. From a defensive back's standpoint, I think we have done a fine job of keeping the ball inside and in front of us and we are continuing to get better there. But like I said, I think it is the front seven -- the guys up front -- that have really been doing a great job of stopping the run, and we are trying to improve every week."
On the importance of this game after losing to Michigan State the last three years ... "It's a rivalry game. You want to win every one. So I don't think this one is any more significant than last year's or next year's game. You can throw the records out and throw the past history away -- it's about Michigan and Michigan State this weekend."
On what he has seen out of Raymon Taylor this season ... "I think he has gotten more comfortable week by week, and he has improved tremendously since the beginning of the year -- since fall camp. He is one of those guys that kind of came in last year and I saw a lot of talent -- it was just a matter of him learning the playbook and understanding his role on the defense. I think he has really kind of stepped in after losing Blake (Countess) and he has done a fine job. I think he has made some big plays -- obviously some big plays. He scored a touchdown and he had a pick against Notre Dame, and he is continuing to improve week by week and I really look forward to his development.
U-M Senior Quarterback Denard Robinson
On doing things differently the last couple weeks ... "I'm just being accountable. Just working on everything I get a chance to. Going into practice, focusing on my tools and what the coaches are telling me to do. I think that's been helping me a lot."
On this week's game being personal ... "Every game should be personal. You should want to win every time you step onto the field. That's how I look at it. It's a championship game and we want to win it."
On U-M approaching its 900th all-time victory ... "I think it's a great accomplishment, but what we're looking at is getting our fifth win and trying to win the Big Ten. Every time we step out onto that field we want to win."
On the physicality involved with the Michigan State rivalry ... "I think every game is physical, it's football. It's a tough game and that's why I love it."
On a favorite play over the course of his career ... "The next one."
U-M Fifth-year Senior Wide Receiver Roy Roundtree
On what this game means to him knowing it is his last chance to beat Michigan State ... "It's a rival -- just like Notre Dame and Ohio, we really take this game seriously. It's going to be a great week of practice to get us ready for Saturday."
On how Michigan State has been successful containing Michigan's offense the last couple of years ... "They were just doing what their coaches told them to do. I mean, we were having mistakes and they would feed off of our mistakes. It has kind of hurt us in the past, but this is a new year and we have a new team and they have a new team. So come Saturday, we'll see.
On if he got a sense of the talent that Devin Funchess had before the season ... "Oh yes -- Devin is a great, great athlete and a great team player. He is a younger guy so he listens to us. I told him that he plays around a little bit too much, but at game time he gets serious. He is going to be a great, great football player here and a great Michigan man, because he listens and he is a team player. He does have some big hands though -- you guys saw what he did Saturday."