Oct. 22, 2012
Press Conference: Brady Hoke | Players
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "We had a good practice last night. Good energy. We got an opponent that's an awfully good football team. When you look at they won 18 out of 20 at home, 4-0 this year. I think Taylor Martinez is playing his best football. If you look offensively they're leading the league in scoring.
"Very good football team. And they're physical up front. Defensively you look at tackles for a loss and you look at negative plays that they create. They're leading in sacks. I think they're leading in TFLs. Very physical group.
"Playing in Lincoln is a neat place to play, because of their tradition and their passion that they have as a fan base about Nebraska football, and it's really a neat place to play. And it will be loud. We'll have to play our best football that we've played this year."
On where he believes Taylor Martinez has improved the most since last season ... "I know his percentages and all that are up from throwing the ball. He's taking care of the ball pretty well. I think it's 14-4 in touchdowns, interceptions, has no interceptions at home. I think that's part of it. I think he was kind of banged up a year ago in and out with an ankle. I think he's been pretty healthy. I just think it's maturity and maturing in the offense. And I think he's surrounded by a physical group up front that we got to contend with."
On if there is added significance to this game because of where both teams stand in the division ... "I think they all do, to be honest with you. I think we looked at it during the bye week that every game's a championship game. And this falls into that category. And so it is significant because it's in our division. But they all are. Every week."
On Raymon Taylor's health ... "I think he'll be fine. I really do."
On if he expects Raymon Taylor to play this weekend ... "Yeah."
On if he liked that players said after the Michigan State game that they still have work to do to accomplish the team goals ... "I think when you think that way you're thinking honestly. Great rivalry, all that kind of stuff, is important. Winning that game's important. Multiple reasons why, but it's a who's next mentality. Who do you play next, because as you know November and October is when you win championships."
On Nebraska's running backs ... "(Rex) Burkhead is a guy who is very physical. Smart football player, very instinctive. I think he's as good a back as we have in this league, and (Ameer) Abdullah is a little different. Little bit difference when you look at running style, but I think they're both, which was a compliment, what they're doing offensively and their offensive line, personnel."
On how far he would be comfortable having Matt Wile kick field goals from ... "Well, I think wind is always going to make the difference. He's a 51- 52-yard kicker, I think, watching him. That would have some consistency with it."
On how far he has seen Brendan Gibbons progress over the last two years ... "Obviously, I can't tell you from before. But he works at it. I mean, he works at it. He has a lot of pride. And how he works at it, he's got a lot of support. I think Dan Ferrigno's done a great job with him because he specifically is with those guys.
"I think that's part of it. And I think confidence -- I think the best thing we ever did was go up to the stadium twice a week because the different wins that you get, it's a little different. And so taking those guys up there during camp and all that, and now they go up once a week now to kick in that environment. I think that helps, too."
On how he thinks Nebraska will test the defense in ways it hasn't seen so far ... "I think their front will be -- two ways: I think their front, number one, because I think they're physical, they're big. They have the ability to combination block and move people off the ball. I think the dual threat with Martinez running some of the spreads, some of the same stuff I mean that we run. But I think that is part of it. And the play action game for them has been, excuse me, pretty good."
On how the secondary played against Michigan State ... "Well, I thought the first half and the -- the first drive in the second half I thought we played a little looser. But that was a drive where I didn't think as a defense we played as well. Combination 11 guys playing together. And I thought J.T. (Floyd) and Ray (Taylor) both went out there and played confident, got some shots down the field. Little beat on one or two of them. But I thought those two upheld playing corner pretty well."
On one cornerback playing deep in coverage against Michigan State ... "Yeah, it depends, what form personnel Michigan State had and calls you go through. We had both safeties, they're in 22 and 12 a lot, both close, not playing true quarters. But close. And then playing some man stuff with them, which helped out versus the run."
On the team playing a night game at Nebraska ... "I think they're used to playing at night. I don't think that's -- I don't perceive that being a problem. I think going to South Bend already and the blueprint for what we'll do, walkthroughs, meetings, eat, all that kind of stuff will be pretty much what they're used to. I think crowd-wise, it should be what they're used to. But they're pretty emphatic."
On if he still has to babysit freshmen on road trips ... "Shoot. I have to babysit myself sometimes. I think they understand how we want to go through our business in a business-like fashion."
On if Denard Robinson is being more conservative in the second half of games ... "I think you've always got to look at the calls, what you're doing. I mean, that's always part of it. How many opportunities is he going to have."
On if offensive coordinator Al Borges is calling the game differently in the second half ... "He obviously is putting the ball in other people's hands."
On why Denard Robinson was on the kickoff to open the second half ... "Maybe returning kickoff."
On how far he believes the defense has progressed since the beginning of the season ... "Well, let's wait until a year's over. I mean, that's when you're going to know."
On Denard Robinson calling audibles ... "He's got -- there's usually probably 50 percent of the time where he has the ability when it comes to run pass or run-run or whatever it is. What technique do you want to run to 1-5 side, 3-6 side, what do you want to do. Pass game-wise, he always will have a view of him and Elliott (Mealer) work together. From a quarterback, center, identifying the Mike linebacker and all those things. So he can do that."
On how concerned he was that Denard Robinson could get injured on the kickoff play ... "Could be concerned he'd walk down the street and fall off the curb. I mean really?"
On if he used penalty after the game-winning field goal against Michigan State as a teaching moment for the team ... "It was a teaching moment, believe me. Yeah, yesterday it was what we started off with, because Matt Wile, his squib kick was as good a squib kick as you could get. But if that kick, because it's hard to control, hits a front line guy and they recover it and we're kicking from the 20 and they get it at the, hits a guy, he gets down, two seconds left, they can kick a field goal, right? That's the problem.
"And so, yeah, there's no doubt. You love the enthusiasm for the game of football and they've worked hard since last January. And that all goes to it. But that could have been very costly. Could have been one of the dumb penalties."
On the team being able to win without scoring touchdowns ... "I think the last three plays the offense had the ball. Especially when they had to go and spike it with nine seconds left. It was gratifying to see them execute."
On if extra time ran off the clock at the end of last week's game ... "We're trying to figure that out. We haven't heard from them yet."
On if he realized there was an issue with the clock while the game was going on ... "You knew something was wrong. But you get one explanation from a guy on the sideline. You have to trust that explanation and move forward. Now, were they right, I'm not sure."
On if he was surprised by Michigan State's fake punt ... "Surprised by it. Probably. It was a good call. It was a dag-on good call. Anytime it works, it's good. But because of how we were schematic on that one side, you know, and we were going with middle returns. So you're forcing everybody out. So you really don't get a chance to have eyes on."
On if he was aware of Michigan State's spread punt formation ... "Oh, yeah, they've done it before. Going up the middle."
On his opinion on the spread punt formation ... "We don't use it."
On his rationale for not using the spread punt formation ... "I think I'm more comfortable in what we use. That's the rationale."
On how important it is to have a healthy secondary for the remainder of the season ... "All injuries you want to try and stay away from, obviously. But I think there's a continuity. I do think that Courtney (Avery) came in there and did a heck of a job. And so it's nice to have that depth. But it would be nice to have everybody healthy and have that depth."
On how the young players on defense are progressing ... "I think up front you look at (Mario Ojemudia) and Ondre (Pipkins), both making some headway, making some progress. Jarrod Wilson in the back end and Joe Bolden has been on special teams a lot, but we have a lot of confidence in him. Same of James Ross."
On if he is happy with how the defense played against Michigan State ... "I thought J.T. had pretty good position. Most of it, on the one where he got hurt, they called interference on. But you look from a positioning standpoint, he was in pretty good shape.'
On Thomas Gordon's knockdown in the end zone on Michigan State's last field goal drive and two stops up front ... "Eighteen plays, after the fake punt. That was critical. It was critical for us to hold them to a field goal. It was critical that Thomas played with his eyes and did a nice job on his fundamentals and keys."
On if he thinks the team is buying into the fact that every week is a championship game during the Big Ten season ... "I don't like the word 'buying in.' I don't like that. I think the guys understand what reality is."
On if this weekend's game against Nebraska is more important because the Cornhuskers are behind them in the division standings ... "Oh, I don't know. I know it's an important game. They know that."
On how he would evaluate the offensive line ... "I thought they were solid. Taylor (Lewan) and Patrick (Omameh) -- Patrick really played well. And him and Taylor -- I think we were solid. We weren't as good as we need to be this week."
On what stands out about Nebraska's defense ... "Them as a group, you've got to take them as they are. The black shirts and the pride that they have as 11 playing together. I mean, negative plays and those kind of things, those get you off schedule. I mean, when you get off schedule, you usually have a problem offensively. And the tackles for loss, I think that -- I've always been one who loves Nebraska's defense through the years. And I think Bo (Pelini) being a guy who really understands defense, I think they do a great job."
On how he decides to rotate running backs in different games ... "Some of it is play calls. Some of it's who protects best, who runs routes best, who runs certain plays best, and then we kind of got in a rhythm with Fitz (Toussaint) and then Smitty (Vincent Smith)."
On if Denard Robinson should have handed off the ball on more zone read option plays ... "May have been one or two that he kept. But that decision is a quick decision sometimes. And I think it's always harder earlier, because you're trying to digest what they're doing to make sure you're right in what they're doing."
On Michigan State knocking down balls at the line of scrimmage ... "I think it's hard for a quarterback to do a better job. I mean, that's tough duty. Maybe a little too much penetration where you get a little closer. Some of it Denard's not a 6'4" quarterback. That's part of it."
On if he had to twist Denard Robinson's arm to play on the kick return team ... "I never twist his arm."
On what he is seeing from the freshman wide receivers ... "I think (Amara) Darboh obviously is playing a lot on kicking games. I think he's doing a good job on those teams. Jehu's (Chesson) redshirting, but he's doing a tremendous job.
"I think both kids are tough. I think they're both kids who are big. I think they have similar but unique abilities in how they play. Both have good hands. Both good instinctive kids."
On why he believes Drew Dileo was so productive against Michigan State ..."You want to give him credit. And then I would say by design a little bit where he lined up, it was advantageous."
On what he remembers from playing at Nebraska in 2007 as head coach at Ball State ... "Got beat 41-40. Dropped the ball on the five-yard line."
U-M Senior Defensive Lineman William Campbell
On how the defensive unit has improved this season ... "Just our preparation throughout the week. We come in and watch film, how we prepare and how we run to the ball. This is what is making this defense good is how we run to the ball."
On emotions after beating Michigan State ... "It was a great feeling. We celebrated as a team for 12 hours, and now we are going on to Nebraska. It was a team win, a team game. The offense and defense played well and now we move on to Nebraska and another championship weekend."
On winning a defensive battle ... "It depends on everybody, it is a team sport. We needed our team to step up and they did with four field goals."
On preparing for Nebraska this weekend ... "They have good running backs with Burkhead and a sophomore, Abdullah I believe his name is, they are great. The quarterback is a seasoned quarterback, and they have a great offensive line, one of the best we have played so far. They lead the Big Ten period in almost everything, and we have got a big game ahead of us."
U-M Senior/junior Safety Thomas Gordon
On the recent strong defensive play ... "I think it just comes down to restoring confidence in us. The coaches showing that they trust us. Coach (Greg) Mattison has our back through everything. I think that as a whole we have become brothers, like a band of brothers on defense. It has definitely shown up on the field. Again, I think credit goes to coach Mattison for putting his confidence in us and it just translates to the field."
On placing an emphasis on finishing ... "That is not only for one game. I mean definitely it did fit that game, which is why we brought it out. That is a thing that we preach in winter conditioning and summer conditioning, finishing everything that you do. That is academically or in drills or anything. That is just something that we preach as a team is finishing."
On J.T. Floyd's play against Michigan State ... "J.T. responded really well. I think he played one of his best games I have seen him play. We haven't really been tested deep this whole season. J.T. stepped up to the table and I am really proud of him. We just have to keep building off of this guy. "
On looking ahead to the Nebraska game ... "It is really important. We could take a two game lead in the Legends Division. You have to treat every game like a championship game, because every game matters no matter who you are playing. That pretty much is our perspective on the season. "
U-M Fifth-year Senior Offensive Lineman Elliott Mealer
On how much significance this game against Nebraska takes on because of their standings in the Big Ten ... "There is no denying that it is a big game for us, but the way Coach Hoke has had our minds set -- and I'm sure you guys have heard it more than you would like to -- but it is a championship game for us. Last week was a championship game and the week before that was. So for us, we try to have the mindset that every game we play against a Big Ten opponent is just like we are playing in Indianapolis and we are playing for the trophy. We control our own destiny. It is going to be a big game and it is going to be an exciting atmosphere -- there is no denying that. We are going to try to prepare just like we have every other week."
On what it says about this team that they could win a game without scoring any touchdowns ... "Obviously I hope we can avoid that for the rest of the season -- that kind of falls upon the offensive line's shoulders. We need to get touchdowns. So for us to be able to -- I don't want to say sneak through last weekend's game -- but to pull that off and rely on our kickers was good and those guys stepped up. But I don't think we can be happy with that as an offense. We realize that when playing tough teams, we are going to need touchdowns."
On how exciting it is to have a game in Lincoln in an atmosphere he has not experienced before ... "It is exciting. I have had the opportunity like you said of playing in a lot of the stadiums in the Big Ten. This is going to be a pretty neat one from everything that I've heard -- I guess the sea of red is the biggest phrase that has been used to describe it. I think as a team we are pretty excited to go play there -- it is going to be a great atmosphere. Whether we are home or away, we try to not let the crowd affect us too much. It is going to be fun to experience, but at the same time, we are going to go there and have to play Michigan football."