Oct. 31, 2011
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "Thank for coming out. Obviously we have a great challenge in going to Iowa City and playing a very good Iowa team -- undefeated at home. (It) seems to be the way this conference is to some degree right now. But they play awfully well and are a very well-coached football team -- have been for many, many years.
"It will be the most physical game to this point for us as a team. When you watch them, obviously they have -- personnel-wise you look at (Marcus) Coker and what he's done leading the league in rushing, and (James) Vandenberg I think has done a tremendous job in there as a quarterback, and got a great pair of receivers, but (Marvin) McNutt obviously gets a lot of the exposure because of what he's done out there on the field.
"But it's going to be a great challenge for us. You play these last four, and when you get into November, you play for championships in the Big Ten Conference. That's kind of how it's been for many years. So we look forward to it. We're going to have a great week of preparation, and it's going to be fun."
On how the defense responded to the coaching during the bye week ... "They responded well. I think when you look at it and you grade it and you look at it position by position, I thought up front the gap integrity that goes along with playing team defense and the approach that the guys played with, the demeanor they played with. I think Mike (Martin) no question was a factor in the game, not just in the middle, but also in his making plays down the field and those kinds of things.
"Linebacker-wise, I thought we played downhill. I thought Desmond (Morgan) really did a nice job. And I though Kenny (Demens) -- I could feel those guys out there. Jake Ryan made some plays just sometimes unorthodox, but he's a football player.
"In the back end, I think the two corners -- J.T. (Floyd) had the one penalty late that hurt us a little bit obviously in the last drive, which was disappointing for us. But I think I those two guys are settling in. I think Courtney (Avery) has done a nice job at nickel. Troy (Woolfolk) for his first start back at the safety position I thought did some good things. I think there is more we can get from him there. I thought Thomas Gordon played up from where he did two weeks ago."
On Jordan Kovacs' injury status ... "Day to day. He ran around and did stuff last night, so we'll just see. We didn't do anything different though without him. To be honest with you I think there is some leadership there that he brings. I think there is some football instinctiveness that he brings that's something that I don't know if you ever make up for whoever is in there. But he ran around and did things last night, so I was pleased with him."
On if the team played its best game of the season against Purdue ... "It wasn't. We only got one turnover defensively; we (threw) two interceptions that in tight games or championship games you can't have. You have to create more opportunities for your offense, defensively. Not getting in, scoring a touchdown at halftime bothers me because we got three (points), but those four points out there can hurt you down the road. So we've got to do ourselves better there."
On Mike Martin and the entire defense against Purdue ... "I think you caught some momentum obviously when the safety -- any time your defense scores or you get a punt return I think just the whole attitude of your team, the morale, the enthusiasm is really good. I think Mike did that for us as a team."
On the defense allowing its first play of more than 40 yards in its eighth game ... "If you can keep the ball inside and in front then you're going to have a chance. If you do that, whether you're the guy who's supporting it either way, keeping it inside and in front and getting the pursuit from the rest of your teammates you can limit that. (Purdue) caught us in a blitz. It was a good call by them. Not a great total reaction by us, but I think it's something we'll learn from."
On what has gone into forcing 14 fumbles this season ... "I think you create your luck to some degree. I think our guys have done a nice job of trying to get 11 guys to the football where you're opportunistic to recover the fumble. We work strip drills and those kind of things during fall camp as much time as any, or in an off week. Those things, you try and get back to those simple basics, which really are not simple because that's the game. But there are couple examples out there. (Ryan) Van Bergen against San Diego State knocking the ball out and ripping it out, and then Thomas Gordon at Northwestern ripping the ball out of there. So the drills are being taken from the practice field to the game as much as anything. Still, it's getting 11 guys to the football."
On if he expected the team to be in its current position heading into the season ... "I never even thought about it, to be honest with you. I thought about the month of November an awful lot. That's when you win championships in this league."
On if Devin Gardner's interception played into his reduction in time later in the game ... "No, not at all. And the other thing, we had exhausted to that point what we wanted to do with the two quarterback offensive personnel group. So, no. I think there was a lot more that can be done from it."
On if Iowa is the most physical team this season ... "Yeah, and probably a lot of it is history, but I've always loved, as a coach, watching Iowa on defense and watching Iowa on offense. When we get breakdowns, if they're similar opponents and we're getting ready to play somebody that they've played, that's the first film since I was here before that I'll put on because of how they play defense and the physicalness they play with, the fundamentals and the techniques. It's the same way offensively. It's a great challenge. Being a defensive line coach, you watch your offensive line and how they're coached and the fundamentals and the techniques, the attitude they play with. That's awesome. Gets you excited."
On how Jordan Kovacs' blitzing responsibilities get split up by the other safeties ... "It just depends how you're setting your sub defense and really what you think can help from looking at a protection standpoint or if it's one of those pressures that'll run pressures out of that. It just depends formationally how things will end up. I would say that (it's fair to say it's split)."
On if winning in November requires something different than winning in prior months ... "I don't know if our blueprint is ever going to be different. We want to run the football. We want to be able to possess the football. We want to take care of the football. Defensively we want to stop the run and get bodies to the ball, create opportunities for our offense, and be sound in our special teams and try and gain some field position because of special teams. I can't tell you that's any different, but it's how you have to improve on a daily basis so that you can play your best football through the month."
On if Fitzgerald Toussaint has established himself as the lead running back ... "I think he did, but I also think the situations of where you're at in the game and what you can do to a certain degree. But I think he played tremendously. I think he had great vision, balance. And the most exciting thing was I thought his burst out of holes. The 59-yarder, he separates the safeties and has a tremendous burst as he does it. And the other credit goes to our wide receivers blocking down field like nobody's business. So he's a guy that will start the football game for us."
On if it helps the offense to know that Fitzgerald Toussaint is the No. 1 back ... "Good question. I don't know what it does besides the continuity of it. But I think they're so interchangable to some degree. Vince (Smith) was a little beat up so he didn't get as many opportunities. Mike (Shaw) comes in and gives you a different gear to some degree. But right now, Fitz definitely will be the guy."
On the health of Taylor Lewan and Ricky Barnum ... "Ricky will take it day to day. Taylor is fine. I mean ankle a little bit, knee a little bit, but he's fine. He did everything yesterday, too. (Ricky aggravated the) other ankle."
On the impact of defensive backs coach Curt Mallory ... "I think Curt is a tremendous football coach, and he's done a great job with the fundamentals of playing a coverage, whether it's three deep, two deep, man free stuff. And talk about angles and support and your pursuit on the back side of the football, whether it be a cutback responsibility or a chase contain responsibility or your arc support, the last man knocking a guy out of bounds. I think the guys have done a nice job of really understanding the concepts that you have from a defensive standpoint."
On Desmond Morgan against Purdue ... "He's been coming on. He would have played a lot more earlier, but he had aggravated a hamstring during the last week of camp. That set him back a little bit, but I think he's a very instinctive linebacker. I think he plays downhill well. I think also for a young guy he's grasping more of conceptually the defense and also the opponent and studying the offense."
On his evaluation of Will Hagerup ... "I think he had the first punt was a good punt; the second punt, the inconsistency there. He had been consistent to that point. We've got good competition because Matt (Wile) still is working on both. So we'll compete there just like we do every other position."
On if there is a script of plays designated for the two-quarterback offensive sets ... "There will be, I wouldn't say scripted, but there are options out of it that we'll have available. I think (the number of times we use it) just depends to some degree on the game."
On if the running back position is still evolving ... "No, I think it's Fitz (Toussaint) right now. I don't think there's any doubt. I think he's earned that opportunity."
On competing for a Big Ten championship with so many freshmen contributing ... "The best players have to play. If we don't play the best players, no matter who they are, where they're from, what age they are, then we're cheating the program. We're not going to cheat the program."
On if he expects the seniors to mentor the freshmen ... "You're hoping they've done that since day one. That's the whole deal. They're doing a good job since the day the kids got here in the summer with that relationship in that respect. Then a lot of freshman hit the wall sometimes. So far, these guys have been able to persevere and keep learning and getting better from a fundamental and technique standpoint."
On adjusting the snap count at Iowa to account for the crowd noise ... "Yeah, but I think it funny that it's brought up, but you've got a good point at the same time. They were off-sides three times, so timing must not all be there. But to answer the question, yeah, there are different ways that you use, methods that you use; from a silent to guy tapping a guy there are a lot of different ways. Two guys holding hands and one guy drops. The guard drops his hand and the tackle knows it's time to play."
On Devin Gardner's opportunity to score on a goal line rush ... "He needs to run through that. We talked about it when he came off the field. He just needs to run through it. And I think he thought he was going to hop in kind of instead of just lowering himself and going through."
On freshman linebackers Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan ... "What I like best about them is they're football players. They understand. My boy, Jake, can be -- what's the right word -- he makes plays maybe unorthodox sometimes. I have an example of him making a football play. It was when he the knifed through and tackled for loss. That's a guy being a football player. That's a guy saying, 'I'm not going to set the edge because I'll get knocked out. If I take the guy's knees and go up through, I got a chance."
On how he "felt" the linebackers better against Purdue ... "I think we had good flow to the football. I think we played downhill. We didn't play laterally. We played downhill, and thought we got off blocks better and I thought we did a nice job of impact at the football."
On holding Taylor Lewan out of some drills this week to keep him healthy ... "We don't have that luxury to be honest with you. We have limited numbers, so we'll try and be smart and maybe take a rep here, rep there. But our depth at our offensive line is probably as low as I've ever seen at a university."
On Fitzgerald Toussaint showing a burst against Purdue ... "He's made some runs like that during the course since last spring when we got here. But I think he set up blocks well. I think the receivers did a good job. I think he stuck his foot in the ground and really had a great burst out of it."
On Stephen Hopkins play at fullback ... "He's a thick guy. I think I like what I've seen so far. I think he'll just get better and better. He's a tough guy. I think when you have a guy like that who is a pretty good running with the ball, also you start getting into some split back things out of the pro sets. It opens up a whole new offense to some degree. I think Stephen has kind of moved ahead of (John McColgan). They'll both play, but I think Stephen has kind of moved ahead."
On if Iowa's physical play is a challenge or a concern ... "Just a challenge. Not the way our guys have prepared what I've seen from them. I think they prepare in a physical manner."
On if Iowa is more physical than Michigan State ... "They always have been, in my opinion. Now, that's taken eight years ago or whenever it was I was here before. I always thought they were well coached and physical. It's a fun week. It's just fun. I love this."
On if he has to remind the team that Iowa is solid despite its loss to Minnesota last week ... "We talked about it as a team yesterday. Minnesota is a lot better team now than they were when we played them -- a heck of a lot better. Jerry Kill is a really good football coach. The fundamentals and the techniques that he's been striving and he's been talking about. And then (MarQueis) Gray, looks like he's started to arrive as a quarterback. Then you're playing for rivalry game, and anything happens in those games."
On giving more reps to some of the reserve offensive linemen in case of injuries ... "They'll have some more, but I wouldn't say too many more. They'll get their share which they'll need to have."
Fifth-year Senior Defensive End Ryan Van Bergen
On defensive improvement ... "We're almost to where we want to be. We've accomplished some of the things we set out to accomplish preseason wise. We've done some good things over these past couple games. We've also had some issues. But there are things we need to improve on. We need to have a little bit better run defense. We gave up some big plays, which we haven't done. Luckily only one of them was for a touchdown against Purdue. We don't want to give up any big plays; that's the emphasis of our defense and it's something we can improve on. And then rush defense, we're playing against one of the best rushing teams in the Big Ten in this upcoming game against Iowa. So we need to improve our rush defense if we want to have a chance to win."
On challenges of the November schedule ... "It holds true almost every year that the team that wins in November wins the Big Ten Championship. This is the time when people start getting beat up, there are injuries here and there and everybody's got something that's bothering them while they're out there, yet they are 100 percent. No team is the same team that they were in their opener. There are guys who have stepped into roles that maybe they weren't in during the beginning of the season, and there are guys who have dropped down as well. All the teams finally know who they are, they know where they are, and now it comes down to if you win all your games in November you have a good shot at being in the Big Ten Championship Game in December. So that's what we're focused on, winning all of our games in November. It's been a point of emphasis since the coaches got here in January."
On confidence in freshman defensive players ... "Our freshmen have been outstanding, especially defensively. Blake Countess has stepped up. I would think that other teams would try to pick on a freshman, especially in the secondary because of how exposed they can be, especially in a man coverage or something like that. And I don't really think anybody has been trying Blake. Maybe once or twice they'll try him out, but he's been consistent and that's one thing you look for in a freshman. He can make the big play and he can play consistently through 60 minutes of football, and that's something Blake's done really well. Desmond Morgan has been impressive. Through camp I think the coaches had the feeling that he was going to be a contributor, and the more experience he gets the more he learns. When you play freshmen you want to make sure that when you put them on the field -- they're going to make a mistake just like anybody -- they don't repeat the same mistakes over again because that's when you get hurt. Desmond does a good job of self-critiquing and self-criticizing and making sure that he doesn't do that. He really understands, for a freshman, how Michigan defense is supposed to be played. He has as good an effort as anyone on the field. He's done a really good job, and the other freshmen who contribute have done a great job too."
Fifth-year Senior Center David Molk
On preparing for Iowa's physicality ... "Iowa has always been a physical team. They have always had that aura around them of old school football. It's hit them, bang them, smash mouth football that they play and always have."
On Fitzgerald Toussaint's solidified role at running back ... "It is good for that back because then he will get more comfortable running. Experience is everything in this game and it is going to be a positive for him."
On finding success so far this season ... "It means a lot, especially to me. We have been here awhile and we have not had much true success. It is just something I want really bad, the seniors want really bad and the team wants."
On playing meaningful games in November ... "It feels good; it is nice to actually be in the hunt I guess. At the same time that does not change how I play."
On the team's improving defensive play ... "I really like it. It is always good to have a defensive-focused team. They always say 'defense wins championships' and what we have done the last couple of years I guess proved that. We had a really good offense, but it only takes you so far."
Senior Tight End Kevin Koger
On how it feels to have a shot at the Big Ten championship ... "It means a lot. It gives the team a little bit more confidence knowing that we could still win a Big Ten Championship as opposed to other years when we were kind of out of the race."
On Brady Hoke's quote "championships are won in November" ... "He's been stressing that since January. Yesterday when we walked into Schembechler Hall, there were flyers up on the sides of the building that said 'This is November,' so that plays a part in it. But he stresses all the time, even back in the summertime, he said 'championships are won in November,' so he says it all the time."
On competing at a level the team wants to play at ... "We're closer, but we're just leaving way too many points on the field as an offense. You saw we had a turnover on downs on the one-yard line. That's just inexcusable. We have to put the ball in the zone. We kicked a couple field goals which was good, but we would rather score a touchdown than the field goals."