Press Conference Comments from
U-M Head Football Coach Lloyd Carr
Bye Week (Nov. 6); Reviewing Michigan State (Oct. 30)
Opening statement ... "Well, the objective every week here is to win and improve, and certainly we're all ecstatic to be able to come back from that type of a deficit to win such a big game here at home. But it's also, from my standpoint, very disappointing the way we played defensively. I think it was our poorest performance of the year and so we've got a lot of work to do. We have a lot of things that we have got to get straightened around, and we have yet to play our best game. I don't know when that's going to happen. I hope soon, because I think we're going to need to do that."
When you go back and look at this game, what strikes you ... "Well, I think there's something -- the essence, I think, of the game is to be able to win a game, to be part of a winning effort that comes when all is apparently lost. Any time you can do that, I think the exhilaration that you feel obviously, as a football coach, as a coach of any sport, one of the things that I think is most important about your responsibility is to continue the fight, to play the next down as hard as you can, regardless of the circumstances.
"If you can get a team to play as hard as they can every down until the last second is off the clock, and I know that sounds to some people that would not be something they believe in, but it's true. As long as you're fighting, as long as you're giving your best, then you have a chance. I think that's really what it will always mean for me, that it was one of those games, it was one of those teams that found a way to win when the odds were against them."
You've talked about Chad Henne last week and how he plays better under pressure. Does he get better in every situation he gets in like that ... "I think he has had tremendous growth. I don't think there's any question about that. We talked a week ago, the thing right now, his team has great confidence in him and he's -- the wind, to me, the wind in that stadium, and obviously it's a little bit easier, I guess, if you're with the wind, but the wind and what it did to the football, it's hard to describe, and it was certainly the windiest conditions I've ever been on in a football field.
"So to be able to make some of the throws he did in those last eights minutes I think speaks to the fact that he's not just an ordinary guy. I mean, he's surrounded by a lot of people who are playing very well and he's in a good system, but you still have to make the throws, and he did that. I think he's special."
At what moment with a fellow coach or official, did you think, What a game ... "There was a point, and I want to say, when we got to 27-20, and we were kicking off -- we were getting ready to kick off, and Mike (DeBord) huddles up our kickoff team, and all of a sudden these guys started jumping up in the air. It was a spontaneous reaction, and I don't remember anything quite like it, but it was just a feeling that -- I mean, what a great place to be, what a great game, and we're going to do something special here.
"I mean, you would have to talk to some of those guys that were in the huddle, but I've certainly -- as long as I've coached, I've never seen anything like it. I said to myself, what an unbelievable moment this is.
"It wasn't there long, because we're still seven points down. But even when we got into overtime -- I mean, I think in the back of everybody's mind, no matter what side they were on, they knew they were seeing a special game, a special deal there."
In your mind, do you start to go over all the little things or big things that people contributed, like Brian Thompson or so many things that went into it ... "I can remember several years ago, we played Penn State, we were down 10 with six minutes to go, and Tom Brady and that team, offensively, defensively, the kicking game, if they make one mistake we don't win the game. I think it was one of those games, and as important as Rivas' kick was and Brian Thompson, you take any of those plays and any bad throw, any deflection, any interception, the game is lost.
"I think a play that I think stands out in my mind, we were in a protection in the third quarter and they hit Chad from the blind side, knocked the ball loose, and Jake Long made an unbelievable effort to get the ball back. On the ensuing kick, Adam Finley, into the wind, hit a 45-yard punt. Yes, there are a lot of plays like that, that you go back and think about."
Jake Long, could you see on film what happened Did he have to get the ball back from somebody ... "Well, it's not clear but the one thing, he came up with it. It's like a lot of those plays, the camera is unable to, because of all the bodies, to see exactly how it happened. It was a great football play."
On the team's schedule this week ... "Well, first of all, we've got a lot of corrections to make. We'll practice tomorrow and Wednesday. They had yesterday off. We'll watch the film today and then Thursday and Friday our coaches will go recruit. They'll have Thursday, Friday, Saturday off, because I think they need it. We've got mid terms, we've got a lot of things that it gives an opportunity to catch up on, and then we'll come back Sunday and get into a regular routine. I think we need the time off. There's no question about that. When you consider that this team came into training camp an extra week early because of Miami of Ohio, and then of course we played nine straight games, I don't think there's any question they need a break. I think the good news for us is that we came out of this game relatively healthy, and so I think we just have to get rested and get a game plan in and get better.
On Mike Hart's status, could he play if you had a game this week ... "I think he's fine. He'll be fine."
About what Michigan State was able to throw at you, particularly offensively ... "I don't think there's any question in a game like this. I think, first of all, any statement I make about that I would begin by saying, I think their coaches did a great job. I think they had significant things that they did, and I think they used their time properly. I think their team was ready to play. I was impressed the way they played. I do think that an off week in a game like this, in a rivalry like this, and at a point in the season where we're at, I think is, you know, I think it's an advantage."
Are you surprised that Chad Henne leads the conference in pass efficiency and Mike Hart leads in rushing during the conference games ... "I think we still have two games to go. But I think, you know, it is. To say that it isn't would not be honest. It's impressive and I think when you have two guys that at this point in the season have, on a week-in, week-out basis, and of course I see them day-in and day-out, so I'm as impressed with them, the kind of guys they are, the kind of people they are. But certainly what they've done is not ordinary. I mean, it's extraordinary. I go back to, the chemistry on this football team has been great and I give a lot of credit to the other guys on our team who have opened the circle and invited them in. I think that's been the fun part of it for me, to be able to see two kids walk in here practically strangers and yet they're embraced by everybody in our program. I think that's going to be, or that is as impressive as anything else."
A lot of people talk about other freshman, talk about Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson for the Heisman and don't mention Mike Hart's name. Do you think it's only fair to mention him and not Hart ... "No, I don't think the Heisman Trophy is something that we need to talk about. I think the Heisman Trophy candidate on this football team is Braylon Edwards. I think he's a legitimate candidate, because not only what he's done this year, which is extraordinary, but if you look at his career record -- and I don't want to get into promoting, I'm just making a statement about one of our players that I think deserves to have that said about him, without going any further. So don't ask me anything more about the Heisman."
How did you spend Saturday night ... "Well, something interesting has happened to me this year. Normally I don't have trouble sleeping. Now I get home Saturday night and I can't sleep. I'm sure there will be some great conjecture there. Well, I didn't get home until 1:30 a.m. First of all, Bob Lipson and Jim Brandstatter and that crew, it took them three hours to get ready, which is far too long and I hope they'll get better at that, but it was a fun deal anyway. I went home and I sat down and watched ESPN SportsCenter for about an hour and went in and went to bed, laid there and couldn't sleep. Not very exciting."
Your secondary has the reputation of being physical. Now there are a lot of flags. Looking at the film, talk about their positioning and how they played on Saturday ... "Well, unfortunately, I think there are a lot of complaining that's gone on in this conference from a public standpoint that I think there should have been a stop to it. I think it's unfortunate what has happened. I do think you pay a price when you're always blaming someone else. I just think you can't play the game afraid. You can't be afraid to interfere. You've got to go play and let the officials call the game. And that's what we try to tell our guys, don't be tentative, be aggressive, and don't worry about it. That's the only way I think you can play the game. I don't know if that answers your question."
Comment on the officials. And if you say something, do they call you How does that work ... "Well, I'm not sure how it works. I think we probably are all in a little bit different understanding. You know, what I've understood, what I've understood our commissioner Jim Delany to say is that you may comment on a call and you may disagree with a call, but when you're blaming the officials, I think it's gone way too far. I think it's unfortunate, because I think in some ways it detracts. The truth is, in the final analysis, it's an excuse. That's just the way I look at it."
You watched SportsCenter, how many times did you see the Braylon catches How good were those ... "They were great."
One looks like it was stolen away ... "I didn't see that. I knew what happened, so I don't know, but I was -- it was fun to watch. That's all I can say."
TV had shots of Braylon saying over and over, "It's not over, it's not over," after one of those catches, does that carry more weight coming from him, his ability to make those pass plays in that situation ... "I think any time you're in a leadership role, and certainly on our football team, guys that have been around four or five years, they all have that role, and I think there was a feeling there that -- the darkest moment for me was when the ball went over (Steve) Breaston's head, the kick. Even then, what you have to be able to do, somebody has to make a big play in those situations because you're really playing against the clock. When you have guys saying positive things, it makes a world of difference, just as though if you have people reacting in a negative way, that's big. Either way, the chances are you're going to fulfill the attitude that you have. I think it makes a major difference."
Have you told Chad Henne there is a different standard for what's open when throwing the ball to Braylon Edwards ... "I think the truth is, throwing the football in that wind is extremely difficult, even though it was with the wind, and he put those balls where they could be caught. I mean, he didn't throw -- you know, if you're nervous and you underthrow the ball a little bit, it's an interception. If you overthrow it, or if you don't throw it where it has enough velocity on it, the wind takes it. In my judgment, those were great throws. Certainly he's been around enough that he knows that Braylon is capable of catching anything, as long as it's high enough, because he's got -- not only does he have great stature, he has great leaping ability. I tell him just to throw the ball up No. I don't think you would ever tell a quarterback -- now, in a Hail Mary situation, but in a normal game, you let him -- he's got to play. You've got to let him play. I think he's done a good job of that."
You've talked about the chemistry of the team. How does that play into the team's ability to come back like they have ... "I think what it generates is a spirit that we can do this. I think building an esprit de corps, it's one of the challenges in coaching and yet there's always things that they have to take ownership for. A group of guys that are playing their last year of football at Michigan, if they don't draw people together and draw people into the circle and take an attitude that, look, what we want is more important than what I want.
"Nobody is going to wear a championship ring by themselves. We either all get one or nobody gets one. So if you have a commitment to a common goal, and that goal is fostered by a spirit and enthusiasm that we can do this, if we can just stay focused on what we want to do, is the key, and I give all that credit to the coaches, and particularly our seniors. I think they've put us in a position, we're not there, I mean, we've got a long way to go here, so we're just trying on a daily basis to get better, and I think that -- but I think we have a chance. I think we're where we want to be because we do have good chemistry."
Where did they hurt you the most defensively ... "I don't think we tackled well. I don't think we got off blocks well. I think we had too many alignment mistakes. I think there were a lot of things. We weren't aggressive. I didn't like the aggressiveness of our defense, and so we've got some major work to do. You can't play this game if you're off your feet. If you get knocked down, you have to get up. You have to get off the ground. You have got to turn the football in.
"There's a rotation that is important. You give up two big plays like we did, and I give (DeAndra) Cobb credit. I mean, he scared me going into this game. I feel like he's the most dangerous kickoff return guy that we've seen thus far, so we knew all about his speed. I think they executed well. I don't take anything away from them, but as far as evaluating what we did, I think we have to look at it and say we've got to do a much better job. We've got to do a much better job."
Have you seen the type of draw play this year that MSU ran Saturday ... "That's a play they run very effectively. What makes it so difficult is the fact that you know, on a play that's very similar is the sprint out pass. So you have got a guy on the end of the line of scrimmage, he has got to take the quarterback on an option, but he has got to contain on a sprint out pass, and those linebackers are flowing hard because it may be a sprint out pass, and the next thing you know he hands the ball back and now you're strung out, you're spread out, and you've got to make tackles in the open field. It's a very good scheme. Any time you take the quarterback and utilize him like you would a tailback, I mean, he's the guy that changes things defensively. We're not happy the way we played in that game. And as I said, I don't take any credit away from them, but certainly we can do better. We will do better."
What's your evaluation of your pass protection right now ... "I think three of the four sacks came by linebackers, and so they're bringing people. And one of their sacks was a result of, in the scheme of our protection, we took a chance. We said, okay, when we look at it, we want to throw this pass, we have got a good throw here, what's the weakness. The weakness is if they bring this guy. Sometimes you take a risk and you say, okay, we're going to bet that they don't bring him. They made a great call. They did bring him. That was unprotected. That was on the play where they caused the fumble. That was a protection that didn't have that guy picked up. I think we're not where we were a year ago in terms of protecting the quarterback as well as we have, but we've got to get better. I mean, four sacks a game is too many. It's too many."
About the play of Larry Harrison this year ... "I think when Larry first came here, he wasn't like a lot of kids, and particularly big kids, kids that play on the offensive or defensive line. He was a little heavy. He wasn't used to the conditioning level that you have to be here. Because here, unlike high school, he's going to be competing every down with a guy across the line of scrimmage that's just as big or bigger than he is. And after a period of time, that takes its toll, if you aren't in great shape, if you don't have great strength. So I think his greatest improvement as a football player has come in his conditioning and his strength and controlling his weight. He can run. Larry, for a big guy, can run very well. He's a hustling guy. He's still got a long way to go. But certainly as a first-year starter, he's done a good job."
Could you refresh my memory why Michigan doesn't promote players for the Heisman Trophy ... "I didn't say we don't. I think truthfully, you know, we've had a few guys win the Heisman, and I guess you would have to ask Fritz Crisler. He didn't promote Tom Harmon, did he I don't know. You wrote the book on him, didn't you
"Well, you know, that would be a great question for Don Canham because I really don't know. I don't know if there was any. The truth is, in my own judgment, the technology today gives every voter, maybe not an every-play view of the guys that are considered the best players, and I think we all know those are mostly offensive players and skill players, but I think that technology does allow the promotion to be done across the country. And so I don't think, well maybe 30 years ago when we didn't have ESPN, when we didn't have all of the cabled networks and all those things, then it was much more important maybe to get a guy's name out there. Today, their name is out there. Every game is out there."
Wouldn't it be tragic if maybe the West Coast viewing audience doesn't get to see a lot of Braylon Edwards' games, would it behoove you to send video clips to voters on the West Coast ... "Look, first of all, I'm not in sports information, I'm coaching. I think the truth is, there is never going to be a great football player at the University of Michigan that people wouldn't know who he is. That's what I would say."
Would you send out fliers for a player or promote them for the Heisman ... "Not at all. Nobody could be happier. But by the same token, I think those things can be distracting. I have seen -- you know, several weeks ago, some of the guys that were mentioned as the leading candidate for the Heisman, I don't see their name on the list this week. The truth is, it comes down to performance, and not just performance for a few games, for 11 games. You need to play your best. And if you do, if you play your best for 11 games and you're one of those guys being considered, then you've got a chance and it's going to come down to that. It's not going to come down to somebody sending a video that nobody is going to watch. Who's going to watch it The games are on TV. If I want to see, I'm going to go watch TV.
"I'll tell you something, I get hundreds of them (fliers, videos, etc). I recognize them in my mail. When I see them, you know what I do with them, I throw them in the wastebasket. I don't need somebody to tell me who to vote for. I'm not going to make a decision on who I'm going to vote for, and I don't think the Heisman Trophy voters do either. I vote on some of the other awards and I'm not voting on the basis of what somebody sent me as a promotion."
Is it a shame that Braylon is not getting mentioned in the top five of the Heisman race ... "We've got two games left, and if you really take a look at how he's impacted our team -- and I think that's really what it still goes back to, and that's why I would not promote a guy in the manner that you're speaking of, because it's still who wins the Heisman Trophy You take a look at the guys that have won it recently, with all of this technology. Who wins it Somebody on a great team. If you've got a great team, somebody is going to win it. There's nobody winning it that's on a team that's 5-5. That's just the way it goes."
Was it unusual for you, I don't remember you ever saying Charles Woodson was the greatest player in college football, and he's come out and said Braylon is ... "I can tell you this. I told Charles Woodson before his year here, before his last year, I said, let me tell you something, because we talked about playing both ways. I said to him, look, I'm not saying you can win this thing, but I am saying that if you do the things that you're capable of doing, you'll have a chance to win it. So as a coach, I want every guy that plays for me to reach his goals, his personal goals.
"Now, I don't want him achieving personal goals at the expense of the team. That's not fair. The objective is to win. The objective is to be a champion. Well, if you're going to sacrifice that so you can win some individual awards so that Johnny can score 5,000 touchdowns, but you're going to lose, what's the purpose But if he can win an award -- and one of the biggest understandings -- I can tell you this. The guys that played with Charles Woodson, a lot of guys on that team helped him win that award. I think that's true of any award of that nature. So it's a combination of things."
You said you had practice tomorrow. Are the players going to have time to get out and vote ... "I told them a long time ago, it's important they vote. I hope they vote. If they need any advice, I would be happy to tell them who to vote for (laughter).
"Not really. I wouldn't do that. And I'm not going to answer that question."
Have you always told your guys to go out and vote, or after what happened last time, have you made it a point ... "I've always tried to emphasize to them to know the issues. That's what I said to them a couple of weeks ago at one of our meetings. I said, I can remember in 1964, President Kennedy had been assassinated in '63, and in the '64 election, the issues were unbelievable. You talk about a campaign where the issues were out there. I'll tell you, there are a lot of guys on our football team, I don't know if you ask them or not, but for the most part I don't know how they would speak to the issues, but I think they all have opinions about who they want to win."
Players have said that Ross Mann is the most likely to share his political view on the team, is that true ... "Staunch Republican. (Ross) Mann some day will probably run for the governorship of Kentucky, maybe the Senate."
How has Ross been integral to this team ... "There are a lot of plays. If you take the percentage of plays that he plays in and then look at the impact that every one of those plays has, it's unbelievable, the impact that a snapper has on a football team. It so happens, I think most of the years since I've been the head coach here, that we've had a guy who came here without a scholarship and who trains and works himself into the starting position. Jeremy Miller a few years ago was a great long snapper. But Ross has done a great job. I think his teammates understand the significance of what he does and that it is a special skill. He's not a big guy. The thing that's remarkable about him is that he's in there and they're rushing the punts, they're rushing the field goals, and he's taking a beating in there because he can't protect himself. I think he's done a great job and I think he plays an extremely important role on our team."
Were you pleased to see what happened with the SBC deal ... "Well, what I think is this: First of all, I have not talked with Bill (Martin), but I think it's very admirable that he accepts responsibility, and I think that's what a leader does. I think the other issue here is there's always the values that an institution has is always, in many cases, in need of clarification, because the issues aren't always simple, they're not always as easy as we may think they are. Certainly this issue that came under discussion here, I think it's a very complicated issue, because any money that comes in here, into the athletic department, goes towards other sports. I think if you look at Bill's background in business, a very successful businessman, I think he might see things differently than someone who does not have a business background. I think the great news is, in my judgment, in the final analysis, the president, that's her job, clarified what those values are. There's no question in my mind that what she did was admirable and I think it was the right decision."
Did they talk to you about the deal at all before it was negotiated ... "I think there are so many things that go on, I think at some point -- I don't mean this as a criticism, I think in almost every circumstance Bill and I have had what I consider an outstanding relationship, and I think he's he has done everything he could to keep me informed. I think this one particular issue, there are a lot of things going on, and so I don't know exactly why, but it's not a major issue to me."
When was the first time you heard about the SBC deal ... "Well, the first time I was on the Big Ten teleconference when I heard this well-known media personality ask a question about it. That's the first. In any event, that's really the first I had heard about it. I was caught off guard a little bit. But I can tell you this, it was not an issue to me."
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