Press Conference Comments from
U-M Head Football Coach Lloyd Carr
Previewing Indiana (Nov. 11); Reviewing Ball State (Nov. 4)
Opening Statement ... "We are looking forward to going to Bloomington to play an Indiana team that is vastly improved from a year ago. It's still a young football team, but offensively they have tremendous weapons.
"I think this young quarterback, Kellen Lewis, is destined for stardom. He's got great ability to run the football, but I think he's even more impressive as a passer. He's got a great release, a strong arm, and a guy that really has brought that team together.
"I think the receiver James Hardy, they're going to bring in four or five wide receivers, but Hardy has got a great future in the game. He is a big target, 6-7, and is an outstanding athlete that has made a lot of plays. I think he's scored 10 touchdowns and led them in touchdowns a year ago as a freshman. We didn't play against him a year ago.
"Marcus Thigpen may be the fastest player in the Big Ten. He's leading the NCAA in every kickoff return statistic. We're going to have to be able to deal with an offensive team that's going to spread us out, and what we've got to be able to do is put our best game together and find a way to win a game."
What have they done well in the couple of big wins that they've had at home ... "I think they've run the football. On Saturday at Minnesota, Lewis ran for 75 yards, threw for over 300. And so they've got great speed, and he's going to come to the line of scrimmage, and if he sees two safeties back there, he's going to run the football, either hand it off or run the quarterback draw with the potential of the option. And if you've got one safety back there, he's going to throw it because he knows its single coverage. They've got a system that enables them to get into the best play based on what the quarterback sees."
What did you see when you looked at the tape of the Ball State game ... "I saw what I thought I saw on Saturday. I saw a team that did a lot of great things.
"When you offensively get 500 yards and you run for 350 yards, you've had a good day's work.
"I thought our defense was excellent for a long time. But we made four mistakes in there. We fumbled the football, and I think we missed a block, and it looked like we were going to have a big run there with Mike, and we let a guy slip off a block and knocked the ball loose. Then Chad made his only mistake of the game, threw an interception, so we gave them nine points there in two plays.
"And then defensively we gave up two plays, two big plays. So the message for our football team is when you turn the football over and when you give up big plays, you're going to have a hard time winning. You're going to have to fight to win, which is exactly what they had to do.
"Now, there are some other things that I didn't like. We had too many penalties. But in terms of effort, in terms of intensity, I have no problem with those things."
How has Chris Graham played since coming back from his injury ... "He's done a good job. I think he's a guy that I was upset with him because their three points on the field goal was tacked on by a personal foul. He hit him late out of bounds, and it wasn't a real late thing, he just was giving great effort and couldn't pull off.
"But he's done a lot of good things. He's a guy that brings real quickness. He has got a nose for the football, and of course he started most of our games a year ago."
People really doubt Chris was trying to be emotional for the team, and he just seems to be a guy that likes to be emotional. Do you see that from him ... "Yes, he's done an excellent job on our special teams, and he's a guy that loves to play. He's tough, and for a young player, he's only been here a short while, but I think he's off to a wonderful career."
What about the safety, did Mike Hart talk to you about that or could you tell what happened ... "Our fullback, they were not adjusted properly there. That should have been a big play. We should have been able to get to the corner, and we just allowed the end to slip off and penetrate. So we missed a block. Of course, Mike has got to secure the football there, too, but it's one of those things."
Jamar Adams said that on defense, just to point out the two cornerbacks on the big plays is unfair because maybe there was more than he saw on the film that we don't see. Do you agree it's kind of a group effort that gave up the big plays ... "I think Johnny Sears simply made a mistake. He was thinking that he was going to get a dig route, and he made a mistake that a young player is going to learn from.
"The last one, there was a couple things that happened. Brandon Graham, our freshman, was playing in there, and was involved in a pass stunt, and he didn't get outside. Had he got outside like he was supposed to, we would have sacked the quarterback there, which would have alleviated the problem that occurred when the quarterback got outside, because now we had two or three guys and that's what happens when a quarterback breaks containment; your coverage breaks down, and a lot of times a guy is going to make you pay for that. Brandon Graham will learn from that mistake.
"I read somewhere where Stevie Brown was named as being responsible. Actually Stevie Brown made a great play to make the tackle. He was the safety on the other side of the field.
"It's a match-up type zone that we were playing on that play, and the outside receiver broke over the middle and Willis Barringer drove on him and Charles Stewart drove on him, and then the inside receiver was running what we call a wheel route, and when the coverage broke down, we were out of position.
"My thing is that it's not about finding fault, it's about learning that when you lose contain, it puts your secondary, no matter how talented they are, in jeopardy.
"But even if it does break down, you've got to learn to stay back if you're supposed to be back. So there's two plays there that hopefully we'll learn from."
Did you see any highlights of the end of the first half of Penn State-Wisconsin If so, what did you think about the strategy employed there to drain down the clock ... "I didn't see that at all."
Players were running 10 feet ahead of the kicker intentionally and tackled the Penn State returner almost as he got the ball and then take the penalty, and they did it twice in a row, draining the clock down ... "Well, didn't they put the time back on the clock
"I'm certain that that will be an issue that the rules committee will have to deal with because if you're doing that to use the clock in that manner, I'm certain that the rules committee will address that. I didn't see it.
"I do want to say this, though: After looking back on almost a full season here, I have nothing but kudos for the rules committee because I think their efforts to shorten the game has really been in the best interest of the players, and I think there may be some things that they do in terms of some issues that other coaches have, but I think it's been a great thing for the guys who play the game, particularly in light of the 12th game."
I'm glad that you said that because you've talked a couple times about how hard it's been to play younger players. Even though you have been able to play them here and there, do you feel the benefit of the opportunity to play young players ... "Yes, I do, and I can only speak about our team. But in most games, you don't get an opportunity to do that anyway. When I weigh the whole thing, I think Saturday is a perfect example. If there is another six minutes there -- because most of the games do go down to the last few minutes. That's my take on it."
Is there something that your players can get out of the Ball State game since it was the first game where you guys went to the very last play ... "I think we've been in a lot of games that the outcome was not decided. A two score lead is not very much in today's football because for one thing, the onside kicks, these kickers have perfected the ability to kick the ball off the ground and get it high in the air, which makes the receiving team on an onside kick, the odds are very good that they have a chance to get the ball. So you score a touchdown, onside kick, get the football back, there's 16 points potentially.
"There are a lot of things that we can take out of that game. We had to fight there at the end. We had them, I think it was going to be fourth down, we get a penalty for a face mask, now we've got to line up and play four more downs.
"Being in that situation is positive."
How happy are you with what you saw from Mario ... "We got exactly what we wanted. We wanted to play him eight, 10, 12 plays. I think he got 13, 14 maybe, and he ran very well. The main thing for him was he got to play, he got to practice some, but I think tomorrow he'll be full go and ready to return."
Prescott's ankle seemed fine He seemed ready to go ... "We'll have to see tomorrow how he's responded to treatment."
Can you talk about your captains What makes Jake and LaMarr good leaders ... "First of all, they're guys that are respected because you don't get to that position unless you're well-respected. I think from my standpoint, these two guys love to win, and they hold themselves to a high standard and I think they've held their teammates to a high standard.
"And because they are guys that are respected, if you look at them on Saturday after Saturday after Saturday, you see great effort, you see guys that are trying to do what they're coached to do as opposed to doing their own thing. Sometimes you have guys that are more interested in statistics than they are in winning.
"So they've both been incredible leaders. They've been fun to be around. There's no ego there. They both take tremendous pride in their abilities. They're both extremely competitive people who love the game and who are unselfish in playing their role and in leading this team.
"I could not say more about both of them as people, nor as leaders."
How much can Tyler Ecker potentially help you down the stretch ... "I think Carson Butler has done a bang-up job. He's going to be an outstanding player here. I think he's proven that for a young guy to step in and do what he's done, and I'm sure we're going to get Massey back this week so that's going to be a great lift because it allows us now with Brian Thompson to have three tight ends, and we'll just have to see where Tyler is; but we'll see."
About your substitution patterns in the second half of the Ball State game and how rushed they were ... "I was very unhappy with the umpire in that game because it has been one of the rules that we've dealt with that we've tried to improve here in the last five or six years is allowing the offense, the defensive team to substitute, and the job of the umpire is to stand over the ball when there are substitutions and not let someone gain an advantage because running people in and out and not allowing the defense to substitute. I think he did a very poor job of it, and I have made that clear. Not that it will do any good."
Did you watch your players a little closer after this game to sort of see their reaction to see how they sort of dealt with it ... "I'm trying to pay attention every week. I think it was very apparent that one of the things and you mentioned it, we didn't get a chance to play some other people, and that's because we gave up two big plays there.
"What I think our team understands is that the things you have to do before you can win, you have to know what will cause you to lose, so I think there was a lot of guys upset because we didn't get a chance to play some other guys that we had hoped to be able to play. To me that's a good sign."
Do you expect Kevin Grady to play at all this week ... "We'll just have to see tomorrow how he responds. Kevin has indicated he's a lot better, but until you get out there, you really don't know."
Back to the umpire, have you communicated with the big head office about the umpiring Saturday ... "I told them on the field, and I sent a film in. They have a job to do. The purpose of that rule is to prevent your defense from having an unfavorable opportunity to substitute. I don't know why it happened, but it needs to be corrected."
You talked earlier about how your experience in 1997 sort of helped you with this year. How is this year different from 1997 in terms of this team versus that in terms of personality-wise or anything else you think is relevant ... "I think any time you're successful you have good chemistry, and I think we had great chemistry that year, a bunch of guys that -- I think there's probably a lot of similarities."
During your time here have you ever had during the course of a season had another school seek permission to speak with one of your assistant coaches maybe leaving ... "Head coaching Yes, absolutely."
What's your philosophy about getting those calls ... "(Laughing) Well, I just don't take them. (laughter) No, there's nothing that I would rather see for anybody that coaches here, that's one of the reasons, it's one of the advantages of coaching here. So there's nothing I would rather see than to have guys on our staff have the opportunity to move on into head coaching positions, and I think that will happen to. There are a lot of guys on this staff capable of being head coaches."
Could you ever see a Michigan assistant becoming a coach for Michigan State ... "That would be fun, wouldn't it Well, Biggie Munn, I think he's the winningest coach in the history of Michigan State. He coached here for Fritz Crisler. I can remember Bill McCartney when he was an assistant here expressed an interest in that job, and it just made a lot of people very angry.
"But the truth is it's a great job. There are a lot of people that would love to be the head coach there."
Are you surprised to see that happen to John L. Smith ... "I'm not surprised at anything. I think one guy I really want to mention is the president of Ball State University and the athletic director there. I think those people showed great foresight because I read in the paper Saturday morning that Brady had been extended, and I think it takes great leadership when you're in a situation like this because the easy thing is to give into all the pressure of the moment, and it's much more difficult to evaluate the kind of job somebody is doing and where the program is. I thought Ball State made a very smart move. I have great respect for John L. Smith, I can tell you that. But we all understand that's part of the profession."
A great respect because he's staying on Is that part of that ... "I admire that. I admire that because I'm sure that's not a lot of fun, not easy to do, and yet I think he did it because he feels an obligation to his players, and I think that's says a lot about him."
You've talked a lot about the grind of a 12-game season, taking its toll physically. Can you talk about that more, how these guys are feeling, how you feel mentally at this stage of the game and what a grind it is ... "I feel like a 20-year-old. I think every single program, I'm speaking about the Big Ten, we are all in the same boat. There's no one that isn't banged up to some regard. There's no one that doesn't have some fatigue because they've been playing football all of August, the heat, and they've been in competition for two and a half straight months. So it's a very, very physical game.
"If you watch the film closely like I do, there's nobody out there that isn't playing as hard as they can on both sides. So the contact, it wears you down.
"Part of the challenge of any season is to be able to reach a point where you get your second wind and are able to fight your way through and play your best football at the end. That's really what the challenge of championship football is all about."
Have you ever come close to taking a shot on the sideline that Joe Paterno did Saturday ... "I've taken a few shots, and it's no fun because the truth is it happens so fast that you really don't have time in some cases to get out of the way, and it's a frightening thing because these are big guys and they have helmets on. You get hit by a helmet, I mean, you can die. It's a dangerous place."
Going back to my question, is there any part of you that likes just keeping it rolling and not taking a break and not having a bye week ... "Who said I wanted a bye last week I said I thought it would be nice to have a bye week. I didn't say I wanted one last week.
"I think everybody looks at that differently. I think if you're healthy and you're playing well, then there's something to that. If you're really banged up, then you may look at it a little bit differently. There are some years that you want to keep playing.
"But I think the other issue is academics, which if you put yourself in the position of a guy that's playing and understand that it's a tough challenge, and it's not really a week off, but it's a lot more time, there's no preparation in terms of a game plan for that week to learn, so you've got some time to catch up academically."
When you were here did you like it ... "I told our players when we started, we don't care what time, we don't care what place and we don't care what the weather is. This is what's in front of us, so it doesn't matter what we think."
You said before the season started you thought the defensive line had the potential to be the best crew since you have been at Michigan. Have you seen them realize that Do you think that's kind of come true ... "I think they are."
Since you've been the head coach or all the way back to the beginning of your Michigan career ... "Well, my memory is getting shorter and shorter as we go. I don't know how far back that goes, but it goes back a while. Yeah, I think if you look at the statistics, that's one thing. But it goes beyond statistics.
"They've been very, very consistent, and I've always believed that consistency is really the truest measure of performance. Anybody can have a great day, but to do it week in and week out over a long period of time, I think they've met that challenge.
"And that's not to diminish some of the great defensive fronts we've had because we've had some. But what we've had as well as some extremely talented guys in the starting group, we've got a lot of guys that we've been able to substitute, they've gotten better, so I think our depth has been a real factor there."
Has that made it harder or easier on the secondary ... "I think it makes a world of difference for a secondary. But it's the same thing, though. You can have a great defensive front. If you're not playing well together in the underneath coverage and the secondary, then they're not going to look as good, they're going to be on the field a lot longer, they're going to tire so their performance isn't as good. It's all part of a team effort. I think that we've played well as a team for the most part."
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