Nov. 14, 2011
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "We are really proud of our kids and how they played on Saturday, how they went out there as a team. I think we really complimented each other as a football team in a lot of ways. Offensively, taking the ball down in that first possession and scoring always helps you with your mindset and your enthusiasm when you play the game."
"Defensively, I thought our defense played awfully well and played together. We had a 4th and 26 that was completed on us that we don't like at all, and then we needed to play a little better in the one drive in the fourth quarter, but I think it was a team. Matt Wile did a tremendous job on kickoffs, especially into the wind, I thought that field position and you're talking about those things are important and Jeremy Gallon did a nice job in the punt return department. And the thing I want to mention is those guys on that team really did a nice job, and so that was a big plus. When you look at some hidden yardage, that is always important in a football game. But I'm proud of the kids, how they bounced back, how they reacted, how they stayed together, how they complimented each other.
"And obviously we've turned the page after yesterday to a very good opponent in Nebraska, one of the traditional football powers in this country, and we'll have our work cut out for us."
On if the defense has exceeded expectations ... "We always have high expectations. The part of it that you like is -- and this is probably more a coach would see than you may -- when they come off the field, whether it's good or it's bad, how they banded together, stay together, they listen, and I think Greg (Mattison) and the staff on defense do a tremendous job of making the adjustments that may need to be made, or I think they do a tremendous job, the guys do, of keeping each other on that edge. That's part of it, and I thought they did a nice job staying together, no matter what happened."
On how the rush defense against Illinois dictated their offense ... "Obviously when you can get a team to be one dimensional, if you can do that and we were able to, I think the interior of our defense really shut down some of the zones and what they wanted to run. When you can get them in those down and distance situations that are advantageous for you, we were able to do that, and we were able to get some pressure. I thought the back end did a nice job of keeping the ball inside and in front, which is a big part of it, so the capacity for big plays wasn't there as much."
On getting the defense to carry over its strong play at Illinois into the final two weeks ... "I think our guys have done a tremendous job of wanting to improve every week. We went out last night and had a tremendous 25-minute fundamental and technique practice. The intensity of it, their focus, I think they're mature enough, and the leadership of the senior class has done a really good job of moving to the next game and what can we do better as a team, and how are we going to do it better. They understand for our seniors they have two more opportunities to play in this great stadium, and they understand that the expectations are to go out and play better every week."
On parts of the game the defense could have improved ... "The whole last drive. You don't want anybody to score their last drive down the field. I think it served some purpose a little bit eating up the clock, but I'd rather have the ball with us eating up the clock. So there were some third downs in there that we need to do a better job with as far as our conversions."
On any practice limitations for Denard Robinson this week ... "No. He threw the ball very well last night. He's fine. He just got a little sprain on his wrist, and he's in good shape."
On reviewing film and assessing Devin Gardner's play ... "Devin did a good job managing the game, and Al (Borges) did a nice job in calling the game. The way our defense was playing, to play to your defense and then I thought the kicking game did a nice job for us."
On how good of a job Greg Mattison has done as a defensive coordinator ... "I don't know. I think whatever we do, it's the kids executing it. We haven't gone out and played one snap. We haven't taken on a block. We haven't done any of that. It's the kids and their sense of pride and their sense of knowing the expectations of being at Michigan. I think that whole staff does a good job, and the entire staff of teaching fundamentals and techniques, and that's where it starts. And as a team, I think our mentality of how we want to play football is an important part of it, you know, on both sides of the ball."
On if there was a specific moment when he thought the defense could be good ... "We have two pretty good opponents left and Nebraska is a good football team. So I don't think we're in any position to think that we're the Chicago Bears of (1985)."
On Denard Robinson's fumbles the last two games ... "I believe it was the first one there was a lot of pulling, scratching and all that kind of stuff. The play itself seemed to last forever. A guy hits the ball right or you're trying to get some extra yards or you're trying to make a play and you lapse a little bit in your ball security. But no, he's been good that way. I think you have to give them a little credit because they're trying to strip it and do those things, but he has to do a better job as far as ball security issues."
On stressing perimeter defense this week against Nebraska's option offense ... "We'll stress that a ton because of what they like to do and we'll prepare for it, and they'll have a wrinkle either formationally or something different that we maybe haven't seen, trying to take advantage of leverage. But it will be one of those things that we have to be highly disciplined. Whenever you're playing option football teams, you have to do your job, and that's an expectation. So it's an important part of it."
On how Denard Robinson's role changes with the emergence of Fitzgerald Toussaint ... "I don't know if it changes. I think it's kept him healthy for a lot of the year, healthier than he's been. I think it's another option if we're going to block at the line of scrimmage and do a good job there. I think it really comes down to how well we're blocking at the line of scrimmage, how well the backs -- if you are Mike Shaw or Vince (Smith) -- how they're seeing the holes and their balance and burst through. It's different every week how people want to defend because of Denard, so he's part of the formula for Fitz, even though he didn't throw one block in the game for 192 yards or whatever he had."
On the opportunity to make this a special season by winning the final two home games ... "We always start with our seniors and that's what we talk about. When you sit there and they can't believe how quickly their four or five years have gone by and that they're at the last two games at home to wear that winged helmet. I mean that means something. And for us we just have to keep trying to improve in everything we do on a daily basis so that we can be the best Michigan team that we can be."
On the threats that Nebraska poses ... "Nebraska's always been a very physical football team for numbers of years and they take great pride in their football. Taylor Martinez has done a tremendous job of executing when you look at what they're doing offensively. (Rex) Burkhead is a guy that is a good running back. You look at the statistical information between both teams, which I'm not real big into, but there are a lot of similarities, and their rushing offense and scoring and defensively. They're a team that's going to play with great passion. I think Bo (Pelini) does a nice job, the black shirt defense, the physicalness that they want to play with. It's going to be one of those games."
On if he has any connections with Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini ... "Not really, no. I know him, obviously, but (we are from) different parts of the state of Ohio."
On defending Nebraska's option running attack ... "I think it all starts with the type of option that you're going to see. There's varying degrees. There's some speed option you'll see. There will be some zone read option parts of it as you find out. But it's the discipline of what your job is. If you're a guy who's got the quarterback, then you have to make sure -- there's always a pitch key for every option, and you have to do a great job of doing your job there. And then if you're the pitch player, which if they're loading it or arcing it or whatever, how you get off blocks, and the flow of the ball. Your inside-out flow to the football has to be a big part of it."
On Martavious Odoms' reintegration into the offense ... "He has done a tremendous job, and he probably would have made more progress earlier if he wouldn't have gotten beat up in fall camp. He had a forearm that I think was a break, one of those hairline kind of deals, and it affected him. He had a cast on it, and hard to catch the ball, especially when they moved it on his hand a little bit. So that part of it. But the one thing Tay has done like most of these seniors is he's come to work every day and he's done a nice job of leading, and he's done a nice job of coming to work and competing."
On J.T. Floyd's anticipation that led to his interception ... "Believe me, that was him doing a nice job of what he did all week preparing to play the game. Receivers, there's splits that tip you to a couple different things. There are break points in routes, and one thing J.T.'s done, he's done a nice job of really working at being a corner from the preparation of film study and those things."
On Roy Roundtree ... "He's fine. He's doing what we want him to do: go out there and block when you need him to block and run good routes."
On having two quarterbacks that can effectively run the offense ... "I think it's always nice to have, like you said, depth at every position, and we've been pretty fortunate because we're not very deep at some of them. I think both quarterbacks have done a nice job. I think they're learning in a process and in a system, and I think they both get better every time they take the field."
On the rotation between Thomas Gordon and Troy Woolfolk at safety ... "It seemed to work out. I think it seemed to work out pretty well Saturday. It still comes down to how they practice."
On Troy Woolfolk's health ... "He's okay. He gets banged up a little bit here and there, but he's fine. He did everything last night."
On what he teaches punt returners to do on short kicks ... "The one rule they always have: if they don't feel comfortable about trying to field the ball, then get away from it. First and foremost, they have to know that. At the same time you're telling them to catch every ball. So with the wind and how that was affecting some things, I think Jeremy (Gallon) was more on the side of cautious because there were two other ones I thought at the time that he could have fielded, but after looking at it on tape there was probably one that I think he could have fielded. I'm not going to second guess that too much because he wants to do the right thing for his team."
On Will Hagerup's punting ... "I think he's made some progress at times. He had a pretty good punt and then he had a couple that weren't as good for Will. I think it's just being consistent, and what happens, and I don't know if anybody golfs around here. I try not to, but you hit into the wind and you think you have to swing harder. I mean that's the worst thing you can do. I'm a 35 handicap, so I'm giving you golf lessons, but my point is I think he's so competitive that sometimes he overkicks, and that's something that he and I talk about every day."
On the limited times that two quarterbacks were used at Illinois ... "It was just Al (Borges) didn't think it was where we wanted to go this week. I think part of it is we were very conservative in how once we saw how our defense was playing, we went very conservative with trying to keep things going in the right direction."
On if there is fine line between being conservative and proactive ... "I don't think it's a fine line. It's like at half time, we left some points on the field. The kids all knew it and they were kind of down offensively to some degree because they felt that, but I reminded them we're winning the game. We've scored 14 points, they've scored none. We're winning, and we just have to go back to what we normally: make sure you're fundamentally sound in everything you're doing and finish some blocks if that's the case and correct the things we didn't do as well in the red zone."
On if there was a common theme to the problems in the red zone ... "No, not really. One play this guy overshot or didn't pick up the movement. The other play it could have been the other guy. And that's what happened because we just have to be more consistent."
On how much opposing defenses affect U-M's offensive play calls ... "It's huge. Every school has a base defense. Ours is under, which is weak side reduction. That is going to be our base, but you're going to try and stop people, what they do, because everyone has four running plays they like to hang their hat on and probably four route combinations. And those are the things that you need to stop. Same thing happens with us offensively. People have a base defense you may see all week, but when they get to how they feel with Denard (Robinson), because the 192 yards that Fitz got, he didn't just do on his own. He had some pretty good blocking, and the threat of Denard still is a threat. Everyone has a different way how they feel they want to really defend him."
On Desmond Morgan ... "There are expectations for the position at Michigan, and he's a true freshman. He's done a nice job, and I think he'll continue to do a good job."
On stopping Rex Burkhead ... "Obviously, he's a challenge to all 11 guys out there and coaches and everything else because he's a guy who runs downhill, runs hard, and he's got enough acceleration and movement to him that he's tough to tackle. He's really a great slicing style of runner."
On if he said anything to Desmond Morgan after an up-and-down Iowa game ... "No. The kid's prideful. He does a nice job of studying his craft, and he probably was a little better versus Iowa than I think I initially felt."
On how much the defense feeds off defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's emotion ... "I think that's always part of it. But our seniors -- Mike Martin and (Ryan) Van Bergen and (Troy) Woolfolk and Will Heininger -- I think with the way they go out and play and how they work and how they prepare, that's part of it, too. I think it's really that whole group wanting to be better every week."
On Nebraska being a member of the Big Ten ... "I think it's good. It's good for college football. It's good for our conference. They've traditionally been one of the elite programs in this country, and I think it's great for us."
On how Michael Schofield looks on film ... "Michael's learning. I think he's getting better. I think with every position, but offensive line-wise, you have to make sure that your fundamentals are the biggest part. That starts with your feet, but I think he's doing a good job."
On simulating Rex Burkhead in practice this week ... "There are a couple guys. Mike Cox for us does a nice job, and he's big like that. Jihad Rasheed does a real good job, even though he's a little shorter guy, but he's thick. There are some guys down here, they give us fits some time. That's a good thing."
On coaching the scout to hold and harass the starters ... "Yeah. I run the scout team, and I love running the scout team because I'm with those big guys up front. Those offensive linemen who are developing, and there's some times when I think it's important that the guys who are going to play in the game, make it as hard on them as possible. When we do that, when we go against our defense, we want to score because we're competing. And whether it's your look team or whatever, we want to win. If it helps out the look team a little bit, so be it, because we want to win."
On recognizing the military prior to this week's game ... "It's awesome. It's what we all are thankful for those who have served this country and those who are serving, because coming from San Diego and having the relations that we were able to have with the Marine Corps and the Navy it's humbling for what they do for our country and for us, to be able to sit here today and get asked questions."
On Brendan Gibbons going 1-for-2 on field goal attempts at Illinois ... "I thought he responded really well. He laid the one out there a little bit too much. He just pushed it. The snap, the mechanics of everything else, snap hold were all good. And that's what he said when he came off. I don't usually talk to them once they first come off, because he'll figure it out. He did a good job."
On Brendan Gibbons' field goal range ... "I kind of want to say it's improving, to be honest with you. I went out early just to watch our punt both ways and watch us kick into the wind, and he hit one, I don't know, it was 48 yards or something like that, and I was a little surprised, but he hit it right. He hit it right.
So I think I feel probably a little better about his range."
On who would kick a 50-yard attempt, Brendan Gibbons or Matt Wile ... "I couldn't tell you until the time comes. It's kind of instinct and feel."
On the progress of Ryan Van Bergen ... "I think Ryan's done a really good job of each week improving. When I say that I'm talking about from a technique side and the visual keys that he has, and he's always wanting to do the extra so that he can be as good as he is, can be for his teammates."
On Ryan Van Bergen being a spokesman for the team despite not being a captain ... "He's earned the right as far as when you look at the work ethic in the off season, because that's where a lot of it starts, and how he prepares every week, how much film study, so guys see that, and how hard he practices."
On a specific time or moment when he noticed Ryan Van Bergen emerging ... "I don't know. That happens with guys, I think. I've been around this enough to know that some guys all of a sudden they really get it, and maybe that's what happened."
Fifth-Year Senior Defensive End Ryan Van Bergen
On the expectations of the defense ... "I think we've exceeded a lot of people's expectations defensively. I think people probably counted us down and out on defense after the performance we gave up previous years and stuff like that. We've been motivated and we've been focused the whole time on being a defense that traditionally has been seen at Michigan - a defense that alums would recognize. I think that Coach Mattison just got emotional because he's starting to see a defense like when he used to coach here, a defense that was feared and was respected throughout the league. That's something that we've been striving for and we're making progress towards it. I still think there's a little work that needs to be done but the good thing is that we're still on the up."
On only giving up 37 rushing yards against Illinois ... "I take tremendous pride in that. And also I just love playing with the guys up front that I play with. Mike (Martin), Craig (Roh), (Will) Heininger - I love those guys. I've been with them for so long, and we've been through so many struggles defensively, especially when it comes to rushing the ball. When we can make that kind of statement and say 'you're not going to run the ball, you have to be one-dimensional', that's huge. That's something that we haven't been able to do and we wanted to, and it's been a long time coming. We're finally making statements that the ball won't be running into Michigan and that's because of what the front seven have been doing -and the linebackers have been doing a great job as well."
On plans to close the season strong ... "Eight wins is eight wins. I don't think anyone is wild about that in our program. Michigan has won way more than eight games on average, I would say. So, just because as of late in recent years we haven't reached that mark doesn't mean that anyone on the team, I hope everyone on the team is still focused on 'Yeah, we have the potential to win eleven games.' There's no reason to be satisfied with what we've done so far. If we sit on what we've done so far, our legacy won't be anything special. But if you win 10 games at Michigan, you win your bowl game, you're going to be remembered for a long time."
Fifth-Year Senior Center David Molk
On the seniors' Sunday meetings with Coach Hoke ... "It's a similar type of thing that we talk about every weekend but at the same time it's always slightly different depending on what happens in the game. And they're always positive and very beneficial this year. It's really cemented our senior group, our class, as a single unit and then we send a proper message to our team, along with the coaches."
On facing a physical Nebraska team this weekend ... "From what I've heard they're a tough team, they're a good team, they're a solid team. They're very much like us. But then again I've never played them, never really seen much of them playing. I don't know much about them because they just got in the Big Ten, but we're looking forward to seeing something new."
On the challenges of facing a new conference opponent for the first time ... "It's kind of like going to a bowl game and playing a non-conference team. It's a new challenge because it also challenges our coaches since they haven't seen a lot of it. We haven't seen a lot of it. We don't really know their players. Like a lot of the teams we've played already, I really know most of their players and how to play against them. But now it's a totally new thing, like a bowl game."
On the play of Devin Gardner against Illinois ... "I thought Devin stepped up when he needed to and he played well. He's definitely getting more comfortable at quarterback, especially looking back to other times that he's played earlier in the season. Even within that game, the reps that he got, the more that he got, the more comfortable he got and the better we worked as an offense."
On the play of the offensive line as a unit last week ... "I thought we played pretty well, especially early in the game. We came out and put it to their defense. But then we kind of stuttered a little bit, had to really find where we were again. And at the end of the game, we came out and pushed them."
Senior Tight End Kevin Koger
On overcoming the red zone struggles ... "I think we just have to be more consistent at practice, even though I did think we had a great week at practice. I think we just need to focus more and pay attention to the details on the little things that made us more consistent in the beginning of the season."
On how defenses have adjusted to U-M red zone offense ... "I can't put one thing on it. I know a lot of teams are stacking the box against us, which makes it tough numbers-wise blocking. But that is not an excuse to why we have been so bad lately."
On Devin Gardner's success as a backup ... "As an offense, we have confidence in both of them as quarterbacks. I think it does a lot for his confidence for him to get in and to get live game reps and him having success in the game does a lot for his confidence. He will play better as the season goes on."
On preparing for Nebraska's defense ... "They are always going to be a physical defense. I haven't watched film on them yet, I'll probably head to the building after this. They are always a physical team. I heard they are well-coached. It is going to be hard to move the ball on them."
On the importance of the running backs ... "It takes a lot of hits off Denard (Robinson) just knowing that we can lineup underneath center and hand it off to Fitz (Toussaint) or whoever is in the backfield. It takes a lot of hits off Denard, so he is more healthy as the season goes on."