Nov. 21, 2011
Press Conference: Coach Hoke | Van Bergen | Molk | Notebook
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "Thanks for coming out and the interest of Michigan football. The guys, I thought, played their best football game as a team on Saturday. I'm saying that from the kicking game to offensively and defensively. I thought they all complemented each other well. We had a great day yesterday as far as putting that game to bed and moving forward, you know. This is a special week, because you play in the greatest rivalry there is in sport. When you get the chance to play or coach in this game, it's always a fun week. So we've got a lot of work to do, because we're not where we need to be in any sense as far as the team that we envision ourselves being and we expect to be.
On what this senior class means to him and what a win would mean for them ... "The seniors always are out in the forefront. This is a group of guys who have been through a lot. They've hung together well and done a nice job of preparing weekly -- (not just) preparing themselves, but preparing their teammates. So they've got to keep that up and be consistent in what we do and how we prepare."
On the first time he watched the U-M/OSU rivalry and wanting to be a part of it ... "Wow. I can't remember how old I was or anything, but my dad had a chance and played for Woody Hayes and loved Coach Hayes. That game, you're always watching it. So I can't tell you how old I was or anything else, but it's always been a special significance at 12 noon that last Saturday in November or the Saturday before Thanksgiving when it used to be played then. You were watching that football game."
On why he calls Ohio State "Ohio" and if there's a message he's sending ... "No. Always have. So whenever always is."
On if he studied what Bo Schembechler did in 1969 to prepare himself for his own first season ... "No. I think I probably was well educated before being here for eight years and Bo still being with us. But there is significance. The biggest thing is the respect that those two programs have had for each other for years. I can remember Bo always talking, and Lloyd (Carr) and (Gary Moeller) of the great respect. That's what makes it such a great game because of how both teams will come in prepared, how both teams will play. It's a hard-hitting, clean football game. Always has been. You can be the favorite and the underdog, but none of that matters in this football game. It never does. So it's special because of the pridefulness that both teams have."
On where he was the last time Michigan beat Ohio State in 2003 ... "I have a problem remembering what I did yesterday. I don't know where I was. I was probably coaching a football game."
On how quickly things can change in this rivalry with who's riding high and who's the underdog ... "I think it's in life. Things change every day. Babies are born; people die; things happen all the time. It's just how things are. Our teams are different every year. We'll be a different team next year than we are this year. Good or bad, I have no clue. But I just think there are things, and when you're in athletics and the competitiveness and the chemistry and everything that's part of successful teams, it just changes. (It) changes a lot for one reason or another. The one thing I do know though: this game is a game that's played by people who care about their institutions, the guys that are out there, the guys who played before them, and they'll care about either school in the future. That's what this game represents, because of the respect."
On if a loss to Ohio State would make this a disappointing season ... "Our goal is win the Big Ten Championship, period. That's an expectation. It's an expectation at Michigan. We've got one more guaranteed opportunity, and we started with 12. This is the 12th one. We've got to prepare like we have and play our best football."
On the countdown clock and reminder of how many days it's been since U-M beat Ohio State ... "You want to motivate your players on a daily basis. It's just a reminder. It goes back to the great rivalry that this game is. There is a clock for the great rivalry when we play Michigan State. So those two games have always held a significance in Michigan football history, and they will continue to."
On keeping emotions in check leading up to a big game ... "I can only judge from what I've seen to this point. It seems like we're pretty grounded right now. Hopefully we'll do a good job as coaches of making sure that our guys worry about the things that matter. That's how you line up and compete on every play and how you execute on every play. That's our job, and the job of our seniors, also.
On if he expects practice to be chippy this week ... "I hope. I always like it. So if I like something, I like to see it."
On if there is a single moment from this rivalry that sticks with him ... "Yeah, there are some good and some bad. The '97 game was obviously memorable because of the competitiveness of both teams. Then I think -- and I can't remember the year -- going up there and (Maurice) Clarett made a great play late in the game to really secure the win for them."
On what it means for this team to be playing its best in November ... "I don't know if it means anything until we see how they play this week, how we prepare and how we go out there and play. We hope to get better every week. That's part of what we believe in as a staff. We hope we get better every day and improve from a fundamental side and technique to demeanor that we want to play the games with. So you can't answer that question until probably about four o'clock on Saturday afternoon."
On if he expected nine wins and a chance at a BCS berth when he took over 10 months ago ... "I don't know. Look, I don't look too far in the future about anything besides handling the business at the time. I think the one thing is this senior class that's been through an awful a lot: three head coaches, three assistant coaches, as far as positionally, some of them four. The credit goes to them in how they have responded and how they've led. I'm proud of this class. So I couldn't tell you speculation about anything or hypotheticals. We're just trying to get better every day as a program."
On the seemingly smooth transition that the senior class has made to his coaching ... "I can't tell you that it was quick. I think we have done some things together from a trust standpoint throughout winter conditioning and that whole semester, spring ball and those things. I think that's all part of it. I think our honesty, which sometimes is tough love and sometimes is kissing guys on the cheek when they do things right has been a part of it. So I just think they also, as a group, made a decision that they're going to stay together and they were going to have a purpose and a purpose for Michigan."
On if the seniors have a sense of urgency to get their first win against Michigan State or Ohio State ... "To be honest with you, I think some of them probably are putting a little too much on themselves than they need to. All you have to do is go out there and play for the guy next to you and play as hard as you can and with the greatest toughness you have. Let it go. Win or lose, they're going to go out and play hard. Both teams are because that's the character of both these programs. That's what makes the whole week exciting. It makes it fun because you know at 12:07 there will be two teams on the field playing for the pride of their schools and the tradition of those programs and what it stands for. To me, that's what makes it the greatest rivalry."
On stopping Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller ... "It's a tough job. I've gotten to watch, I think, five games now or four games. He's impressive. He has everything coming out. He's a Wayne High School guy. They used to be in our league when I was in high school. But he does a great job for them. I think the way he handles himself, I think how under pressure he's played, I think he throws the ball, has a great, strong arm. I know his percentage isn't what it will be or would like to be, but I think he's done a tremendous job. We've got our work cut out. Then you put (Dan) Herron in there. He's a great back."
On recruiting in Ohio and the reception he has received from high school coaches ... "I'm fortunate enough that I've recruited that state at two different schools and being from the state there are a lot of those high school coaches I've spent lots of time with either from a recruiting standpoint, clinic standpoint. A lot have come up to our clinic for years during spring ball. (I) talked a lot football with them when I was here for eight years as the defensive line coach. Then being in the Dayton area, there are a lot of guys I know down there. So I know the quality of football in that state and how it's coached. It's always been an important part of Michigan football, those guys who come play up here in Ann Arbor."
On facing an uphill battle when recruiting in Ohio ... "I can't answer if there was an uphill battle or not. We're just going to be who we are. Be honest with people and those kinds of things."
On if his experience in this rivalry shaped his desire to have a physical, tough team ... "I think it was shaped earlier than that, but this game yearly, -- I think on the Big Ten Network, this was before the season, they were showing some of the great classic Michigan-Ohio (State) games and just how hard those guys played. We had that bad turf and everything else in the stadiums. But it was the physicalness that they played with. It was fun. It was football. They're running ball and stopping the run."
On how much he thinks or talks about Ohio State's seven-game winning streak ... "To be honest with you, I haven't talked about that at all with our team and probably won't. We've got educated young men that are here. We're a great university. I think me telling them that would probably insult them in their intelligence."
On Vincent Smith's health ... "His shoulder is banged up a little bit. He could have played. (It) just got to a point and (Stephen Hopkins) did a nice job in there in some pass protection stuff. Stephen is really coming on in a lot of different areas, so it was one of those decisions, third quarter-ish, let's just see. He'll be back this week."
On having empathy for the situation facing Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell ... "It's always tough. Luke is a guy who I have a lot respect for. When we are at Ball State we went up and talked defense with him and (Jim) Heacock and all those guys. They were always very open and really good people."
On his level of excitement to face a defensive-minded coach ... "The one thing, Luke is not playing and neither am I. So really that has nothing to do with it, to be honest with you. Neither one of us are playing. It's preparing our kids to play their best."
On how much momentum within the game plays a part in this rivalry ... "I think it's like every game: you've got to take care of the football. You can't give the football to the opponent -- ball security, the decisions that you make, reducing the number of big plays, your field position that you gain or lose in the special teams. To me, it's all that kind of stuff."
On the improvements of the U-M defense since the spring ... "I'll tell you what they have done. Number one, there are four coaches over there doing a great job at teaching. There are seniors like (Mike) Martin and (Ryan) Van Bergen, (Troy) Woolfolk and J.B. Fitzgerald who have done a tremendous job of understanding that you start with the fundamentals, you start with the technique, and start with your discipline that you're going to play each one of those things with, with your eyes. Then the ability to get 11 hands to the ball and the demeanor that they're going to play with in that way."
On the return of wide receiver DeVier Posey to the Ohio State lineup ... "There are some good receivers in this league that have done a nice job; there are some good receivers that we've played. He's right up there with all those guys, so you can study all you want, but it comes down to how you actually play, especially in the back end, with the discipline of your eyes and alignments and your feet."
On handling the pressure of this game defining the success of the season ... "Be consistent. Be consistent with how you've coached all year long. I think that's one thing we've always tried to do. Win or lose on a Saturday, we do the same things. We practice the same. We have the same expectations in practice, in their film study, in their preparation. I may look at this different, but this is fun. Are you kidding me -- our kids, this has got to be fun. It's hard work and it should be, because nothing you do that comes easy. It's hard, so it's fun for them."
On if the players will find this week fun ... "I hope so. That's a good question for them. But it's fun."
On if this week's practices will be more intense than previous weeks ... "We've been intense pretty much all year in how we practice. I know one thing from being here before for eight years: you don't have to do a whole lot of coaching this week. You don't have to do a whole lot of butt-chewing and getting a guy to run to the ball or take on a block. Not this week."
On if he talks to the team about how a win could help U-M reach a BCS bowl ... "It's not important. Number one, we don't make any decisions. Secondly, it's not important. What's important is what we do today when they come in to look at some film on the opponent. Then how we practice Tuesday; how we practice Wednesday; Thursday; how our meetings go on Friday night and the walk-through Saturday morning. Those are things that are important. We have nothing to do with -- we don't make the decisions. We had 12 guaranteed opportunities. We've got to finish. That's what this game is. It's a finishing game."
On changing the practice schedule this week ... "Yeah, because of Thanksgiving we're going to go in the morning on Thursday. Then we've got Thanksgiving dinner, about 500 people because parents are coming in and all that. (It's) going to be a lot fun."
Senior Defensive End Ryan Van Bergen
On the energy after the win over Nebraska ... "It felt good to have the stadium behind us like it was, but as far as we're concerned we have a lot more left to play for. That win was celebrated in the locker room, and I think just as quickly forgotten. We have goals in front of us that we want to accomplish, that we set out to accomplish a long time ago at the beginning of the season back in January. In the off-season we set goals and we're just trying to get there and that's what we're focused on."
On the importance of this week's game against OSU ... "It's always an important game when you play Ohio, and then it just adds a degree of importance when you're a senior and it's your last time. There's a lot of other stuff that plays into it that I think will be focused on throughout the media and throughout the week, but all we're focused on is having our best week in preparation and practice because that's when you win games is in practice. We're focused on doing everything we can, getting to know our opponent, and then being as prepared as we can be for Saturday because that's how you come out and have your best showing is getting prepared."
On what it means to 'be back' and what it will take to beat OSU... "I think that there are aspects of Michigan that were there in the past that are showing up now and I think that's why people get excited about it. I think Ohio plays a big picture in that, as far as how you play against them, and I wouldn't say the whole season rests on this game as far as if 'Michigan's back' or if we're not -it's another game. We want to win 10 games, we're on the brink, and we're going to do our best to prepare to win 10 games, that's all we're focused on."
Senior Tight End Kevin Koger
On the quick start against Nebraska helping Denard Robinson's confidence ... "I think we got off to a good start and that helps out a lot. I know we came out and had a three-and-out and after that we really started rolling and that helped with his confidence."
On senior class meetings ... "We have them every Sunday and Thursday, and (Brady Hoke) heads them, but we do a lot of the talking. It is constructive and I think it helps out the team a lot."
On the significance of beating Ohio State ... "It always means a lot. Being a senior it kind of means a little bit more because it is my last time playing these guys. I definitely want to come out with the win."
On choosing to attend the University of Michigan ... "My dad grew up in Detroit, and he was always a Michigan fan. It just kind of rubbed off on my brother and me. I have kind of been a Michigan fan all my life."
On U-M being the favorite in this year's game ... "It is not too different. In this game the records do not really matter. Each team is going to get the other team's best shot. I feel like records are not a factor in this game."
On his journey as a Wolverine ... "I definitely feel like I could write my own book, there would be a lot of good things to say. Like you said, there have been a lot of ups and downs, but I think it has made me a stronger person and a stronger football player because of it."
U-M Junior Quarterback Denard Robinson
On the overall historic rivalry ... "Everybody knows about the rivalry. Everybody knows about it, and coach just told us about it again so everybody is ready to play."
On watching the game growing up in Florida ... "I watched the game. It is a big game, it is the game. I watched it and my family told me, 'this is the game' and you know that."
On memories from last year's game ... "We did not put the ball in the end zone last year. That is one thing we have to work on doing this year."
On if Michigan is back to national prominence ... "It is a big game and we got to do what we got to do to try to win this weekend."
On overall excitement for the game ... "Everybody on this team has a glimmer in their eye when getting ready to play this one. We have to take it one game at a time, and now we are to this big game and everyone is just getting ready and preparing for it."
Fifth-year Senior Center David Molk
On Coach Hoke's passion for the upcoming game against OSU ... "It's obviously something really important to him. He's been here a long time, he knows a lot about Michigan history, this is something that is a big part of his season, a big part of who he is."
On how to continue the momentum from the victory over Nebraska into the game against Ohio State ... "Preparation, maintaining and keep preparing at a higher level each week. We've done it throughout the season and that's why we are at where we are now."
On how the seniors have managed their changing circumstances ... "It is amazing, especially looking back how everything transpired from Lloyd (Carr), to Rich (Rodriguez), to now Coach Hoke, it's amazing how much this game can change. I came in here to Michigan thinking, 'Alright, Coach Carr is going to be here forever,' but obviously that's not true. How everything develops and everything transpires, it relies in a lot of variables. When you can truly control a lot of them you can change and improve a team greatly, and we've done that."