Three games in, is there a part of the playing that is developing to your liking, developing well?
Really good question. You know, I think we’re progressing maybe a little bit in the two areas that are the most concerning; that’s up front defensively and – excuse me, upfront, offensively. I don’t think we’re anywhere close to where we should be, and where we need to be, so we’ll go back to work and keep working it. I like the attitude our team has had, and how they’ve come to work, but I think for us to meet the expectations we all have, we have to get a lot better.
How would you assess the way the offense ran the two-minute drill here in the first half?
Well, you know, I thought once we knew we were getting the ball back, we wanted to go, and they did a nice job with it. I’m going to have to go look at it to recite every play to you, if we did it, but I thought we were good with the time outs when we took them, and what we needed to do.
You guys have had a lot of injuries already this season. How important was it to come out of this game, it seem like, scot-free? Did you have any reservations about playing Denard when you guys were up 49-13, another series?
Well, we wanted to play another series, you know, and this is all about trying to get a mindset of a team, and a mentality to win a championship, and keeping the offense together was a big part of that, and letting them finish.
Inaudible question regarding injuries.
Well, I don’t think we had too many boo-boos today, but we’ve had one of those years where we’ve had a lot of guys get dinged up.
The running backs had a lot more success this week than last week. How would you assess their play, especially Fitz?
I think he did ok, you know? I think we’re a little – there’s a couple times I would have liked to see him stick his foot in the ground and be more vertical with some stuff.
You were talking about injuries before. Holding out Morgan and Hopkins – I know you said – you kind of gave a little bit about their ailments. Are they out multiple weeks. Do you expect them back next week?
No, they should be back next week.
Was it a head thing, or…?
I don’t know. A head thing. I don’t know what they classify them as. Sometimes you get dinged.
When you look at this game, is this the kind of game you needed to have with this team as your getting into the brunt of your schedule?
We would have taken any win.
You talked about Fitz and his play today. What about the offensive line? What did you see from those guys?
I didn’t think we moved the line of scrimmage as well as we need to.
What do you have to do to open up those holes?
We better play better leverage, and we better combination block better than we’re doing, and we have to finish.
Would you contemplate shaking up the starting lineup after this?
I think we’ll evaluate, like we always do.
Vincent Smith caught a couple of touchdowns. How do you think he played?
Vince is one of those guys that whenever you call his number, he pretty much is going to perform. It’s not surprising. I think when you look at what he’s done for Michigan football, and how he comes to work every day, I think it’s not surprising.
You don’t seem like a coach that just won by 50 points. Is that because you’re disappointed with how this team is progressing? Can you give an assessment of where this team is at after a blowout win, a blowout loss and then a close win? Are you getting a feel for team 133 I guess is what I’m saying?
I think we’re getting a feel, but these kids have worked hard, and they’ve worked hard throughout – since last January, and they have high expectations, and it’s our job to be honest and be real, and push them to where they can meet those expectations, so I told them the same thing I think I told you: it’s great to win, but if we want to win the Big Ten championship, we need to improve a lot in a lot of areas, and start upfront on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
The biggest gains that your team can make in a game like this – it obviously doesn’t come down to the wire – what…?
Well, there’s always a team morale factor, and being able to play a lot of guys, a lot of guys who have worked hard, a lot of guys who go down on the look teams, and then having the ability to play in this football game in front of 110,000 family and friends, I think that’s great, and that’s what you want to happen. The other games are, you know, not just for those guys who got that opportunity but for us as a team, to improve. You know, in the kicking game, on offense and on defense. Turnovers, you know, we’ve been terrible, terrible at creating turnovers, and if we don’t start creating some turnovers, we’re going to get beat, because we need to give more opportunities to our offense. And running the football and defending the run. I think they were 7 of 17 on third down – U-Mass was. We had some opportunities to make some stops and we didn’t make them, so I guess I’m answering your question, or I’m rambling, and I’m back on Art’s question.
You said on Monday you weren’t really concerned yet about the offensive line or line of scrimmage. Are you getting to a point where you’re getting kind of frustrated maybe that you guys aren’t controlling that line?
Well, I’m not frustrated with them. I wasn’t frustrated before with them, because I know how hard they have to work, and how much they put into it, but at the same time, we have to do it better. So, frustrated, I’m not frustrated, you know, I like our offensive line. It’s my favorite part of the football team, because of the work that they do. I put a lot of pressure on them. We put a lot of pressure on them. Just like we do the defensive line. If you’re going to be good in football, you better be good on your offensive line and your defensive line.
How important is it for you to find the playmaker on the offensive side from Denard so he doesn’t have to feel all that pressure to do everything?
Well, that’s part of it. That’s a big part of it, and that’s why we need to block better in the traditional run plays with the running back, you know, and I think there’s some playmakers on the offense, and the receiver, and tight end. I think Devin’s a guy who’s very – you know, he’s a freshman, and he has a lot to learn, but he’s a play maker, and we need to find more, but trying to get your running back to be a play maker is blocking at the point of attack.
You’ve been very clear that you’re not happy with the rush defense to this point. Were you able to evaluate that against U-Mass? Because obviously they don’t have the best running backs.
You know, I think you are, to some degree. They are forcing your offensive lineman, who are pretty good football players. You know, Mike Cox was a scholarship athlete here at the University of Michigan, and Mike – when we has something, he runs a play well, but totally, probably not, when we get into a power offensive team.
Were you pleased?
It looked like Matt Wile was varying the angle and direction of his kickoffs a lot during this game. Did you talk about that before the game, or what were you hoping?
Yeah, we were trying to – just like everything else, you know, your kicking game, we felt that the first two ball games, we didn’t play as well as we needed to. The Alabama game we had three blocks in the back on kick returns that kills you, and then last week we were consistent enough, and part of that is trying to place the ball in kickoffs. He did the pooch punting because that pineapple kick – I don’t know what they call it, that’s what I call it – he does it pretty effectively, but yeah, we were trying to spread the ball a little bit.
Drew Dileo, nice surprise?
No, you know? Drew’s not the biggest cat in the world, but he has a heart that’s huge, and he loves the game of football, and every day Drew comes out, and we ask him to do a lot, and he does it well for us, so it’s not surprising.