It was good to win homecoming. It's good to win anytime. And I really thought that complete game-wise, in a lot of ways, this was probably the most complete we've played. Running the ball with the running backs; Denard obviously had some great runs in there. I thought, defensively, after the second series, third series, we started to play Michigan defense, played well against the run, and then I thought when we did that on first and second down it gave us an opportunity to try and put some pressure on the quarterback, and I thought the guys did a nice job. You know, some things in there. We had some penalties, running the ball early, them against our defense, we weren't happy with, but overall it's probably as complete as we've played, but it's not near good enough.
The front, O-line, D-line, looks very solid. Your assessment of their work out there?
Yeah, I didn't think early, upfront defensively, I didn't think we were playing, you know, with gap integrity and getting off blocks as well as we needed to. They were hitting in there and getting four or five yards, or five or six yards, and that's right at the line of scrimmage, so I think we have some work to do there. I thought we played a little better as the game went on, but at the same time, I think there was a lot of improvement. From an offensive standpoint, I think as we continue to grow, to some degree, I think we're playing a little better when you look at pad-level. I think we're playing a little better with the speed that we want to play with.
On the fourth down when they kicked it and missed, when you held them, turned the ball over. How important to you were those moments?
Well, those were critical, but the one where they went for it on fourth down and our defense stepped up and did a nice job, we've got the ball left, we're in two-minute, and we get nothing, you know, and that's frustrating, because we felt, coming in the locker room after half time that we left some – or during half time – that we left some points on the board, and you know, you can't do that when you play for championships.
You talked how important your seniors on D are as far as leadership, that they're playing your best ball. Can you talk about how critical that is to you movement?
Well, it is – and I'll tell you, Quintin, you know, has improved probably every game, and it's exciting as a coach when you see a guy, who, you know, steps out there, gains confidence, and plays better, and he's a big part of our football team, and he's a wonderful young man. Kenny, I'll tell you, the interception, he had seen the route, he had prepared, and that's one thing I think we've done better as a team is the preparation, and he knew formationally, he knew route-wise, he knew where they were lined up, and what route was coming, so he could jump the route, and that's a maturity that you like to see in your football team, and Kenny being a senior, you expect that, but when it works out, you're excited about that.
Russ Bellomy. Can you assess his play? Pretty critical to get him in that real game action?
It always is, and it think – Russ, we're very excited about Russ Bellomy, and have been, and he came in there with a lot of confidence. He came in there, you know, we had the one exchange problem later in the game, and I think we just – the ball slipped and we didn't get it up enough, but you know, he's a guy that we think is a good quarterback. I mean, that's why we recruited him, and so it was good to get him some work, and obviously, meaningful work, but any work's good work.
At what point do you start thinking about Michigan State?
I don't know, I mean, I hope these guys enjoy this right now. I don't know if you ever don't think about rivalry games, you know? I think that's always part of what makes us special being Michigan.
Why did you choose Desmond Morgan for the 48, and did you lay down expectations for him?
Yeah, and I'll tell you, it was very easy to choose Desmond, because of his character and his integrity; because of how he comes every day. In our building, I think in the classroom, in the community, he is a great kid, so really, you know, the Grand Rapids connection really didn't have a whole lot to with it until I felt like I was going to do it with Desmond, then it kind of clicked in.
You mixed in Rawls, you mixed in Justice too in the first half with Fitz. What was the thought process behind that? Earlier in the week, it didn't sound like that was going to happen.
You know, we just wanted to give them both some more carries. I think competition's always healthy for everybody, so giving those guys some time out there, you know, Vince we didn't play at all because he had a little bit of a hamstring, and so let's work Justice some; you know, obviously got him a little rest because of that, but giving Thomas more carries was part of it.
Is that still Fitz's job?
I know you said that you're comfortable with Bellomy, but when Denard goes out at that point, and Russ comes in, you don't know what the situation's going to be, how confident were you that we can win this game with our defense at this point?
I'd like to tell you I was very confident. I felt good that our guys on defense, and then the other piece of it, I thought our kicking game. I thought, you know, we kind of challenged that group, challenged ourselves as coaches, that our kicking game had to make improvements, it has to continue to, but that part of it, I was comfortable, if that's the way it would have gone.
With Denard's boo-boo, hand injury….
Just a boo-boo.
How worried were you…?
You know, any time a guy gets dinged up, and boo-boos and such, you always worry about it.
Two games in a row that Denard hasn't thrown an interception. Is that comfort with game plan, or maturity?
I think it's a combination of both. I think he obviously reassessed probably after Notre Dame. I think we all did, where we were, and then I think some game plan adjustments were made. I think we were bound and determined that we were going to run the football, and the passing game, the play action part of it, and the part of the passing part of our offense that he felt most comfortable with.
Can you assess Fitz's play today? Did you feel like maybe he got the jump start that he needed? Maybe you didn't think he needed one, but for the rest of the season. And my second question is, Michigan State, that game's obviously very important for this division. How much did you stress not peeking, not looking ahead to that game.
I'll answer the second question first. I didn't talk about it, because our guys never even mentioned it, looked at it. I was really surprised, but I felt real confident about every week for us is a championship game, no matter what, so they have to prepare for every opponent like a championship game, and there was none of that in the locker room or anywhere else. It was Illinois, and how we wanted to play, and how we wanted to prepare. About Fitz, ran the ball hard. I thought he got more North and South. Jump-starting, I hope, but at the same time, I think there were two runs I didn't really like, but other than that, I thought he really started getting vertical a little more.
Fitz needed a jump start though?
I don't know. You have to explain jump start. Is that when your battery dies and you –
Well, we didn't do that with him, but…no, I just think it's – and I've said this before – it's not always the back, you know? There's ten other guys out there. If Denard doesn't carry out fakes really well, then that's not going to be effective, and I just throw that out as a piece that was all part of coaching, and how you put an offense together.
Can you talk about Jake Ryan missing the quarterback on the first pass, then gets off the ground and comes back and forces the fumble.
You know, and that's Greg and the defensive staff, they do a tremendous job. When you talk about effort and toughness that you need to play football at Michigan with, and defense at Michigan with, and the pride that – number one, the self-pride that Jake has, and how he is as a football player, but it's more of a Michigan pride, and a team pride, and a defensive pride that – I think that's not why he got off the ground and forced the fumble, but that's part of who he is, and who we want to represent.
Game notables (Jake, Denard, Frosh, RBs) ... and looking at the future-schedules of the Legends…