Question: You were talking about practice, and working with those guys. Is there anything you kind of looked at that you can do in terms of schematically, or is it just show up, and these guys have to start making plays?
Brady Hoke: “I think some of it is, from a schematic standpoint, the concepts are good, in what we’re trying to do. I think that to some degree we got bothered a little bit, didn’t get the call well enough, or didn’t get set well enough. “
Question: Just a matter of them making the play, though, is what it comes down to?
Brady Hoke: “Well, I think that’s in any athletic venture. The quarterback for the Lions yesterday made a pretty good play.”
Question: You said you had, what, 27 guys who were on the team that (played at Spartan Stadium in 2011)?
Brady Hoke: “Yeah, I think it was either 24 or 27 who made that trip. "
Question: Right, so do you feel like this team now is, I guess, better – you know, you guys saw how intense this game was to them in 2011. Do you think this team has a better understanding of the intensity that comes with this game as opposed to –
Brady Hoke: “I think so.”
Brady Hoke: “Just because of how they practice, and how they do things.”
Question: With this game in particular, is it – I mean, they understand maybe more –
Brady Hoke: “I think overall, the consistency of practices.”
Question: What have you seen from Gardner that allows you to think that he will be fine headed into that environment? He has not played there, obviously.
Brady Hoke: “Yeah, he took some snaps at the end of the game. What have I seen? I’ve seen his focus, his preparation, his fundamentals and techniques that he’s played with in practice and in games.”
Question: You said it’s not an admiration society, but is there part of you as a defensive coach that really admires what they’ve been able to defensively?
Brady Hoke: “Oh sure, yeah.”
Question: What about it?
Brady Hoke: “The consistency.”
Question: Is it the defense that you’d like to have here?
Brady Hoke: “I think we’d all like to be ranked first in the league, offense and defense, and kicking, so no, I think they’ve done a nice job. I think there’s probably five or six pro players on that defense that they do a nice job with.”
Question: When you play against a defense that good, how tough is it to decide between not making a big mistake, or putting yourselves in position to do that, or try to make the big plays that you know have to make to beat them?
Brady Hoke: “I think we have to have consistency in what we’re doing, and we’ll have a plan that will give our guys the best chance to win the football game.”
Question: Playing that physical style, especially on defense, how far away do you think your team is from having that consistency that you keep talking about?
Brady Hoke: “Well, I’m hoping that we find it soon, but I don’t know, I think our guys – I think the players take realistic looks at where they’re at. I think the coaches obviously do the same thing, and the competition level is high every day, and I think some younger guys who are playing significant amounts are starting to play better?”
Question: Have you simulated physicality differently the past two weeks than you had earlier?
Brady Hoke: “No, we pretty much do what we do. Not really.”
Question: Do you talk to your players about mistakes in terms of the division race, and how it relates to the Big Ten title that you desperately want?
Brady Hoke: “Yeah, yeah, I’d be foolish not to.”
Question: Did you think your defense would be further along this year than they are? What are the expectations?
Brady Hoke: “I don’t know if I would think they’d be further along, from the standpoint of some of the depth in the front not having a lot of experience coming in.”
Question: Were the expectations unrealistic?
Brady Hoke: “I don’t know who put expectations on them. We have high expectations for everything?”
Question: How many pro players do you think you have on your team?
Brady Hoke: “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Question: Less than five or six?
Brady Hoke: “Less than five or six. And that’s nothing – you know, the seniors, I can tell you, are doing a great job. They’re leading, they’re working hard. I think they’re very conscientious about our football team and the consistency we need to play with. I think – I don’t like the inconsistency, but I’m not displeased. We’re a 6-1 football team, and four overtimes from being 7-0. We have to take advantage of opportunities.”
Question: Is there anything unique to playing up there as opposed to playing in any other tough venues you have to go to?
Brady Hoke: “You know, I think the passion they have for their team is very similar to Ohio and the passion they have.”
Question: How strange is it for you guys? Because usually, in past years, even when U of M was on the road at East Lansing, you guys were considered the favorite. It seems like in this game, even though you guys are ranked a little bit higher, they say that this is probably one of the stronger Michigan State teams, and they are kind of expected to win this game.
Brady Hoke: “I guess it’s people’s opinion. We don’t share the opinion of that, but –“
Question: How’s it different though?
Brady Hoke: “You know what, I don’t know. I never really, to be honest with you, think about that. I think about what we have to do Sunday through Saturday to make sure our players are prepared to the best that they can be, from the mental preparation to the physical preparation.”
Question: Knowing how much you put on defense, and trenches, and obviously they have a great defense, and you talk about how good their offensive line is, they certainly look like they’re a favorite in the key areas that you like to see. How do you overcome that?
Brady Hoke: “You have to play better than they do. You have to play better.”
Question: Are you at all surprised how tough they’ve been in those areas?
Brady Hoke: “No, not really.”
Question: What stands out about their linebackers in particular that you –
Brady Hoke: “Active. Bullough gets them lined up intelligent, he’s a coach on the field, very good at recognition, and I think they’re very active.”
Question: Anybody blitz as much as they do, that you’ve played?
Brady Hoke: “I’m sure there has been. I don’t know who.”
Question: What did this week off do for Jake?
Brady Hoke: “Same thing it did for everybody.”
Question: Is his in a position – I mean, you’ve been rotating three, three, three in this series, or three plays in a row. Is he in a position now where he can play more than that?
Brady Hoke: “Sure.”
Question: Do you want him to play more than that?
Brady Hoke: “He’ll play some more. "
Question: Will he start for you?
Brady Hoke: “Should.”
Question: Does that open things up to maybe move Beyer around to get them on the field at the same time?
Brady Hoke: “Yup.”
Question: What did the 2011 game up there do for you in terms of having a teaching point to stress the physicality that you want?
Brady Hoke: “It was a reminder, because I was here for eight years, so I kind of know. So it reminds you a little bit.”
Question: Talk about those memories for those eight years. What stands out to you?
Brady Hoke: “I don’t know, I mean, the interception Woodson made was pretty good. I remember that one.”
Question: Talking about your defense, the last game you played was against Indiana. Do you chalk that up to a dynamic offense of Indiana, or do you still have major things to straighten around with this defense?
Brady Hoke: “I don’t know if I’d use a word like ‘major’. I think you do have to give them that they had some talented guys. At the same time, I think you look at missed tackles, opportunities for balls when they were in the air, I mean, we had those things. We have to execute all the way through, finish every play.”
Question: Do you want this team to be a physical football team? Is this as big of a measuring stick, playing these guys?
Brady Hoke: “You know, Notre Dame’s always a pretty good measuring stick early in the year. They have a pretty good front seven. Just because of the consistency they’ve played with defensively over a period of time, I think that always is a little bit of a benchmark?”
Question: Is it fair to say that this game is just different, though? It seems like just watching, it’s just more –
Brady Hoke: “You know, I think it is. I think it’s one of those games, but I think Iowa is always a pretty physical game. Ohio’s going to be physical. Notre Dame, if you’re on the field, it’s pretty physical. This, because of the rivalry that it has, I think it gets a little extra physical, in a good way.”
Question: Do you challenge your guys to – you know, this game means so much to Mark’s team. Do you challenge your guys to have the same attitude?
Brady Hoke: “Yeah, I hope so, I would think so.”
Question: Have you said that maybe it didn’t mean as much as it should have before?
Brady Hoke: “No.”
Question: Given their front seven, do you try to open things up like you did against Indiana?
Brady Hoke: “You can. That’s one way. But you have to protect.”
Question: When’s the last time you wore green?
Brady Hoke: “That’s a dumb question, because I don’t even know. I have no idea.”
Question: St. Patrick’s Day?
Brady Hoke: “No, are you kidding me?”
Question: Is Dileo healthy?
Brady Hoke: “He’s getting healthier. We’ll see. It will go through probably Wednesday to know where he’s at. I mean, he rehabbed all – he’s rehabbed more than any man could possibly rehab.”
Question: Can you go back to 2011, the physical nature? You had a couple players come out and say that you guys got out-toughed.
Brady Hoke: “I think I said that.”
Question: You did? I thought it was Kovacs. How hard is it for not only a head coach, but a defensive coach, to admit that?
Brady Hoke: “It’s not fun.”
Question: Did that do something to, I don’t know, not inspire you, but to get these guys even more motivated for this game on Saturday?
Brady Hoke: “You know, I don’t know if you need more motivation, to be honest with you. I think it’s – yeah, I don’t know if you need more motivation.”
Question: But is it fair to say it’s the most physical game this team – I know you get physical games every week, but players from the past always talk about that one being the most physical.
Brady Hoke: “Yeah, yeah.”
Question: It’s the most physical?
Brady Hoke: “It ranks up there. I mean, there are some physical teams that we play.”
Question: I know, but consistently?
Brady Hoke: “Yeah, consistently ever year, this game is very physical.”