"I think our defense was outstanding today. I think they were the difference. If you look at the time of possession, 38 minutes, I credit that to our defense. I thought our kicking game was good. Offensively, we struggled at times, but I think the big story of this game was what our defense did. If you took two plays out of there, which you can’t, but the big play that they got at the start of the game after we had taken a 14-0 lead…we made a mistake there on a check, so we weren’t coordinated. We had nobody in the deep half of the field and gave them seven points. Then at the end of the half when we really had taken control of the game, we give up a big play. But against an outstanding offensive football team, which Northwestern is…a very talented team and a team that knows what they’re doing, I think our defense came up with their best performance of the year."
On the running game:
"When you look at Adam Kraus going out early and Mike Hart not playing, you never have the same chemistry in there. But Jerome Jackson gave us a great lift. I think that says a lot for the kind of guys we have here."
On the defense::
"I think our defense, when you look at the entire season, they have played improved. I think they’ve played with passion. I think they have gained confidence in the last few weeks because a lot of these young players…we’re a very very young team in a lot of ways…so I think when you look ahead there are some bright things. But certainly I think that is a big part of what has happened. We’ve gained confidence as we’ve won some tight ball games."
On the holding penalties against Northwestern:
"In watching some of their games, Northwestern is a big strong offensive line. Those two tackles are 6-7. Sometimes guys would just quit rushing because there is no pay off most of the time. We tried to convince our guys that if they could play with great effort and great intensity every down, you’re never going to get all of the calls, but if you play like that, now it makes it easier to see the holding calls. I think Gabe Watson had some. I don’t know where all of them came from. But I think that’s one of the things we talked about….that you had to give those officials something to see."
On whether going for it on a number of 4th downs on the day was showing confidence in the offense or defense:
"That’s an interesting question. Some of it had to do with field position. Some of it had to do with…it’s a changing game. Today it’s a new era. When I look at gaining 14 yards on a punt… you can gain some field position if you get great kicks, but that’s not easy to do. I just think sometimes you don’t want to give the other team the ball back. You may take some risks, and certainly there are always risks, but I think the rewards are pretty good too. That’s the best explanation I’ve got."
More on the defense, rotating a lot of guys, and utilizing a lot of fronts:
"Yeah, we did that. One of the things when you look at Northwestern is, as I mentioned, they’re very very big and very physical. [Basanez] gets rid of the ball fast and he is also very mobile, so if you don’t have fresh guys in there up front, it makes a difference. Of course if you had told me that we would play this well with Lamarr out of there…Lamarr is a big play guy. So I credit all of our players and coaches defensively. I just think they’ve had a lot of challenges and I think they’ve really hung together and have gotten better and better."
On why the team is better stopping the run:
"I think it comes down to playing defensive football as a team. Every guy has to do their assignment. The one thing about that offense is it’s going to attack every part of the field. They’re going to spread you out. Early in the ballgame they ran around Pierre Woods once at right end. The next time on the fumble, they started to run around him, he jumped back outside and the back had to take a course that allowed our linebacker to come up to make a hit, and we forced the turnover. So I think, in a long winded answer, that they played very well together. Each guy tried to best of his ability to take care of his responsibility on any given play."
On Tim Jamison and Shawn Crable:
"I think Tim Jamison missed three or four games there at the beginning of the season. He’s a guy that’s very, what we call, active. He doesn’t stay blocked. He is explosive and I think he is going to get better and better as he plays. "
"Shawn had a big sack there. He didn’t get to play much early because he didn’t have a very good fall, and I was disappointed in him. But these last two weeks he, both in practice and in the games, has made a difference at a time when we needed him to give us some substantial effort, and he has done that."
On Leon Hall’s fumble return for a touchdown:
"Anytime you can have a big play like that defensively, it really sparks your team. Especially when you’re on the road…it gives you a 14-0 lead. That takes the crowd out of the game right from the very beginning. You can’t measure that."
On his team’s identity:
"Well, our identity is Michigan. We’re just trying to win. I’ll tell you, I’ve never been around a football team I enjoy anymore because these guys have hung through the thick and thin. It’s been very difficult at times. They’re a young team, and yet they’ve had great leadership. A year ago we had an outstanding season, and we didn’t finish it. We just didn’t do the things late to enable us to have a great season. Certainly this year we did not do the things early that we wanted to do. But we’ve continued to fight and I think we’ve continued to get better."
On the performance of the running backs:
"I thought Kevin Grady did some very good things today. I thought one time he was going to make a great cut on a sweep to our right late in the game. He was going to run maybe for a touchdown, but he slipped because he cut on the wrong foot. It looked to me like he cut off of the inside foot. He should have planted the outside foot. He recognized where the hole was."
"Jerome Jackson, you can’t say enough for him. He had tough yardage in there. He is tough and for the most part he comes out the other end even though he’s not the biggest guy. But he leverages the football. He secures the football. You can’t put a measure on what he has given this team. His teammates love him so everybody is happy that he has gotten an opportunity to play some."
On if Hart could have played today:
"Well, let’s say this… I didn’t rule him out because even though he didn’t practice, we knew he knew what to do, and he got better. He was better Thursday than he was Wednesday, he was better yesterday, and I think he is better today. I think he could probably have played some. I don’t know that he could have played well. But I do think that being off now…he’ll be ready to go against Indiana."
On if the bye week:
"There has never been a bye week for anybody that’s coming at a better time than this one is for us. I think we’re tired. I think we’ve found a way to rise to the occasion here today against a very good offensive football team, and a team that defensively I thought played very hard. I thought they did a great job against us. A number of times we had great field position there in the second half and had to settle for field goals, so I credit them."
"You talk about a long season…it’s a long season. If you look at the teams we’ve played in the month of October, I don’t ever remember a schedule any tougher than that...if you look at five consecutive excellent teams. Most of them went right down to the wire. So, yeah, we need a rest and I’m glad we’re getting one."
On Ross Ryan’s kicks:
"Well Ross Ryan has done a wonderful job and I think Garret Rivas did a great job today. But Ross Ryan…when you can kick the ball out of the end zone…we were into the wind in the third quarter. The first kickoff there was big because he kicked it out. So now you give your defense field position where the other team has to go 80 yards. Then in the fourth quarter, every time we scored he kicked it out. That’s big."
On Adam Kraus’ injury:
"He just told me in there that he thinks he is going to be fine. I think he’s encouraged. I haven’t talked to Paul (Schmidt) yet, so I don’t know, but I know Adam feels good about it."
On equipment manager Jon Falk’s status:
"The team, the captains are giving Jon the game ball. They were talking about him before the game. I know how hard this day was for him. We’re just happy we can take a ball back to him. He has got a long way to go and has a lot of rehab to do, but the surgery went well. He’s had a thousand visitors, so I think that has really helped him. He has gotten a lot of phone calls. Randy Walker called him. Kirk Ferentz sent a ball from the Iowa team and Kirk signed it. Glen Mason called him the other day when I was at the hospital. There has been an outpouring (of support). The trainer from Michigan State came down to see him. I don’t know what day it was, but it was early in the week. As competitive as this conference and this game is, it has just been a wonderful thing to know all of the people that took the time to call him, write him, and let him know they’re thinking about him."