Coach Ron Zook and his staff are preparing their team this week for a vastly improved opponent in Minnesota.
Oct. 7, 2008
"The first thing I want to say is that we're going to need everybody that can get into that stadium Saturday. All I've got to do is remind you that the last time we won a game in Michigan, we came back home and didn't do very well in the two games we had here. Our football team has done a pretty good job of learning from past mistakes, so it's something I think is very important that we understand. That's the one thing about the Big Ten, I don't care who you are playing and when you are playing them, you better be strapped up and ready to go. So we're going to need all the fans. Everybody rest up on Friday. I know it's homecoming, I want them to enjoy homecoming, but we need them in that stadium. We need them yelling and we need to have the twelfth man, we really do. It's going to be important that we get all the energy that we possibly can from our fans. Our guys are going to have to be out there and ready to play. This is a good football team, a much improved football team, a football team that's 5-1, a team that's doing very similar things to what we did last year. They're playing with unbelievable emotion. You see them playing on the field there. They're playing with emotion. Their coaches are running up and down the sideline coaching with emotion. They are much more sound on defense, tackling and offensively. Their quarterback and receiver, they can move the ball against anybody in the country and all you have to do is watch the Ohio State game to know that they're a football team that we're going to have to be ready to play. You get a chance to play four Big Ten games a year at home and this is one that we've got to be ready to go. Our kids will to be ready to go, the fans have got to be ready to go, that's something that they've got to do and we've got to go out there and put it to them. I promise you this, Minnesota will come in here with a chip on their shoulder. Minnesota will come in here with something to prove. Minnesota will come in here ready to play and if we're not it'll be a long day."
On Tim Brewster returning:
"Well I think that everybody's different. I've learned a long time ago that when you get into those situations, you're best just not to think about those things and just stay in your own element. But I know Tim is very fond of this university as is his wife. I've gotten to know him little bit when we were recruiting his son two years ago. It'll be an opportunity for him to come back home here and I'm sure he will be impressed with the facilities and the stadium and as I said, he's going to have his football team ready to play and it's going to imperative that our football team is ready to play."
On coaching outside of what they normally do:
"I've got to worry about us, I'm not worried about this game and we're not going to coach outside of what we do, we got to do the things that we've done and once again, our guys have got to be ready to go. Our guys are excited. I thought at last night's practice we looked like we played a pretty tough game 48 hours earlier, which you'd expect. But they were focused. They were zoned into what we were trying to get accomplished, and they understand the importance of this football game."
On how Donsay Hardeman held up:
"I had a pro scout tell me he looked like he was getting better with every play, and I think that's true. He is getting better with every play and he'll be better this game than he was last game. He'll be better at the end of the year than he is now. He's a big guy, he's a tough guy. He missed a tackle on the second kickoff and he came right to me and said, 'Coach it's my fault.' It's important to him and that's why he's in watching tape and putting in extra time. He's in the training room taking care of his body, and that's why he's going to be a good football player."
On Josh Brent's performance:
"This year I think it's probably his best performance. He played extremely hard, chased the ball, and when you get 200 to 300 pounders chasing the ball, actually 300 and Corey Liuget chasing the ball like those guys chase it, it's a good sign when you see those guys downfield on screens and so forth and they're able to hold the middle down like they did. Other than three series, I thought the defense played extremely well. I think the one thing the defense did that I was very proud of, and the coaches did, was that they made adjustments that they had to make. Sometimes in the heat of the battle when things are going all haywire on you a little bit there, and you're in an environment like that, you've got to stay focused and stay calm, and they did that the players stayed calm, no one panicked and we just kept playing."
On Minnesota's defense looking different under Ted Roof:
"I think they're playing with a lot of emotion, they're tackling extremely well, they're, I don't want to say sound, but they're where you'd think they're supposed to be and playing hard. As I said, even when you see the coaches on the sideline, the coaches are jumping around and flying around and they're having fun and flying around at the football. There's no question, winning has a habit of doing that and a tendency to do that to you."
On Minnesota's quarterback:
"I thought last year he was one of the better quarterbacks we've faced and I'll say it again this year, he'll be one of the better quarterbacks we've faced and I thought the first one we faced was really good and this guy, he's very accurate, a big, strong guy, runs the offense, knows where to go with the football, competitive winner and all those kind of things you'd expect to have. He's a good player, no question."
On the changes at Minnesota:
"Tim and I talked about it when we played up there and we talked about it at the Big Ten meetings. I think in the Big Ten Conference, it's a pretty good conference obviously and you've got an opportunity to attract guys and you've just got to get out and work. You've got to get out and sell your program, and he's done that. And Minnesota, it's not like they haven't won before, I mean they've been to a lot of bowl games, I think last year was the first time they've missed a bowl game in awhile, so they've won an awful lot of football games and you've got a lot of guys on that football team that know how to win. Anytime you have a coaching change sometimes it takes a little bit to get everybody on the same page, but they've done that and they've done a great job recruiting. They've gone out and gotten some older guys, some junior college guys, and they've come in playing extremely well, playing as a team. Once again, they're playing as a team, they're playing with emotion, they're flying around, their special teams have got good returners, they're making things happen there. It'll be a test."
On being able to spread out the week being at home:
"Anybody's going to tell you they want to play at home. I'm making a plea to our fans, we need everybody. We need them hollering, yelling, waving the towels, everything we can do to create a twelfth man. I know it's an early game but the great thing about it is we can get in there and get going and you've got the rest of the day to enjoy yourself."
On Penn State's speakers' noise:
"I don't think it's legal, is it?"
On the noise affecting the team's offense:
"I've got those headphones on and I didn't even know what was going on. They didn't need any extra noise, that was a pretty loud place. But our guys, they enjoyed it, that was a great atmosphere and that's the way I want our atmosphere to be Saturday, just like that. You know, with orange and the towels. We get like that now I'm going to tell you something, we're going to be cooking like gas."
On learning from coming back home off a win:
"Well, just exactly what I said, and I'm talking to J Leman, and J brought it up to me. J is such a loyal Illini, and he loves this program, and everyone knows he gave his heart and soul. He reminded me, he said, 'Hey do you remember two years ago we won a game in Michigan?' What happened when we came back and if you remember, we came back and we were up 21-0 probably, and didn't take care of business. We're not going to let that happen and that's why our guys have got to understand and as I said, the one thing our football team did last year is we learned from our mistakes. We learned what happened in the Michigan game, we learned what happened in the Iowa game, and those are things you have to learn from. I'm going to remind the older guys to remind the younger guys who weren't here two years ago. You get full of yourself and you have a big game, and when you're young like that you don't understand this conference, any given day in this conference you better be strapped up and ready to play."
On Jeff Cumberland's position change:
"Well, you're going to see Jeff improve, each game he's going to get better and better. I think one of the things we decided last year, he just wasn't doing the job down in the briar patch like we wanted him to do in terms of blocking and so forth. He's a very athletic guy that we knew we needed to get on the field so we talked to him about moving to the outside. He's a guy who's very athletic, a big, strong, physical guy. He loves to compete, in fact I think he's won the dunk contest around here, which is a big deal in the spring the last couple years. He's just a great athlete, the couple weeks he was out, they had to put a pin in his foot, he had a stress fracture on the bone in his foot, so that slowed him down a little bit. But I thought Saturday you saw the emergence of him beginning to come back. He got called for a holding call, that I just thought he overpowered a guy myself, had his hands inside and everything, and then came back the next play and went, I believe, 77 yards for a touchdown with a great catch. As soon as I saw him make that catch I knew no one was going to catch him, he's that type of an athletic guy. He made some nice catches and some nice plays against Minnesota last year."
On Marques' response to playing less Saturday:
"Like you would want him to, like a competitor, like a guy that it's important to and he wants to do everything in his power to be the best player he can be. I had a long talk with him again this morning and he's getting better and better. Everybody wants him to be all pro right now and I do too, he does too. But we have to understand everybody matures at a different rate and there's not doubt in my mind that he's getting better and better and I think sometimes we put too much pressure on him, myself included. When you do that it just tightens him up, it's like driving a car with the emergency break on. Like I told him this morning, just relax and go have fun."
On explaining having their best efforts on the road:
"Survival. You play those two teams on the road, you better have an effort or you're going to get buried. Once again, we better have that same kind of effort for the rest of the season and for us to be the kind of team we all want to be, it's going to be important that we have that same kind of effort and that same intensity, and this is the Big Ten. Not to mention, not to say that when we go to Western Michigan we're not going to have that same intensity. If you're a good team, if you like to compete, the thing you worry about a little bit is the maturity thing and not understanding how big these Big Ten games are, how physical they are, how when you're playing a Big Ten opponent that's got a chip on their shoulder that you better be ready to play or they're going to make something happen."
On the younger guys getting playing time through the rest of the season:
"They played well, absolutely, I think the more guys you play the fresher you're going to be, it's just like you look at our defensive front, we've got guys Tom's able to roll those guys in there and where it's really noticeable is in the second half, the fourth quarter in particular. The more guys you can play I think the better you're going to be, and I'm a big proponent that there's only one way to gain experience, and that's you've got to play. You can't buy it, you've got to play. If you're not playing you're getting older but you're not getting better."
On Marques and Donsay staying on special teams:
"Absolutely, yes sir."
On how they look at Minnesota:
"Well, I've talked to them about the terms of the improvement and the type of team it is and about the way it's going to be on Saturday, and we'll talk about it more and more as the week goes along here. But I'm going to do everything in my power, and the coaches are going to do everything in our power to make sure the guys understand that we have got to be ready to play. It doesn't matter if we're playing Minnesota or the Green Bay Packers, we've got to be ready to play to the best of our ability and otherwise it's not going to be fun."
On staying consistent:
"Well, I mean, we issued a challenge to a lot of guys last week, and they want to be challenged. If you're a competitor, these guys, just like anybody else you get upset sometimes, they're doing this, they're missing tackles, they're doing that. The one thing we've got to remember, and I tell the coaches all the time, we've got great kids. They're great guys, they want to win, they want to be good, they want to please, and we have to keep that in mind. Juice is one of those guys too, they've got a lot on their plate besides football, they've got school, they've got their families, in Juice's case he's got his little girl, so he has a lot of things on his plate. But if you remember last year, when he took off last year, he just kept on taking off and hopefully there's no reason why to think he's going to keep doing it."
On Juice throwing the ball away:
"Well, absolutely, and throwing it away at the right times. I think counting the drops and the throwaways I think he had about 67 percent completion, which is not 70, what I said, but we're getting close. That's what you want, knowing when to get rid of the football, knowing when not to take a sack, those kind of things."
On Hubie Graham's many more snaps:
"Hubie's going to be a guy, he dropped the one ball and we were getting on him last week. I think the Penn State game he had a motion penalty, but he's going to get better and better and I think down the road we're all going to be glad that Hubie's playing as a freshman."
On the penalty being a fumble:
"It was probably pretty close, but I mean, I'm not sure sometimes now what a fumble is, I'm not sure what holding is, it is what they say it is."
On the change of pace if it were a fumble:
"Oh yea, absolutely. But don't think in terms of the negatives."
On the penalty being brought up to Hubie if it were a fumble:
"No, why accentuate the negatives."
On Minnesota's kickoff coverage:
"Minnesota's done a very good job of kickoff coverage and I thought I was going to get out of here without having to talk about kickoff coverage. It is negative, and you know it's funny, well it's not funny at all, I told them in here last week that we have had 25 kickoff coverage, kickoff opportunities and there were three bad ones. Obviously two of them were really bad, in terms of maybe costing us a game or putting us in the situation, the Penn State game, or actually really both games. So what happened Saturday, I go back and look at the first three kickoff returns, which weren't very good, and we've got a guy positioned at the tackle on the first one, on the second one we got a guy that misses the tackle. And these are good football players so what do you do? You're going to run out of guys if you got what you feel are your best guys on them, but what I'm going to do and they know I'm going to do is I'm going to keep changing it. I'm going to find ten guys that are going to run down the field, I'm going to find me a kicker that's going to kick it as deep as it can get, and if it takes me until the last game, it'll take me until the last game. Basically, and I said this last week I believe, if you look at it on paper, the personnel that's running down there probably better than the personnel we had running down there last year. But I want guys that are five flat that maybe run four or five down there. I don't want four or five guys that run five flat down there and that's the attitude you got to get to and I think we're getting closer and closer to it and it'll be a test this week because they've done a heck of a job with the kickoff return."
On the kickoff personnel's coverage:
"Longer, you know from 30 to 30 I call it the speed zone. And I always look on the tape and I want to see when that guy catches the football and starts forward, I want to know where our guys are. If they're back at the 40-yard line that's probably not real good and there's a reason for that, either we're not running fast enough or that ball is not in the air long enough."
On kickoffs staying with Cklamovski:
"It's a day to day thing.