Ron Zook Weekly Press Conference Transcript


Nov. 2, 2010

Watch Zook's Entire Nov. 2 Press Conference

Watch Tuesday's player interviews: QB N. Scheelhaase | RB M. Leshoure | OL J. Allen | LB N. Bussey | WR A.J. Jenkins | PK D. Dimke

Opening Statement:
"All right. Another great challenge for our football team. Honestly, our guys enjoy going to a great venue like this with a 113,000 people. And it's in a game that we are playing arguably one of the best players in the country in Denard Robinson. They're, I believe, fourth in the nation in offense. A guy that every time he touches the ball, it kind of takes your breath. So it is going to be a great, great challenge for our defense. A lot of people ask `how do you stop them?' I don't know that you stop them. I think what you try to do is try to keep the ball away from them and keep them over there on the bench. That is one of the things our offense has done a pretty good job of. Although, you look at their defense, they've got some people that have a little different scheme and it is something a little different then what you are used to seeing in the three-three. Their nose tackle is as good as anyone we have seen. I know we say that every week, but everyone has got one of those guys. Just an awfully, awfully good player. So both sides of the football are going to have their work cut out for them. Obviously, the same thing with special teams. We're going to have to continue to play the same way. We are healthy and excited about going up there. Now we have to keep doing the same things we have been in the last few weeks."

Have you started talking about a bowl game yet?
"No. We're not eligible. There's no use talking about it until we're eligible and right now we're not eligible. I think the most important thing is we can talk about this next game, and nothing else matters. Until you get to that proper number of games, there's no use talking about it."

But this game would do it?
"Once again, there's a lot of reasons why you want to win this game and, sure, that would be one of them. But I don't think that is going to motivate them to play the way we have to play against this football team. This is a pretty good football team."

Are there national and recruiting benefits on winning this game?
"I don't think so. Obviously that is important and it makes for a better atmosphere. Usually people are in better moods and that kind of thing. I think, once again, with our guys what we have tried to stress with them, is let's do exactly what we have done in that last few weeks and really every week this season. We haven't won every game, but I think we have prepared the way we want to prepare. They have given us everything that we've asked them to give us and that's what's important that we continue to do. I think with each game we have gotten a little more confident, we have learned from our mistakes. Obviously, Nathan has been impressive in terms of...he's been a little up and down, but I think it's what you would expect from a first-year starter. There'll be plenty of time for all the other stuff once we get through the season."

On the secondary going against Michigan's offense and Denard Robinson:
"If we could use 12 or 13 guys, I'd probably feel a little bit better, but other than that... I'm watching the kicking game stuff yesterday and it's in the third quarter and they've got 480 yards on Iowa, and I'm thinking `wow.' That's not a real good way to start off your Monday morning, actually I guess it was Sunday night. We'll need everybody. I guess to answer your question, we'll need everybody. They are very impressive, they really are. No one's really slowed them down. Michigan State probably did the best job."

On Michigan's defense:
"They are playing a three-three, they don't play a lot of four man down. They're playing a three-three scheme now. Craig Roh, number 88, when they do play a four-deep scheme, he goes down, which is what we saw last week with a four down linemen scheme. This is a three-three, where you have guys coming from a lot of different directions."

They play a three-five then?
"Yeah, three-three-five. They've got four defensive backs and one of the defensive backs is kind of like a rover. One of the guys they took, a pretty good player, Cam Gordon, No. 4, who I thought was a really good safety, but they play him as an outside, I don't know what they call it. But a good player."

Is Michigan State the only team that's been effective against them on defense?
"I wouldn't say effective. (They) maybe slowed them down a little bit."

Can you emulate some of those things?
"Once again, I think it goes back to you have to do what you do. You can't go in midstream and try to add a bunch of things and do things that your guys aren't accustomed to doing. I think the thing we've got to do is we've got to do what we do and we have to play hard. Obviously, I think probably playing the type of offense we played last week will be a little bit of a help. Because at least it is assignment football and we are going to get a little bit of that type of offense with the option and so forth. But we have to do what we do and we have to do it extremely well. I think we have to swarm the football, we have to tackle, we can't jump out of gaps. He is like water; he is going to seek the path of least resistance."

Do you sense the defense is in a good place now facing him, will this build some confidence?
"Yeah, probably. I mean, you would rather have them feel like they are now against him as opposed to maybe some bad things happening. I think that is probably a fair statement. But once again, I think our guys understand. They've risen to every test so far and there's nothing not saying that they're going to rise to it this time. But I think they understand that they have to prepare and they're going to have to work extremely hard. And I think the other thing is we were fortunate enough that our first quarter last week where they only played three or four plays. I don't know that we can quite get that out of it, but if we can keep them on the sidelines watching the offense, I think it gives us a better chance of being successful."

Has Robinson surprised you in any way? Is he throwing the ball better?
"Yes. That may be the biggest surprise, is the way he is throwing the football. I believe there's only two schools, if I'm not mistaken, and I don't know exactly the recruiting process. I think Michigan and Kansas State were really the two schools that really were trying to recruit him as a quarterback. Everyone else was recruiting him as a defensive back. He's got close to world-class speed and once again, we can't catch him with a relay team."

On Vic (Koenning) having a home visit with him.
"I told Vic last night, "I wish you guys would have gotten him."

Is there something that makes the team more effective on the road?
"I don't know. I think they enjoy this type of atmosphere, they really do, and the opportunity to go play. I have always liked to play in these kinds of atmospheres. It is a big, big game, obviously. There will be a 113,000 people yelling and throwing stuff at you. They'll be excited."

Does Memorial Stadium not being filled affect the players?
"No, because we've got to do what we've got to do. All we can control is how we play. We talked about crumb; just give us a crumb. Just keep doing the things we do and the rest will come."

Did you vote?
"No, sir. To be honest with you, I just realized (Election Day) was today. I just found out it was Halloween (on) Sunday. I know I should do that, though. Maybe I'll run and do it at lunch."

Is the team the most healthy it has been all season going into this game?
"I think so, I really do. Everybody practiced yesterday. In fact, I asked (head athletic trainer) Nick (Richey) to talk to the doctor about it, get everybody back, let's get Corey Lewis out there and let's get him on the show teams and get a little work going, but I don't think they're going to quite go that far with him yet. Once again, when the attitude is good, everybody feels good, and I really believe this, I think two things. Number one, for example, Mike Buchannan yesterday had his strongest bench (press) that he's had in his life. So we're still doing this, we're still getting stronger and better. I think that obviously helps keep them healthy. I think when you're playing hard, as crazy as that may seem, it seems like there's less injuries when you're playing wide open. I think a lot of that has to do with it as well. There are certain things, I mean ankles and things like that you have no control over. I think for the most part, because we're playing hard and we've been very, very fortunate."

Is Corey Lewis close enough that you could think about playing him this year?
"I'm not the doctor, obviously, but I'd like to get him on the show team, just get him out there and moving around a little bit. But I think Doctor (Robert) Gurtler wants to wait for six months - next week will be six months on the surgery."

He'll be fine this spring?
"Yes. He should be. He's been down there squatting and doing all those things now."

If you get bowl practice would it be significant for him?
"Yeah. Once again, common sense says these guys I'm sure have thought about it and I know you guys have put it in their heads and that's normal. But I think they also understand that what's important for us is to get there. That's obviously what we want to do, we want to get to that situation and there's nothing we can do - we can't even talk about it - until we get the proper number of wins. I just think I'm very, very proud of the way they've prepared for each game and gotten themselves ready to go then going out and then played. As I said, we haven't won every game, but we've played hard every game and we want to maintain that same type of culture."

Didn't you do the same kind of tactic in 2007? You kind of told them "Hey, let's just wait until you get to six and then seven, and then we'll go from there"?
"I've just always believed in that. I think, once again, we're a program that I don't think we can put the cart before the horse and I think we just have to keep doing the things that we've been doing."

Does the recent success against Michigan help in any way?
"It helped last year. I mean once again, it's a good football team that's much better than what people might think. They were 5-0 at one point and they're fourth in the nation on offense. Defensively, I know they've given up some points, but I'm gonna tell you, they're talented and they're getting after you. We're playing at their place. This will be a monumental challenge, I don't think there's any question.

The world kind of discovered Terry Hawthorne last year at the game. Where's he at now? He's obviously playing a lot more.
"Oh yeah. He was catching punts all day. Last night, watching the tape of him catching punts was the first time I felt like, `Hey, you know, he's back. He's looking the ball in, the balls aren't juggling, he's got it.' He's doing the things that you like. I guess it's really been 4 games for Terry, this is his fourth game. He's what I would consider game-ready, 100% ready."

Are returns in his immediate future?
"Well, I think it's in his future. I'm not saying who's going to be back there this week, but I think he's getting pretty close. And Jarred's back, so he'll be ready to go."

On what it would mean for him personally to get those six wins:
"It's not about me. It's about them. It's about the football program. It's just trying to get these guys to enjoy what they've done. I told them yesterday, they've worked hard and they've accomplished a lot, but they're not where they want to be and they're not where they've gotta be. I think at some point in time they need to be able to just for a few seconds personally and say, `You know what, we've made some progress. We have gotten better.' Are we there yet? No, because one thing about this business is it's a very, very humbling business. You're one game away from being right back where you were. It's hard, because of human nature. It's just hard. I did something I've never ever done before: I went over to one of the tailgates. I've never been to a tailgate ever, just because it was somebody's birthday I was going to wish him a happy birthday and Denise and I were there for a couple minutes. I told them, `It was unbelievable.' If people are saying nice things to me I'm sure they're saying nice things to them. I said, `you guys have to keep it in perspective because it's only good for a short period of time.'"

Was that before or after the game?
"I'll tell you, if it's more fun before the game than after the game, you know, there were a lot of people having fun it looked like to me. I was only there for a few minutes, but it was a lot of people having fun."

On Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan complimenting Jeff Allen after the game:
"Jeff's playing well. You know it's funny, my wife...the offensive line was at our house this Thursday and I wasn't even there I was doing the radio thing, and my wife kind of challenged him and she said, "You just watch." And he took the challenge. I think that's the thing, our offensive line for the most part has done a good job, and Jeff did a great job. He's a great player, if you watched him he's really a good football player. And just like the guys are going to see, Graham Pocic needs to get a good night's sleep because he's going to have his hands full Saturday. But those guys have risen to the challenge and I think if you're a college football player and you're in this kind of environment, that's what you want, that's what you look for is an opportunity to compete and compete with the best. I don't now what's going to happen Saturday but I know this: they're excited about the opportunity to play one of the best players and best offenses in the country. I don't know what's going to happen, but I know that they wouldn't be competitors if they didn't love that challenge."

What did your wife say to them?
"She just said she was going to grade him. And I said `Denise, why would you say something like that?' And she said she would ask me how he did, and I thought he did extremely well. I thought it was funny that they would even be talking about it on Thursday night at the house."

Are you going to have her talk to them every week now?
"If I thought it would help, I'd probably have her talk to Graham this Thursday."

What is it he (Jeff) does so well?
"You know, I don't know if any of you remember when Jeff came here, but I almost felt sorry for him. (Former running backs coach and recruiting coordinator) Reggie (Mitchell) - of course, Reggie recruited him - was all over him and he was a little bit out of shape and a little bit heavy. I remember the first time I ever met Jeff, he said, `I want to play to at the University of Illinois. I'm from the state of Illinois and I want to play at the University of Illinois.' And that meant something to me. It was his goal, it was his dream, it was something that he really wanted to accomplish. It's funny, because him and Graham have lived together the whole time, they're like two peas in a pod. They're together all the time, they watch tape together. Jeff has gotten better and better and better and he'll continue to get better. He works extremely hard."

You've faced Greg Robinson a few times. Does that help this week?
"No, like I said, defensively they're doing a different thing with the 3-3. When I saw him at Syracuse or in the NFL, he didn't do that."

Do you know him a little bit?
"Yeah. He's a good football coach."