Nov. 8, 2011
"I think just judging from where this first part of the week has gone and the last part of last week with three days, I think we are, you know, a refreshed football team. That we got a lot accomplished last week and I think our guys - probably after nine straight weeks - I think they needed it. I think you all know my feeling about open dates; I think they're important for a lot of reasons. Just mental and physical, just giving your body a chance to, you know relax and, if nothing else, just to not have your stomach wound so - quite so - tight. But as I said, I think we got a lot accomplished and getting ready to play a team that's obviously - everybody remembers the game last year. Unbelievable game, arguably one of the most exciting offensive players in the game with quarterback Denard Robinson. A great player - can run, can throw, can do it all. I think everyone knows - I know, our players know, our coaches know - we've got to get our offense going, that's going to be important and one of the things we spent some time on this last open date, or the last week, and, of course, this week as well. I think we've done some things here that are going to help us a little bit. It's been a - as I said, this is a great game, it's a big game, it's a (nearly) sold-out game. We're gonna need our fans, our fans have been great and we're gonna need them and we look forward to getting back on the field and playing."
On making changes to the punt and kicking game:
"Well, you know, we've continually made changes in, you know, in the kicking game, I mean personnel-wise and so forth. I mean, when you talk about your kickers and so forth, it's not going to be a lot of - it just so happened that, you know, in the punting game, we've had one ball dropped and a ball blocked. We're going to keep our extra point and field goal, which has been pretty solid. You know, we missed one and it's his first miss and there's no one who took it any harder than Derek (Dimke). And I've got a lot of confidence in Derek, Derek has a lot of confidence in Derek and we'll be fine."
On looking forward to playing at home:
"Well, it's going to be - yeah, we are looking forward to coming home and I think our fans are going to be excited. I think it's a big game, as I said everyone remembers the game last year. It was an exciting game, there was a whole bunch of points - hopefully there's not that many points on the board at the end - but there was a lot of points on the board and, you know, it should be just as an exciting game anyway."
On where the morale of the team is at:
"Well, I think they're hurt. You know they were hurt last week; you know, I know the first part of the week, we talked to them all in the beginning of the week last week. But I think the way we, the way we practiced - we practiced on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and game them Sunday off. Come back, I think we're, you know, they're looking forward to getting back out there and going. You know, as I said, there's games that are - you know, every game's different, every game has it's own history and so forth, but, you know, I think we really made some progress in the Penn State game and there was some things here or there that could've changed the outcome of the game. And it's what we always talk about, you never know when the play is gonna be there, you just got to be ready to go when it shows up."
On Iowa's tactics to slow down Michigan:
"Well, Iowa's a pretty good football team. Defensively, they got after them pretty well and, I think Michigan won the statistical battle, but Iowa won the score. And then, of course, Michigan took the ball down there at the end of the game there to have a chance to win it, as well. So if you go back and you look at this game, I mean, Michigan's - you know you go back and look at the Notre Dame game. I mean, they've come back three or four times this year when they looked like they were down and out. So this is a game that's 60 minutes long and, as we've told our players, it's not going to be over 'til it's over."
On containing Denard Robinson:
"Well, he can outrun the lateral (containment). You know, it's once again, keeping him - he's a hard guy to, you know, cause if you want to rush the passer, then you get vertical seems in your front and that's where he can kind of get through there. So it's hard to contain a guy that can run like he can run and he - it's going to be a great challenge for our defense, no question. I think our defense is playing pretty well and they're up for the challenge and they're looking forward to it."
On whether or not a strong finish to the season can turn the year around:
"No question. I don't think there's any question that, you know, it's going to be important, but, you know, right now I'm not looking at three games, I'm looking at the one game. But it's a - you know, as I told them in our meeting on Monday is, it's a three-game season, you know, and we're going to go one game at a time. And this game, obviously is very, very important and it's critical that we go out there and get back to playing where we're capable of playing."
On whether or not Michigan looks different:
"Well, yeah, they're a different football team. Obviously, they're a different offense, they're a different defense and, but it's basically the same players. I mean, they've got two true-freshmen playing on defense; they're starting a linebacker and a corner's starting. But for the most part, I mean, those receivers, guys are probably as good of receivers as we've seen. Offensive line, probably the best offensive line we've seen and deep - juniors and seniors. Running backs are running extremely hard. They do a few things, I think probably because of Denard, that they did last year that, you know, to be able to use his abilities and so forth. But it's a different offense, a different defense, a different kicking game."
On whether or not Zook is comfortable with Tyler Sands possibly starting at guard:
"Well, yeah. The only thing that - hindsight's 20-20 - but the only thing that I wish maybe we would've done a little earlier in the year is get him a little bit more time. But even the last few games, he's played quite a bit. He played the second half against Penn State and did well. Alex Hill - again he's gotten a lot of work here in the last - I think it's good because we've had those extra three practices and the one thing we did in those Thursday, Friday, Saturday is we got after each other. And, you know, so it was good to get those guys some extra work and some time and I think it was good for both sides of the ball."
On the key to getting the offense going:
"Well, I think having a little success early, you know, once again. And they just got to go play, they got to go out there and - you know, it's like everybody waits for somebody to make something happen and we've got to go. Go out and play and, you know, I think if you look at it, there's - after the first quarter, offensively, we made some things happen. I think defensively we started after the first quarter really playing loose and flying around and making some things happen. And, you know, instead of waiting on something to happen or waiting for somebody to - waiting on A.J. (Jenkins) to make a play or Nathan (Scheelhaase) to make a play, or Jason Ford to, let's just go do what we do. And the plays will be there, we just got to - when they show up, we got to be ready to make them."
Does Jason Ford seem fresher this season than in past years?
"Well, it's definitely, it's definitely, he's fresh and I don't think there's any question there. And as I told him last week, we're going to saddle him up and ride him and, you know, I thought he played - he had right at 100 yards, I think, last game. You know the last couple of games he's played pretty well and he's had three days, or a good week of practice here and, you know, I think he's looking forward to, you know, continuing the last couple of games. And he knows he`s down to, once again, a three-game stretch at his career at the University of Illinois and he wants to go out in style."
Do you think him being in better shape has paid dividends?
"I think so, no question because I mean, you know, he didn't - I forget how many times he, how many plays he had last week, but he had quite a few plays and, you know, it wasn't a thing of him being tired. As I said, probably more than any other game, we did ride him and, you know, we didn't, you know - we left him in there, kept him in there and he handled it well."
On the signs of the offense snapping out of the recent slump:
"I just think the attitude, the way they're running around out there and the way, you know, they're rested. And, you know once again, who knows why the - I don't have the answer exactly why, but I think No. 1, you go back to the Ohio State game. We started pressing a little bit and pushing, and it really kind of started in the beginning of the Indiana game. Hey, let's go back and let's just go do what we do, don't worry about having to have big plays. Let's take what we get and, you know, line up and play."
On the status of the Illini's return game:
"Well, I think if you go back and you look at particularly the punt return game, you go back and you look at the number of times that you wish Ryan (Lankford) would've fair caught it and I don't think we'd be in quite as bad a shape as we are, but once again it goes back to a guy trying to make some plays. I think we've improved, believe it or not, I think we've improved in how we're, you know, in how we're blocking in that phase of the game. You know there's been, particularly earlier in the year, there were a lot of punts that were not really in a return position. I can only think of a couple times where maybe we've let the ball roll when we shouldn't have. And the kickoff returns, that's just a guy - we got to get back there and get a guy that just hits it up in there. You know we've had a few, but not consistently. We've made some errors back there handling the football that you can't make, but you know, once again, something that we've worked hard on the last week as well."