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Oct. 2, 2007
How are you and your staff addressing the problems on offense, especially the ones in the red zone?
Well, give me a couple specifics. I think the obvious parts are that sometimes we haven't caught the ball, sometimes we put the ball on the ground. You practice. What else? If there's something else I'm not seeing, let me know, will you?
There are obviously a couple of penalties, a couple of dropped passes and a couple fumbles. That's what we've got to eliminate. It doesn't take a genius to recognize that. As far as how you handle it, you try to get people to understand that it's a tough game and the game is won and lost with one, two or three plays in crucial situations. Obviously the ones you're referring to are crucial.
We're doing the same things we've done since day one.
How do you think Anthony Morelli played against Illinois? Are you considering a quarterback change this week?
No, I'm not considering a quarterback change. I think overall he played well. I think he's got to get some more help. I think people have got to make some catches in the clutch. I think Anthony has to shake off some things. He does a great job. He made one of the great throws you'll see, prior to the interception down in there. We had a chance to get back in the ballgame. I think that's the only part about Anthony; that he's got to just shake that off and go on and make another great play.
We're not going to make any changes.
I'm curious, to follow up on that, if Morelli does struggle again this week, would you think about putting Clark in?
I don't know. I really haven't given that kind of thought. I think Morelli will be fine.
Ordinarily I know you don't like to comment on how players are in terms of their state of mind. You prefer us to ask him. Morelli's not available again this week. I'm asking for your assessment of where Anthony is emotionally after all the criticism he's been receiving.
Well, it was my decision not to get him involved in any kind of interviews with the media because I just think he needs.. it's just such a waste of time. He got telephone calls last week. Somebody called him up, one of the guys from the Collegian, who was very dishonest, I'm not sure who it was, said that I in my press conference last Tuesday I indicated we had a quarterback problem. You guys heard me last week. Anthony called Jay (Paterno) and said, "What's going on?" He (Jay) said, "Just relax because it's not true."
I mean, it's a difficult thing for him because you're going to try to put words in their mouths. He's a young guy. Three, four questions in a row. I thought I answered it in the first one. We don't have a quarterback problem. You are going to harp until you can find something you can write about, which is unfortunate on your part because it's really not.. it's not the way you ought to handle it, but that's your business.
The Tuesday after the Michigan game, you said when you lose a game like that, you can only point the finger at one person, you have to point it at the head coach. Do you have a similar feeling after watching this tape?
Any time we lose a football game, it's my fault, all right, up to a point. I mean, we certainly had an opportunity to win this last one, as we did the game prior to that, and we didn't. We didn't do a couple of things that could have made a difference. If we weren't exposed enough to certain situations enough during practice, I've got to take the blame for that, nobody else.
Iowa is ranked at or near the top of the Big Ten in all the defensive categories. What stands out to you about that defense?
They're solid, well.coached. The defensive coordinator, Norm Parker, has been around a long time. We've played against a lot of his teams, teams where he's coached the defense. They're sound. They hustle. It's a very, very strong football team.
The Indiana game (vs. Iowa) is a very misleading game. It was a very, very different type of football game. The quarterback fumbles the ball, it bounces up, he picks it up and runs it for a touchdown for Indiana. It was that kind of a game.
But I think Iowa has a very solid scheme, they know how to line up, they play hard and make some plays. They've gone through a little bit of a period there where nothing's gone right for them. I hope it continues for another week. But that's basically where they've been. I think their defense is solid.
Could you tell us where your tailback situation is right now, who might see the bulk of the playing time? Is Evan Royster getting closer to seeing some minutes?
I don't know that will change much; what we're doing with the tailbacks. I think (Rodney) Kinlaw and (Austin) Scott both played a solid game last week. Neither one was spectacular. But I think you've got to understand there's a lot of reasons for that. I think Royster is a kid with a future.
But right now, I don't think Royster is better than those two. I think we're fortunate. I wanted to play Scott last week. I didn't feel comfortable, because of the fumble he had had the week before, that all of a sudden he was a persona non grata. I didn't want to do that. I think he went in there, played hard, played well, didn't make any mistakes, pass protected well. I think those are little things that are important.
I don't think the tailback situation is going to change anything. Now, remember, we've only practiced one day. We only practiced an hour yesterday. We're going to watch everybody this week, see how they go, see if somebody jumps out ahead of the other one, and go from there.
I think Clark is ready to play, yeah.
At the risk of harping on Morelli, you said one of the things he needs to do is shake off mistakes. As a senior, should he be able to do that already?
I'm not saying shake off his own mistakes. He's got to be able to shake off the fact that sometimes people on the football team don't do some things they should do.
Some of your players are saying that the team needs to get its swagger back. Do you agree with that? If so, isn't that really saying that confidence has become an issue?
I think any time you lose two in a row, two games that you had a chance to win, and you didn't come up with a couple plays in the clutch where you could do it, you start to wonder a little about yourself.
But having said that, again, going back to that, I think that's where leadership and a little bit more maturity comes in. Hopefully we can get them over that hump. We need a good win, simple as that.
Neither Brown or Bowman will play (vs. Iowa). They're both banged up. Of course, we still have (Tyrell) Sales, (Dan) Connor and (Sean) Lee, starting the ballgame. The backup kids; we're going to take a look at some kids in practice this week, see whether maybe one of the freshmen we had intended to redshirt ought to be put in there. I think the Hull kid from down the road, down in the valley (Penns Valley), is definitely a kid that's going to play as a backup. Probably either one of the two linebacking spots inside. We'll try to figure out who we're going to use outside.
Right before the long run was broke against you, on third and nine, Rashard Mendenhall picks up 10 yards on third down and moves the chains. There were a couple plays like that against Michigan the week before. Are you starting to worry about this becoming a trend, and what do you do to improve that?
No, I don't think it's going to become a trend.
Now that you prepared to play against a spread.type offense, what do you think of that kind of offense? If you would ever want to go to something like that, could you approximate it from your current playbook or would you have to completely overhaul?
Do you guys watch the same game I watch? We go out and play with five people, spread .. quarterback is the only guy in it, in the box, so forth. From time to time we play with four.wideouts. I'm not quite sure what game you're watching.
Sure, we're not going to be in a spread all over the place all day. I don't think that's the way for us to get better and be good enough so we can beat some people.
But, no, I think the spread, whatever we want to call it, one quarterback in the backfield, just the quarterback in the backfield, all that kind of stuff, it's something that you got to adjust to, but it's certainly not the answer to everybody's problems.
You've talked about seeing how the team performs in pressure situations. How have they been performing and what specifically are you looking for?
I don't think we've done a good job when we've had opportunities to win the game. When we've had adversity, particularly again, I worried about the fact that we had so many young people that were in key situations. We have not come up with some big plays.
That part I am concerned about. I think that only comes with some experience and some success. Going back to the swagger question, I think you do that when somebody's going to make a big play. We've made a lot of big plays. People don't realize this about a spread offense. How many plays did we have last week over 20 yards? When we played Michigan, Michigan didn't have a play over 20 yards. We must have had six, seven plays over 20 yards. That's a lot.
I watched the Florida (vs. Auburn) game. I don't think Florida, which is a great wide.open football team, had five plays over 20 yards. I bet we had more, all right? Don't underestimate Illinois. Illinois is good. Illinois is going to surprise a lot of people. They're a good football team, well.coached. (Ron) Zook is doing a good job with them.
I think we have not done what I hoped we would be able to do. But what I was concerned we would not be able to do, because we have so many young guys in key situations.
Can you comment on the play of the defense through five games?
I think our defense has been good; solid, not spectacular. We haven't dominated anybody yet. There again, I think you've got to be careful because we have a lot of young players. There's only one senior on the defensive team that plays. Connor is the only guy that is a senior. The rest of them...Sales may have played some, but he's still I think a redshirt junior.
I think we're doing well, we're sound. We've been careful. We don't give up the big play. We've given maybe, somebody mentioned earlier, third down plays. A couple third down plays. The Michigan kid, third and 16, scrambles; second and 10, scrambles, runs it in for a touchdown. Those little things we're allowing, but I think overall we've been pretty good.
I'm not suggesting a change, but is there a scenario where, say, Clark could give you what you might not have similar to when Michael Robinson would come in for Zack Mills?
You just changed.. I'm trying to think what we used to say when we took our English courses, paraphrase something a little differently.
Anyway, Morelli is our quarterback. I wish everybody would just calm down. Morelli is our quarterback. Yeah, sure, he might get banged up. Something may happen. I may decide we're going to go with something else. But right now, I'm not even thinking about that.
Do you have a fair amount of confidence in your plays that are available to you in the red zone?
How often do you tinker with those?
No, we're fine. We're fine. We've just got to do a couple of things a little better. Somebody catches the ball in the end zone, somebody does that..., somebody doesn't fumble the ball, we're fine. What do you want to do? Put in another play in so we can fumble a different play, drop a different pass?
I know you guys are all looking for the answers. There's no answers, the direction your questions are going. Our job is just to execute what we have better.
On the fumbles, do you think the balls have been put away? Is there a pattern?
Honest to goodness, the fumbles are funny. You can be critical of Morelli, but he's making a great effort to make the first down (vs. Illinois). Got the first down. Hits the ground. It's boom, boom. It's debatable whether he's down. Even today if I showed you the tape, it's debatable whether he hit the ground, the ball came out.
But he fumbled. Whether it's carelessness, lack of concentration...In Morelli's case, I think he was so intent on making a play, he jumped in there and hit the ground, he fumbled the ball.
It's so hard for me to tell you, yes to this or that. It's certainly not a lack of effort. Certainly not a lack of concentration. Somebody asked me last week, do we do anything with ball.carrying drills, things like that. I kind of laughed. We do them every day, all right? We do them every day.
If you watched our practice for two hours, you won't see one fumble. We practice hard. We bang each other around. Get in the game, get a little emotional, you get a little bit caught up with the idea you're going to make another extra half yard, you forget about some things. You forget about taking care of the football.
You mentioned some dropped passes. How do you think the receivers are playing overall, especially in the clutch situations?
I think overall they're playing well. I don't have any problem with my football team except for the fact that we have.. we've just hurt ourselves. We've played against two teams that have played well against us. I mean, if I were at a clinic, nobody knew who was playing, Michigan and Penn State, they'd say, "Boy, that's one heck of a football game." Michigan, has 80-something plays and one penalty. Illinois played one heck of a game. The kickoff return, they did a great job. We weren't good enough. But you take the seven points (on the kickoff return), you take something here, a little bit here... It's just so close.
But that's the league we're in. That's the thing that our guys have got to understand. None of the games we're going to play are going to be any different than the ones we just played the last two weeks. They're all going to be a play here, play there, play here. We make it, they don't, we win. They make it, we don't, they win.
I think overall, the kids have hustled, practiced hard, played well. I don't come here with the idea that we're bad. I think the wideouts have played well. Maybe we don't have a sensational running back, but they all run hard and tough. How many fumbles have we had by the tailbacks? One. I think Scott lost one. But they've come in tough situations. Drop a pass? How many have we dropped? Not a lot compared to how many passes we've thrown. We've thrown, what, 60 passes the last two games, 60 some passes (69). The one that sticks out is the one that could have been a touchdown.
Please talk about Derrick Williams and the leadership he provides.
I think Derrick is a real competitor. He's a fiery kid. He comes out to practice. He really works at it. I think he's been good. He and (Terrell) Golden, two of the wideouts, I think both of them have played well.
The last time you played Iowa, it was the 6-4 game (2004).
The hockey game (laughter).
What were some of your memories of that game? Was that really the low point on offense for that team?
You know, I don't really remember much about the game except for the score. In fact, they took a safety at the end of the game to punt the ball to give the ball back to us. We weren't very good, obviously.
I really don't.. I can't remember. I don't remember that very much. It was a different team, Iowa was then. We're a different team. Honest to goodness, I haven't even thought about it till you just brought it up.
Last week one of your former players was found guilty of murder, sentenced to life without parole. When is the last time or can you recall the last time you were in touch with him?
I have no comment on that.
There's talk that Michigan may have to forfeit their win over Penn State because of an eligibility issue. Have you had to weigh in on that? Any thoughts on that?
I don't even know what you're talking about, to be honest with you. I'm not sure.
You guys don't believe me, but I don't read this stuff. I just don't read this. What's going on with Michigan? You've got to tell me.
Apparently a player that Michigan used in the first four games, including the Penn State game, it's been ruled he's now ineligible. They may have to forfeit that victory.
That's up to them and that's up to the Big Ten. I know we got licked. What did he do?
He was ineligible, academically ineligible.
I think that's a problem Michigan has to address, not me. All I know is we played a Michigan football team and they got more points than we did. I can't get into that stuff.
The Big Ten may take up to three weeks to decide. Would you want a win like that, because Michigan had to forfeit? How would you feel if the conference decided that?
How many times can I say, I don't have any interest in it. We lost. That's up to somebody else to make the decision. The only thing I can do...we had a bunch of kids that went out there, played a bunch of kids from Michigan. They went out after each other. I said they both played really well. I thought we played a heck of a football game. I thought Michigan played a heck of a football game. They ended up with more points. That's it. Why do we have to get into all this other stuff for?
You've mentioned Josh Hull the last two weeks. What has he done to become a significant contributor on this team?
He's a good athlete and a hard worker. A very, very bright kid. He's an engineer, the whole bit. I think he's got a chance to be a pretty good football player. He's got to get more experience. He's got to get more playing time. He's got to be in some situations, the same as I feel about some of the other young kids, where he has some pressure on him, he can handle the pressure, that stuff, make some good decisions, not get caught up in the crowd, caught up in all the other things. That's where we're trying to work our way to. We're trying to work our way away from the fact of, "ah, ah" (gazes in the air). Nobody probably even knew about him until I mentioned him, even though he's from down the road.
Derrick Williams expressed aspirations of a national championship this year. After five games, can you talk about where the teams' expectations are for the rest of the season?
I'm not going to talk about that. We're going to try to go out there and beat Iowa. We're going to work our butts off this week -- pardon me, ladies -- we're going to work very hard, see what we can get done. We have a good, tough football team to play this week. Hopefully we've learned from the last two weeks and we'll be better. I don't think we can think beyond that. We just can't. We're not in a position to do that.
What about Iowa this year, their offense? They've struggled the last three weeks. They're in the same situation you are, trying to get a win. What's impressed you about them that you've seen so far?
I've got great respect for Coach Ferentz. In fact, his father-in-law (Gerry Hart) and I played high school football together. One of his (Kirk Ferentz') nephews was on our football team (Mike Hart). I've known Kirk since he was a G.A. at West Virginia. I think he does a heck of a job coaching. I think their offense has had a lot of problems because of a lot of injuries. They've lost wideouts, and the same defensively, they've lost linebackers. I think they're struggling a little bit to get the right mix.
But the quarterback's a good football player. They've got two running backs that are tough kids. The offensive line, when they're healthy, has been good. So I think they're a good football team that's had a lot of bad luck. As somebody said, we haven't beaten them since, what, '99? I don't think we've beaten Iowa since 1999. So we've got our hands full. I think when Iowa shows up (this Saturday), they'll show up with a good football team, and we had better be better than we've been. Simple as that.
Your special teams had been solid through the first four games. You gave up that return for a touchdown against Illinois. How much does that have you concerned?
It's got me concerned a lot. I think anytime you give up a kickoff return or any kind of a return, kicking return, for a touchdown, it's got to make you worried. Because if there's something there that we're not doing right, everybody is going to see it. "Hey, we can return one on these guys," and so forth.
We've been pretty good. Probably that would be a coaching mistake I made in kicking the ball off into the wind, which we did. They deferred, defended, kicked the ball to us, then we took the ball and got three points, which was a nice drive for us into the wind. I debated whether to kick the ball into the wind or not. We felt we were okay. The way (Kevin) Kelly had been kicking the ball off, we'd be all right. And we had been good. That was a mistake. We made one or two mistakes with covering. But I wouldn't put my finger on anybody else but myself on that one. So we end up, all of a sudden we've got some momentum, then the crowd's back in it.
You've got to be concerned. There again, kicking from the 30, kicking into the wind, I don't know. If I had it to do over...later on we kick the sky kick. They power kicked. We can power kick, they sky kick. They ended on the 32, we ended on the 33, something like that. We power kicked, they sky kicked. Both got the same results. I wasn't ready to give them the ball on the 30-yard line, 35-yard line. It backfired on us.
Can you talk about the status of the right guards? John Shaw?
Shaw is ready to play. We'll see. Again, I know sometimes it sounds like I'm not.. I don't want to answer a question, but it's Tuesday. We're going to let those guys battle it out. (Stefen) Wisniewski got hurt. He's been in the game. We can't redshirt him. The doctor says he's okay to go. He's hurting a little bit, but he's not injured. We're going to challenge those guys, see which one is the better of the two, go to work.