BIG TEN TELECONFERENCE

Ron Turner at his weekly press conference.

TURNER: Obviously, we are disappointed with the outcome of the game on Saturday. Our guys came out and played hard and fought. The injuries took their toll and we had a lot of young people in the lineup, but I thought our guys came out and fought and tried to do everything they could to get a chance to win. This week we have to bounce back, and have a great week of practice. We need to try to go out and play a good game, play with a lot of heart, and with a lot of emotion, and do what we can do to get a win against a team that will be just as hungry for a win as we will be.

QUESTION: You guys are not the only team in the Big Ten in the last few years that has had some pretty dramatic ups and downs. When you are in a conference with a Michigan and Ohio State with the national reputation and resources they have, is it realistic to think a program that doesn't have those resources can contend for a Big Ten title every year, or are there waves you have to ride out?

TURNER: Obviously, our goal is to get to a point where we are competitive in the conference every year, like every school in the conference. It is tough to do. If you look at where we were two years ago, when we had one Big Ten loss and won the Big Ten Championship, then look at the drop off the next year, plus the significant drop this year, there are a lot of factors. Part of it has to do with injuries, partly with recruiting. We had a great recruiting class this year and a good one before that, but the last two years with injuries and guys not panning out, we had years that weren't up to par to be competitive in the Big Ten. That is what you're striving to do; to have those kind of recruiting classes put back to back, and it is tough to remain competitive with those guys. You see a lot of teams go up and down, in the off the year, the scheduling plays into it, and you can find a way to find five or six games you can play in a bowl game.

QUESTION: Despite all the injuries on offense, talk about Kelvin Hayden who is fourth in the Big Ten in receptions per game.

TURNER: I think Kelvin was coming on and playing well and getting better as the season went on and playing more consistently. He has great speed and he is a great player. He was making some plays for us early on and the area he was improving on was the kind of consistency you have to have as far as route running, getting open and catching the ball. He had two big plays in that game he got hurt, but now he has missed a couple games and will miss this one as well. So it has been tough, but he is going to be a good player.

QUESTION: You have two games left that are very winnable games. How important do you think it would be for the confidence and mental health of your team to get wins the last two games?

TURNER: I think it is very important. Right now, we have a group of kids that are good kids, working very hard, doing everything we are asking them to do. They are playing with a lot of passion and that is a high percentage of our players. They are still working very hard, but what they need is some success and to be rewarded for their work. We are going to do everything we can to see to get a win this week. It would be very important. We have a lot of great young players on this team that we are excited about that are going to be great players and getting a couple of wins to finish the season would be huge for them.

QUESTION: How is Halsey this week? Any chance of coming back?

TURNER: He is better. He will not play this week but he is better than he was. He is making progress, so hopefully we will get him back for the last game against Northwestern. I doubt seriously that he will be able to go this week. He has been doing some running, but he is not ready to play.

QUESTION: Is this a lot more difficult for you and your fellow coaches to go through because the success you had so recently compared to when you took over the program and the struggles you had at the start?

TURNER: No question about it. We never anticipated having this kind of a season. We came into the season with high expectations. We knew we had some areas of concern where some young guys would have to step up and play at a level we hoped they could. We knew that was going to be the case, but we never thought we would be in this situation. So, it is a lot more difficult, but the thing that keeps us going is the number of quality and good young football players and the attitude they have. I hope that it is just a short-term thing.

QUESTION: Your last five opponents have been nationally ranked, can you talk about the strength of the Big Ten this year especially with seven teams already bowl-eligible?

TURNER: The conference this year is unbelievable. I remember saying that before the year started. If you looked at the rosters and the teams that were in bowl games last year that had 8, 9, 10 wins and Ohio State won the national championship. If you look at those teams, then look at their roster, and looked at the players they had coming back, you knew it would be an unbelievable year. You look at Purdue who had a good year last year, had 19 starters coming back, 9 or 10 on defense. Ohio State had 15 starters back and the minimum any of the top six teams in the conference had coming back was 13. You knew it would be good. It's been unbelievable this year defensively, some great defensive football teams. Then you look at the other things, each of those teams in bowl games that had all those players back, all of them had their quarterback back, and in many cases a senior. It is important to have good defense and stability at the quarterback position is why I think the conference is so good from the top to almost the bottom. You get seven or eight teams that are dominant teams in the country.

QUESTION: Would this year be any less difficult if the results of the games were more competitive?

TURNER: Definitely. Obviously, you want to win, but you also want to stay out there, be competitive, and have a chance to win the game. So definitely no question about that.


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