Zook: UM Game Over; Get Ready For Minnesota

Coach Ron Zook spoke by phone with the media Sunday afternoon. He discussed the big Michigan win and preparations for Homecoming with Minnesota. Here are the questions from numerous members of the media and the answers from Zook.

Q: How does Juice's game against Michigan rank in your memory?

Zook: I don't think there's any question Juice had a great game. I think this is one of those games you talk about more after the season than during the season. Going back to when I was growing up in Ohio, knowing all the great players who played not only at Michigan but everywhere who played in that stadium, for him to have the most yards that kind of puts you in a different level. The most important thing is we're going to continue to improve, and he'll continue to get better. Obviously, what he did was pretty big.

Q: How many people can gain 100 yards rushing and 300 yards passing in the same game?

Zook: First of all, you have to be in an offense similar to this because it's similar to some of the things he does and what we do. And when you get the big plays like he was able to do, it gives you a chance for the yardage to go up.

Q: Did he get razzed about getting caught on that one long run?

Zook: I don't think so. Locksley was yelling in the phone to hurry up. But I said he was tired. We were down on the one yard line and Locksley was trying to call a play and wanted to go fast. I said "Locks, let the guy get his breath."

Q: Juice's fake on that first touchdown was about as good as has been seen. Locksley said afterward he was getting ready for the next play. Did he fake you out on that one?

Zook: He'll fake me out occasionally. That's the thing you like for him to be able to do. Reggie says he can always tell because of the back, but I don't know if that's true or not. I think the more you do something, as you get more experienced, the better you get at it.

Q: Does it seem like a long time since you've played a home game?

Zook: It really does, the open date and so forth. I am excited to be back home. I'm sure it will be a full crowd. It's Homecoming, and hopefully everybody will have a good taste in their mouths. It's important we understand how important this game is. This (Minnesota) is a good football team, much better than last year. They have a quarterback and receiver who may be as good as we've faced. That wasn't our strong suit yesterday. We've got some work to do.

Q: Would you talk about your use of personnel yesterday and how the guys did?

Zook: One of the reasons we played a little better on defense was that we cut back their plays. A lot of your special teams players are on the defensive side of the football. So you add those plays in there...If you have a Ferrari and you run out of gas, it won't go. I don't care how tough you are, how good a condition you're in, you're gonna run until you run out of gas. We just tried to keep guys fresh. When you tire a little bit, that's where your mental errors come out and when mistakes are more prevalent.

Q: Who got more playing time in there besides Ellington?

Zook: Edwards did; Sam Carson played some, more than he had been playing; we played seven defensive linemen. I don't know if this is the right philosophy or not, but I feel that a less experienced guy is gonna be a better player than the guy that's tired. As long as he knows what he's supposed to do, we'll try to get as many guys playing as we can.

Q: You're coming off a big emotional win. How do you get your focus back on things?

Zook: I told them last week it is a one game schedule, one game at a time. We haven't had any problem with that. We're not undefeated, so they know we still have a lot of work to do. I told them last night after the game, "enjoy it tonight and enjoy it tomorrow, but Monday we're going back to work."

That game's over with. That could have been what happened to Michigan, I don't know whether it did or didn't. But they had a big win at home last week, so maybe they didn't play as well.

Q: Any other injuries?

Zook: They don't think Ian Thomas' knee is a torn meniscus, so that's good news. Of course, Juice is a little bit sore, as you would expect. I think we're in pretty good shape really.

Q: How do you explain Minnesota's improvement?

Zook: They have an awfully good quarterback. They have some older guys that are probably playing with some confidence, and they've been able to get on a little roll. That gives them an opportunity to get more confidence and obviously play better.

Q: Would a loss yesterday have eliminated some of your goals for the season?

Zook: Some of them obviously. Coach Guenther and I were talking just this morning. This league...We got back in time to watch the end of the Ohio State/Wisconsin game. Purdue gave Penn State a run for their money. The team I saw last night that was still operating on all cylinders was Missouri. Our two losses are 11-0 and undefeated, and they're both pretty good.

Q: Will this win get you back in the top 25?

Zook: That doesn't have anything to do with anything, in my opinion. All I'm worried about is Minnesota right now, and that other stuff means nothing. I think what happens sometimes, guys get to thinking about that stuff, and that's not important. It doesn't matter right now. That's like, if you begin to worry about the score in the first, second, or third quarter, the score doesn't matter until the game's over. You've got to get guys to play in the moment.

That's the hardest thing, particularly for young guys. Because they want to play well. When something bad happens, they're thinking about that and they aren't thinking about the next play. And then they make another mistake. One thing I thought our defense did do better at yesterday, for the most part when we had a bad play we put the brakes on and we'd forget it. That's something I think a good football team has to do.

Q: Is a sign of maturity when you're down 14-3 and the guys look like you're even or ahead?

Zook: We talk about this all the time as a staff. It doesn't matter what the score is. The score doesn't count until the end of the game. It's not important until then. You keep playing one play at a time. You say we were down 14-3, I didn't even know that. I'm sure if I went back and thought about it, I would. You're into the game, you're into the moment. You can't worry about what the score is.

Q: You've got four of your last seven games at home. That's got to be a good feeling.

Zook: No question, when you go on the road...the two places we have to go yet aren't gonna be easy games. But it's easier when you play at home.

Q: What was the reason for the switch on kickoffs?

Zook: If the kickoff return team has a chance to go forward before your guys are down there, then it's a lot harder to cover. I didn't want to screw Matt up in terms of his kicking field goals, he's kicking pretty well. It wasn't his fault, the one that got blocked or missed. We've got to get that part corrected also. But we gave Cklamovski the opportunity to give me some height as deep as you can get it, and let us get down there and cover.

Q: What was the key to getting Rejus more involved yesterday?

Zook: Everybody wants to give 9 the ball, but sometimes it has something to do with what they do as well. He was in position more because of some of the things they didn't take away. I'm not trying to say they didn't respect him, I'm just saying the opportunities came up where we were able to get the ball in his hands more.

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