(Q. In the middle of the season as it grinds on, how do you go about improving just angles that the defense takes to bring guys down or just vision on the field to recognize when there's going to be a crossing pattern and a pick might be developing and things like that?)
COACH WILSON: "Again, we've got to, as always, we even talked last night with our players, as we did our work, and with coaches, you're getting to a point where you will physically wear down if you do too much. You also need to do better, so you need to address some things. There's a fine line balance there.
"You're at a point in time where, if you spend too much time on fundamentals, you don't get your schematics and your structure of your defense set, which we need to do. If we spend a lot of time on structure, do our fundamentals get sloppy. It's trying to teach our coaches and players how to emphasize fundamentals as we play as a team.
"We don't have time to spend 15, 20 minutes every day on just pass rush moves or proper tackle. We do that in the structure of what we're doing. You do a lot in practice of full go up. We do some tackling drills, one of the reasons you do full go up is some of the friendly fire. We had two offensive linemen last week both dinged up. We had a chance for one to practice last night, and we'll have both as we go through the week, but we'll see.
"Those guys, it's friendly fire. You're sitting there blocking, a guy makes a tackle, and falls on the back of your leg. You want to go out and get tougher. We do that. There's a fine line.
"What we're talking about is just we need to, one, be a lot more disciplined in practice. So, one, we get things if we practice and play wrong and repeat it and do it again. We practice the next play wrong and repeat it and do it again. We have as many reps of practicing it wrong as we do practicing it right, with as many good swings as we have bad swings. So it's a little bit getting our attention. Practice is about improving. You're going to make mistakes.
"The energy that you need, we're talking a one week run. Next week is an open day. We can regroup. We can reassess. We can regroup and freshen up and take our treatments and get clean for that last five week run of the Big Ten schedule. But this week, to me, we need some energy in practice and attention to detail to not be as sloppy. That's some things we've talked about. At the same time, you can take angles into practice, but when you're running against the running back, it's a 4.7, 4.8 guy, and the guy is a 4.5 it's just different angles. Sometimes it's awareness and playing and playing through it.
"We've got to keep edges on the defense and not letting plays get around us. We've got to continue to have ways you don't want to give up the big play, you soften your coverage sometimes. You soften your coverage, you're giving up cheap shots and don't have run support. If you've got the run support, going to let it over the top. It's back and forth, back and forth, and we'll get a good challenge with these guys. We've just got to keep working that."
(Q. You mentioned the offensive line that got dinged last week. You guys have had some tough luck in that department. How much of an issue is that? Even some of the guys playing are dinged up right now. How much of an issue is that right now?)
COACH WILSON: "It is what it is. I think everybody's got a little bit of that too now. It's hard to plan. Got to have depth. That's why every time we're putting guys in. There's no true freshmen running out there like there's been in years past. It's better than it is because Frey's done a good job. Those guys are competitive. We're saying we're without this lineman, this lineman, and this lineman, yet at the same time we've got some success because we've got some decent players, and those guys got to pick it up. Schematically, we've got to give them a chance. Put them in good play we always tell a receiver. If a guy is running the corner route, he's not necessarily beating the corner. He's beating the defensive lineman rushing the quarterback because you've got to get them before they get there. It's all how it syncs and works together.
"To me it's just matchups. That's one of the fun things about coaching is trying to put your guys in places where they can do their job. There's a bunch of plays, a bunch of ways to skin a cat. I think our line needs to keep doing better. Every coach in the country will tell you their line needs to keep doing better because at the end of the year, you look back at what you accomplish. Our defense has to keep doing better. I think everyone in the country would say that, whether you're doing good or bad. Those guys have responded in a positive way. Has it been what you want? No. Is it perfect or ideal? No. But it's also what a lot of teams get, and you deal with it. We're trying to deal with it in the right way, and I think for the most part we have. We'll continue this week."
Again, Ralston practiced last night. I think he'll be okay. We'll get Jake here. He's just got an ankle, and we'll see how that thing progresses. The other guys, Peyton Eckert's back still has not responded. Of course, we lost Kaminski with a knee injury and Feeney. So it is what it is. Again, we've got some second year guys, third year guys, fourth year guys, and we're not void. Those guys have got to step up. That's why you have 85 scholarships. That's why you sign 18, 20, 22 a year. Those guys have got to come in and fight for us, and I expect they will. I believe Greg will do a good job with them. Then we've got to schematically put them in good places against a very good front. ‘'
(Q. On third down, is there a trend they're getting conversions. Can you see a reason why they're able to get the conversions, whether it be recognition or breaking on a ball or things like that? )
COACH WILSON: "Last week Michigan State did a really good job of getting third downs that were very manageable so they can run or pass. When you're playing really good first and second down defense we didn't have a lot of negative plays last week. We had a lot of zero yardage plays, which is always something you look for. How many times offensively are you having positive gains? Defensively, how many times are they having zero or negative gains? Whether it be an incomplete pass or a no gain run. Last week they weren't off schedule too much, so their third downs got very manageable, and then they executed it well. "
(Q. Did you see anything on film after the game, either good or bad, that wasn't immediately evident right after the game about your team?)
COACH WILSON: "I thought as I was going, and same thing watching it, we were going to be a little disappointed watching the tape because there were some plays we needed to make that we didn't make, but they were competitive plays. Defensively, we need to get off some blocks and make some stops. We had a third down stop one time, and we jump offsides. We got a competitive play one time, and a call was reversed. I actually thought it was a good call when they reversed it. I mean, it was down, when you look at it from the angles we had. We had some chance to get stops and didn't. In their first drive, they go three third down conversions, their second drive, two or three. We're sitting there at 14-14, and we had a busted opportunity first half where you start with a touchdown, three and out. We don't do much. We punt it inside the 5, which is a huge play. We hold them, get it right back, and we take it down to the 15 yard line where we've got a chance to maybe get some more points, and we didn't.
"You come from there, it's 14-14. They score right at the end of the half. Then they take the opening kickoff, got a two possession game, and from there we were slugging uphill. Just a little off offensively, couldn't get back in it. The guys defensively kind of hung and hung and hung. I thought the guys during the game played hard, not as well as we needed to. But when you play a good team, sometimes that gets exposed. I can go over here to the muni where it's wide open and hit it all over the place and take some 9 irons and knock it on the greens because there's nothing in the way. When you're playing a real course, there's a bunch of stuff in the way. You spread it all over the place, and you get exposed. When you're playing a good team and you're not on exactly, you get exposed. We missed some things because it was competitive.
"At the same time, I thought our kids competed. I didn't think it was I think it was pretty good. I think we're getting to a point where we're playing a team that shoots their best initially one of them. Two or three others are going to be really, really good. The team we're playing this week is really good on defense. But one of the best in the country defensively, and we're sitting here complaining we didn't score more, and it's as much as anyone has scored. I think we can do better. It's exciting. Our fans are starting to expect more. I think our kids are. I think you guys are. That's pretty good. It's what you want. Losing is not what you want, and it's not moral victories. We've got to get those daggum third down stops. It's going to be hard this week, good team. But we're getting to a point where we need to start winning these games.
"We got one Big Ten team, didn't get the next one. We've got a huge challenge this week. Keep building and get these teams. It's going to be a very, very hard challenge. To me, what you see is you saw correctible things and some things, hey, if this guy can't do this or shouldn't do this schematically, let's keep coaching better. Make sure we're putting them in a better position, when to blitz, when not, how to protect, when not. Make sure you're getting the matchups with the linemen injuries, giving yourself a chance that guys can do their jobs. But it's evident we're coming because we played a pretty good team. We didn't play well. We're still kind of in it fighting, and everybody is kind of frustrated about it and not happy. That's kind of where we want to get to. It's not negative. It's kind of what you want, just keep coming. There's no more victories. Nobody's happy. Nobody said, we did this relative to them. No, we didn't do as well as we could. They're a pretty good team, and we got exposed. We need to limit our exposures and move forward. ‘'
(Q. Do you continue to see progression with linemen, guys not where they're supposed to be, the basic, fundamental stuff?)
COACH WILSON: "Not as good. Simply because they were able to cut formations on us. It took us a while. They went to tackle over it with an extra tight end and kicked it over. A couple of linebackers. Just some things that are correctible. At the same time, we didn't want to go out last night and correct and correct everything like everything was flawed. There's a lot of things to build on, a lot of opportunities. We missed a few, and so we didn't make a negative of all the things that were broken, but we did talk about what should have been fixed, what could be fixed, what we anticipate to see this week, what we anticipate maybe how we get attacked on both sides.
"So it was okay. But, again, it needs to be better. And I think it's a part of being a little bit youthful, a little bit on the road, a little bit different personnel settings. We've got to keep growing and fighting through it. Same deal offensively. We've got a few glitches in protection, with the breaking down. The quarterback needs a little more time to squeeze, put it on the back shoulder, put a little bit more air. Just a little rush goes against every play. Saturday, the offense was competitive. Every play defensively was a little bit more challenging then we needed, but we've got to keep growing. That was my deal. I thought we grew the last few weeks. Last week was a pretty good week of work. I don't know if it was the best week of practice. It was pretty good. Our game was okay. We can grow from that. That's what we try to take. Look at where we're at, where we can be better. For sure what we can be on short term, what is fixable short term. That's all we talked about yesterday. Talking about this opportunity with these guys. ‘'
(Q. At the midpoint of the season, what do you really like about where this program is and what continues to be the biggest frustration for you? )
COACH WILSON: "I like that the kids, I think, are all in giving us a good go, a lot. I like being around our guys. Shoot, we were we're down there right now having some fun, just game planning. And the challenge of it. So I like that. The frustrating thing is I want some seniors to selfishly find a way to get these wins, and these wins aren't easy, and to learn the process and the preparation, how hard it is.
"A couple weeks ago, when we had some success, a message from someone said, hey, Big Ten wins are hard. Enjoy. And it was from a very respected coach. And it kind of put me, yeah, we haven't had a lot of those anyway. But all wins are hard in the end. Last week was a hard win, and we weren't up to it, but I think we can learn and grow from it. This week is another tremendous hard opportunity to go get, but we can learn and grow. And the one thing I do expect, I expect this team to keep coming. And you can sit there and talk about our no huddle stuff. Somebody said, always asking, should we go faster? I'm watching our kids in the fourth quarter, and I don't see the defense laying around. We don't make the tackle or get it communicated right or fed up right, but I don't see them walking around like they're tired, hanging their heads. I see some energy in our team as we move around. To me, that's encouraging. The thing I said, Oregon's defense is second in the country in scoring defense. They're playing tempo. You can. You've just got to. That's our style. Maybe that's not the ideal style, but it's the style that fits us right now.
"It's going to be a challenge because Michigan can play some ball control, and the quarterback can extend some plays, and they can keep the ball away from you. And their defense is going to be good enough that you can't have the turnovers and the negative plays and the three and outs, and you've got to find points. When you're playing teams like this, points are hard. They don't just give it away. That's why they won all these games at home in a row. But the frustrating thing to me is you just you want to keep finding ways to get these Ws so that our fans, our recruits, and for the seniors that bought in, they can taste what they're working for. But they work like it, and they play like it, and they're fun to coach, and they're fun to be around. I mean, you can go right now into the cafeteria now, and I'm telling you, they're watching SportsCenter and having a good time, getting ready to go to class. It's a group that's very enjoyable, and we need to give them some enjoyable Saturdays.''
(Q. Can you talk about practice and energy level, attention to detail, and that sort of thing. Is that something that you are noticing different between the three weeks that you've won and the three weeks that you've lost?)
COACH WILSON: "I thought last week was pretty good, but not as good as the week before, not because we were cocky or overconfident. Sometimes it's how much gas is in the tank. As far as coaches, you've got to be smart. How much fundamental work do you do? What is your script that gives your guys a chance to be productive? I made a comment the other day, we ran a go ball, and the next formation the receiver had to run 50 yards downfield and 50 yards over to the other side to line up. That's 100 yards of running, and then you're yelling at him for not playing fast. He just ran 100 real fast. In about 15, 18 seconds, he ran 50, ran back over 50, and then I said go fast again. You've got to put them in good spots, and you've got to do that in practice sometimes. As always, we're, as coaches, a part of the problem, a part of the solution, especially when you think your kids are giving you a good go.
"Now, I thought we had a pretty good week against Missouri, just didn't play as well. Pretty good opponent, got exposed with some things. I thought the same thing last week. I don't think there's been a lot of days where again, came through preseason. I just thought we got a little relaxed week two after the first game we scored so many points. Just a little giddy. Other than that, I think our kids have practiced really good. We're asking this week with an open day to come, that we dig in the tank a little bit and have the juice and the energy that you need to come out, have great meetings, have great preparation. Four day week of class, fall break on Friday. So four days of academics, travel up there Friday. It will be a very similar trip that we just took. We're going to an airport a little bit more to the right and hotel a little bit more to the right. Other than that, same travel. We'll have that down pretty good. Let's rock and roll.''
(Q. In the Michigan State game, play selection, in the first half, there were, I think, 26 drop backs and only 9 rushes. Final numbers were 53 drop backs and only 15 rushes at running back. In hindsight, I know you respected Michigan State's run defense. When you broke it down, did you feel it became maybe a little bit too one sided on the pass? )
COACH WILSON: " Iowa, the week before, they had like 23, 24 yards rushing, with the kid that was one of the leaders in the country running. They're going to outnumber you. They're pretty good up front and really good at linebacker. The structure of their defense, they're going to give you things. As a matter of fact, we didn't really execute one part of our game plan as much as we needed to in the throwing game. A lot of our stuff, when we say drop backs, it's not like we're sitting there holding the ball in some things we do. A lot of them are run/pass combos, spitting it out. We call it, and we don't know what he's doing sometimes, and we actually count that as part of our rushing total. This is a running play, and he might throw the ball. Statistically, you will say that's a pass.
"Shane Wynn is now getting credit for a rushing touchdown because his alignment was too deep and you ran a bad route because it was an illegal play. We don't want him to have a lateral pass. We want that to be an incomplete ball. He was too deep, ran it long, and now the stat gurus say it was a rushing touchdown. It was a poorly executed play by him. We look at our run total, like we look at our screen game as part of our run game because linemen are blocking, it's a little bit of rush. So when we look at pass, sometimes like how much of it is stretch pass versus it's the combos and the quarterbacks just taking what's there. It would be the same thing this week. We've got to find a way to get some run game. That's where Tre gives us a little bit more. Nate still is the guy that is doing things, but we said all along I don't think Tre came out of when Nate played a little bit better, we went to Nate. I think he kind of lulled mentally in a funk for a week or so and wasn't as sharp. I think he's gotten past that now, and he's playing back to like we want him to play and even more.
"I don't want to do it by drives, but he does give you some dynamics where he can run. He threw the ball better than Nate last week. I do think Nate is a much better thrower than Tre, Tre is a really good thrower. Tre is going to be a high level quarterback, and we expect Nate to be. Neither one of them are very good right now. They're just okay. They've got a chance to be really good. I'm not down on them. They're just young and learning. There's nothing wrong with those guys. One guy is a smidge more mobile. One guy has got a really good arm. They're both really good quarterbacks, so is Cam Coffman. We've got to push the quarterbacks to be better. We do get a little more running with Tre. Maybe that's part of it. We're not going to just ram it down their throat. We do need some balance. Again, we weren't going to drop back on Michigan State as much as we just try to pick our spots and take care of the matchups and we need to make a couple of plays we didn't make.''
(Q. Kevin, you've been getting a lot from Bolser, you mentioned twice today with special teams as well as offensive play. Can you talk about the way he's playing this season and maybe for the rest of the time?)
COACH WILSON: "I actually coached him the first year, and because the way we structured it and did things, I think having Coach Littrell for two years in a row because he went from a coach then to me and then on. So I think having some continuity as far as what he's hearing every day, kind of relating to him. I do think he has a great sense of urgency because he knows it's his last time and wants a chance to be an NFL player. It's going to be tough for him. He's not a true body that fits some of their things in special teams and fits some of those things in their blocking mode and what they need to do at that league. So having said that, he's knows he's got to play at a high level of energy and effort. He's been practicing that way, and he's got to be better. He can make some plays in the pass game, but he's been awesome in kick coverage. He's been awesome in punt coverage. One, he helps our team. Two, he's a senior. Three, I think selfishly it's a personal chance for him to grow as a player.''
(Q. You're talking about Tre maybe getting past the front a little bit. You mentioned before, looking at what Northwestern did with Simeon at quarterback. With the way Tre is playing now, can you operate this more like what they do basically, meaning you can give Roberson a couple of drives every game kind of to keep more of a balance? If Tre is, again, playing like the guy you want him to be.)
COACH WILSON: "Potentially. Yeah, I don't really and I don't know if I can say we want to do it exactly. I'm not sure if I know exactly how they do it all the time. But we do want a point where, like in the Navy game, Nate had six, seven quarterback draws. We need to run him. Same if Cam's in there. When Tre's in there, all of a sudden, he's in here, and it's a goal line play. Everybody thinks it's wildcat. Because defensive structures will change because of what they expect. So to me, he can make a lot of throws. I think he's a quarterback that's athletic. He's not an athlete. I think he's an athletic quarterback. So potentially yes, but, again, where we're at, it's kind of hard. You always get worried about what you get out of it. We do it in practice a lot. I think we're getting to where maybe in games we can. I don't know. We don't really we sit around believing that those guys can make a lot of plays for us and just look at how to attack the defense.
"Hadn't talked a lot about quarterback deal, but those guys are all capable, and Cam is too if we need him. He's going to be that way this week. We're just sitting there right now looking at the formations and down and distance and start getting the game plan. Again, he can again, not down on Nate by any means. I thought he actually played pretty well. Numbers might not be as well as the week before. The week before, he actually missed some things he got away with. This week, some of the coverage and misses were a little bit off. He made the right reads and just timing a little bit off with what we're doing. Not down on him. Think he's awfully good. Counting on him playing great this week. Counting on Tre being a big part of what we're doing. Counting on him playing on a high level. We'll just see how it goes.''
(Q. What do you like about what you get from John Laihinen? He's a walk on kid. Performed pretty well for you.)
COACH WILSON: "There's a number of those guys, Dustin. What we do with those walk ons, we had a number of guys, starting with Heban and some guys that first like Dre Muhammad and those guys. We've had a number of guys. Jake Michalek has given us some stuff. What we do any time you earn a scholarship here, it's been because we have eight available. We got it through attrition or someone leaving or a medical if someone was deemed a medical, it frees the scholarship up. Those guys get that scholarship for one year. They then have to re earn it back. One thing that does because I've been in places where the guy was so happy he got a scholarship, he quit working. It was just like, hey, I arrived. No, you haven't. You're good enough we gave you a scholarship, so help us and keep contributing.
"So it's always one year and you earn it back and earn it back. That being said, that and just the way those guys are, those guys continue to compete, practice. He's solid. He's smart. He's gotten stronger. He's again, we're going to play four or five. We're getting David Kenney out there a little bit more when we need to. That's a young guy that you're building confidence and trust in. John is a quality player that's a nice complementary piece. This will be his fourth year. We'll address it as the year end goes. You could say this is his graduating year or take a fifth year. I think we'll address that down on the end. John is doing well, and he's a positive part of what we're doing. Have a good one, guys.''