KEVIN WILSON: "We are coming off an open date, a little different than the week before but as far as where we're at, points of emphasis, I thought it was a good open day week and we got a good challenge with Minnesota coming in, you guys probably caught the radar, they have been playing well, a bowl team a year ago, solid challenge and they will be a good test for us.''
( Is there a sense that this team is dying to go get back to the field after being able to regroup and now just itching to hit somebody?)
KEVIN WILSON: ‘Good question. We had a lot of things I thought we needed to do work on after the last game, one of the comments that one of our key players said is, "Hey, I wish we had a game this week, I would like to get goin'," but even through last night and this morning we are looking at ourselves. You do your all season study where you get an idea of things that a team is going to do to work on you, and a lot of times you don't get going until Sunday afternoon or Monday morning with your game plan. So we had a chance to look at recruiting, look at some guys well, look at young guys work and bringing some of your young players along but, really, what are the things we need to emphasize to get better. We had a light practice yesterday that was pretty energetic. Sometimes you take a period of time and you come back and you might want to say, we got to practice hard because they have just had an off day. We think we're far enough into it we stay with the normal routine and use Tuesdays and Wednesdays as our quality workdays, and there was a lot of bouncing energy last night and hopefully it will build through the week with homecoming and November, five game stretch, three at home, you want some energy and you don't want it on Sunday night but Saturday at 3:30, and the Illinois game.''(What did you feel you need to do work on?)
KEVIN WILSON: "Start with offense, you guys think we're pretty good. We were 108th in the country in interceptions thrown. We moved ourselves up to a whopping 97th. You say, well, we throw the ball well, well, look at teams like A&M and Houston and Oregon State that's throwing for 400 yards, 100 more than we are, and they've got six or seven less picks, and here is a guy throwing for Oregon, shootin' lights out. So when you're a team and you're trying to get wins, we got a lot to work to do. You say interceptions, you think that's the quarterback. We had one the other day in practice that was on the offensive tackle because he didn't execute a scheme right. An unblocked guy gets his hand on the ball, so it's not all the quarterback, it's timing, run game, you got run game, balance, play action, all those things. I think in the red zone we're completing 52 or 53 percent f our passes, down there scoring, I think we're solid when these guys throw the ball well. Like I said last year, when in competitive situations how good really are you? When we've got the lead by 1 to 7 points we've thrown 39 balls, completed 19, 47%. We got the lead, our defense got us the ball, you got this good offense, let's go, really good offense, now we're just average to keep them in the game and start playing behind. So a lot of things in conversions, ball security, how to be aggressive. We did the same thing defensively. Look at the number of third downs that we got that we let them off the field. Michigan State made 8, 9, 10 in a row, they made their touchdowns on third downs. So you want to change the scheme, we got a guy there to make the tackle, shoot your guy is there to make the play and get him on the ground. So we talked about conversions, how to keep the ball, creating turnovers, fundamentals of tackling and really didn't over practice. These are short things that we want to concentrate on to see if we can be stronger down the stretch. We're going to be in close games, we have a chance to be in exciting games if we play well and how to find a way to make that play or two to get over the hump.''
(You mentioned fundamentals. Is there anything that stands out to you? Bunch of guys doing the same thing wrong or different things for every guy?)
KEVIN WILSON:"I think a little different for every guy and kind of a hard question to answer because every situation is different. To me the more aggressive and assertive you are you got a chance. That's one of the things we talked about, our guys, I think our offense is better when it's on its toes instead of his heels, and I think the same thing defensively. The team we're playing this week, they have fly sweep, their defense is active and I think a lot better than most people think. They're fundamentally active and aggressive. We talked about fundamentals, but you're at a point in the year with these guys that are beat up, the hidden work you do with the guys that don't really play that much. So we've worked on how to get better fundamentally without beating ourselves up and that's the tough dilemma this time of year we're in. We got to get better blocking and tackling, but this is our now, 14th week, and you've got bodies that are getting smashed up, beaten and bruised and we got a couple guys out but everybody does. How do we keep meshing, how do we keep the effort and building toughness and by the way don't cross the line and over practice and beat your guys up. We looked at drills. I watched our guys do drills and I suggested not that I have the answers by any means but the way you're doing the drill, do less and do it harder because you're not doing the speed you're playing with. So instead of a lot of reps and at a pace that's not your game speed, slow the guy down, make it a quality rep and truly realistic so a guy feels how to break down. We tell our receivers, don't run plays in practice at some certain speed because you're messing with the timing of the quarterback. I need that Saturday 3:40 speed. So less is more, but don't have a poor practice. We've talked about working hard. We talked about mentally and emotionally working hard when you're not going or how hard are you really going? Are you just sitting here or how hard are you going when you're going? You're at a point physically, we got to be smart to keep energy and speed and challenge our guys how to think differently. Couple years ago we were smashing heads together and trying to see who was tough, and now we know where we are and how do we make `em better. We're challenging our guys to work hard and it's not all about being physical, it's getting calls right and having the body language of playing offense and defense and getting better. Those are things we hit last week. We asked them, can you practice as hard as you've ever practiced without physically doing as much and that means mentally how much are you practicing or sitting back there watching? We'll see this week.''
(When you're dealing with a Minnesota team that likes to run, when they played Nebraska, Nebraska was putting 9 guys in the box and they couldn't stop `em. What's the key for you to stop them?)
KEVIN WILSON:"We got to get them off schedule. They're multiple in their like everyone it's getting to which I think is one of the dynamics of college ball with the quarterback run threat, the option threat and you put a personnel grouping on the field and you're multiple. So put big guys on the field and spread `em out, put little guys in the backfield and make `em second backs, so you're making the defense adjust. They get on their heels but they're running the same power play. They got a little fly sweep action, but it's their power play. So to them they're linemen are very good at what they do. They're consistent in how they come off the ball and I think they're a very undervalued line in what they do. But you got to find some ways to get them behind the chains. If they get third and 1, 2, don't get third downs here, going to move it down the field, can you give them third and 8, 10, 12s, and can we? If we play on our heels, they'll stay on schedule. I think it will be a challenge. Different, but it's similar to Michigan State. They're going to play pretty good defense and they do so by keeping the defense off the field. That being said the offense doesn't score a lot, so don't give them cheap ones. They can score a lot and they do when you give them cheap ones. They're throwing the ball well, so their style with a big, physical line it's a conflict. It's a conflict of what we are. We don't have those kind of linemen, so we're more spread, making plays out here so can we make enough plays in space to keep the ball or get three and out and sit on the bench and get cold. Can our defense get stops and keep our offense going? We're playing two styles and it's a neat little contrast. They execute their stuff, they'll be tough to handle; we execute our stuff, we will be tough to handle. We went last week and looked at when our offense had third down stops, didn't get it and what happened to our defense. We looked at when our defense got third down stops, hey, by the way the offense scored. When our defense didn't get third down stops, hey, by the way, they scored, so even though we're a fast tempo team, not having the turnovers and us getting the ball back keeps the energy of our football team going. So two different contrasts this week, night and day, hot and cold. If they work well, they're efficient. They got their style and they're good at it, and we got ours, and if we play well, we're not too bad either.''
(On Minnesota's offense against Nebraska)
KEVIN WILSON:"They wrinkled up a couple of formations. Still run the same play. They'll do the same thing on us, they'll have a new because to them it doesn't matter if it is the power off tackle play, where the quarterback is reading it, they're under center, pistol, there's the fly sweep, play action, zones, window dressing formations. Defensively they kinda did what they did, nothing new or unusual. They're aggressive on defense. I think they're athletic on defense, they can play their base for three quarters, like a lot of people play, but they can get to machine concepts and blitz concepts out of it, and they come at you pretty good. They didn't do anything different there. You could tell it looked like Nebraska was off. I know their quarterback has been out. They were just a little bit off and it looked like they didn't run like they had ran so they looked different. The way Minnesota played you could feel the momentum go their way in that game. To me I wasn't overly surprised, I thought they were going to play well. I thought they would have a shot to win that game and they played well and it was a good win for them.''
(What makes the front seven as good as they are for Minnesota?)
KEVIN WILSON:"Well, I recruited the one kid out of Minneapolis, D tackle now, and he's a strong 6 5 plus, now he's 310ish, active big guy, their edge guy is good, junior college backers, Wilson, No. 5, and Hill, 57 is really good. They can play off you and rally and they know their defense but they can get in your face. They're not where Michigan State is but they are they're a close, competitive defense. They can challenge you and blitz you and they're a solid team. Again, defensive coordinator, Coach Claeys, has been their acting head coach. He's got strong leadership and they're aggressive on what to do. They got some veteran coaches, those guys have been together forever and they're solid, a good football team.''
(Their quarterback played well this week. When he's moving around, how much does that open things up for them?)
KEVIN WILSON:"They've played the other guy, too, played `em both now so I don't know if either one the Leidner kid it's whoever is the hot, I don't know if it's different but maybe it's kind of like right now with Nate and Tre or last year when it was Cam and Nate. So if a guy is really on or off, like Nelson has played well, but with being the second guy, it's almost like superstition or you're the guy you like to bring off the bench, like in basketball, the 6th guy. He comes in and brings new life to the team. They both played well, I think for them they can do what they do, which means they can get on the perimeter, run boot, play action game and even though the pass numbers aren't there, they've got some things they've missed every game so they kind of it's a different style, but it's like Navy, and to execute with a run, run, run they had one at Nebraska and missed a guy on a play action and had a tight end on the corner and he probably scores or gets close if he gets it. So they leave things out there, their line is good, patient, backs are good and both those quarterbacks can run if they want to. They're not flashy but they're big enough quarterbacks that they will run `em 15, 18, 20 times almost like a second runner. He's not like a tailback, but he's a rumbling, stumbling guy and all of the sudden he might be 15, 20 for a big one. I think you see Tre back there, you think you might have a big play. Their guy is not a tailback, but he runs like a bigger tailback and he gets a lot of 5s. If you watch those guys play, they play on schedule, play on schedule, play on schedule, get a field goal. Play pretty good defense, get it back, stay on schedule, stay on schedule, get a touch, maybe punt, do nothing, all of the sudden they've created good plays in the kicking came and Coach Kill knows what he wants to do and the whole staff I know he's fighting through his illness, but he's a great coach, great dude, and we lift him up. And those guys know what they're doing and that's where we gotta get to. We got to get our offense playing as well as it can be and our defense playing as well as it can be because when we put it together we've been a decent team and when we haven't we have been vulnerable. If we're not together, we're going to be a play or two off and somebody is going to make those plays. Sometimes I say offense, but it was on the defense. They had to make plays because we needed the ball back. Last week it needed to be on the offense, they needed to make plays they didn't. So anyway, if we're on we're close, if we're off we're not. If we're on, we're pretty decent.''
(Can you imagine going through what Coach Kill has to go through in that program?)
KEVIN WILSON:"I know some of his coaches because when I was at Northwestern some of those guys were at Southern Illinois, and they would come and visit with us. I didn't know him other than following his success really at Southern when I first got to see him, but I know his offensive coordinator, wide receiver coach, you could see them recruiting, and they're always good people. My interaction with him at functions in the Big Ten we go to as head coaches is always great, up beat, positive guy. The only thing I can say is you pray for him, lift him up as he fights through it, but you can tell he has a great supporting cast around him, and that makes it great for him, and that's, to me, the sign of a good coach and a good program is the guys he's got around him. We look forward to competing against these guys. His team is going to play with a lot of emotion and I like that. But we walk out, it's homecoming, I'm not a good coach if I don't have our guys motivated and ready to play hard because there is a lot to play for and a lot of positive energy within our building. It's our track, it's our homecoming and to me I would like to think our team has the maturity and toughness to match their energy level and go out and make it a great game. If we do that I think Saturday is going to be an exciting game, whether we win or not, let's go out and let's make it a great game.''
(You talked a few times about the bye weeks breaking the season up. How did you want the guys to look at this last segment?)
KEVIN WILSON:"Again, for us, we're not looking at all five and we're not looking at numbers. I went back through again like our number one program goal was constant consistent improvement and are you as a player, as a coach, as a strength coach, are you getting better? Is our position, our side of the ball getting better? Are we improving? That's our goal. Let's collectively take it into this week. We didn't look at who is playing who and whose records are where and who you got to beat. We're not looking at the end. Our deal is being on the daily approach and being 1 0 this week and doing the best we can starting against Minnesota.''
(You talked about Leidner being comfortable coming off the bench at Minnesota, have you seen that with Tre?)
KEVIN WILSON:"I think it's Nelson coming off.''
(Yeah, that's the way it is. Have you seen that with Tre?)
KEVIN WILSON:"He was starting the first couple and then the one guy got hot and the last I thought at Michigan State we were struggling and with the pressure we needed something, and last week with the weather it was hard to get consistent throwing going. Who goes first I think we'll use `em both, and I don't think it's going to be a revolving door and we'll see how they practice. I've seen `em both have ups and downs, because I think they listen to their the public perspective too much. My deal is you're young and you're not as good as you need to be and you need to keep working hard and gettin' better, and that's what great players do. So I thought early they were all fighting to be the player. Some things didn't go Tre's way, he didn't practice well. Nate didn't play that well at Michigan State and he wasn't as sharp last week in practice. Then we had the weather. We got after him in practice, said, you've got 30 some games in your career left, how good are you going to be at the end and what are you doing about getting better? And quit being moody and moping. We got good players out there; let's go play. Shoot, again last night Cam was about as good as any of the players out there. We didn't talk about him; he's a good player. Down the stretch what do we get out of Stephen Houston? What do we get out of (Nick) Stoner, (Anthony) Corsaro or Danny Friend. We had Jacob Bailey come in and we made a big deal out of him. You're at the end of the year, guys need to step up. We're going to figure a week out. We don't sit down and they're both, like I said, can run our offense and when they both get going they look very good and when they have been off they look par. But that's the surrounding parts that make `em look good or not. So they're being rested as they go through the weeks, and it's my job to keep them coming, have them be leaders and teammates and that's what we talked about this week. What can you do to help our team. It's positive or negative, we gotta find positive ways to help us. Tre might come first this week, we'll see how the week goes, because I got confidence in him and I got confidence in Cam Coffman, to tell you the truth. I would love to have the guys that are playing a smidgen get their roles increased and see what productivity we can get out of those guys. D'Angelo Roberts down the stretch, he makes a huge play last year in the Iowa game and helps us. You need guys like that making plays. Maybe it isn't 20 or 30 plays; you need guys making plays to win these games, and that's what we need down the stretch.''
(You mentioned Allen. What kind of decision did you make as far as safety? Is Dutra, a possibility that Dutra will play?)
KEVIN WILSON:"A little bit, but I think the way it's going right now, we've got guys - Heban and Murphy, if they're staying healthy where are you at with Dawson, we have Grubbe back there and Justin played. I don't know if we would play him that much. It would be a complementary role that with five games left, didn't look like he was ready to crack and be the guy. How many plays would you use to burn his redshirt year? He didn't do poorly, you can ask Coach Mallory, but I don't think it's worth losing his eligibility out there so we will ride with what we've got.''
(And how has Jake Reed been progressing?)
KEVIN WILSON:"Good, and Dahlstrom was back a week ago, good. Other than that I think we're where we were. We got a few chip ups, a few guys out but down the stretch, stayin' fresh, as we get better, guys stepping up, how much can we get. What are some guys going to do, what are guys at D line going to do? We need guys making plays. It's going to be a good challenge. These guys are a good team and we came at it last game not excited but I think our guys can feel there is some energy and you're there, let's keep coming, we had a positive week in the open date and I'm looking forward to this week's practice and see where we're at. I'm looking forward over these five games we don't have results you want but these guys have been moving in the right direction. Can we keep moving in the right direction. He had a saying, Coach Cam does, I think he got it from Coach Mallory: "You want to pound the rock." That's not talking about running plays, but the rock doesn't break the first time you hit it, and you got to keep on hittin' the rock. As a program, we gotta keep hittin' it and this rock will crumble. If we quit hitting it, our environment, our culture, our results stay the same. So what do we keep doing as a program to keep coming. Don't like where you are, we can have all kinds of excuses, I don't talk about the injuries, it is what it is and other teams got `em, too. Braxton Miller didn't play a couple of games, somebody got to step in, by the way the guy was pretty good. That happens everywhere. As we went through our opening date this week, we're not excited about playing a close game and losing, but we do see ourselves getting better. We have things on defense that need to be corrected and things on offense that need to be corrected, and the last thing we talked about was what will you do to keep coming for five weeks. Then at the end we will look and see what are you looking at in these five games? Right now we're looking at this game and this week, and let's keep pounding on the rock and see if we can bust it. Because if we quit hitting, nothing is going to change. That's the mojo and the message, and I look forward to starting against a strong opponent. Their team is playing good, but it's going to be a lot of fun.