(Defense played better down the stretch in the fourth quarter, especially after you guys got a little bit of a cushion. Do you think that this defense plays a little better when it doesn't have to be so much better to where it's a one possession game and they can relax a little bit knowing the next play, if they give it up, isn't going to be tied?)
COACH WILSON: Strong point. Of course, at that time too, I think the opponent gets a little more one dimensional. Again, I do think those stops in the first half, you know, you go back and you can look at last week or two weeks ago, our offense doesn't play well early, and I think our defense gives up a score because I think three and out, two play turnover, three and out, four and out. Bowling Green, we start out not playing well offensively. We get down first and goal, defense had a number of good stops. Penn State, same deal, it's 10 7, and Penn State's kicking a field goal. Our defense has been a little on, little off. When it's on, it's been pretty good. When it's off, it's not been very good at all. A lot of it is getting them in position and coaching and playing together. When the offense plays well, we get going. But same deal when the defense plays well. When the defense plays well, it feeds the offense. Those are some things we try to show. Hey, Ryan Thompson if you make this third down stop, we get the ball, here's the touchdown three plays later. Hey, we get this fourth down fake, here's the touchdown a few plays later. We're trying to show our team how we feed off each other. Defense still has a lot of work to do. We're going to work real hard, short term with three weeks to go. What can we continue to do? Fundamentals, alignment, structure, discipline, communication, to keep playing better because we've got to keep playing better and the offense does too. We've got to keep coming defensively. They do play better when we have a lead at the end of the game and the team is one dimensional. But there are times when our defense, I think our numbers get skewed because we've given up big plays. We've gotten worked and given up third downs. But there are spurts when our defense has played solid ball. We've got to get it more. I think in Minnesota we had consistent part both sides. In this game, there was more consistency throughout the game. That's what we talked about. When we play together, we're really a decent team. Sometimes we flash. The offense goes away. The defense goes away. When we put it together and kick it well, we're pretty good. It's just having the discipline, the play calling, the execution, and the focus to do it over longer stretches. If we do, we can have some success in these weeks to come.
(How's Tevin Coleman's ankle?)
COACH WILSON: He's got a good ankle sprain. It will be a problem. He's probably out this one. And we'll see some guys will come back faster than others. Again, we are fortunate. Stephen's a two year starter, and he's played pretty good. We've got some depth with D'Angelo. Whether we go with a third guy, Laray, we've got Anthony Davis and Andrew Wilson we like as third guys if it gets to that point. It's nothing major. It's not a break, but it's major enough that with an ankle deal in the skill position, a fast guy, he's going to be very, very limited, in all likelihood. We can say end of the week we'll see how it goes, but fortunately we've got some depth there, and we'll need some guys to step up if we need it. That's probably going to have to happen.
(Laray Smith gets into the mix with the running back depth?)
COACH WILSON: I think where we are, and he's got some speed. He's doing a little actually, he's been injured enough, he had this little back issue that kind of got him out. You know, there's a chance I don't think he's played enough. We might, could get a redshirt year out of that. How much would he play as a third guy? I think you've seen from the first game that Wilson's a decent player and Davis, if you get to the third guy, which is technically the fourth guy then, how good is that anyway? Not down on Laray and Myles as freshmen. I think they're kind of a little bit on the shelf, and we'll go through the others now.
(On Ryan Thompson)
COACH WILSON: Again, we gave him a winning performance. Didn't give it like player of the game because it was only the second half. A couple stops. Right place, right time. A couple busts and things to clean up. I actually thought, coming into preseason, he'd be in the mix to compete and play. He got an ankle sprain, missed a couple weeks. I don't know if maybe personally he handled that as mature and strong as he needed to. I think he got a little down on himself and a little funky and didn't practice well for a few weeks. But came in a couple of weeks ago on special teams and really responded well. We recognized that. And now the ball's the door's kind of opening up. The ball's getting back in his court. For two weeks, he showed up in a good way. I think Timmy's going to be fine. I really thought we could get could maybe get a little bit more out of Ryan than we got this year. It's nice he's there and nice he stepped up these last couple of weeks.
(How important is mindset this week, especially against a Wisconsin team that's been pretty successful against you in the last couple of years? How important is just mindset for guys to go up there confident that they could win?)
COACH WILSON: Well, again, my comment to them, I think we're making strides, and there's a point in time where I think we're going to have success against top teams. We've kind of been close. You want it to be this week. You want it to be next week. You want it to be next year. It's close. So the best way to close is have a great week of practice. Play together as a team. The best way to make it happen is to be as aggressive and decisive as you can. You're not going to go up playing Wisconsin on your heels, hoping they have a bad game, hoping to get a call, hoping they get a turnover. It's the Tiger Woods' mentality: He's going to make his putts. I'm going to make mine. So we're making strides. We're getting close to a team that's competitive. If you want to play at a high level in the Big Ten, it's going to be on ESPN 2. I don't think we talk about. I don't think our team lost games because we've been choking, but we haven't played well and haven't executed well. We've got an opportunity against a great team, very good team. You've got to play well in all phases. You're not going to go up and down the field on this team's defense. They played against some very, very good offenses, and they played and shoved them in a box. So you're not going to go up and match the score, but you've got to get defensive stops. This is a team that has an overwhelming running game, and they can throw it to a receiver that can get open as good as anyone. But the play action pass with the tight end/fullback game, etc. So to me, our mindset is we're making strides, and this is an opportunity to show we're ready to make the next stride. You want to do it this week, let's go up and fight and have a great week and have a great plan, put it together, go attack, go fight, and see what it is. Let's go up there not hoping and wishing it could happen. Might as well not get on the plane and take the bus trip up to the airport. I'm looking forward to seeing where the team is, looking forward to having a good week.
(With the new staff up there, have they changed much? Are they still doing pretty much what they did over the past several years?)
COACH WILSON: I think there's a lot of similarities. There's minor changes maybe like in defensive alignment subtly. But it's just in the way they kick their front, their three man front, but still gets them into their base quarters look and where the run fits are and their blitz packages. So slightly different enough to be different, but they still use the same players, a lot of the same spaces, running game, same deal. They were using big guy personnel, two and three tight ends and fullbacks that move around. A lot of the guys, the offense are the same guys that were there last year. They've been there a couple of years. Except for the one running back that's left, the next couple three, they've been putting running backs after running backs after running backs for 15, 20 years. So nothing's falling off. Maybe a little difference in the call they got, but a lot can carry over. It looks like a Wisconsin football team. Again, Coach Andersen, I think, you know, like all coaches, he's got things he likes and things he believes in, but I think he's playing to the strength of their football team. They've always had big linemen, great running game. Complement that with play action pass, tight end/fullback guys are outstanding players. Defensively, they've evolved to a three man front, but the way the structure of their coverage and the soundness, I don't think it was a very radical change for the players. I think that's why they've had really good success and why they're sitting at 7-2.
(What's been so much better the last two weeks about the offensive line? What have you seen those guys, I guess, do better?)
COACH WILSON: I mean, we still miss some stuff now. Again, we got a couple of guys out, but it's year three. You're hearing the language over and over. And the concepts. They're having some success. I think there's enough complementary parts so we're not running into loaded decks. There's a passing game and a running game. We just showed a team, hey, here's Ryan Thompson making a third down stop, and now here's Tevin Coleman open, popping a run in front of our sideline with great help from Bolser and Jake Bailey on the cut block and then Cody Latimer. And the next play, here's Cody on the touchdown pass. Everybody is saying, look at this great play by Cody. It was set up by a third down stop by Ryan. And some really good running and perimeter blocking, and it all comes together. I think the line is really doing okay because the quarterbacks are decent and the receivers are decent, and there's enough parts that we can if we execute, we make you play space and play the field, and when the space gets spread out, then there's some running lanes. So it's like our passing and our receivers have bought into blocking. That's why I think Tevin's got eight touchdowns over 40 yards, which is the first in the country. It's not just because he's a good running back and not just because of the line. Bolser is blocking the best he's ever blocked, and you're getting great effort from Latimer and Hughes, and they score touchdowns, but they're blocking out there. It's why those guys are it's why they're 40 yard plays and 50 yard plays instead of 10 yard plays because there's the threat of the pass, they space out, and then our perimeter players aren't mad because it isn't a pass play. We honored Kofi Hughes as one of our players of the game. A couple of times I thought he got held up pretty good. Like I didn't understand why he wasn't allowed to run a route because of what the defender is doing. Ball is coming his way, and he couldn't get off of coverage. We missed him on a fade route. But he's out there playing his tail off. On one of the plays where Stephen Houston goes 40 yards on the left, he's on the right blocking. He's got almost out of bounds on a bubble pass, playing his tail off and, quote, had no catch. He's a senior, playing as hard as he can play. That's what you want. We'll look at play calls to try to get some things to him. Sometimes on prepared routes, coverage goes this way, and I'm going this way, and we're just trying to get Cody the ball the last game. The line is doing good because the skill players make them look good. It's a little bit of everything.
(I guess how concerned are you about responding to Wisconsin's play action pass? Obviously, the running game is very potent with the play action pass.)
COACH WILSON: We got worked with that in Michigan very, very well. If you sit there and play base and line it up, you got big guys and good tight ends and backs that are really patient and fast and experienced and well coached. They work on a schedule. If you get aggressive and start loading the box, you get guys one on one. Abbrederis is just about as good as anybody at getting open, and he's worked some of the best players in this conference in the league one on one. I think he's been a little banged up. He'll be fine. That's why they're a good offense. We're talking about, because their line is so good and their running game's so good, then that helps him and makes him so good because he gets out there one on one. Joel can make some shots and get to him in the pass game. That's why they're scoring 40 points a game too.
(You talked after the game about kickoff coverage and special teams in general. What's worked so well, basically. I think you guys are leading the conference in kickoff coverage. Obviously, it starts with Mitch.)
COACH WILSON: Good kicker, but we got some good guys out there. Bolser and Latimer covering those kicks. And you got guys like Zupancic and Ryan Thompson, some complementary guys stepped in. Jacarri's been good. To me it's a sign of our team growing. When you're growing as a team, you've got more confidence, better athletes, and a bit more swagger, and those guys are attacking. That's why the offense is getting there. The defense goes away, but we've got to keep building our defense in an attacking mode. I think our punt team has gotten that way. Two weeks ago, I think that's when our kickoff return team is in attacking mode. That team has been very, very aggressive. As we build, sometimes it's when our offense is out of whack. We're not as aggressive as we need to be. But the kickoff coverage has been a good unit. Mitch is a good part. The coverage has been awesome. One of the best things he does is when he kicks it down and catches it on the 2. That's better than when he kicks it out of the end zone. But this team is, I think, first or second in the league in kickoff return. They've got a great return. But it would be nice to use that team because that means we're scoring. People don't score a lot on Wisconsin. I think they've given up three touchdowns at home this year, and they play pretty good defense.
(Coach, will David Kenney be able to go at all this week?)
COACH WILSON: Right now it's a half. And it's kind of an unfortunate deal because we've talked with our people and got them looking into it. The call was made. It's a high hit targeting hit. And the targeting rule is talking about hitting with your crown or going high to the head or launching up at a guy. He comes at the quarterback, and he actually comes down and comes with his arms, and he hits the guy and hits the guy late. Probably it should be a roughing the passer call, but because it was called targeting and then it was reviewed, ref doesn't want to change it, then it's stuck. It's unfortunate because, again, we've got to protect our players, and I think as coaches we're all about that. But I've heard a couple of coaches, this guy, first game he's played a whole lot. He's played in four games, very active, and we've got to protect their game. I think the penalty matches targeting when it ought to be. It's the best way to get guys. Your helmet comes off and you come out of the game, all of a sudden, the helmet started staying on. The high flagrant, kill shots, they've gotten out, which is the best for the team, but it's unfortunate to me, the comment I made, they can go back on video, and if they see a high hit, they can sit a guy down. They can come in and say, hey, we missed him. It's a flagrant hit. He's not playing this week. But even though you've got video, it's one guy's opinion of the video. It's still a human element. They look at the video and say, eh, maybe not, they can't change it and give the kid a chance to come back and play. I think the penalty fits when it's flagrant, but I think we got to look at our rules because this kid's missing a half on an aggressive play that wasn't a target play, and this guy called it. It wasn't a bad call. Just human element. It happens. I think our referees do well. I think as fans, because we're on the short end, we always remember calls that don't happen. We get calls, and you don't remember those. We don't get calls. Just those guys are humans. We make bad play calls. Our players make mistakes. They're supposed to be in certain places they're not. Those guys are human. It's one of the great parts of the sport is the human element of the sport, and football is a bunch of flying parts. You've got 22 players and 29 guys flying around, guys signaling, calling plays, there's a lot of flying parts, and you've got guys trying to function together. So I just asked really hard for it to be looked at, and I've been told, because it was reviewed that way, there's nothing to do. My comment was, as I've heard some other coaches, I think we need to look because, when you can come back and say, hey, in fairness, that's really a roughing rule, let's give this kid a half of his football back. How much has he played? I don't think it's impacting the game. I think in fairness to the kids, you guys got to talk about that. The thing is you're a kid getting up at 6:00 a.m. running year round, lifting, you're making a huge commitment in your life, and you're taking away the few minutes I get to play. Those kids get about six minutes. If you play a whole game, you get about six minutes of play. About six seconds times 50, 60, 70 plays. That's what you really play in a football game. That's how many minutes and seconds of a football career you have. So I think moving forward, I'm sure as coaches, love the rule, love the direction it's going. I just think we've got to look at a way, when it's a little bit off, the kid doesn't get the penalty doesn't match the crime, you know what I mean? It's like we need to come back and maybe have a way. He'll miss the first half. Again, I don't think it's a bad call. It's just what it was. I'm not allowed to discuss referees either. I think our crews are good. You guys don't like them. I like them.
(I was a little confused. You think he should have been called for roughing but not targeting? Based on the rule).
COACH WILSON: Yeah, because the targeting is called hitting with the crown, going head to head, or launching. He didn't do those things. But he got called that way, and when it got reviewed because he hits in the chest and gets up into his face mask. Well, is the face mask helmet to helmet? He got into his face mask, part of the helmet. Unfortunately, the way it was called and that's not a bad call because they're going to protect players. I think it's awesome. I think they should. But I think in time, maybe we missed or penalized this kid when more common minds look at it and say, you know, that wasn't a target play. That wasn't an intent play. That was a physical, aggressive play, and that was probably a late hit. Let's give this guy a chance. Because, again, it's going to happen to more and more players down the road, but the direction of what we're doing is best for the game, and we got to keep that up. There's no doubt it's best for the game.
(You mentioned Wisconsin defenses. What do they do so well structurally basically? Is there anything that they've done?)
COACH WILSON: Again, they are gap sound, multiple in their looks. Their eyes are where they're supposed to be. If I've got one in the flat or two going vertical or whatever, I'm a B gap player, C gap player. So, again, there's a lot of carryover to what they did. They tweaked it fitting some of their scheme and their language, I'm sure. But the structure is different but very comparable to Michigan State. They don't give up plays. You earn everything, and every play is a competitive play, competitive at the line of scrimmage, competitive in the perimeter. It's a very, very good defensive football team and a great running team, great play action.