First of all, we're just ecstatic to win the football game. It was a hard fought game on both sides. I've got great respect for the Wisconsin program. Coach Alvarez and his staff do a great job. Their players play hard. Our defense just played a super game. We put them out there in some tough positions. They did a great job in some adverse situations. It's one of those games that comes down to the final play. All you can do is have faith in your guys. It was an interesting four plays there at the end, but our guys found a way to get it done.
Was there a sense of relief getting that road win in the Big Ten now?
Yeah. I read about that this week in some of our papers and heard about that. I'm a little bit of a research guy. If you go back and look, I think we're nine out of 13 on the road the last 13 times out, which is a pretty fair percentage. I don't know what the math is. Somebody's probably a little smarter than me with that. But then you're (9-4) on the road, that's not a bad deal. It seemed like it was a bigger deal to people outside of our building than those in the building. We've gotten what we've deserved on the road this year. I think we got what we deserved today, as well. It really has never been a factor to our football team. It may be to people outside. But, it's never concerned us at all.
What did the loss of Sorgi allow you to do?
We didn't change up a heck of a lot. Obviously, he's their starter. My sister could tell you he's the best quarterback that they have. We had tremendous respect for him. He's an excellent passer. We all saw last week just how dangerous he can be with the combination of receivers that they have. It was a factor in the ballgame. There's no question about that. Those other guys did some good things, too. They came up with some plays. That play they had on the sideline; that third and whatever it was; a big, big play (3rd and 5 completion to #87 Darrin Charles in the last drive). So, I have great respect for their entire offensive football team.
What happened to Bob?
He got dinged, I guess. But it must not have been too serious. It was a head injury, but he came back in and played his usual outstanding game.
Did he ask to go back in?
(The trainers) don't mess around with those kinds of things.
How do you feel Fred played?
It was great to get Fred back involved. We've had a little problem there the last couple of weeks. People have done a good job of taking that away. It was good to get him back involved in our offense. If we're not running the football, we're not going to be real effective.
Turnovers really told the story today, didn't they?
Well, on both sides of the football. We were more than charitable in the first half. They came back and returned the favor a little bit in the second half. Usually, in any ballgame, that's a big factor. It certainly was today, both ways.
Speaking of charity, Nate Chandler struggled there for a while. What was going through your mind? Did you talk to him at all?
Probably the obvious. And no, I really didn't talk to him other than "let's keep playing. Let's go back and let's get it going here a little bit." I didn't have many words of advice or anything like that. There were thoughts in my mind, certainly. Anybody that's struggling, we'll think about making a change if appropriate. The way the game panned out, I just didn't think the time was right. You can say whatever you want. When it's all said and done, we've won nine games with him as our quarterback from start to finish. He can be very proud of that, just like our football team, of the fact that they've won nine games.
It didn't seem to affect him?
Yeah. He's done a good job of that all season. He's had some times where he's been up and down and had some throws that he'd like to get back. But one thing he's done, he's been pretty resilient out there. That helps. That's certainly critical at that position.
Can you talk about the job that Antwan and Jovon did on Lee Evans today?
We have such great respect for Lee Evans. He is a premier football player. We all knew that. Him not being in the game last year was a major factor. Him being out there in any game is a factor. It wasn't just the two guys on the outside. They did a great job. But our safeties did a good job being where they had to be. All that being said, that last catch that he made, or the catch that he made, that's Lee Evans. This guy is a just fantastic football player. He is a senior now, right? (laughter) Good. Finally. Get him out of here.
Did Nathan's early struggles change the play calling at all?
A little bit. But not really. I mean, he had to throw the football, and we threw it. We didn't alter things a heck of a lot. We were hoping to get the running game going a little bit. We did an adequate job there. It's just the way it panned out. It was turnovers one side the first half; turnovers the other side in the other half. It was one of those weird games.
When you get the ball in good field position up 27-21, are you stuck between going for the jugular and keeping things safe?
We wanted points. I felt like if we could get a field goal there that would have really been major at that point of the game. But we were unsuccessful, obviously. I guess that gave everybody a nice exciting finish. I would have preferred a boring game.
You came on late in the first half to get to within 21-17. Do you go in almost thinking you're winning at that point?
Yeah. We felt like maybe the momentum had swung our way. I don't think we could have done anything worse than what we did earlier in that half. We just got off to a…It was not the script. We talked about cleaning up mistakes. Last week, we did a great job. We cleaned up our mistakes; turnovers, penalties, all that kind of thing. That's what we needed to beat Minnesota. We came in with that same intent today. We didn't get that part done. But maybe, now that it's all over, it's kind of representative of our football team. We haven't done things easily. It's been one of those years where we've really had to work for everything and really had to hang in there. That's the one thing I'll say about our guys. They never quit. They persevered; overcome a lot of obstacles in this ballgame and during the season. To be sitting here with nine wins right now, we all feel pretty good about that. I promise you that there weren't many people back in Chicago (at the Big Ten Football Media Day) back in July that were picking us with nine wins.
How did you see that last play?
First of all, I couldn't imagine they got the play off. I thought we were in good shape when I guess it was 30 that caught it. When we tackled him inbounds, I thought the game was over. For them to get the play off…I think it was legal. It looked like it was. That was amazing. After that, it looked just like a hand grenade went off out there. There were guys all over the joint. It was a little scarier than we needed it to be. But I just saw our guys with their hands up. I figured, "Hey, good shot."
A couple of your guys after the game said, "Hey, we're going to Florida now." Do you think you have a better chance to get a Florida Bowl?
I'm not too worried about it. I assume we have a chance. We certainly helped ourselves today. The fact that we took 50,000 people to Florida last year, that probably endears us to some people. But I have no idea what the decision making process is. All I know is that we're going to go somewhere nice. Every bowl is a great bowl. Some are a little better than others. We're just really happy to have nine right now. We'll be honored to go to any bowl that wants to have us.
Do you ever interject your thoughts into the defensive play calling?
No. It's been in his (Norm Parker) hands all year long, and since he's been here. He just does a fantastic job. The whole staff does. Norm has a great feel for what's going on out there. Our staff on both sides of the ball work well together. I tell you one thing, in any sport, it's nice to know that you've got a defense. It could have been better. We would have preferred to have them go 90 (yards). All that being said, they needed seven points instead of six or three. I liked our chances at that point. Our guys were really playing tough out there.
This defense at the end might have been the equivalent of Marv Cook at Ohio State.
That's a pretty good description, I guess, because it went all the way down to the end. That one did too.
Did you give any thought on that last punt when you were backed up to taking a safety?
Yeah. You know, if we had been inside the five, I think we definitely would have. Maybe even inside the 10, we might have considered it. But inside the five, no question we take the safety and punt it out of there. We ended up moving the ball to the 12 or something like that. We felt like we had a cushion enough to get it out at that point.
I know you're not a big superlatives guy, but where would you classify this win in your regime?
The win was good, extremely. To win one right there at the end on the last play, that's always exciting, gratifying. But I'm looking more at the bigger picture right now. I really am. To sit back and look at what this team has achieved under the circumstances that they've achieved it, it just speaks volumes about the kind of guys we get to work with every day. I'd include our assistant coaches in there and our staff. It's a total team effort, and that's the only way we could have won nine games this year. We had a shot at a couple of others, but we couldn't get it done. In light of all that has gone on, to be sitting here with nine wins today, we all should be feeling pretty good about ourselves.
Is it kind of appropriate to win this last one by this much?
I think so. That's us. I told the guys last night, you know, things were a little easier last year. Once we got through that Purdue game, boy we were on a roll. Everything was just kind of bing, bing, bing, right down the row. This year, it's been anything but that. We're kind of a ‘Sea Biscuit' team. I sent those guys out to see that movie during camp. We have an owner that doesn't know a lot about racing horses. That would be me. We have a horse that's too small. You can name a couple of guys there, right? Russell and Bob. We have a jockey that's way too big. You can figure that one out. And the trainers are too old, right? I'm not going to go down that road. I can get sued for that one. So, I'm not going to say anything about age. But that's kind of us. That's the kind of team we are. We're definitely not a ‘War Admiral' ball club. But that's OK. I'm glad they came out with the movie this year. I don't have many original ideas.