Needless to say, it was a great day for our team. Not a lot to say other than the guys handled the bye week extremely well. We haven't done so well with bye weeks in the past. Their focus through our bye week was really good. Obviously this week we did a good job of preparing, too.
That's four straight weeks now where we've started to carry ourselves like a football team. Most importantly, the staff did a good job of coming up with a plan for the game today. It still comes down to the players playing and executing. I can't say enough. The guys did a good job in all three phases.
It was a great day for us. The fans were fantastic. We figured they would be. It was our job to keep them in the game. It was just a great environment for us. We're really thrilled about it, and we're looking forward to the next week.
It's been a good environment for 16 games now.
Yeah. Kinnick has been good to us. We talk (to the players) all the time, you still earn things. We wanted to defend out home turf. We had a problem with that five or six years ago.
But the bottom line is that we've played well at home. You get the fans involved. It's a tough place to play. It's a great streak we have going right now. We're really happy about that.
Can you bite the bullet and say it now?
You're a passing team.
(Laughs) You look at the stats and probably you'd have to say that. But as I've been saying all along, we're going to do what we have to do to move the football. Unfortunately right now we have a little bit of an injury situation we're dealing with (at RB). But our quarterback's growing. Our receivers are really growing.
They're are a lot of things you can do to move the ball. The trouble is trying to find out what those are sometimes. We certainly didn't have an answer five or six weeks ago. We're starting to pick things up and starting to develop a little bit of an identity.
What's the status of Marques Simmons?
He's got a bad sprain. I don't know how bad it is. We'll know more in the next couple of days. But any time you have a running back with an ankle sprain, that's a concern.
I would think so. I'll know more Tuesday. It's obviously a concern.
What did you think of Brownlee?
I thought that Rudy did a great job out there. He made some big runs.
Certainly the blocking is a little better than he had in the spring game. He's been the master of tough running because he's usually in there with our threes. That's a little bit tougher.
He's a tough guy. We've done pretty well with guys from Emmetsburg. He's really reliable, dependable.
It was good to get Damien out there as well. We'll go with what we've got. We know this, (Brownlee) will compete.
How do you get from where you were at Arizona State to where you are today in four weeks?
I hope that maybe at the end of the season we can look back and maybe say that that was a blessing. Maybe that's not right because you hate to play like we did.
But there's two ways to go when you do that. You can be realistic and make sure that you're determined to change what took place because there's a reason it took place. Or, you can just stay on the ground. Our guys traditionally have gotten back up and gone back to work.
We obviously had some problems down there. Some we brought upon ourselves and others we just where we were at as a team at that point. We have grown and matured a little bit in this passed month. The credit goes to our players. They're the guys who have gotten their focus where it needs to be.
We're starting to get better leadership. We're growing in that department as well. All those things that need to come together to have a good football team, we're approaching those things right now. We're going in the right direction.
Could you put this into the context of your win at Michigan?
I'm not great at ranking those things. But it was a big day for us.
The Michigan State was a big game for us going into the bye week. To not play well in that ballgame would have made things real tough.
This was a chance to get up in the win column in the Big Ten. That was important certainly to be at 4-2. We were sitting there with two losses after the Ohio State loss last year. We've helped ourselves now with the five-game schedule remaining. We at least put ourselves in better position to maybe do some things.
How did you guys approach this game defensively?
We played well from time to time through the first five ballgames. But I don't know if we had that edge that you really need to have. That's something that we've talked to our guys about.
We took a step in that direction today. We played with a little more intensity, a little sounder and a little more aggressively. We didn't lose our concentration.
Is this team developing a swagger?
Oh, I don't know about a swagger. But we can at least feel a little better about ourselves.
We lost a Michigan. I don't think any coach is happy or player is happy about losing a ballgame. But at least we carried ourselves that week, which we didn't do the week prior.
If you're doing all that you can do to give yourself a chance to win, you can live with whatever results you get. When you don't, that's hard to live with. We've been in that position before. Not much fun.
Does Sam (Brownlee) become No. 1?
I guess. Yeah. The question is who's three? (laughs) One and two is easy. Who's three?
Is there a three?
I don't think so. We're going to have to take a look at that. To answer your question, no. (laughs)
I know it's not him. (laughs)
Talk about Drew's play?
He continues to grow. Obviously he's a competitor and he's a tough guy. The thing that impresses us is his pride and commitment to being a better football player.
When he doesn't do something well, he makes a mistake or a bad read, he works at it. He just studies all of the time. He can throw the football, too. He's got some good feet.
To me, it's the intangibles about him that really impress us.
Did you think this was going to be a four-quarter game and when did you realize it wasn't?
I told our guys during the bye week that I expect all six games to be 60-minute ballgames. I'm not sure at what point I started feeling comfortable today, but it was somewhere in the fourth quarter. I'll promise you.
We're not that good to feel good about anything, including the next five weeks.
What did you think of Clinton Solomon?
All of our receivers are continuing to grow and Clint played excellent. He played tough. He's practicing well right now. He's just really carrying himself well. He and Drew really illustrate what we're talking about in terms of growth and progress. It's great to see it.
Did this win warrant the Hokey Pokey?
Nah. I don't know if we've Hokey Pokeyed. We swarm, you know? We swarm. We sing the fight song. I hadn't thought about that.
Is this game an example of why you don't get caught up in all of the recruiting hype? On paper, if you look at some of the players they have...
We're not going to get caught up anyway because they're going to get their guys. I've always believed that the most important thing is what happens once a guy gets on campus.
It's our job to make sure he's got a good environment to grow in and improve in. And it's the players' job to make sure that they come in with the attitude where they're willing to put the work in.
That being said, sometimes it doesn't work out with guys that are highly recruited and guys that aren't highly recruited. I was just upstairs having a conversation with Dallas Clark, a great example, and Chad Henning up in our locker room. There's two examples right there of not only world class players but world class people.
It's amazing how when guys have determination and really can focus on what they want to get done some good things can happen. You've got to have some ability, too. Don't get me wrong, but everybody missed it on Chad and Dallas, certainly.
Do you have any guys up there that were even offered scholarships from Ohio State?
I doubt it. Mike Jones, probably. After that, you guys know probably better than I do, right? (laughs) We can't afford to worry about it.
Talk about the game that Ken O'Keefe called today.
Ken called an excellent football game. He did at Michigan State, too.
I'll tell you this, too. It's a lot easier calling plays when you block. It's better calling plays when you have guys making plays. Our quarterback is doing that right now and our running backs are giving us everything they've got.
Are you worried about a letdown with this team?
You always worry anytime you win a big game. But they've been kind of hearing the same message from us from Day 1. We are what we are right now. When we do things the way that we can do them then we have a chance to win football games. If we vary off that path, it's going to tough for us. Our guys understand that. It's the same it's been the last five and half years.