"First of all, I want to tip my hat and give congratulations and credit to coach Schiano and his team. We knew exactly the caliber of this team. We knew the kind of talent, not only with the players, but with the coaches that they have. It's a team that just got their 11th win. They were the story of college football for most of the year. I think that the building effort on the Rutgers campus is significant. I think you can see very clearly that they were a difficult team for us to handle.
I'm very pleased with our seniors and very pleased with our team to make it to the postseason. This is obviously not the way we wanted to conclude the season, particularly for these seniors. I thought that as far as the play on the field, they dominated the game between the lines; they dominated the game on the sidelines in every way. We knew we were going to have to do some things in the kicking game to try to create some field position and get some scores, that's the way we've had to do things all year.
"Our defense, we knew it was going to have to try to create some turnovers. We were unable to do that. We knew that (RB) Ray Rice was formidable. We tried to limit as much of his ability to run the football and have (QB Mike) Teel make an effort to win the game with his arm, he was able to do that and they were able to run the football. Our defensive effort did not really measure up to what we were hoping for in addition to not having turnovers."
"Offensively, it's been a work in progress all year. Really, the players have continued to battle and try to put things together, but today you could see that we faced too much on defense. We made too many unforced errors and most of those errors were contributed by pressure that Rutgers can give you on defense. They do a terrific job. Coach Schiano with his hand in the defense, you can see that they are spectacular.
"We were very poor. I am responsible for that effort and that is obviously not something I am happy about. But overall I thought that Rutgers was the better team tonight. It was a good growth experience for us this year, but not obviously the way we wanted the season to end, particularly for these seniors who have meant so much to us."
(on the first play of the second half)
"What happened was, there was a very critical third down before the end of the half. We were going to get the ball to start the second half. I'm sure their coach was aware of that. He had the ball down there. If he could score it there, he would take it to a two-point score and instead we were able to make a nice play. Really, that defensive play right there was a critical play for us. To have it 17-10, to go into the half with the opportunity to come out and tie the game at the start of the second half and obviously the worst thing that could happen would be a turnover for a touchdown and that's what occurred.
It's one of those things where it's an execution thing. There are a couple factors involved there and ultimately it didn't work. It was miserable in the fact that it turned into not only a turnover, but it turned into a turnover that was a touchdown and that was a big play in the second half.
Usually when we've had those kinds of plays, we've responded with something in the kicking game or defensively with some kind of turnover of our own, and we never got that tonight.
Credit Rutgers completely for that. As much as we ran into quite a juggernaut tonight, you could see why they were a team that I felt legitimately had a chance to compete for a national title.
You can see why. But to turn the ball over in that fashion really didn't do anything to help us. We could have maintained our position in the game if we would have just been able to punt in that situation and play field position like we had in the first half. It didn't work out that way and therefore we were behind and we were digging."
(on the play of QB Josh Freeman)
"I think what happens in some of these games is you start to, when people have time to prepare for you and you're a young player and you're a young coach and they have time to prepare for you and you are trying to improve on things and build on what you're doing, then people have time to take the depth of their experience and adjust and try to take certain things away.
Obviously the pressure on the quarterback was a factor tonight. I think that quarterback played in a big stage tonight with a big name opponent, we've done that before, its our fifth ranked team, its not as though we haven't played against a good defense before, but this defense had a real good plan, a nice plan to figure out how they were going to pressure this particular quarterback.
My hat is off to them. (QB) Josh (Freeman) has a bright future and he's done a lot of beautiful things for us, wonderful things this year. The thing that I keep stressing to him is that as a true freshman to be able to get your team into the postseason and to go play a team that legitimately had a chance for the national championship twice this year, you have to learn from those things and keep stacking those things away in your memory bank. He's going to have his day. We're going to make sure that we put the kind of team around Josh and build the kind of team that can play in these kinds of games and do well.
I'm not trying to look too much forward, I want to really take the time to thank those seniors that a made this season what it was. It's obviously hard as a competitor to lose and lose in this fashion, but we'll start on the 2007 team here very shortly. But for the 2006 team this is not the way we wanted to end it. But as far as the body of work that got us to this point, I'm very proud of that."
(on the play of Rutgers' offensive line and RB Ray Rice)
"I think I tried to do a good job of trying to explain before the game how I felt about those guys. Three of those players I recruited myself when I was at Virginia and I know what there talent is all about. If you have to take a look at Michigan and Rutgers, you have to say they have the two best offensive lines in football.
They are dominant, they are big. They are terrific in pass protection and they can run well. They run in open lanes and they have power so that their runner can run. Most of the time their runner was unimpeded as he approached the line of scrimmage full speed, and so any time you can have that kind of thing, where there are no zero or negative plays in the running game, you have to attribute that to the coaching of their staff. Kyle Flood is a terrific offensively line coach; Joe Susan, their tight ends coach, they do a magnificent job.
They have a very good coordinating staff and I think they have built their team in a way they can run the ball and stop the run. You can see tonight that (QB Mike) Teel can pass it and they can defend the pass. I think they have the complete package and they're terrific on special teams."
(on playing tough teams again)
"One of the things we talked about tonight is I want them to have a real appreciation for exactly how hard and how fragile and how precious it is to win, and I think they do. And how the body of work in the offseason and everything that goes into it. This was a season in which getting to the postseason was a new experience for our players. We had our players stand up, in our very first meeting, we had our players stand up who had actually played in a bowl game before and I think we had four or five players stand up.
This is a team that had never been in this situation before. I tried to prepare them for this. We hoped that our experience throughout the year playing this type of opponent would help us. We faced a team that is strong, tough, smart and focused, and obviously the result you can see. Our players have to understand that this is the kind of team that we are going to be put together to play again in the future. We're going to always have this kind of competition within our own conference. When we get into the postseason, it's our obligation to play and win these games."
(on what he wants his team to take from this game)
"One of the things I want our players to understand very clearly is just how hard it is to win. And the body of work we're 7-6, that's who we are, we're 7-6. We had a chance to play an extra game. We had a chance to prepare. But we have an obligation to play well.
That is really what I want our players to understand. We had games this year where we played well. What we're learning as we go through the phases of putting a team together is how to handle winning and how deal with the pressure of trying to become perfect eventually, so you can go on one of those runs where we can win 10, 11, 12 games.
And I think that that is where our growth will need to occur. Learn how to be able to put not just two, three, four wins together in a row, but go deep into the season, six, eight, ten and then eventually 12 wins. There is pressure and there is stress that comes from that, from all the outside people, it comes from the inside where you want to do well and there is that pressure to do well. I think coach Schiano and his staff have obviously demonstrated that they have their team on that path."
(on Rutgers RB Ray Rice)
"We've seen some really good backs and I think Ray Rice is one of the best in the country. The kid is number two in rushing the football and he plays behind a terrific line and he's very difficult to tackle. A lot of players in the secondary and at the linebacker position had a very difficult time tackling him. He has the ability to go all the way and I think that makes him a complete player. I am familiar with that player on a personal level and I think he's got great ability and he's got great intangibles as well. I think that the sky is the limit for Ray Rice."
(on how he grades himself in his first year as a head coach)
"I don't know. To grade myself right now is probably not the best time to do that, obviously, after this performance. But it wouldn't be very high."