Rodriguez is "Proud of Our Young Men"

Rich Rodriguez reflects on the Wolverines thrilling 28-24 victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Wolverines' head man discusses Denard Robinson's record setting 502 yard performance, the sophomore quarterback's poise on the last drive, plus the play of his defense, special teams, and more.

RICH RODRIGUEZ OPENING STATEMENT: "Obviously very excited. Happy. I'm proud of our young men. Both teams competed extremely hard, all the way to the last play. We had a lot of young guys out there and battled their tails off. Needless to say, our quarterback was pretty special again today.
But this is a great win for us, in a tough environment, for a young team growing up, it's fun. We'll enjoy it for -- we'll maybe take 28 hours to enjoy this one and move on to the next one. We're proud of the guys and we'll move on to the next one."

QUESTION: Obviously talk about Denard's poise on the last drive and his play throughout.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "I've got my shoes untied in honor of Denard. I just slipped them on. He kept his poise the whole game, really. He'll be the first one to tell you there's about five or six plays and throws he'd want to have back, some potential touchdown throws and some things that he was seeing it, and he just kind of, he overthrew it or something. But he was really on as far as, again, as far as seeing the field; and for a guy that weighs 185, 190 pounds, he's tough and physical. Stuck some lines up in there and got some good blocking down the field."

QUESTION: Did you say anything to him after the Irish got that score to calm down, or was he already calm?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "No, he was already calm. We had plenty of time with all three time-outs left. And we told the guys: We've just got to get some first downs, execute, get some first downs. Didn't have to take down field shots because of all the time we had and the time-outs we had. I thought he made a couple curl, flat route packages. And he was throwing them on a couple. Did a nice job of hitting Mike Shaw, and was really, was seeing the field pretty well. But we didn't have to panic; and, in fact, towards the end there we wanted to bleed some clock off. It was a big first down we got towards inside the 20, it was huge, so we can bleed some clock. And Roy Roundtree made a tremendous catch on the one-yard line, allowed us to do whatever we wanted with the formation with Denard running it."

QUESTION: Could you talk about how the mood of the game changed after Crist went out after that first drive and then for the rest of the first half?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "I don't know that the mood changed for us; it may have for them. You'll have to ask them that. No question it probably stemmed their momentum a little bit. I thought he looked pretty good. I don't know what was wrong. But he looked pretty good when he came back in.
But we had a lot of penalties that killed us, particularly in the second half. That was disappointing. I'll have to watch the film, seemed like every drive we had, we had a penalty that was stemming our momentum and not let our defense get off the field. But we executed at times. We didn't turn the ball over, which was key. But there's a lot of things we can learn from. I'd rather learn from a win than a loss, so that's a good thing."

QUESTION: Seems like we may be asking this a few weeks in a row now but is that how much you wanted Denard to doing, or was that even beyond what you thought he could be and should be doing?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "I told you all last week, we can't be running him 29 times again. We ran him 28. Had he not scored on the last play, he may have had 29.
But that was a lot more. We're just trying to win the game. But that's a little bit more than we wanted. I didn't realize he had 258 yards rushing and 244 passing. At the same time, the team's defending us a certain way. If Denard is getting tackled by third level players and the secondary is not as bad as the big guys in front, sometimes he got tackled by the big guys up front, but a lot of times today I think it was second and third level players. And he's fast enough that they don't get a whole lot of straight-on shots on him, I hope."

QUESTION: Going back to Dayne leaving, did you guys change anything defensively when they had back-up quarterbacks there?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "No. They were going to run the same offense. We expected probably a little more zone read, what they did with Crist in there anyway. But when Montana was in there, we expected them to do a little more zone read out of the shotgun. It was a matter of us executing. Even in the second half, when he came in, made some nice throws. Some of it was our undoing, busted a coverage at the end and forward tackling and all that. They have good, skilled guys. Coach Kelly is a good football coach. They're going to win a lot of games."

QUESTION: Denard, he had over 500 of your guys' total, I don't know, 532 yards. Is that something that you want or would you rather have those spread out a little bit?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "As long as we win. All 11 count. So if it's a quarterback, and everybody is surprised that a running quarterback... all 11 count. Not playing with 10. If they came out with a rule and said you can only play with 10 guys, the quarterback can't run, we'd be in trouble if the quarterback can't do things. The rules allow everybody to play. That's a lot, I don't know if I've had a guy... I've had some terrific quarterbacks. I don't know if I've had that many yards rushing and passing combined. But he'll get a few ice bags on him today and sleep on the way back, maybe on the bus, and rest up for the next one."

QUESTION: You said teams are defending you a certain way. Might that explain some of the difficulties you had on the ground with your running backs instead of Denard?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Well, I think, again, they did a nice job of moving some fronts and bringing some different packages. I thought our running backs ran hard. I'll have to watch the film to determine exactly what happened. But when the running back runs without a lead blocker, sometimes it's difficult on them. When Denard runs with a lead blocker, that's one extra guy. It's simple math. Again, it's not just that. The fact that he can run, and he's so instinctive, I think. He's going to keep getting better. As I said, when we watch the film, I'll bet you there's probably at least 12 to 15 plays that Denard will say: I missed it, which is pretty exciting going forward for us."

QUESTION: Can you talk about how important it was for Kovacs to get that interception in the third quarter when you hadn't really stopped Crist up to that point in the game?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "It's huge. Jordan is a tough competitor. Many of you know this, the local guys know the story about him being the student body school start tryout walk-on guy a year ago to being our starting safety and playing at a high level every week. I thought he made some great tackles. Great physical guy. He's kind of the leader back there, has a whole bunch of freshmen, redshirt freshmen. Kind of keeps things together."

QUESTION: How many times in practice have you seen Denard break into the open like he did on the 87-yarder and what goes through your mind when does that?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "In practice he's hands off. But we had seen it -- our defense had seen it all camp. It's hard to judge again because when you're going against each other, is it really our defense is bad or is Denard that good. In two games he showed it. Put a little caution here. Let's be patient. This is the second game as a starter. Still going to hit bumps in the road. But if he keeps making progress like this, it's going to be pretty exciting. One of the reasons I'll say this, again, that we feel we can run him more than typically is because we feel we have depth behind him. We have other quarterbacks we think can play. That gives us a lot more comfortable feeling than if we had nothing. We've got three quarterbacks we have a lot of confidence in and that way we can run Denard a little bit more."

QUESTION: You won despite not a great day from your kicker or punter.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Really? (Laughter) Wow."

QUESTION: Did you think that you guys were a little further ahead in those positions at this point?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, I was disappointed. But, again, it's just one game. I can tell you this: I'm glad we didn't have to try a field goal at the end. Not that I didn't have confidence we couldn't make it. But after you miss two in a row, psychologically you may not be ready to go out there at the end. So we tried to call a play to get a first down and move forward. But those guys can kick. Brendan's a lot better than he showed today. And Seth Broekhuizen, I think he'll compete. And I don't know who will be the starter next week. And Will Hagerup is the first one back there in that room probably disappointed in some of his punts, but he's a true freshman. And he's got a great future. I'm not worried about him at all. He's going to be fantastic."

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