QUESTION: Can you talk about, particularly the running backs, but all the guys that have been injured?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, Mike Shaw, I believe, again, we'll have to wait till today, but I think he should be okay and do everything. Fitz Toussaint is still day-to-day with his shoulder. I don't know what he'll be able to do today. But we are optimistic that Mike should be able to play. Greg (Banks) has a calf, a little calf issue. He'll be a little limited today. Yeah. Our defense had so many plays. We had a lot of guys, several guys, that played a hundred plays. We'll practice today, but they won't do as much. Monday is a light day, anyway, but Greg should be fine. Par.
QUESTION: With Greg Jones on Michigan State's side, is that a player who could possibly stay and shadow Denard?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think a lot of people say that, but you've got to stay within your scheme, whatever your scheme -- because our offense, every offense has so many different formations and plays. To say, ‘well, you just take that guy,' I don't know how you can do that and run different schemes defensively. But he's a really good player. We have to make sure we put a hat on him. He'll make tackles. If you don't block him or attempt to block him, he's going to make a whole lot of tackles.
QUESTION: Brandon (Herron) okay?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, he's fine. I got the list. There's nobody new to add, which was a good thing, coming out of that game, our last game.
QUESTION: As aggressively as you'd like to approach things offensively is it tough to have to play a little bit safer scheme wise defensively?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: As far as the possession of the ball? In terms of the defensive approach -- to play a little bit softer, aggressive, I don't think you have to -- I don't know if it's to answer your question or not, I don't think you have to blitz all the time to have aggressive mentality defensively. At least I would hope not. There's no question that sometimes when you're giving up plays or first downs you're on your heels a little bit. We did that a couple weeks ago against UMASS and did better against Bowling Green. In this last ballgame, I didn't feel they were on our heels a lot but they didn't make some key stops. Some of it was mental and some of it was physical. But you know, there's no question, mixing things up, sometimes sending pressure or blitzes keeps you in the mind-set to be more aggressive defensively and you don't have to mix it up a little bit. Again, we are a little bit limited because a lot of stuff we would like to do, we don't want to confuse our guys, the younger guys. That's the thing I probably told you all earlier. Offensively, we are able to make a lot more in-game adjustments because these guys have three years in the system and they have got experience. And even Denard, the first-time starter, he's picking things up pretty good. Defensively, we are a lot more limited in that regard as far as making it. We still have to make some adjustments and our guys have to be able to handle it, but we are not going to make as many as we will be able to make in years going forward.
QUESTION: How important is this game in terms of the rivalry or do you just prepare for it just like any other game?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No, they are all big, but this one is bigger. The rivalry games are always bigger. I'm sure they will tell you the same thing. It's a huge thing for both teams every year. The more you win, there's more at stake and there's more at stake this year because both teams are undefeated. It's a huge game and our guys understand that and I'm sure their players do, too.
QUESTION: What significance is it that they have won the last two games?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: The rivalry has enough significance. The revenge factor, I mean, people talk about that, but really we get in a middle of a ballgame, I'm not thinking about what happened last year and I hope my players aren't, neither. Last year was last year, ten years ago was ten years ago. What matters is what's happening right now. I think that's the critical point. What you have to do is learn from your mistakes and what cost you those moments in the last game. But to dwell on it, no, it's in the past.
QUESTION: Based on what you saw their defense do against Wisconsin, what kind of particular difficulty does that represent?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Oh, I don't know. They have got good players. They have got a good scheme. They tackled really well last week against some quality players from Wisconsin, and they will take certain things away from you offensively with their schemes and force you to execute some other phases of your offense, and so we have to -- we are going to have to execute and that's the key no matter what. No matter whether we execute in the run game or the passing game or whatever, we have to execute, and we are not going to give you stuff easy. There's not going to be nothing easy about it, at all. You are going to have to really -- like I say, guys are going to have to make plays and get off of press coverage and you know be able to sustain blocks. There won't be -- can't do a lot of dancing because they have good team speed. We can't run sideways, we have to get north and south when we make our cuts.
QUESTION: The downfield throws Denard misses on, is it a timing thing, does he needs to be more patient in the pocket, or is it just a missed throw? What's going to be the difference when he starts getting those more consistently?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I thought he has. What's his completion percentage? I'm not a big stats guy. 70? So he's submitting three out of ten, that's not bad. He missed one on Saturday, the one wide open to junior, that was -- he would love to have that one back. But he's really been pretty good at it for the most part. But a lot of it is just a little bit of touch on it and he'll get better the more we throw with it but I've really been pleased with his accuracy for the most part. That one there, he may have rushed it a little bit, the one with junior, I don't know if that's the one you're talking about, but I think he's been pretty good for the most part.
QUESTION: You haven't attempted a field goal in three games. Is it good that you haven't had to?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We were close in the last game. We were going to center the ball for the game-winning field goal but didn't have to do it.
QUESTION: Is it nice to not have pressure?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, are you kidding? Nice for me. I'd rather score touch downs. Fortunately we have been really good, again, I have not looked at that stat, but in the red zone, I think we have been pretty good as far as efficiency and getting touchdowns instead of field goals, and we need to do that. I thought we kicked pretty well in practice last week. I thought we had a really good week, but I've said this before, our guys can do it. There's going to come a point in time where we have to make field goals and there's going to probably come down to a game or two where we have got to make one to win it. And we have got the guys that can do and we'll just see what happens.
QUESTION: Obviously some games can be considered more physical than others. Is Michigan State one of those games? And also, did you worry about Denard? I know you were asked earlier in the year about this, and him staying out in such games.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think no matter who your quarterback is, you worry about him staying healthy, whether he's a runner, or thrower, or someone in between -- which is what Denard is, he's both. I think you worry about him. You see it happen already in our league. So I don't have any more concern or less concern. I have the same concern every week as far as, you know, trying to help or hoping your guys stay healthy. But you have to play the game. You have to play to win it and that's what we are going to do. It's not, oh, this is a physical team which they are and it's a physical game which it will be -- but do we change our mind-set going into it? No, we have to run and do what we have to do to try to win the game.
QUESTION: What do you make of Michigan State's balance on offense, and how might that differ from your previous --
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I mean, they can throw it. I think Cousins is an outstanding player. He can throw. He makes all the throws. They have got some really good receivers. They have got great backs. They have got great balance and executing well and probably played their best game last weekend. So they are playing at a high level. Defensively, we have got some things we have got to fix. So we have got to play better than what we have played and hope that they make a few mistakes.
QUESTION: Do you feel like you guys have gotten better?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: In some respects, yeah. I think there's some moments on defense where we have gotten a little bit better but there's also some things we have not gotten better at and it's going to take a little more time. Some of it is going to be coming with experience, and as they get more reps, but you know, we are not a real deep team over there. That's why when you play a game, we have a hundred and some plays, and guys are playing 80 or 90, a hundred plays, that's too many. But, you know, you're leery to take them out because the next guy in is not close to him from a physical or experience standpoint. We are in a tough, tough situation, but we have to just keep battling through that. And the best way to limit that is to get more three-and-outs, to get more shorter possessions and hopefully get a few more turnovers. We have gotten a few turnovers but every time we even chart missed opportunities for turnovers, whether it's a slow break on a ball or drop an interception, we haven't had a lot of those, but when those opportunities come, we have to make the most of them, especially a game like this.
QUESTION: Even with the depth and inexperience issues, didn't you expect a lot more defensively than you've shown so far?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, you know, you all want to play a little bit better. I think we have battled. It's not like the guys are not trying. But, you know, you can't foresee some of the injuries you've had. You can't foresee some of the other issues I think coming on. But we are 5-0, so as much -- as many problems as we had, I don't want to sit there and belabor the fact, the main thing is to win. We have won and it's like winning a prize and winning $10,000 and being all upset because you have to pay taxes on half of it (laughter). You're still going to take the money, you know, and be happy with it and we won. You may not be as excited as taking home money but you're still taking half or more.
QUESTION: You've probably been in more tight games than you'd like, but is there an upside to that with Denard's development?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I do, probably, from -- not just from a Denard standpoint, but from a team standpoint. When you win close games, I think you can develop a habit of hoping -- or not say hoping, but expecting to experience that same thing again. You don't tighten up so much. That was the one good thing I think came out of the Notre Dame game is that when we blew the lead at the end and was able to come back, I didn't sense any panic whatsoever amongst the young guys or Denard or anybody else that was in there. And so same thing was true Saturday. It was a game that was going back and forth and whoever seemed to have the ball last was going to win it, and there was never any kind of sense of panic on either side of the ball. Whether it's maturity or an expectation that they have now, that's a good thing.
QUESTION: Do you ever allow yourself to get into a consideration -- I'm talking about curiosity, are we favored this week or is the other team.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No. That's for all the other -- I know that a lot of other people do, you know, but I don't.
QUESTION: Just as a gut reaction, a four and a half point, Michigan the favorite --
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Who is favorite? I don't even know.
QUESTION: You are.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: That might be a home-field thing it. Usually you give -- the home team gets three or four points or something, five points, I don't know. Something y'all can project on that, how that line works with somebody at home but the home team gets a few points anyway. But this is a rivalry game and both teams are undefeated. They are playing really good football. We are playing really good at times. Sometimes not so good. We are at home and it will be a great crowd and atmosphere and it will be a great day for college football.
QUESTION: Teams that run the ball, Michigan State, Iowa, are you worried that Indiana had twice as many possessions as you guys did?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I didn't like that stat at all, simply because our defense was playing too much and our offense, you know, wasn't on the field at all. We like to have a lot of plays offensively, and most games this year, we have. And this past game, we didn't. So I worry about everything. But does it alter our approach? Offensively it's not. But defensively, again, we like to do a lot of things, but we are a little bit limited and we don't want -- I want our guys playing as fast as they can and sometimes the mind will slow down their feet if you put too much on their plate. So we are in that little bit of a situation. So we'll just try and play better and get a few stops. They will be excited about playing this win one. I just hope we can execute better offensively and execute better defensively. Our special teams have been average. They have been okay. But, you know, we'll have to do better special teams, wise, too, because they have some dangerous returners.
QUESTION: What happened at the end of the game with Taylor Lewan?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I didn't see it on film from the standpoint of what was being flagged. I know it said that Taylor had a personal foul, but what I see is his feet got tangled up. His left foot got tangled up when he was stepping up over a pile and maybe the official thought he was kicking him or something. I don't know. But from what we saw, I didn't see an infraction on the film. It's like an NBA fight -- guys are pushing back and trying to separate each other and I thought the officials did a if job of getting in there and getting it all mixed up. I was concerned what precipitated the whole thing, where did the flag come from, Taylor got called for a personal foul, and I didn't see it on film. Maybe they saw something I didn't see.
QUESTION: You've coached a lot of schools, head coach and assistant, what is it about this rivalry that you would describe if someone asked you about it? What makes this unique?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, it's an in-state rivalry, first, which there's a lot of rivalries, like we have, of course, the big one with Ohio State. But this one is both in conference and in state. We are recruiting against each other, an awful lot of our players know their players, and both universities are close by each other. And so it's very, very competitive and very intense and that's what makes it a great rivalry. I think, you know, I know they have talked about it quite a bit, but so do we. It's no less important for us than it is for them.
QUESTION: As a coach, do you have any special traditions or things that you do with your team?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Special things, no. Anything that we do, I would keep internally. I wouldn't say publically. I think there's always things that you do for rivalry games that may be a little bit unique from that respect, but I'm not usually one to share all that out.
QUESTION: When you talk to supporters in the off-season or whatever, and they say, hey, go get them next year and they say beat Ohio State or beat Michigan, how do you compare how much more you hear one or the other how it sounds different, or do they say that?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It depends what area of the state you go to, what part of the country you go to. If you go to the central part of the state, they are more passionate about this game than any other game. A lot of other areas, it's Ohio State as you can imagine. If you go to the western part of the state, there's a lot of Notre Dame feelings over there.
So I think we hear quite a bit on all things. But it's not like, "Coach, beat Michigan State." And, okay, now I'll try harder.
You'll try as hard as you can no matter who you play. Is this more intense? It's probably more intense for your fans and for your players and your coaches, but it's not like you're going to try any less hard to win any other game, so I always get a kick out of that.
QUESTION: What's going on with Dantonio and Michigan State, does that change anything at all?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No, I'm sure Mark's health is the most important thing, and I'm sure he and everybody in their program will tell you that. But he's -- you know, he's still the head coach at Michigan State. You know, whatever he can do, whatever he's allowed to do, I'm sure he's doing all that that the doctors allow him to do last week and this week and going forward.
QUESTION: What would it mean to win?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Be 6-0. Beat our in-state rivalry game. Get some confidence going into the rest of the Big Ten season. It's a big game. No question about it. I'm not going to down play the importance of it. It's a big game. It's one of the biggest games we play every year.
QUESTION: If you are in a position where the doctors say they really don't want you there, would you argue with that?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It would depend on what my issue was. They are the experts in that field and you have to listen to your Doctor, any coach would and you have to listen to your family. As much as you would like to be out there and compete as all coaches do, nothing is going to be more important to any person I would think than their health.
QUESTION: What happened last year -- the hours, you put it in?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: A little bit. I don't know the hours you put in, but just how you take care of yourself. Obviously, working out and exercising is important, and when you get into the season, you have so little time that sometimes you sacrifice something and it's usually your own things that are helping your health. But a lot of times for coaches, it's how you eat, because usually don't eat right during the season. Usually just grab the first thing and don't sleep enough and all that.
I think there's a lot made out of it, but as coaches, are there more issues with coaches than there are in the general population or just more said about it because it's in the public, I don't know. But I think what's -- not just because of what happened with mark or with Urban or with anybody else, I think in our profession generally, you don't -- I said many times, you don't just coach your job, you live your job, so it never leaves you. You'd better have some kind of outlet, probably, I think, whether it's exercise or something to keep your health. And even if you do that, you still could have issues.
QUESTION: The defensive changes Saturday, was that because of some of the issues you've had this year or a match up thing?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It was more of a defensive package thing we are trying to do, and again, trying to put some guys in positions to have success in different packages that we had defensively. We are still trying to -- I mean, Mike Martin and J.T. are a couple of our experienced players, so we are trying to get them into positions maybe where they can make some plays.
QUESTION: Michigan State's defense, is it the best one you face this season?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, the most experienced, for sure. You know, present some different challenges. They have got a very good defense, and again, they are playing -- last week, they played really, really well against a very good Wisconsin team. Our guys will see that on if I may. But even then, you have to tell them, just remind them of, you know, we struggled last year, and even last year was last year, but we have got to execute better. We have got no chance, if we do not execute better offensively at times. But this year, we have been executing as well, we'll see.
QUESTION: Offensively, are they the biggest test you've faced so far in terms of their balance and run and pass?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Great balance, no question. Great balance, what they will do and they have the ability to come downhill at you, and pound away, and then you know, they are very good on playaction. I wouldn't be shocked to see a lot of playaction early and often. And they run some double cuts and get those wide-outs one-on-one, and use some playaction with double cuts and throw the ball down the field and take some deep shots. You know, they will do it all.
QUESTION: Do you need to kick the ball away from Keshawn Martin?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, it would help. I mean, I think they will stack, in the kickoff, so they will put them in the middle. So you don't know which way he's going to be at. He's very explosive and certainly on punt returns, he took the one against last week, and he's got -- he'll tell you, some guys, when the ball is bouncing around at you, they will let it bounce around. Not him. He wants to take every ball back. You can't relax at all on any punts, for sure.
QUESTION: Any reason why you guys are turning the ball over?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Everyone says -- I don't know the point of emphasis, it's always been a point of emphasis. A little bit of it is experience. Even the guys carrying the ball, Denard is carrying it a lot. But a lot of guys have got a little bit more experience and they have learned how to carry the ball and I think that's part of the maturity, you know, and playing college football. But it's been such a point of emphasis for us, and every day in practice and all that, that it's been -- I think been one of the keys to us so far this year is we have taken care of the ball so well and it's going to be really important Saturday, really important.
QUESTION: Tomorrow is your big practice day, but today, do you want to keep Denard limited?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, he'll be a little limited, just because he's been running so much. You want him 100% on Saturday, but Denard is one you have to jerk out there have because he wants to take so many reps. He's walking around fine. Everything is good. But we'll rest him a little bit today and probably some of those other guys again that played so many plays. They will still practice, but they won't do as much as some of the others.
QUESTION: Do you feel like Will has settled down?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I think he felt better about it. I think he was probably a little more nervous in that game because of the comparisons between him and his brother. I think maybe he had a little higher average, so he won the battle for this year. I thought he had a couple good punts, and he seemed composed. So hopefully that's -- the old nervousness is out of the way, we hope.
QUESTION: You said you're not a statistics guy, but when you look at the Michigan defensive stats, nationally or however you look, what's your gut reaction? Are you overanalyzing?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No, just -- no, you can learn some stuff from statistics. But I don't have to look at them to know where our problems are. We just have to play better. And like I said, some of the problems didn't happen overnight, and won't be solved overnight. No matter what we do. But some of them we have got to try to solve in hurry and get as good as we can be and then the rest of it will solve as time goes on.
QUESTION: Would you talk about that last drive and what it means for a young quarterback that is still developing?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think, again, he had done it before in the Notre Dame game, so there was no panic or no kind of -- and being in our offense, we are no-huddle anyway. So going to a no-huddle last minute or two-minute situation, is really kind of the norm for our guys. It's really just a matter of executing and that drive there, the big play, was a pass to Junior and Denard made a nice throw. He didn't over throw it, which is one thing we hold him, and junior made the big play on him. But offensively our guys are playing with a lot of confidence, whether it's the beginning of the game or the end of the game, and we practiced, as I said, with the no-huddle, but we always do a two-minute drill with a little over a minute left in practice anyway and do it a couple of times a week, and our guys are comfortable in that setting.
Rich Rod Presser Transcript (Week 6)
QUESTION: Can you talk about, particularly the running backs, but all the guys that have been injured?