Rodriguez Reflects on "Dsiappointing Day"

After Michigan's disappointing 48-28 throttling at the hands of the Badgers, headman Rich Rodriguez discussed why his offense sputtered in the first half, his defense's inability to slow Wisconsin's potent rishing attack, new key injuries next week's match up with Ohio State, and more.

Question:  Some of the injuries?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah Craig Roh, Mike Martin, Daryl Stonum, the list goes on.  It is just one of those crazy years.  I've never had  year where I had this many guys.  It cheapens this season in certain spots but that's where you're at.  The next guy in has got to come in and…plus we are just not to the point where we can take an experienced player out and put an experienced player in.  There is a lot of inexperience out there.  The guys battled, we didn't quit.  Certainly didn't play well, didn't tackle well, didn't catch the ball well, we didn't execute it on either side of the ball at times and if you do that against a good team and you are going to get beat.  We have to have things go right for us and things didn't go right for us and you got to give them some credit."

Question:  It looks like you had a chance to make some plays early and the execution with Denard Robinson and the passing game was off, just one of those days?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah in the first half, it was disappointing because you knew that you were going to have limited possessions.  We only really had four countable possessions I think in the first half.  We had the potential touchdown that we overthrew a little bit, so we weren't quite in rhythm.  We knew coming in that we had to get first downs and we came up short on a couple of third downs in the first half.  We were not really able to get any rhythm.  In the second half, we had some rhythm, but either one of the onside kicks, we had a chance with either one of them.  If we get either one of them we keep the ball, keep the momentum and who knows what happened, but it didn't happen."

Question:  During the course of a football season, how much can you actually improve a defense once the season is on the way?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I think it is a thing where guys get better week-to-week and if everybody stays healthy, they will get a little bit better I think.  Every week is a little different game plan.  Our game plan for this week certainly is going to be different than last week, so you are not working on some of the same things.  Even though you should be able to make some improvements especially for guys that are playing for the first time and there are four or five true freshman out there now; the truth is that they are not going to get exponentially better until a few bowl practices, a few spring ball practices and another August camp.  As frustrating as it is for all the fans, which I understand the frustration, it is just frustrating for us coaches too because our kids are giving great effort.  There focus is good.  You cannot grow up an 18 or 19-year-old in the space of three months.  It just takes a little bit of time and some of it is going to happen in the weight room.  Physically, they moved us around a little bit and we were afraid of that coming in.  We didn't tackle well and they had something to do with that too."

Question:   What makes them so difficult to stop the run?   Are they fast, is it the offensive line, is it the balance?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It is a little bit of it.  They are a run team, but they'll give you more things.  (Scott)  Tolzien does do a great job of executing their system.  Their offensive coordinator, Paul Chryst is a long time friend of mine and he thinks the world of Scotty because he knows how to run an offense and he makes the plays that are there.  I was disappointed.  They had some guys wide open on some middle dig routes and I got to see what happened with that.  That was probably the most disappointing part of some of those things, but we knew that he could execute.  They've got a lot of experienced players up front and it was difficulty for us to get off those blocks."

Question:  The surge after the half, was there something that you guys were able to do at halftime to try and get that going?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No.  We knew we had the ball first and I thought it was important for us on the first possession to get some first downs and get the tempo going and hit a few passes and Denard got into a rhythm.  We got into a rhythm but then we could not get that one stop or the one onside kick to kind of get us over the edge.  We were always fighting uphill and that's tough to do on a team that can run the football like they can."

Question:  Can you explain the decision not to use the timeouts at the end of the half?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, we were backed up.  The way were playing and all that I didn't want to screw up and make a major mistake.  If we had not gotten the ball first in the second half, I probably would have used the clock a bit and went on from there.  We were getting the ball first so, I wouldn't redo that over again.  Some days you go back in the game and there are a whole lot of things you do over but that I wouldn't."

Question:  What happened with tackling?

Coach Rodriguez:  "You got to work on your fundamentals.  The hard part is to work on it during the season, how do you do live tackling.  If you do it with your scout team guy, we're not going to be as good as your top guys and you don't want to hurt your own guys.  So you limit your full contact.  We can't afford any more injuries.  We're at the bare bones right now.  You just got to try and teach as much fundamentals as you can at kind of less than full speed and then go with it.  Some of it is strength.  Sometimes you miss tackles because you're just not strong enough yet, maybe you're a young or whatever.  I've got to see who missed the tackles.  I know we missed a bunch of them."

Question:  More on Michigan's struggles against upper echelon Big Ten teams…

Coach Rodriguez:  "They are older, bigger, physical teams, experienced physical teams.  Against younger, not yet full grown undersized team.  If we were an older experienced undersized team, I'd say, gosh we'd better figure something out.  But we are a young inexperienced.  I'm not making excuses.  I know everybody, he's making excuses, but it is not, it is reality.  I've never coached and had five true freshman playing at one time in division 1.  Are you kidding me.  Think about that, those guys are playing their tails off and they're going to be better hopefully next year because of it.  You guys are all pretty smart.  Go find another division 1 school that has five or six true freshmen playing significant time on defense.  It is a perfect storm.  That being said, we have a high standard of play that everybody wants us to play at and we've got to get those guys to that level as quickly as we can."

Question:  Is that extra focus in recruiting?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well no, because the focus is there anyways.  Our numbers last year were woefully short, discouraging wise from a number of guys on scholarship on offense and defense.  Some of that attrition and some of it was injuries and misfortune, what have you.  The numbers are better now, but the numbers are young, particularly defensively.  Our focus in recruiting, if we sign 18, 19, 20 guys, we know where we need some help defensively.  Again, you expecting those guys to come in and play as freshman, they might.  Our growing pains that we're having now is tough to deal with but I think certainly some of the experience these guys are getting is going to be beneficial in the next couple of years."

Question:  Was there any silver lining that Denard was able to set the NCAA rushing record today?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No we weren't thinking about that and Denard wasn't thinking about it.  I was hoping he would break loose.  He was close on a couple of occasions.  Again, he wasn't in rhythm in the first half and we weren't at all, but the second half, he did bounce back a little bit.  He made some nice plays and Denard is just like the rest of the guys, he just wants to win.  So this day is disappointing, but we got the big one next week."

Question:  Last series putting in Tate Forcier?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No.  Tate, we want to keep him in the loop there and we were down at the end doing some things that we think he can execute.  Again, I think we stubbed our own toe there at the end.  It would have been nice to keep scoring."

Question:   Is there any rhythm in the kicking game?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No.  That has been ongoing.  Seth (Broekhuzien) had clearly kicked better all week in practice.  That ball was in the middle of the field.  I don't know if I've seen him miss a kick in the middle of the field in practice in a month and he hit the goalpost with that one.  Brendan (Gibbons) kicked the extra points, but they looked a little bit low and one of them might have been tipped.  So we'll go back to the drawing ball there."

Question:  Do you know anything about the injuries?  

Coach Rodriguez:  "I have not even talked to the trainer yet.  There is a host of them.  That was a physical team.  We'll see where we're at."

Question:  Do you know what Roh's injury is?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I think it was dealing with some kind of concussive type of symptom."

Question:  With your physical situation, how daunting is this next game, Ohio State on the road?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  It is a challenge anyways.  You're playing a great team at their place.  It is Ohio State and Michigan.  It is not going to be hard to get the guys fired up, prepared for it.  We may have a few more young guys that are going to have to grow up in a hurry and get ready to go down there."

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