Coach Mattison: "They are grasping on to it and going out and executing them. The thing that I'm so impressed with is that they don't ever lose the fight. There is a lot of times where that first half at Northwestern you could see that defense go right in the tank. There were so many things that weren't doing like we wanted to do them, but they kept finding a way to stop them when they had to or times and not just let them score all the time. I'm looking for the day when they aren't adjustments that have to be made at halftime but that's part of football. I'm just so impressed with the way this defense battles and believes and keeps working and that's us. That's Michigan and now we just got to continue to get better on our technique and continue to do the right things."
Question: How critical was that first stop after the offense went down and scored to start the second half?
Coach Mattison: "Really critical. Every stop is critical for our defense though. Let us be honest, we've got to get the three and outs and the fact that they were four out of 11 on third down was huge, 0-2 on fourth down I think was really huge. With the youth and inexperience with some of the guys we have out there, you got to get them off the field. More importantly when you have an offense like we have…you've got to get the ball in D-Rob's hands, I mean you have to. That's kind of what you keep thinking a lot of times when you're making your calls on defense, let us try to get that ball back to him. I'm certainly glad that we are not playing against our offense."
Question: You talked a couple of weeks ago about having to simplify the defense, Ryan Van Bergen and Brady Hoke talked about that, simplifying it again. Did you add more stuff again and then it was back down again kind of at the beginning is it even getting simpler?
Coach Mattison: "Back in the first half, there was a period in there where I probably called the same defense seven or eight times. I knew going into that game that this was going to be a really tough game for us because it exposed some of the things that I thought we had to improve on and that hurt us and that's speed in open spaces. That's being able to adjust and being able to play with a lot of experience. That's what you have to do when you're playing an option team. Our thought going into that game was they ran for 200 yards a game. We felt, okay we've got to stop the run and when they spread us out, what you have to do is walk your linebackers out and that opens up their running lanes. We were kind of playing a chest game, okay, come on I know you want to run, I know you're going to run and they just kept saying, no where not going to run, we're going to throw the bubble. What we ended up doing is putting bigger guys in there and playing with our big guys in the second half because we didn't feel like their wide receivers could block them. That's what was happening in the first half was that their wide receivers were blocking our nickel guys and secondary guys. So we just said, okay Jake (Ryan) you're going back out there, we're playing big guys. The first play, Jake came in and stoned the guy and made a great play. That worked, but it is going to always be a chess match with this defense I think."
Question: How many times a year on average do you make that drastic of a change at the half?
Coach Mattison: "I think every defense does that. The thing that you'd like to do on defense is that you'd love to make those adjustments on the sideline but what you have to have when you do that (is) you have to have a lot of experience. You have to have a lot of guys that in the heat of the battle when the fans are screaming and the offense is out there and guys are yelling third down and you're telling a guy you have to do this rather than that. You've got a chance of really having a problem when you go back out there. I don't like to make wholesale adjustments on the sideline. We feel like we have enough in our game plan to get us through it and then be able to say okay guys, sit down, calm down here's what we have to do and they did it."
Question: Northwestern ran the veer option a lot to some success against your defense, I think there was some question of who's assignment is the quarterback and who's assignment is the pitch man?
Coach Mattison: "That's why people run the veer option (laughter). To play an option team, you have to be very, very disciplined. You have to really be confident in what you're doing and it's happening really fast. There was a number of times where you might have saw Jake go down and hit the dive. Our ends had the quarterback all day. So right away you knew, uh-oh and sure enough…now you got two guys on the dive and nobody on the quarterback and that's why people run that offense. It taxes young guys, it really does. So your next thought is to stunt it a little bit, move it a little bit to try and make a play and that quarterback was pretty good. Fortunately, we settled down in the second half and the guys said okay I've got it now. Every guy who made a mistake like that during the game came off and looked right at and they went, I know. I said, I know too that's 20 yards down the field. I was really proud of them."
Question: So if you had to defend it again, who…?
Coach Mattison: "We'd do the same thing. The only thing we would do definitely if we defended it again, we would play more honest like you're supposed to and not try to cheat to take away one part of the game and not the other."
Question: Is Jordan Kovacs the guy that maybe helps you try to cheat because it seems like he was pretty good at least taking…?
Coach Mattison: "That was his job. When you're playing option and you're playing man coverage there is a guy open…there is a guy with a blocker on him, a guy has man coverage and is still supposed to get off and try to make that play. If your stronger, better, faster, you can throw that guy away and make that play. We had Jordan going through the alley. Meaning he would go dive, quarterback to pitch and he made some good plays on it."
Question: With a guy like Jake Ryan just having to learn how to do it as a freshman, how do you fix that?
Coach Mattison: "He gets better every day. He get's better every day in practice. I wouldn't trade Jake Ryan with anybody. I think he's going to be an outstanding Michigan football player. The fact that he's out there a whole bunch of snaps as a redshirt freshman that's what we have, that's how it is. Ask that question two years from now and you're going to be saying, boy Jake Ryan is really something. The difference is that Jake Ryan is going out every day trying to do what he's supposed to do. He doesn't try and make a mistake. I also think of all the great plays that he's made. Jake Ryan has made some big time football plays for this defense already and he will get better and better and better. We got to keep working with him."
Question: Not just Jake Ryan but the edge contain in general; how do you shore that up?
Coach Mattison: "You've got a choice and in that game for example, there were a lot of times when we could have gotten to the quarterback but our rushers were so nervous of losing contain that they didn't rush real hard. Let us just say as a fan, as a fan do you want him to go get him and let that quarterback take off running or do you want to try and keep him in there and make him beat you throwing it. That's the decision you've got to make and you've got some pressures that do handle that. The problems with pressures is that there not great against option and a number of times when we would call a pressure an option was coming at you. It was a very good game plan by Northwestern."
Question: Does Kirk Cousins like the same quarterback that he was last year?
Coach Mattison: "I watched some film of him last year and he was good last year and I think he is really good this year. I think he's a really good quarterback. Anybody that wins as many games as he's won, you're a good quarterback."
Question: What does he do well?
Coach Mattison: "He makes good decisions. He has got a good arm. He has got good wide receivers. He's got good running backs. I think he's a very, very good quarterback."
Question: Is BJ Cunningham when you look at the passing game is he a difference maker?
Coach Mattison: "Yes. He's a big time wide receiver. He catches it. He's a huge target. He runs good routes. There is no question that he is a big time wide receiver."
Question: Is he an NFL player?
Coach Mattison: "I would think. I don't know how fast he is. I don't know what his 40 time is, but I know watching him on tape he is."
Question: The fact that your corners have at least played Michael Floyd already, does that help with them having to face a guy like Cunningham?
Coach Mattison: "Yeah. The corners are your corners, so it doesn't matter who's out there, they've got to cover them, they have to. I think the fact that we're six games into the season and they've played a lot of football helps them. I would look for them this week to take a next step and a next step. I'm excited to see what our corners do in this game."
Question: A college halftime is longer than an NFL halftime, are you able to talk a little more with your defense coaches and figure things out a little easier?
Coach Mattison: "Yeah what you always do, you know exactly what's going on when you're on the sideline. You know exactly. So what happens is you come in…all the coaches come down from upstairs and you come in and you say okay here's what's happening. Here's what we have to do to correct that. This is what we've got to get our players to do and then I'll put it on the board and show the whole defense what our adjustments are going to be and then the position coaches get down with their positions and reinforce individually what they have to do and then go from there. I don't believe in a lot of screaming and yelling, not with this team because I think they're trying so hard. They didn't go out there…a lot of the times some of those adjustments or number of times, they're coaches, they're me. Maybe I didn't explain it right, maybe we didn't get enough reps on that defense. To come in there and just start ranting and raving and yelling, not when this defense is trying as hard as they are trying. The whole key is okay, let us give them something that they can have success with and that's been our game plan at halftime."
Question: Do you game plan knowing that they have three different running backs that they can throw out there?
Coach Mattison: "No. You just game plan and know that they are going to run the football. They can throw it too. They've got very good running backs, you're right, but no you don't game plan any different against when this back is in, do this and this, no."
Question: This senior class has lost to Michigan State three years in a row, do you have a special burn in you and the staff for these seniors that they need to get this win?
Coach Mattison: "Yeah I know exactly what they're going through. I feel it just every meeting and I know in my heart what this would mean to these guys. I keep saying it, you're not out there, what they have done since Brady has gotten here is amazing, it really is. To see the look in their eyes after games like the last one and the one before that and the one before that. You just say, god I want to do a better job of coaching. Man, I really, really want to help these guys and that's the way our whole staff feels. I know three years in a row. I know having been here before and know all about that. That would be as big as it could be up to now and then they're will be something bigger after that. But up until now that will be as big as it gets. Yeah I do see it and that's why we want to do a great job of getting them ready."
Question: Do you have any memories of this rivalry from when you were here before?
Coach Mattison: "Yeah. I remember this game. This was always really, really big. I know we've got to go out there and be ready to play. I think we've done that since the day we got here. This game has been one of those games."
Question: Is the '95 one the one that sticks with you, where they came back in the fourth quarter?
Coach Mattison: "I remember it."
Question: Something specifically?
Coach Mattison: "I think I was calling defenses in that one too. They're a good football program."
Question: You talked about Northwestern plays the way you didn't think your defense could defend well, Michigan State runs right at you, do you almost relish that? Do you guys take pride in rush defense?
Coach Mattison: "That's what a great defense is built on. You can measure a defense on how they stop the run in my mind. That's where it starts. We'll get challenged. That's what it is going to be. They can throw it too. It's not like we can put ten guys up there, but this will be a test. Like I said, this will be the next one now. Every week is a test for our defense, every week and we look forward to it."
Tues nite Full Transcript: Greg Mattison
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