I think we went out with a mission offensively to get Denard very involved running the football. I thought he did a nice job with that. I think he did a nice job in the throw game. The interception, Vince was fighting the umpire a little bit. But also just one of those things we've got to execute that.
From that standpoint and defensively, you know, played 98 plays. Way too much. We got to get off the field obviously. But at the same time those guys hung in there. They hung in there when they had to at the end of the football game and played some plays. That part of it is a very positive part of it.
I think they adjusted to some things. We adjusted to some things they were doing, which helped in the second half. So all in all, was it where we want to be? No. But at the same time it was a good win to get.
Q. How much does UMass provide you an opportunity to work on the things you need to work on on both sides?
COACH HOKE: I think they do. I think from an offensive and defensive perspective, I think we manufacture this week against each other has to be part of it. What we do ones-on-ones, what we do competing-wise, I think that's all a big part of it. They run a lot of the spread. But there's a lot of things within that that can help us.
Q. How is Brennen Beyer?
COACH HOKE: I don't think he'll be available this week. He tweaked a knee a little bit. Hopefully in two weeks.
Q. Is there any more diagnosis of what it is?
COACH HOKE: No. It's the same.
Q. After you spoke to us on Saturday, we talked to Jordan. He said in the last two defensive series, it was an entirely different defense than you guys had run the entire game. Would that have worked earlier? What did you do differently?
COACH HOKE: We got into really our nickel defense because they had to throw the ball. That's something that they're not comfortable doing as much from a drop-back standpoint. Now boots and waggles and those kind of things, they're pretty comfortable with, off play-action, all that. But from the standpoint of them wanting to be in a drop-back game, that was to our advantage.
Q. Looking at the running game, were there different holes for Denard than Fitz?
COACH HOKE: I think some is we couldn't get Fitz started. They ran 35 times run fire zones which they never were that big of a team. We call them sharks and stuff like that. It was a little different. It was a little different. Never could get him started. Some of it we got blocked better. On some of the reads, maybe he should have kept the ball twice in there. But I think some of it goes down to, number one, what we were trying to do, getting Denard the ball. Secondly, blocking better. Then I think you got to give them a little credit, too.
Q. More on Fitz. How much of an emphasis will that be to get him started?
COACH HOKE: I think it's important. Anytime we can get the runningback involved is huge for us. I think when you see that involvement from the running game with him and Denard, then complementing with the pass game, it's worked out well for us.
Q. The use of the freshmen linebackers, was that specific to Air Force and scheme or are they to the point you want to mix them in that much?
COACH HOKE: I think we feel real comfortable with them. I think at one time there were six true freshmen on the field together, redshirt freshmen included in that. You know, they're competing. This whole game's about competition. Guys who are playing well, guys who are earning time, they're going to play.
Q. When did you identify Devin Funchess that this is a guy that can be a play-maker for us? Do you have to temper his expectations a little bit? You're not going to have a 100-yard receiving game every week.
COACH HOKE: I don't know if we'll temper it. Obviously we recruited him so we thought he had some ability. He's done a nice job, I will say. He's bigger than when he got here. He's not afraid, which is good, because blocking's a big part. It's that wide position, which A.J. played offense, or the U position. You still have to be able to do a good job at the point of attack. Then he's got ability. He's a little bit of a mismatch problem because of his range and his ability to run.
Q. Have you ever had a team that played so many true freshmen as this team is?
COACH HOKE: No, have not.
Q. What challenges does that pose this year?
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, we had 17 true freshmen go to Dallas. Some of them hadn't flown. The schedule that we keep, there's an itinerary, when we meet, what we wear, all those things. I don't want to call it baby-sitting, but it's a lot of educating. Our upperclassmen have done a good job so the young guy understands what is expected.
Q. With Bolden and Ross specifically, what are they doing, what did they show you to put themselves in that position, and where do they need to get better?
COACH HOKE: I think the second part of the question, there's a lot they need to get better at, from drops to coverages, footwork, all those things. But that's no different with the guys that have been playing. They're both very instinctive, I think, football players. At that position, being instinctive is a big plus.
Q. On top of that, obviously if they're playing instead of Kenny Demens or Desmond Morgan, can you talk about where those two guys are? Have they got beaten out?
COACH HOKE: I don't think they're beaten out. Let me answer that one first. They're competing. We want to roll some guys in anyway. We rolled a lot of guys in in the front during the course of the game. But as far as that goes, I think there's a healthy competition that's going on.
Q. With Jake, No.47, because he's such a young guy, will he wear that for the rest of his career?
COACH HOKE: Yeah, that's the plan.
Q. How concerned are you about the offensive line? Is there a possibility you'll shake some things up?
COACH HOKE: I don't know if I'm real concerned at this time. I give them a lot of credit for what their plan was. I think as a group they're coming together. I think we've got to be more consistent, better at the point of attack on some things. I'm not concerned yet.
Q. When you have guys rotating in, you're obviously giving other opportunities. How much does that increase the competition level and the intensity of practice when guys know they're truly battling for jobs and playing time?
COACH HOKE: I think it would get your attention if you're one of those guys.
Q. How concerned are you, Roy Roundtree only has three short catches in the first two games; haven't been able to get him going. Is that something the other team is doing or is he just not fully recovered from the knee?
COACH HOKE: No, he's fine. I would say it's more what's in the plan, a little bit more other people, how they want to defend. I'm not concerned.
Q. Denard obviously showed he could carry the ball and throw the ball. How much do you need other guys to make plays? I don't know if you can rely on him that much every game all year.
COACH HOKE: You have to have guys step up. Again, guys making plays, it's easier to make plays if I'm a runningback and I can get started and there's a decent hole. That always helps. So from the standpoint, we all have to improve.
Q. Raymon Taylor obviously got a lot of work on Saturday. Can you talk about that, how the competition is between him and Courtney?
COACH HOKE: I think it's good. Courtney got beat up. His back was bothering him a little bit at the end. I think it's a healthy competition. And Ray did some pretty good things, being aggressive. Had some plays that he needs to be a little bit more disciplined with to some degree with his eyes, what he's seeing, how he reacts.
Q. I believe you said Quinton Washington is playing the best football he's played. What is he doing better now?
COACH HOKE: I think fundamentally and techniques, that's where I think he's playing better. I think the more experience game situation, I think they all tend to play better and at the same time they can see the correctable things that they need to do better.
To watch the Coach Hoke presser, click play below.