I take my hat off to San Diego State. As we expected, I thought they did a good job. I thought their players played hard. I thought it was a hard fought - hard hitting ball football game. There are a lot of things, obviously, that we need to do better. But I’m proud of the way our defense stood up in the second half and time after time made the stops that enabled us to win this game. There are some things, on the other hand ,that were extremely positive about this game. I thought we blocked people better up front. That’s a good defense. I thought there were some holes. There were a lot of guys that ran the football. I don’t think we’ve turned the football over as a running back this fall. I think that’s a good sign. I thought our punt coverage was excellent. And our kickoff coverage continues to be outstanding. Obviously, the thing we’ve got to learn to do is take care of the football on offense. We just turned the football over there…. and that’s why it was what it was. But we did a lot of good things. Mike Hart, I thought, did a great job. I think that run he made with a couple of minutes to go there on third down was a well blocked play…and he found a way. He’s a slippery guy in there. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s got a big heart. I thought he did a wonderful job.
On Mike Hart:
I felt really good about Michael after last week. I thought he made a couple of really good plays down there. He has done a great job in practice. The thing you always worry about as a coach, particularly in tight ball games, is if a guy is going to go the wrong way on protection and leave a linebacker free to hit your quarterback, or a guy that goes the wrong way because with the terminology it’s a very difficult challenge playing early in your freshman year because of just the communication issues. But as far as when you hand him the football, he has been impressive from the first day.
In our offense we want a guy that can do a lot of things and Michael is outstanding. It’s an amazing thing. He’s not 220 lbs. but he’s got great leverage, he can bend his knees, and he is tough. He will hit you. He’s going to be an excellent pass defender and pass protector and he’s got excellent hands. But right now the main thing is to know the protections. We’ll have some ways to get him the ball. What you try to do with a young back is every week you give him a little bit more. The thing that you want to avoid is having a guy in the game and everyone knows it’s a run or it’s a pass. You want to stay out of that, but sometimes with young backs, you’re going to have to do that because of their limited experience.
I thought he ran very well, but we’re going to have to look at the film. We had some punch in there but we still have some competition on our offensive line. I’m not exactly sure that we’re where we want to be, but I think we really took a step in the right direction.
On Jake Long moving into the starting lineup:
Jake had a very good spring and a very good fall. He’s been competing. He's a big ,strong, powerful guy. I think he’s going to be, at some point here, one of the great run blockers and tackles we’ve had IF he can continue to develop. But he’s got all of the skills and has got exactly what you want in a tackle. And that is the ability to knock somebody off the line of scrimmage. In this conference that’s not easy for a redshirt freshman to do. But I think he’s got all of the qualities and attributes you look for in an offensive tackle.
On if he’s nervous about the team and fielding a freshman QB and RB heading into Big 10 season:
It is what it is. I have confidence in every kid we have. Experience is a great thing but it’s hard to get without suffering sometimes. With both of those guys, there are going to be some rough days ahead. Matt Gutierrez has that arm problem. There are a lot of things that during a season and to a football team that you can’t predict. The truth is there are no excuses. You can alibi and cry about what you don’t have but I’m excited about what we do have. I really like the way they fought today. They’re coming off a very difficult loss and came in there at the half down three. That’s not an easy thing to deal with. And they’re playing a team that had two weeks to prepare and who did an excellent job. So, they fought. Don’t make any mistake…this team fought like hell. Really, there’s nothing more important than that.
On Chad Henne handling the blitz:
We got sacked down there and we had a protection in which we knew that they were going to blitz, but they came with one more than what we had to block. Therefor we took a sack. Then at that point I think Adam Finley got us decent field position and put them down at their own 30. When you’re in the situation at the end of the game you have tough decisions to make. You can try to run the football, which we did on the very last drive on 3rd and 10 and got a first down. But on that previous series when we got sacked, we were trying to make a play. THEY made a play. In those circumstances you know you’re going to get the blitz, but they executed and we didn’t have enough guys and we didn’t get rid of the football. I’ve got to see the film. I think he did a lot of good things and I think he did some things that he needs to work on.
On if playing Clayton Richard was a spur of the moment decision:
No, we used him exactly the way we planned to use him. I’ve said this, and I learned it a long time ago when Brian Griese was here…we’ve got to do what we can to give Clayton some experience. I think he did a good job in there and I thought he showed good poise and smarts. I think that experience will help.
On the defense:
I think we played excellent defense from the very first. There was one play in there…the shovel pass…where we got caught out of position. Somebody made a great play to chase him down. Then they executed the halfback pass. Hey…you’ve got to give them credit. But our defense played outstanding football with the exception of the big play. I thought we had good pressure. There are some things in there on the film that we need to work to correct, but I liked the way they played the entire game. We put them in bad field position with the first turnover when we threw the interception. This week they responded. That’s what you expect a great defense. Now I’m not saying that we’re a great defense, but we have a chance to be good.
On Roy Manning:
I think Roy Manning made one of the biggest plays in the game and Lawrence Reid picked it up and ran it in for the touchdown. So when you look at our defense, one of the real improvements has come from the play of Roy Manning. Roy is a fifth year senior and he is playing the best football of his life. There was a period in there where I was disappointed in the way he was playing because he has always been a very talented and smart guy. But somewhere along the line he made a decision that he was going to play like we were asking him to play. I think since that time his performance in all three games this season has been very good, and hopefully it will continue.
On Gutierrez’s progress:
I’m not going to make guesses on medical situations. He did throw this week in practice, but what from what I saw he’s not where we hope he’ll be some day.
On the passing game and turnovers:
I think Chad threw a strike on the interception where Jason Avant slipped. That’s a bad break and bad breaks can cost you a game. Their guy made a play, but I don’t fault anybody on that play. The protection was good, the route was good, he was open, and on the cut he slipped. So you can blame somebody, but there’s nobody there that I can find any fault with. The last interception there was a costly interception. I don’t think the location of the football was good. The ball went off of Massaquoi’s hands and that was not a good throw. Even though it’s not a long throw, that’s one of the things when you talk about timing and the things a quarterback has to do …he had a read to his left and came off of the read because it wasn’t there…he came back and threw to a guy that was wide open, but he didn’t get his feet set. It looked to me like he threw a little bit off balance and the ball was off. On those plays if the ball is not accurately thrown, they’re difficult catches. That’s one of the things Chad has to work on, and he will. He’ll get better.
On David Underwood’s status:
David practiced. He was very limited Tuesday and even Wednesday I did not think he was anything close to what he was going into the Notre Dame game. So Jerome started the game and carried the ball I think eight times or so, and of course Michael, and then Pierre Rembert did some good things in there. We’ll just have to see how things go this week. We’ve got a lot of guys at that position that, if they’re willing to play a role, there’ll be a place for them. We don’t have a guy here that right now going to carry the ball 50 times. He may carry it 25.
More on going into the Big 10 season with a freshman QB and a freshman RB:
I think you always are trying to play to your strength. After three games,
I think we’ve had what I consider excellent preparation for the Big 10
season. Our quarterback has played in an opening game that went down to the
fourth quarter. He has played on the road in a ballgame that was nationally
televised in a tough environment. Then he came back here today and played in
a game that went down to the very end. So I think for all of our team, we’ve
learned a lot. There are some improvements that we’ve made that I’m
really excited about. But there are some things that we’ve learned as
coaches. Every team is different. Just because you have a lot of returning guys…you
always have some new and inexperienced people. If they’re at critical
positions, which is what we have, our job as coaches is to have a gameplan that
gives a chance to win and do the things that we can do. That’s what we’re
going to try to do.