Monday Presser Highlights: Post Ohio State

Carr discusses the defensive shortcomings, the ineffectiveness of the running game, going for it on 4th down, injuries, and more.

On his thoughts after viewing the film:

"I thought for 55 minutes we fought our hearts out. I think the mark of this team, when they get down 9-0 in a game like that, they were tenacious. Our defense made two great plays. Gabe Watson caused a fumble and we got the ball back and went in for a touchdown to make it 9-7. And then our defense made a big stop at the end of the first half to hold them to a field goal. At the half I told them I felt I was positive we were going to win that football game because I just felt like we were doing a great job in the kicking game. We had been very good with the football. And going into the game I felt the keys to the game would be to win the turnover battle and to win the kicking game. At the half I felt good about the way we were playing, although, our inability to run the football was really problematic. I think, looking back on the game, that's certainly an area that was a big factor in the game. But then, of course, we came out in the second half and I think we played extremely well in the third quarter. We took advantage of a couple of opportunities, although we failed to when LaMarr Woodley made a great individual play in the third quarter to knock the ball loose. Looking at the film, it's a shame that when you are behind the line of scrimmage and the quarterback is on the ground, you would have liked to have seen us pick that ball up and score a touchdown because Ohio State made a great stop there we had to settle for a field goal. But certainly at the end when we took a two score lead with five minutes to go, I think we felt the way we had played defense the first 55 minutes that we were going to win the game. We let them score on that first drive too soon. We missed a tackle on Santonio Holmes on the touchdown play, so they didn't have to take enough time off the clock. And then when we got the football back, we had a play that we had designed for Tim Massaquoi... and of course, he was injured. We dropped the pass that would have given us a sure first down and taken more time off the clock. We didn't help our defense there. And of course, the final drive we just didn't make a play. I think the play from the 30-yard line where the receiver ran out of bounds, we got a terrible break because I think that ball should have come back. But we were just not able until last five minutes to make a play and you have got to give credit to Ohio State. They did what they had to do."

On pass Anthony Gonzalez caught after running out of bounds:

"The rule states the receiver must be blocked out of bounds. Grant Mason was in man-to-man coverage. He turned back to the ball. He did not block him out. I mean that's clear. The defender has a right to a position on the field. It's not a penalty. The ball comes back and they lose the down. That's not to say they're not going to hit a field goal or hit the next pass. I am not saying that's why we lost the game. I am just saying that was a big play. That's all I am saying."

On if Gonzalez's catch was reviewable:

"I don't know, honestly, if that play is reviewable or not. I do know this ... if it is reviewable, even the official who may have been uncertain he can't ask for a replay. He couldn't ask for a review. I think those are some of the issues that are very difficult in this replay system. I think the replay system has been tremendous for college football, but there are some review questions that are going to have to be ironed out. I think it's like anything else, there is no perfect system. But I think it has been very good."

On if he can say which injured players will be back for the bowl game:

"No. Leo Henige, who has had so many surgeries, is going to have another one because the break in his leg is going to necessitate surgery. Jake Long will have surgery tomorrow. And all of those other guys are going to take some time. When they'll be back, I can't tell you."

On how he will shuffle the offensive line for the bowl game:

"I think a big question is whether Adam Kraus can come back. So we have got a lot of things to look at."

On his thought process when going for it on 4th down:

"I think that's one of the real great things about the game. You get a chance to make some decisions that can weigh in on the game and can give your team a chance to win. And I think you are always thinking it's easy. You can make a lot of mistakes if you are greedy. And yet, I always try to go through in my mind, in the week of the game, those situations. A lot of times I will tell our team what they are. But I thought through a lot of those kinds of decisions. I will say this...when I made that decision at the 38-yard line...I was deliberating and I don't know which way I was going. I had about a second to make up my mind. But Chad Henne...and the amazing thing is this kid is a sophomore. It would be one thing if he was a senior, but Chad Henne convinced me. I knew if we don't make it there, we have really put our defense (in a bad situation)...and we've got a 6-point lead at the time. But Chad Henne gave me confidence. And so it was a beautiful moment for me because he really influenced me there. And I am glad he did.

"The other call....this Huston has got a great leg. He had the wind, and I really felt that Garrett Rivas, that's a play (the pooch punt) we work on every week. I felt very confident that Garrett would get it down close to the 10. That bought us 20 yards, which is two first downs, and I just felt we had to do that for our defense. That's why I did it and I would do it again."

On if Michigan was in a prevent defense on the last drive:

"Listen, we blitzed several times. Now, the defense on the play where Gonzalez stepped out of bounds, we had a blitz called there. We had good coverage. We had man-to-man coverage and now we started to scramble up inside. David Harris stepped up...and the two rushers from the right, when they saw that....and that's one of the things that you have to work on with a guy like Smith. When they saw Smith go inside, they started to come out of their rush to help because a lot of times he runs the ball inside the contain. And of course, he made just an absolutely incredible play because he some way managed to evade David's tackle, and then he scrambled out. We still had contain, but we didn't have people in his face. But I think we mixed our coverages. We had one blitz in there that we should have had a sack on that one of our players mis-fit the blitz. He didn't get to the right gap. That would have been a big play. I think all those plays in that particular time of the game are big plays. But there was no prevent defense."

On if there a is common theme to why opposing offenses have been successful against Michigan on that last drive:

"I think we always talk about what we need to do to have a great offense. And you know you've got to be able to score quickly. You've got to be able to run the football when you need to run it to use the clock and protect your defense. And defensively, you have got to be able to stop a team at the end of games. We have not been able to do that this season. That's a big disappointment. That's really been a disappointment. And so being the kind of defense we're trying to become, we just did not get that done. The thing that I can say unequivocally is that these guys played hard. They never quit. They fought their way back when a lot of teams wouldn't have. So I am proud of the guys on this football team. But we are deeply disappointed in the results because, even with all the things that we faced, we had chances and we weren't able to do them."

On if the defense should take more chances when facing a spread:

"I think when you're dealing with spread teams, teams that use three and four wide receivers, you have to take some risk, and we did. For example, at the end of the half, I think it was a third down play we blitzed them and hit Smith off the edge with a free blitzer. He got the ball off, but he had to throw quickly and the ball was incomplete. They had to settle for a field goal. That's a big play. You don't know how that big play is because if they scored a touchdown there, then we go into the half really in a precarious situation. And yet, when you are dealing with guys like Ted Ginn and Santonio Holmes and they line them up in a lot of different situations, they create some problems for you, just like we do. We don't get a lot of teams blitzing and playing man-to-man coverage without any secondary help because offenses have ability to move people around with motions to get into bunches. When you get into a bunch and you get somebody picked off, it's a big play. So I think we played a significant amount of man coverage considering who we were playing because the quarterback in that game, you better take care of him first. I think we did a very good job on him. But I mean, what he did in the last quarter...I have got to give him credit. I mean, he is pretty good."

On if he would ever run the spread:

"I like what we do offensively. I think we will always be able to recruit great quarterbacks, great tailbacks, and wide receivers. I don't have any problem with the spread offense because I think it's had a lot of positive things. But I think to use a quarterback as a tailback is not something that I want to recruit to."

On the team's schedule for the next couple of weeks:

"We will be recruiting, and we will have to find out who we're going to play and where. And, of course, that will depend on what our schedule is. We're going to take this week off and then we will see what shakes up next week. But we will get back and do some conditioning. But we won't practice for the next two weeks."

On if the ineffectiveness running the ball was more a product of injuries up front or the younger back not being ready:

"Was it an issue of the young guys not being ready? How do you look at that situation and evaluate it? Well, it's a good question, and I think the answer is very complex. I think we have run the football, at times during this season, extremely well. And at times we haven't. I had a meeting this morning and that very question is what I am trying to come to grips with because we were in this game. I knew this was a great defense. Make no mistake about that. But we still felt like we could run the football for over 100 yards. Had we been able to do that, I think the difference would have been significant. But I think you cannot look at that game without taking into consideration, for example, that Jake Long played with an injury that he is going to have surgically repaired tomorrow. And Adam Kraus didn't play. And Tim Massaquoi went out...I don't know exactly what stage. And Mike Hart went out. And Jerome Jackson did not play. And yet you still want to be able to run the football more effectively. I thought Terry Malone did an excellent job based on how the game developed. I mean, we didn't expect Mike Hart to go out. And when he does, we're a different team. So you have to adapt to the game, and I think he did that. But the answer to that question is pretty complex because the other part of it is that is an outstanding defense and a veteran defense. I mean a big, strong defense line with great (linebackers). Hawk is a great player. I mean Hawk made some plays in that game that only great players will make."

On if improving the running game will be a point of emphasis:

"I can guarantee you this spring that becomes an area that we must improve in and we will. We will."

On how helpful the extra bowl practices can be:

"I told them last night that a bowl game is about several things. No. 1, it you get an inordinate amount of time to prepare for the next work with young players. That is very important in their development. It's really like another spring practice. If they practice with the attitude that it is important...and that's one of the jobs that you have as a impress upon them that every day they don't want to come with the idea that I am getting practice over. 'I am in the fall of next year, and I am preparing for a game.' If you can get people to practice with that mentality, then you can improve and you can get better. Secondly, you are trying to develop a way to win...a plan that will enable you to win when you play the game. And the other part of it is to enjoy the experience of being together for the last time as a team and enjoy the bowl site and have a good time. Those are things that you try to do every year."

On how this year's defense compares to last year's:

"I think we made significant progress. I think, if you look at the statistics in the Big Ten, I think we did an excellent job. If there is one disappointment I have, and it was something we did very well in this game...we didn't give a very explosive offensive football team any big plays. I mean the biggest play they had was the play we just discussed earlier. But with that exception in that game. We did so many great things. If we could have made a play there at the end, we're talking about this defense playing their best game. But, of course, you can't do that. I think we're a much more physical team. I think our linebackers, particularly David Harris, will go into next season as one of those guys that going a chance to really have an outstanding career here. I think Prescott Burgess had a very good year. I think there are a lot of guys that made big steps. We're not a great defense, but I think we have the nucleus of having the kind of defense we'd like to have next fall."

On his positive outlook on the team depsite having a 7-4 record:

"I think you can make a mistake when you gauge a team strictly by their record. This team...they could have folded. That team could have gone in the tank. When you lose a game like the Wisconsin game on the last play of the game, and you come back and you have got to go to Michigan State to play a team that's undefeated and ranked, and an explosive team. It always comes back to preparation, and it's hard to prepare for anything if you are thinking about something else. And here, when you lose, there are plenty of distractions. That's part of the pressure that you have to be able to deal with. And a lot of times, in any locker room, I don't care if it's junior high, high school, college, pro's...when things go badly there is always a tendency to point the finger, 'Well, it wasn't my fault. You know, if Johnny over there done a better job.' This team didn't do that. They came back to work the next day on Sunday. I am extremely proud that the seniors, they were an unselfish group. They just kept fighting. And I know that some people may not buy into that, but this team had a chemistry and they had good leadership. And so here they're playing in the final game of the season with a chance still to win the Big Ten Championship after all those even get into a BCS Bowl. And with five minutes to go in the game, it's all there. So it's hard for me to be disappointed in a group of people who showed great grit and determination, toughness, passion, resilience. That to me is what this game will test. And in those areas, this team met the challenge."

On what made this team special to work with:

"I think you'd have to ask them. All I know is that they had 'it.' Because without 'it,' they wouldn't have won some of those games. When you think about the Penn State game, you are facing...with 52 seconds to go...they're kicking off and they've just taken the lead and you have got one timeout left. I have always said this...I think the kind of people you have in those circumstances...they either quit or they draw back. They continue to believe and fight, and this team did that. Going to practice, normally for a coach and a player after losing, I mean it doesn't get much more miserable because you are thinking about what happened last week and you know all the things that are out there. There are a lot of things trying to tear you apart in those circumstances, and it takes some mental toughness to say, 'Okay, we're not where we want to be, but let's go win again, let's go get ready this week.'"

On if this season has been particularly trying:

"Every season presents its own challenges. And even when things are going well, when you have 120 people in the program... coaches, are going to have some problems. You are going to have some issues, and some of those are not fun...for a player or a coach. You've got to deal with injuries every year. So I think this was as tough a challenge as I can remember for a team, and that's why I like them so much. In spite of all those difficult times during the season, there was never a day that I got up in the morning that I wasn't looking forward to seeing them. And because every time I went in that meeting room to start the day, they were ready to go, and they weren't feeling sorry for themselves. So I give them all the credit."

On if he is immune to thinking about what might have been this season:

"Well, I am not immune to it, no. Not in the inner sanctum of my own mind, a very small area (laughter). Seriously, it doesn't do any good to talk about them. I think anybody who knows this season knows that a play here, a play there...but that's always true. And you can lull yourself into not being realistic. To me, it's all about the realistic evaluation of what we need to do to get better. It doesn't matter what day you are talking about, you are trying to get better. Now, at the end of the season you certainly have ample opportunity, although it's no more than the people you are competing against, to look at what you are doing to see if there is some things that you can do to get better and to go be what you want to be."

On the play of Chad Henne Saturday:

"I thought Chad Henne was outstanding. I think he made great decisions. He made a lot of good throws where guys could catch the football and get up the field. Breaston caught some balls and got up the field. And Chad had two or three balls dropped. He threw it well. He made a great throw on the play where Jason Avant was interfered with. That was a great throw. He made a great play late in the game. I felt like we were going to be hard to beat when he made the long throw down to Mario Manningham. He stood in the pocket, he had good protection, he got up there against two-deep coverage, threw the ball away from the defender, and Mario made a good catch.

On what Henne said to influence him on the 4th down

"I can't remember exactly what he said, but it was something like, 'We're going!' I thought to myself, 'Yeah, we should.' (laughter). But it was a moment I am not going to forget because, after I made that decision, I am thinking that might be the dumbest decision you ever made.(laughter)"

On if the running game would have been better with Mike Hart:

"I think one of the things that we wanted to do was...the screens are really part of our running game. We had a good screen there early and we had a number of screens that we wanted to attack them with. That's one the things that he does so well. If your question is are we going to run the football a lot more, I am not saying that because that's a good defense. I think certainly Mike Hart would have made a difference. Now how much, I am not saying."

On if Jake Long will be back for spring practice:

"I would think he would be back for spring ball. It's his other foot, and it's a different type of injury. But it's on top of the foot, so I think it will be fine. I just think it's too bad for Jake, because this guy, he wants to play. He loves to play."

On Mark Bihl's play at center:

"Mark Bihl has earned my respect. He is really quite a kid. I mean he is a great person and he has improved significantly and he has had a great attitude because he was patient. And when he got an opportunity to help his team, he really went in that Northwestern game and did a good job. I am very proud of him."

On if Mike Hart needs to do something more in strength and conditioning to prevent injury:

"See...if his injuries were in other parts of his body. I have had people say to me, well, if Mike Hart were bigger, he wouldn't be hurt. That's not true in this case. It's an ankle. I don't think Mike Hart needs to change at all. When you can do what he did a year ago, the one thing you know is he is big enough, he is durable enough. Now he is going to mature, and I am not going to say he is not going to get bigger, but I don't think there is no issue with his stature. I don't see that."

On Mario Manningham's play this season:

"I think he has done an exceptional job in what I consider to be a complicated position. Being a receiver today, because of all the coverages...and you not only have to learn so many places where you are going to line up, your splits, your formations, the motions, the when you come off the line of scrimmage, you have got to figure out is this zone or is this man-to-man. Now that's sounds pretty simple, but you have got about that long to do it. And if you make the wrong mistake, the play is dead. I think he has made a lot of progress. I think, like any player, the whole issue for me is this...does the guy have an attitude today, 'I have got to get better.' And a lot of times, when a guy gets a lot of acclaim and has a very good year as a freshman and people write and pat him on the back. He starts believing it all, all the hype. And the guy that has the attitude, 'Hey, I've got to get better, today, I've got to get stronger, I have got to get better conditioned, I have got to learn more.' Those are the guys, when they have that attitude, now you are dealing with a guy that has a chance to reach his potential. And really, as a coach, that's why you can't spend a lot of time telling a guy how good he is. You have got to tell him how good he could be."

On Manningham's role after the Iowa game:

"I think, No. 1, every week you go in there (asking) what kind of week did this guy have in practice? As a young player, the physical toll is you get to the middle of the season you are fatigued. And once you are fatigued then, the normal deal is you make some mistakes. Sometimes, as a coach, the greatest discipline there is, is the bench. So you say, 'Okay, if you are not going to do what I am asking you to do, you are not going to play as much'. Now Mario... yeah, Erik (Campbell) took him out in that (Iowa) game because he made a mistake, but that had nothing to do with the games following that."

On what position Rueben Riley will play in the bowl game:

"Well, I asked him that last night. I said, 'Rueben, where would you rather play?' And he didn't hesitate. He said, 'guard.' So I think he deserves that now after all he has been through."

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