Rodriguez Disappointed, but Won't Panic

Michigan headman Rich Rodriguez discusses his squad's 42-7 loss to Ohio State, the struggles this season, the outlook for the future, and more. ***The complete postgame transcript.***

Question:  Rich, how crucial were the lost opportunities at the start of both halves? You get the interception and nothing… you have a nice drive to start the third quarter and get nothing.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah the missed opportunities that is a big thing we've talked about all year, really a pass or two maybe we could have hit or the opportunity; we were in great field position at the beginning of the game.  We're not quite good enough to not take advantage of those and still win.  That's unfortunate.  I thought our guys played hard, but we had a few big mistakes and as you mentioned, we messed up on a few opportunities."

Question:  Your impressions of your first Michigan-Ohio State game?

Coach Rodriguez:  "There is a lot of intensity.  I thought both teams were very physical.  Obviously, we didn't do our part as far as making a better game of it in the second half.  I thought the intensity and the hitting and the physicalness and all the emotion is all what you would expect in a big rivalry game."

Question:  On if Ohio State surprised the defense on the big plays?

Coach Rodriguez:  "The only thing I was upset with in the first half was the two big plays.  I think we did a good job of containing their running game for the most part except for the big run by Beanie (Wells) in the first half and the big pass play.  Those big runs count.  I have to see the film and see where the break downs came.  They did run the ball a little bit and I don't know until I watch the film, I didn't think it was something that was a surprise.  I think one was a power and one was a sweep, but you just didn't execute it."

Question:  What do you think of the seniors who obviously leave here?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I told them in the locker room that I'm as proud of them as could be.  Those 15 young men work extremely hard.  They've given us great effort and they're good guys.  Even though this season wasn't successful, they've had a successful career and they're going to have successful careers in their life because of the kind of people that they are.  I told them in a few years down the road, we'll draw back on them and say they helped lay the foundation for what we're building and it's hard right now.  It's hard on all of our guys, but we are laying the foundation and we're building.  I told the senior last night that my only regret is that I wish I had them back.  I wish I had those 15 guys back because they're all great, great young men."

Question:  Down by just a touchdown at the half and getting the ball back, did you think that you would be able to manage this game and keep it close?

Coach Rodriguez:  "We're trying to win.  We felt good at halftime, because again, we just gave up the two plays and offensively we finally started getting in a rhythm at the end of the first half.  The first quarter was awful but even at the beginning of the second half, we got the ball and got a few first downs and then we stumbled right there a little bit.  It's tough.  We're close in a lot of ways, but we still got a lot of work to do and I'll evaluate everything and see how we can improve.  You do that anyways even after a successful year but certainly more of a sense of urgency now and get back to work tomorrow."

Question:  Now that the season is over and you got a chance to kind of think about it, what are your thoughts on the season overall?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well it's disappointing.  I think any time you don't have a successful record and when you lose as many games as we did, you're going to be disappointed.  If you're not disappointed, you shouldn't be in the profession.  I don't want to panic because, again, it is just the first year and we have a lot of things that we had to overcome.  I feel at some point; I know I've told our beat writers that the progress that we're making Sunday through Friday would have to show up on Saturday, it didn't enough times this fall, but it will in future years. I am confident of that."

Question:  Can you tell us what happened before the game when the two teams came together?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah that was unfortunate.  I was kind of waiting for them to go and they were maybe waiting for us to go to the locker room, because you kind of got to cross a little bit.  I think just the emotions… guys start talking and all that… that shouldn't happen.  Like I told the guys, it's not a trash talking or talking contest, it's a football contest.  So I think everybody got calmed down.  Somebody must have said something, I don't know, but I thought the coaches and the staff members did a good job of just ushering everybody in."

Question:  You say you are going to evaluate a lot of things, are there any kind of diamonds in the rough that you see that in the back of your mind you're thinking, this could be good next year?

Coach Rodriguez:  "As coaches, we've been through this before.  I have a pretty good idea of the areas that we need to work the hardest on to get better at and as some of them, as I told our guys, some of our problems didn't happen overnight and they won't be solved overnight.  We surely have got to get more explosive and faster.  As coaches, find things that our guys can do.  I think we've already found that.  We hadn't done well a lot.  Again, I've already begun the process of that, which you do every year.  Now us having no more games left, I will speed that up a little bit and we get on the road recruiting here pretty quick too.  Recruiting is going to help us.  Create some competition, build depth and build the program the way we want to.  I'm excited.  The silver lining is that I'm excited about the players that we have coming back.  We're replacing some outstanding seniors, but we'll have some players coming back."

Question:  How confident are you that people say this rivalry has become one sided… how much does that stick in your craw?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I've been here for one of them.  That is the only one that I can really comment on.  They've got one in a row on us, from what I've seen."

Question:  How confident are you that you'll get it turned around?

Coach Rodriguez:  "They have done an outstanding job here building their program and they're obviously one of the leaders in the Big Ten and have been for several years and we got to do all we can to close the gap.  It's going to take a lot of work.  It's going to take a lot of effort.  We got to stick to our plan.  Again, I'm confident with what the plan is, but if we got to make a few adjustments here or there, we got to be willing to do that.  As I've told the team, we will win championships and we will win more games when we deserve to win.  I know that kinds of sounds simplistic in coach speak, but that's basically where were at."

Question:  Coach, all year you've said that year one is the hardest transition and then last week you said year one and year two were the hardest transition years, which was kind of a switch; how much…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I've got to be careful what I say because every time I say something it seems like it's overblown or taken out of context. (Laughter)  You want to ask one thing that I've learned, I learned that, probably being quieter is being better.  Coach Tressel and I talked about that before the game.  I said, ‘you know Tress, I probably, the quieter I am, the less drama I have to deal with.'  Back to your question, (laughter) the first year is the toughest no question.  The transition year, the first year is the toughest, particularly when you lose.  The second year is not as easy as the third year and by the time you get in the third and fourth year, your players become an extension of your staff and they coach.  Right now in a sense, even today, we've got upper classmen that they make a mistake or two and as coaches we're trying to correct them and it is almost like a rookie.  They've tried hard.  We've got to do better jobs as coaches.  Bill Parcells says, ‘you are what you're record says you are' and that's not very good right now.  I got to make sure that we get better."

Question: Steve Threet didn't make the trip?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No and then Nick (Sheridan) missed a series or two with a sore foot.  So we put Justin (Feagin) in, but he came back in the game.  Nick battled, we didn't execute well."

Question:  What did you think of him today, Nick Sheridan?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I thought he competed.  He missed a few things here and there and there was always a few plays that we would always like back, but Nick is a tough, tough guy.  He had a little bit of a shoulder thing coming in this week, so he probably wasn't 100% and then his foot, he banged his foot a little bit.  Nick battled."

Question:  You said that you will evaluate everything after the season?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah I think you always do as coaches."

Question:  Okay, first trip through the Big Ten, did you discover anything that you realize you might have to adjust?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No not really.  That's a fair question, being in the Big Ten.  But again, we studied a lot of film in the off season of our opponents, particularly the Big Ten opponents.  So as far as schemes or players or anything, it was about what we thought, about what I thought it was and we didn't do well, but I didn't see anything that was shocking, I guess or overly surprising."

Question:  Those places you were at before, you took the team and rebuilt them… where are you at (now)?  Do you look at comparisons to your last two places?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  Its painful I know, every time I've told the wife after the first time at West Virginia, I said, ‘man I don't want to go through this again' and I did.  It's similar in some regards, in other regards it's not.  We probably have more work to do in some areas of getting our program to where we want it to be, but it also maybe easier to get it there in some respects too.  I mean we got a great University.  I mean, you can sell so many things about the University of Michigan.  We have tremendous support, our fans are terrific and I think our players that are in our program have learned a lot.  This is not easy for them to do to learn this much stuff.  People can say, well do the same thing that they did last year, but when those guys haven't played anyways, anything they learned this year was new to them.  I'm proud with the way they competed, I just wish we had played well and won more games."

Question:   How does it feel similar to that first year at West Virginia?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Because we won three games.  That's it and it was a lot of learning and a lot of teaching going on.  There was some glimmer of hope that we had.  Again, I think the process here because of what we already have in place here at the University of Michigan and then how were recruiting and those things will help us expedite the process, but I can't give you a timeframe.  Everybody wants to know what year.  As a coach that wouldn't be very smart, so I'm not saying nothing."

Question:  You said the second year can also be tough too, but you anticipate 3 and 9 do you?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I never anticipate; I didn't anticipate it this year.  I think you go into every game saying, ‘well we got a chance'.  Why would you not do that.  Watching the film and seeing how are guys work.  I think we can close the gap quicker but we've got a lot of work to do and that is pretty obvious."

Question:  I know he was hurt and obviously couldn't play, but the fact that Steve Threet didn't even make the trip, is it just because the shoulder was hurt and be too cold?

Coach Rodriguez:  "What do you want him to do be out there and be cold?"

Question:  Because (Threet) was there for Minnesota.

Coach Rodriguez:  "But he could raise his shoulders and signal and do all that.  His shoulder, he couldn't lift his shoulder up yesterday."

Question:  How was Sam McGuffie today especially this week?

Coach Rodriguez:  "He was okay but he got hurt on the first kickoff return and got banged around pretty good."

Question:  His attitude and everything was okay?

Coach Rodriguez:  "That's a tough family issue that he's dealing with there and he had to go to a funeral and these young men go through quite a bit.  I think he was excited and unfortunately he didn't get much of a chance after the first return."

Question:  The play that was reviewed in the end zone with Donovan Warren; did you think that was an interception?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I couldn't see it.  I thought maybe he dragged his foot and I could see a black, you know that rubber black line in the end zone, but I don't know if you had a review where you were at, but I couldn't tell."

Question:  Also the special teams breakdown, you had a missed field goal and then the two fumblers; did you see what happened on the missed field goal and also the…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I think KC (Lopata) just missed and Tay (Martavious Odoms); I was standing right in front of him and the ball kind of tailed on him a little bit and he didn't quite get under it and Boubacar's (Cissoko) fumble, I didn't see where he got hit, but he got hit pretty good.  Those are things that hurt us earlier in the year and those are all points; all three of them are points."

Question:  Will this be a tough defensive film to watch given that aside from a half dozen plays, you probably did a lot of what you wanted to do?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, you got to look at the whole body of work.  Again, I thought our guys were playing hard.  We had a couple of opportunities to get a sack and we didn't do that and they got a couple of big plays out of that.  You know that an athletic quarterback is going to do that against you, but we did get a couple of sacks as well.  I thought we tackled pretty well for the most part.  Just a couple of big plays here and there.  Again until I watch the film and talk to the coaches, I can't really tell you where the breakdowns were defensively.  I know a little bit more offensively."

Question:  Are you in a way, a small part of you relieved that now this is over and you can start on 2009 tomorrow?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No.  I told our guys that cover us and the team, I wish we had a little more time because I do see us making some steps and these guys have been great to be around.  Our players and staff, part of the thing that we enjoy, at least I enjoy is the process.  I enjoy the process of working and teaching and seeing our guys get better and I wish; we ran out of time, but I wish we had a little more time with them, but we don't and we don't have any bowl practices, which maybe gives us more time to recruit, I don't know.  I'm going to miss those seniors for sure."

Question:  A lot of history was made this year, unfortunately not the kind that you or Michigan fans were looking for, but how would you like this season to be remembered when 20 years from now everybody is looking back on this program?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Hopefully you remember it as a blip on the screen, a one time happening."

Question:  Before coming to Michigan you talked about Terrelle Pryor and what a great recruit he would be, after playing him (what do you think)?

Coach Rodriguez:  "They made some plays.  I thought we did a good job at times, but he also made some plays and he showed it athletically.   He made some nice throws.  He has done a good job obviously for them as true freshman."

Question:  What do you think about Beanie Wells?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, he's a first rounder.  Is he a senior?"

Question:  No he's a junior.

Coach Rodriguez:  "He's a first rounder (laughter).  Naw he's a great player, he really is.  Big physical guy like that.  He's had a great career and he's probably going to play for a long time."

Question:  What did you think about the other side, Brandon Minor?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, I'm really proud.  Brandon Minor is a guy that even today he got banged up a little bit, but when he goes in there and runs, he gives us a little lift because he's so physical.  He has battled some injuries all year and he's one of those guys that I think has really embraced how we want to play and fight through some things and I think Brandon knows that he has got another year left and he will keep getting better and better.  He's a pretty quick learner and a physical guy, so I'm excited for him for next year."

Question:  Rich over the course of the season, did you hope to get Feagin more playing time?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah at wide receiver.  We had actually moved him to slot and that is where his position will be, but he knew that we had some depth issues, so we moved him, back, but he'll be moved back to slot."

 


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