Week 6 Presser Transcript

Rich Rodriguez reflects on the loss to Michigan State and looks ahead to Saturday's match-up with the Iowa Hawkeyes. Michigan's headman discussed the play of the offensive line and the ineffectiveness on third down defensively against the Spartans, the challenge of playing in Iowa City at night, the Hawkeye defense, and more.

QUESTION: How is David Molk progressing?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "I think okay. He should be out of his protective boot that he's been wearing.  He was with the trainer yesterday doing some things, snapping the ball and all that, but I'll see him this afternoon and see how he's doing."

QUESTION: Does that affect his prognosis or is it still the same timeline?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "I think with four to six weeks, I know he's been wearing that little thing that accelerates the healing, and he says it feels good. So whether he makes any progress, be able to practice at all this week, I'll probably know this afternoon, tomorrow for sure."

QUESTION: What about Mike Williams? Did he come off with an ankle?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "I don't know if he was 100 percent, but it was more of a substitution thing for us. Jordan Kovacs had been playing very well, but Mike is still very much in the mix."

QUESTION: In terms of looking at the film to see some of the blocking issues and moving the ball, what came out of that?
COACH RODRIGUEZ:  "Well, in the first half particularly, we obviously didn't play very well on either side of the ball. But offensively, it was king of a strange day.  I think we had some 19 snaps, and I think seven or eight of them were on the last drive. We just didn't have the ball. A couple times we did, it was just a mistake here or there that killed the drive. There was no chance for any rhythm at all first half. Second half a little bit better, but again, it was just a day that we didn't execute well. As coaches we've got to get them in some other plays maybe to help, and we just weren't sharp. And when you play a pretty solid team and you're not sharp on the road, it's going to cost you."

QUESTION: On if the effectiveness of the running game without David Molk.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "You know, David (Moosman) has played pretty well at center, so I couldn't pin it all on that. But I think obviously (Molk) very good at what he does and so you miss that player. But I think if anything what David Molk brings is a certain attitude up front of aggressiveness and I guess tenacity.  He kind of sets the tone for that. We've talked to our guys and challenged them a little bit in that regard. When David Molk is not in there, somebody else has to kind of set that tone. It helps when the center does that, and Moose understands that. But there's no doubt David Molk has that type of mentality that you want up front."

QUESTION: In the second half it looked like Ferrara was in at right guard?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, we were trying to get a little spark there with John, and he did okay. Again, we didn't play our best up front, but there was a lot of positions that didn't play their position. But they still competed. I'm proud of the guys. There was no panic, and we know we can play better. But there's a lot of things we've got to fix."

QUESTION: Are you looking at maybe going back to that arrangement where Ferrara plays to maybe start the game there?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "No not really. We haven't finalized the depth chart of who the starter is for Saturday yet. It really depends how this week goes in practice. This may be the biggest challenge our guys have faced so far this year with the front seven of Iowa, particularly their front four. Their linebackers are very good, but their front four are outstanding.  That's a big, big challenge for our guys up front. "

QUESTION: Can you expand on that a little bit? What do they do well?  What are the problems they present?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "They have very, very good players, very sound scheme-wise, you don't see them out of position, they don't make mistakes fundamentally. They do an outstanding job, and they're very explosive. Against everybody they've played, not just this year but I think even last year, I think it's been… I don't know how many, seven, eight, nine games since somebody has had a rushing touchdown against them.  They're just very good up front and very aggressive. They jump the ball well. They get off the ball pretty quick. So it's a good challenge certainly for our guys. We'll have to play a lot better than we did this past weekend."

QUESTION: They're one of the nation's leaders in pass efficiency defense. Is that a result of the front four or is it something they do scheme?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Both, really. Their front four, they don't blitz a whole lot, but they pick their moments when they do. But they don't have to because they can get pressure with their front four. They'll play some man-to-man, but their zone coverage schemes, they don't get caught out of position. The right guys will be in the right spots, and then they break on the ball very well. You can tell they see the quarterback throw the football.  That's kind of what you preach, but when they play zone coverage and when there's tipped balls, they get them, which tells me that they're breaking on the ball and they're in the right spots at the right time."

QUESTION: It seemed like your front four played pretty well against Michigan State.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Our defensive front has been pretty consistent all year. It's probably been the most consistent group on our defense as well as particularly the first four or five guys getting some pressure, making some plays in the run game and making a lot of tackles. We're doing some things with them, but Mike Martin and Brandon Graham, Craig Roh, Ryan Van Bergen, Greg Banks and his opportunities… those guys have been pretty solid in every game."

QUESTION: Are any of the linebacker jobs going to be up for grabs this week?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, every job is up for grabs every week. I mean, it sounds like coach speak, but our guys know they have to play at a certain level. Jonas and Obi have played very, very hard, Stevie has been the most consistent guy at his kind of hybrid position. I think Jonas is a very active player, and Obi has played solid, as well, but we can all play better. It seems like for us defensively we've played well one or two plays, and then the 3rd and longs in the last game killed us. So you take away a couple of those scramble plays, their big 3rd and long passes, and it was a pretty solid effort. But you have to count those. Those are part of the whole deal. You can't just take away those two, three plays because those are part of your defense. We've got to be more consistent I think is the word in all three phase, particularly defensively. Being more consistent defensively would go a long way for us."

QUESTION: How much of the offensive struggles early were Tate, and how much of it was the running game?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Oh, it's all a combination. It's a combination of plays being called and players executing. And offensively you can have one guy make a mistake and it throws the whole play for a loop. But again, they hung in there. We just weren't sharp, and it was disappointing, because it was a game we needed to be sharp in order to establish some rhythm and keep our defense off the field."

QUESTION: I think Tate had more carries than Minor and Carlos combined.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, they did a good job against the run. Some of it was just a strange game the way it was going. We were behind, so at the end of the game we were throwing it every snap, we weren't going to run it. Some of those runs that were read runs, where he couldn't hand off, and when he played us he had to pull the ball and run."

QUESTION: On if he would prefer the running backs get most of the carries.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "I would prefer running backs get most of the carries, no question about it."

QUESTION: Tate was pretty winded it seemed like. Was that him being tired, hurt at all?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "No, I think it was more… I think he took a little shot in the ribs, and that hurt a little bit, but it was, too, that he was running quite a bit, running around a little bit. We hadn't run a whole lot. He had missed a little bit of practice last week, so his conditioning level probably wasn't where it needs to be."

QUESTION: Is he going to practice this week?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, he'll be a little limited today because he's still sore, but he should be fine tomorrow."

QUESTION: On his team's ability to come from behind late in games.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "As I said, I don't think our guys are the type of team that will panic. It certainly looked gloomy for most of the game, but we just needed a spark and we finally got the one touchdown and got a little bit of spark and got some momentum going there.  We practice with that mentality, ‘hey, just play the next play.'  You can't worry about the last one. I think that's a lesson for all of our guys, but particularly for our young guys, to learn. We're going to face a lot of adversity in a lot of games. We're not to the point where we can just mess around and beat people and win convincingly. So we're going to face a lot of adversity, just got to hang in there and play the next play, and I think that's a good lesson to learn."

QUESTION: Do you caution them or worry about them at all maybe getting content in the fact that we can do this at the end?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "No, not really. That's not a mentality. You try to make everything so competitive on every play, and even in practice, but certainly in the games. I think our players understand how important each play is. At least we say it enough to them, and they get it. Again, it wasn't for a lack of effort or a lack of trying that we were behind. It was more of a lack of execution and other things, and we can't afford to do that if we want to win the game."

QUESTION: Have you been in this situation before where you've been in this many kind of last-minute close games?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Close games? Yeah, a couple times. It's been in usually… I don't know, again, I'm not a revisionist or a history guy… I just would rather look forward than behind, but probably if you look back, probably my second or third year of the programs I was a head coach at was probably very similar to this. But I don't know that for a fact. "

QUESTION: Is Tate as poised or more poised than most young quarterbacks you've seen in these situations?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "No question. You're talking about a true freshman. Even though he enrolled early, he's still a true freshman age-wise and physical-wise and all that. To be in those situations at the end of a game, you know, sometimes freshman play like freshman, but for the large majority of the part, Tate has played beyond his years.  It's exciting to think about how Tate and the other young guys,how they can progress if we do our job as coaches over the next couple years… because they certainly have shown some things so far.  That's I don't want to say a bonus, but it's certainly a plus as a freshman.  Any coach will tell you, particularly in college, as they go on their careers they'll grow leaps and bounds, particularly from the first year to the second year."

QUESTION: Obviously you always want no missed tackles in the game, but realistically, considering things, what is an acceptable number do you feel?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "You know, I don't know. We don't have a goal defensively. We chart missed tackles. I know defensive staff does. I don't know if we have a certain number we list it as. Like some of our missed tackles in this game came late, and whether that was due to fatigue or technique, I don't know. But we've been tackling pretty well this year for the most part, but later in the games, late in a couple of games, we've not tackled as well.  I don't know, again, if that's fatigue or not. But we certainly do try and address that."

QUESTION: How close to 100 percent was Tate on Saturday?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well he was a little sore going in and I'd say there was a little chill in the air so I think that didn't help it. But as the game went on I think he warmed up a little bit. But I don't think just looking at the velocity of his throws and all that, that he maybe felt 100 percent. But he never complained at all during the game that he was incapable of doing all the things we ask. And I think, again, over time, this is something that every day, unless he gets banged on again, every day helps a little bit in that feeling better."

QUESTION: When you look back at some of the dropped passes, how much of that was receiver concentration?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "It was all receiver concentration. Those guys dropped very few. Again, everybody makes mistakes, coaches make mistakes, players make mistakes. Unfortunately it was a game where they kind of get highlighted or featured more because it was such a critical moment for us to get 1st downs, and when we were struggling and had those, I guess it just highlighted the problem even more. Those guys have all got good ball skills. Just hopefully it doesn't happen again.

QUESTION: You played Martavious (Odoms) a lot but not as many of the other guys.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, normally Kelvin Grady will play a little bit more. I know he just had the one drop, but Coach Magee feel that particularly because of the way the game was going and we didn't have any extended drives that he wanted to go with a little more experience with Martavious. But Kelvin will still be in the mix. He'll be very much a part of our plans again this weekend."

QUESTION: How improved has Odoms play been this year compared to last year?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "He's been physical. That's the thing. Tay is not a big guy, but he's done a good job in the weight room. He's added a little weight and strength, and he's been more physical in his blacking. We've challenged him to be more consistent in his routes, and I think he has been. He's been pretty good. He's been better, which you do expect in the second year, but he still hasn't reached what his peak will be yet."

QUESTION: What does the team do differently to prepare for a day game as opposed to a night game?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Nothing really. We don't play a lot of them, one or two a year. Sometimes we don't play any at home. But the atmosphere is usually more intense just in my experience in night games. You get a little more crowd into it; they've had all day to tailgate, so they usually get into the game a little bit more. So we have to prepare our guys for that noise.  The lights, again, I have not been there, but I wouldn't think it's going to be that much of an issue."

QUESTION: Did you announce your players of the game after watching film on Sunday or on Monday?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, we do it today. We meet and practice today. We didn't have any on offense or defense, and not just because we lost but just because we didn't have anybody we felt played at a championship level. And Jason Olesnavage was our special teams player."

QUESTION: What did Kovacs do well?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "He's really played well the last several weeks. He played well in the game, so we were thinking maybe starting him anyway. But we knew we were going to get him into the game. And when he got in, he made a few plays. He's a very intelligent player. He knows what he's doing, and he also helps get some of the other guys lined up, which is a key for us."

QUESTION: I don't know how many of the guys you saw yesterday, if any, but do you have a feeling for how they'll respond to the first adversity?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "I think they'll respond fine. I saw a few of them yesterday that came over to eat, and I saw quite a few more of them today coming in for treatments and things. Again, I think they're a pretty resilient group, and I've got a meeting in a few hours with them. We'll talk quite a bit about that. That was one that we maybe could have had but we didn't get, so now it moves on to the next one. The nice part I won't say nice, but the challenging part for us is we've got to go on the road again against I think a top ten team in their environment that's playing very good football. We know we'll have to crank it up and play a whole lot better, or it could be a tough night."

QUESTION: You talked about their defense. What is it about Iowa's offense?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "They've been executing well. I think their two young running backs play very, very well. The quarterback has been the guy that's made some big plays for them, made some big throws. They keep you off balance, they do some different things with their formations and they'll come downhill at you.  When they don't beat themselves, when they're executing and running the football and all that, they'll control the game, and that's what's concerning. They have the ability to control the game with their offense, and then their defense is so good, they get a lot of three-and-outs."

QUESTION: Did J.T. Floyd do enough to continue to start?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "That's why that position is still open there. Really that will be an ongoing battle. We'll see what happens throughout the course of the week. "

QUESTION: You said that some guys came over to eat. Did you mean to your house?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "No, they have dinner on Sundays. "

QUESTION: Are you focusing on certain guys, or is that coming naturally to them?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "No, it comes really on the seniors first. I talk to the seniors quite a bit more about that. Again, we only have a handful of seniors, Brandon Graham and Stevie Brown on defense, and they've done a good job, and the other seniors we have on offense have done a good job. So our leadership has been really good. Again, we have not it was our first loss, so sometimes you need it even more. But I wouldn't think they would have any problems. But we'll challenge our guys. Again, we've got to play more aggressively. We've got to execute better. There's a lot of fundamental things we've got to get back at, and coaching-wise we've got to do a good job of coaching, too, to get these guys to take care of the little things.  I think sometimes when you play the games and you forget about the little things, the fundamentals of steps or techniques on running routes or playing defensive back or offensive line, and as coaches it's our job to make sure that they do those little things and those fundamentals correctly.  It starts with us as coaches, and then it filters down to the players."

QUESTION: Compared to what you saw last year, have you noticed guys have stepped up more?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Again, I don't revisit the past. I don't think there's any use in doing that. It's a completely different team. Next year's team will be different than this year's. Every makeup of every team is a little bit different. You hope it's all positive and that everybody is leading the way you want to, but inevitably there's always -- it depends, starts with your senior class and then goes on down.  Last year's senior class was good, this year's senior class is smaller, but they've been very good so far. But again, we're not even at the midpoint of the season yet. We'll challenge them a little bit, but I've felt for the last eight or nine months that this team was very focused and very hungry, and I have not seen anything to suggest otherwise. I would be shocked if I did.

QUESTION: Is Tate evolving as a leader?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, I think so. I think as I see a little bit more each week, particularly with Tate, and I think that's natural. I don't think you can force it on a true freshman and say, hey, you take charge of them just because you're the quarterback. I think you've got to let that happen naturally, and a lot of times it happens throughout the course of a ballgame more than it would in practice because in a ballgame they're out there on their own without coaches standing behind.  But Tate has some natural leadership qualities, and I could see that happening on the sidelines a little bit, out on the field. But that's one thing that you know will grow over the years. When Tate has a chance and Denard and those guys have chance to be with these guys year-round and take them through spring practice, take them through the off-season program and get to know them a little bit more each other, I think that's what freshmen, they grow the most from the first to second year."

QUESTION: Can you just explain your philosophy on rugby punting and why you use it?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, I've been doing it for probably five, six, seven years or so, and it's just a change-up sometimes to mess with their punt return unit and to make it a challenge for them… whether you're kicking into the wind or what have you. Sometimes we've got to make sure our guys understand the parameters. Normally when we roll punt, it's just a true roll punt…it's not a read like it was in the game. And Zoltan is a very, very intelligent guy, and he's read it right every time but once. That happens, and we move on. I like what we do, and Zoltan is very good at it."

QUESTION: Is it tougher for them to get a good return?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, what happens, a lot of times, in particular it's hard because you can't field the ball cleanly because the ball is a funny shape and it bounces kind of crazy. If you try to kick it into the wind you can kick the ball and get a great foot on it and kick it pretty solid, but the wind is going to keep it at a short distance, whereas a roll punt you can drive it through the wind a little bit and sometimes that ball will roll for 15, 20 yards. Some of it, too, is based on protection. Sometimes you get away from pressure, you can roll away from it, as well."

QUESTION: Why was that a read in that situation versus just a regular roll punt?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, because it was 4th and 1.  We'll have a lot of reads called at times where we can.  If they give it to us, you take it. Again, he's been very good at it, but sometimes he doesn't make the right decision. We should have kicked the ball. But we as coaches… we've got to make sure we explain the parameters, again.  We've got to explain the parameters…  if they're in a punt safe look and all that, you kick the ball. It's pretty simple. If a guy is coming on the outside, you kick the ball. He knows that. Shoot, he's one of the best in the country, Zoltan is."

QUESTION: Talk a little bit about Donovan Warren's performance?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "It's been really good. He's been pretty solid. He's been our most consistent defensive back without question. He made some good plays. You know, he's a very intelligent player. It's very important to him. That's one thing, Donovan, I think some of our other guys need to follow his lead as far as how you prepares for a game. That's been a big key for him."

QUESTION: I know it wasn't the outcome you wanted, but how good was it for you to see Brandon Graham get his first sack?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Brandon has really played well. Sometimes you say, well, his numbers are down, but you know, he's playing better football now than I think at any time since I've been here certainly. It's just there's a lot of times he's been this close or they've been max protecting. There's been a lot of teams that have had two people on him where they max protected, kept seven or eight in. He's made a lot of plays in the run game, made that huge play on that one stop, tackled for loss. He's been very, very consistent, played very well, as all the front four have."

QUESTION: Were there any other injuries? Troy went down at one point in the game. Were there any other injuries that came out of it?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Nothing that would keep anybody out from practice this week."

QUESTION: Has Fitzgerald Toussaint been able to practice?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, he just started last week. In talking to our guys on defense, he has been very impressive on the scout team and in his first week back. I'm anxious to see how he does as we go along.  There's nothing out of the question for any of these true freshmen. Some of them probably know that they're going to be red-shirted. It's halfway in the season, but still, it's a long season, so anything is possible."

QUESTION: You mentioned before that the defense would played one or two plays real well and then would have a breakdown. How do you go about fixing that?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, the consistency part. Hopefully some of it is experience. I was talking to Greg the other day, I said, we've got to remember that even though some of these guys may be juniors or seniors, they're all freshmen in this system, so they've had spring practice with it, the 15 practices with it, and they've had the five games and preseason camp before that. So being the first year in the system, I don't want to say we expect inconsistency because as coaches we've got to make sure we don't have it. But I think I would expect to see more of that than I would offensively because it's the second year of the offense.   I think it's just a matter of coaches… I don't want us to panic and try to reinvent the wheel defensively scheme-wise or anything like that. Let's make sure we have our best 11 out there and get the other guys ready to play and then just get more fundamentally sound and be more consistent in what we're doing."

QUESTION: Do you feel like you have the personnel that you want for that defensive team?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "Well, I think we have the right personnel playing. Again, we look at it as hard as anybody. But I think in our scheme, our defensive coaches are smart enough to, I think, tweak our scheme to fit what our personnel does. I think that's an important thing to do. Again, the results are what, I guess, are the final judgment. If you look at it, we'll play really good defense and then we'll play not-so-good defense at times. Those few times are the things we've got to get fixed."

QUESTION: You had (J.T.) Turner make an appearance on Saturday. How is he progressing?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "He's progressing well for a true freshman. Again, we've not had much time with him other than camp. Again, when games get here, it's so hectic to get ready for a game plan, it's hard to get those freshmen as ready as you can. But I think he's going to be -- what we've seen in practice, a little bit in games, he's going to be really good."

QUESTION: A little off topic, but when Elliott Mealer came here, he had lost his father and his girlfriend; you know the story. What kind of role did you serve? Did you have to watch after him?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: "No, I don't know if the story it's probably been chronicled several times. But the first thing we did as a coaching staff, me in particular, was just to reach out to he and his family and tell him that we're going to be there. He's got a wonderful family. His mother Shelly and his brothers are just terrific people. They're always the last people I see after the game. They're tailgating champions now. They'll be right out there tailgating until long after everybody is gone.
It wasn't just the coaching staff; it was really neat how the players, and particularly the players that he came in with that reached out to him before he even stepped foot on campus was really touching. To know the young man and his story, it's remarkable what he's gone through, what his family has gone through and how they're persevering. He's an inspiration to everybody in our program, I can tell you that. But he does not want to be coached or treated any differently, and we talked about that the first time I met him. I said, ‘listen, we're here for you and all that.'  He said, ‘Coach, I just want to be treated like everyone else.'  And so we have. We get on him on certain things, and we pat him on the back, but we also appreciate what he's been through."

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