Rodriguez Pleased With Victory

Rich Rodriguez breaks down his team's 30-10 victory over the Connecticut Huskies. Michigan's head coach discusses Denard Robinson's impressive showing, the surprising performance of his defense, injuries, and more.

Coach Rodriguez Opening Statement:  "Obviously pleased with the victory.  Some of these stats, I don't want say surprising but pretty pleasing.  We had one penalty, I think that was on the first drive, which made that 100 some yard drive.  No turnovers, which were good.  Looking at third conversions was pretty good, 14 for 19.  I thought we executed….our goals offensively were no turnovers and execute and I think we did that.  For the most part, we had a few things that we would like to have over, but really proud of the guys.  They stayed focus for the last nine months.  They had a great training camp.  I could tell looking in their eyes last night in the last team meeting that they could not wait to get out of the tunnel.  When they announced 113,000, I normally don't pay attention but by that time the game was pretty much under control and just amazing.  The fans were terrific.  It was a great day for Michigan."

Question:  Is that as good a first start as you've ever had out of a quarterback?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well just looking at his numbers, I had no idea that he…running 29 times is a lot, 197 yards, but his passing numbers was something else.  He had three incompletions, including one at the end.  He was just really sharp.  He had a few reads that he'll watch the film on Monday with us that you want back and all that, but for a guy with his first start, his decision making both in the run and pass game I thought was really good.  Then in the open field, I was proud. Some of you that have heard me yell from the practice field about running north and south. I really thought he did a great job of running north and south and getting vertical.  All of our backs did for the most part, Denard (Robinson) especially today, I was proud of the way he run and stuck it up in there."

Question:  Did he show you a little something extra with his toughness?

Coach Rodriguez:  "He is a very strong individual and a tough guy.  He's going to keep getting stronger as he grows.  He is only a second year player.  He showed a lot of toughness.  I think our little running backs did too.  Michael Shaw, Vincent Smith did as well and our guys on the perimeter.  We're not a real big team with our skilled positions, but they are pretty strong and they are in pretty good shape.  They are a good physical team that we played.  UCONN is going to win a lot of games this year I believe."

Question:  When did you see Denard asserting himself?  Was it in the spring; was it last year at any point?  When did you say, yeah he really does have something here?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well when we recruited him (laughter).  That's why we signed him.  We thought in the spring he took another step, because as a true freshman to play and then not enrolling early it was rare… but he got some experience there and it helped. You could just see in spring practice, 15 practices in the spring, he was starting to get a knowledge of really not only what we do but how we want to attack defensives.  Then he carried over with the fall camp as well.  He's going to keep getting better.  This was his first start.  He'll hit bumps in the road.  He's going to play against a lot of good people and there are going to be mistakes made and if he can minimize the mistakes, as we all talked.  The turnovers killed us.  If we don't have any turnovers, we have a chance to win.  That was our key offensively is that we took care of the ball.  We had one fumble and we recovered it, but for the most part our guys really did a good job of taking care of the ball."

Question:  When did you know Denard would be the decision as starter, did you know earlier in the week, last night or how did that kind of play itself out?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I do not know…I knew.  Most of the guys knew.  I don't think it was probably a big secret that Denard was taking a lot of reps with the ones, but we rolled all three of those guys, but I think the competition…our goal was to make the competition to make all three of them get better and I think they have.  I think it elevated all their play and we'll continue to do that.  Denard certainly had asserted himself I guess in camp more than anything else as the guy that should take the first reps.  But I hope that we have three guys that we can win with and we will keep rolling it that way in practice."

Question:  Can you talk about how big it was to have the defense to start on the field and force UCONN to punt and really played well?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  A big factor I thought today, you all probably didn't notice in your luxurious new press box (laughter) that the wind was swirling quite a bit.  We picked the wind and then the wind shifted on us and we were actually almost kicking into the wind.  I didn't look very smart from the get go.  We thought the wind would be a major factor and I think it was factor somewhat, particularly in the kicking game.  So we thought if we could get on defense first, pin them back and get good field position, but that didn't quite turn out the right way, because were back on the three yard line.  When our offense took control and I felt on the first series on that long drive that we had some fast guys in the space that they may have problems with."

Question:  Talk about Brock Mealer answering the challenge and walking out the tunnel with you guys.

Coach Rodriguez:  "I got to see…we were halfway down the tunnel and so the upperclassman, the seniors that were with me got to see it.  We had kind of anticipated.  It was a touching moment for us because we know the whole story and I'm sure it was fore everybody watching on TV and our fans here at the Big House."

Question:  What went in the decision to play Devin (Gardner) when you had to take Denard out for a couple of plays instead of Tate (Forcier)?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It was a coach's decision."

Question:  I read a quote from you saying that you hadn't spent enough time enjoying being the Michigan coach the last couple of years. Is today the kind of thing you envisioned when you took this job, the whole package?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I'll enjoy the next three hours and ten minutes and try to get me five hours of sleep tonight.  My wife will probably get a chance to sleep a little bit tonight, but I'm proud of everybody that has been associated with our program, our university.  We've been through a lot.  I think our focus, not only from our program but from the university standpoint has never wavered as far as trying to build the best program in America.  This is just one win, but I'm going to let our guys to enjoy it.  I've told our players that we've got a huge game next week.  We've got to keep the same focus that we've had the last four weeks and I think our seniors will lead us on that way.  We'll enjoy today and get us started working on Notre Dame tomorrow."

Question:  How important is the first game that a performance like this does it set a tone?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Sure, it gives you confidence.  We finished the year so poorly last year and last year was last year.  This is a whole new team and a new year, but I want our guys to get some confidence. We had a lot of young guys play for the first time.  There were a lot of players that played for the first time today and they could tell you otherwise, but I think they were really nervous and why wouldn't you be.  I think to get that out of the way a little bit, that was good.  Now we got to keep the same intensity and same focus each week and there are a lot of tough challenges ahead including Notre Dame."

Question:  Talk about the defense and them making some stops?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  The defense played hard. We tackled pretty well.  We gave up just a couple of big plays, one on the tip pass that the guy made a good play on.  For the most part, we contained things.  We got a little bit of pressure on the quarterbacks and they up-tempoed a little bit.  We had to line up quickly defensively and adjust a few things and some of our young guys did well.  We had one young guy banged up in Carvin Johnson; I don't know what his status is.  For the most part, a lot of those guys who were in there for the first time handled themselves pretty maturely."

Question:  Junior Hemingway and Terrence Talbott, they were both in street clothes?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Terrence played, Terry (Talbott) didn't play.  Junior Hemingway has a hamstring and our hope is that he'll be able to go this week.  We need him.  He's certainly one of our better receivers."

Question:  Terry was in street clothes?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  We're still working on a clearinghouse eligibility issue with him."

Question:  Going back to the question about is this what you envisioned; what about your offense is that what you…when a guy like Robinson has speed and then all of a sudden the passing game opens up, is that sort of what you envisioned?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah probably anybody would say that.  I'd like to score more than 30.  I like the fact when you don't have to punt.  I think he got…how many punts did we have?  One?  I like if we had none, but it was good to get Will (Hagerup) some experience, but I would rather not.  Getting first downs, I think I just noticed, 28 first downs, if we can get 25 first downs as an offense, it usually tells me that we're executing and we're controlling the game a little bit from an offensive standpoint.  I'm not a big stat guy, but if I looked at the two most important stats for us are turnovers and first downs and we did a good job getting first downs."

Question:  Can you put into words how important it was to win today and then having to go to South Bend next week?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Everybody likes winning.  Everything is better.  The food tastes better, you're in a better mood, everybody is happy.  113,000 (fans), I don't know maybe UCONN got 3000 people here, but 110,000 Michigan fans, they deserve it.  They deserved a win.  I know what they want here and hope and expectations at the University of Michigan is to win championships.  We all understand it.  Our players understand that, but there is a process of doing that, of getting there.  This is just one win, but I want our seniors to feel good, I want our players to feel good and I want our coaches to feel good.  It's been tough on the coaches.  It's been tough on the players.  If they can feel good for a few hours and then get back to work tomorrow then that's great."

Question:  What about (Brendan) Gibbons; what was his problem out there today?  What were his biggest problems? He had the missed extra point…

Coach Rodriguez:  "The extra point from my vantage point, there is a snap-hold issue and I don't think it every got placed down.  I think it looked good and the wind knocked it about 10 yards short.  At the end, I was going to kick a field goal at the end, but we thought we could get a first down and just run it out.  I thought he did okay.  He still has got a battle.  I think Seth Broekhuizen will still battle him for the job."

Question:  How much does it help to have this emotional lift for the guys as they get ready for Notre Dame?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Any time you win you're going to get a little more confidence.  I would rather coach off a win than off a loss any day.  I don't think it would have been devastating either way if we had lost, because I think our guys have come so close together that any adversity we face, we'll be able to handle it.  I want them to be able to feel good.  One of the goals as a coach, when you coach college football is for your players to truly enjoy the experience of being a student-athlete and if you're a place like Michigan, you want to truly enjoy it.  You should be able to enjoy, but inevitably, you do not enjoy it is much if you are not winning.  They get to enjoy for a week."

Question:  Is there anything that Denard does that reminds of you Pat (White)?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah he runs fast and he was very similar to Pat, at least today, Denard really showed a sense of feel or maturity out there.  The game may be fast for everybody else and it is slowing down for him.  He played…the game seemed a lot slower for him today than any time last year, which we would expect and that was the same way with Pat."

Question:  Going forward, since neither you nor him realized how many carries he had today, are you going to take a little more notice of that during a game or can you not worry about that?

Coach Rodriguez:  "If he can carry it 29 times for 200 yards, he'll carry 29 times again.  I don't know if he'll be able to do it at each and every game.  It is a long season.  We play a lot of big physical teams.  That's a little more than we had planned, but he can handle it."

Question:  James Rogers kind of got thrown into the fire with Troy's (Woolfolk) injury; talk about how he responded today.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Again, I have to watch the film to give you a more correct answer for how the guys played individually, but I thought James was really poised.  I think he made a couple of nice plays.  We're probably going to kick ourselves watching the film defensively, because it looked like we had a couple of opportunities to get some big, big plays, interceptions or something like that and we just missed out on the ball.  I thought James in the secondary, Coach Gibson and Coach Robinson did a nice job of getting those young guys ready."

Question:  You moved through a couple of returners.  Obviously, Jeremy (Gallon) had the issue.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah he fumbled one.  That was a tough one.  He is a redshirt freshman out there and the wind was in his face.  He is going to be a very good punt returner and Terrence Robinson will be fine too.  We would like to have Daryl (Stonum) but Daryl is taking so many reps at receiver, we wanted to give Terrence a chance, but we'll still use both of those guys.  I don't think we did well in the return game though at all today."

Question:  Can you talk about the importance of the fumble recovery when it looked like they were about to go to one possession?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It was the only time that we dropped the ball on the ground and I don't know who recovered it…Patrick Omameh?"

Question:  No defensively, when Obi Ezeh…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Oh yeah that was huge for us.  That was huge.  You got to keep playing every play.  We gave up a couple of fourth down stops.  I got see what we have to do to get that being better.  Again, they up-tempoed us and I think our defense was used to it because of going against our offense, but our guys had to play.  They got some good players and they'll win a lot of guys."

Question:  On Denard Robinson's progress from last year to today.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Part of it is just going from a true freshman to a second year player and understanding the offense. I've said this before, Denard can throw, all of our quarterbacks.  They can make all the throws that we want on offense and there were probably more times that we probably should have went down the field, but we were running the ball and to be able to control the game from a running standpoint.  It takes pressure off your defense.  When we can get first down and keep your defense off the field, boy that is the best scenario we could have."

Question:  Did Denard earn the right to start next week?  I think he said we don't know.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Stay tuned."

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