We are excited to get back into game week here with Central Michigan coming into town.
Obviously, I have played against them twice in the past two years and I know the coaching staff. To kind of lay the land there, they graduated some key players and have some players injured like a lot of us do at this point in the year.
Their backup quarterback is a redshirt freshman and we will learn a lot from the game he just played. I think they run the ball well, a team that is committed to run the football, and has a blue-collar mentality that way.
One of the best players in the MAC Conference is Titus Davis. He is a deep play guy that is really good when the ball is in the air and can do something with it after the catch. We will need to know where he is all the time.
They have a very sound defensive scheme. They don't do a whole lot, but they are very similar to Michigan State. Quarters team, plays a lot of press coverage, likes to bring some zone pressure up the middle and off the edges and they aren't afraid to play zero coverage at times and bring six or more. They are a team I am excited to play.
When we lose a tough game like we did, the best thing as coaches and players is to get back into preparation to play another game and move past it. That's a big thing I think we did as a football team. We did show a big improvement from the past two games as a team. We need to continue to do that, as we get closer and closer to being in conference games only. This is an important game.
We are going to be shorthanded in a couple of spots. We had a couple of injuries ourselves in the game. (Marquez) Valdes-Scantling with his hamstring will be questionable, (Darryl) Cato-Bishop will be questionable and we are still awaiting word on Rob Crisp. Hopefully, we will have him this week.
It will Pete's [Thomas] third game as the starter and I think he competed extremely hard in our last game. I know, like there always will be, some plays he wishes he had back. The biggest thing we will have to do is build on that performance and get better.
The big emphasis, obviously from a coaching standpoint, is Week 2 against Richmond we had a bunch of defensive penalties and none on offense and against Clemson it flip-flopped. Part of what we do offensively is have a lot of looks, a lot of shifts, a lot of trades and it requires a lot of focus. Some of the mistakes we are making are mental and we obviously have to clean those up.
On the biggest positives from the Clemson game:
The guys competed. I don't know how many people gave them a chance in that game with a backup quarterback and missing a starting left guard in the game. Being as young as we are against a veteran team like them, I thought we came to play.
I thought we played them extremely well on the line of scrimmage defensively. I thought we limited their explosive plays and tackled well in space. The biggest thing is that they played until the last second on the clock. When you play a team like that and are missing a couple of your key players; you can't have all the breaks go the other way. It felt like we just didn't get any. They called a lucky timeout, which took six points off the board, and the other play we have talked enough about.
I just felt from the Richmond game to this game, I got a club of guys who fight, they are tough and they don't quit. I think that is something I can build a program around until we get healthy and have enough depth in the positions we need to be good in. That was the one thing I was real proud of the players for.
On confidence gained from the next practice following Clemson:
Sunday's practice was a good practice; we got a lot of work in. I think the guys put a lot mentally and physically into that game and they were excited to get back onto the field. I felt like we were confident before the Clemson game.
Our players didn't think it would be an upset to beat them. They were confident that if we played well and executed we would be in the game and we were. They were just disappointed because of the mistakes that we made. Most good players and good teams, the coaches and the players are their own worst critics.
You can come in on Sunday and watch the film and say, ‘Man, look at all the chances we had.' It's always that way, but when you lose a close one it is magnified. It was good to get back out there and get the taste out of our mouth. We hit on some of the things we wanted to clean up.
On play of defensive front guys against Clemson:
I am very encouraged. They are playing hard; they are making plays. I thought they contained him. When [Tajh Boyd] did get out of the pocket, they chased him down quickly. He wasn't able to do the things he normally does with his feet. That has been prevalent for three games now.
Our front has done well and now we are going to be tested a bit with depth. With Cato-Bishop being a little gimpy and Forrest, he played all through the game, but he's banged up. We aren't as fresh as we were. Getting AJ Ferguson back helps the defensive tackle position, but D-end we will have to get a little more work. Joe Wright will have to get in there and Drew Davis, one of our linebackers, moved to defensive end the other week in practice and has been getting better. He could see some reps at defensive end, particularly on third down.
On back-to-back strong games from Robert Caldwell:
He is a big guy; he tackles well. He is physical; he plays hard. I think he will tell you that he could've played a heck a lot better. Coverage wise, he was missing lines a lot. It was his second game and his first big-time game for sure.
You like what he is doing in some areas and in other areas it frustrates you because you know he can do better. I think all three of the linebackers, to be honest with you, played their best game. I thought Brandon Pittman was very active and that was D.J.'s [Green] best game too. None of them are where they need to be yet, but they are getting better.
On penalties and discipline:
We ran six laps yesterday as an offense. Running a mile and a half with the pads on is not a lot of fun. We did the same thing the week before with the defense. It takes 15-20 minutes and that is a lot of thinking time. That is really the only thing we do besides talk about it and talk about it. If it was one thing, it would be fixed.
The week before it was some defensive guys roughing the passer and being offsides. This week, it was a variety of different things and a lot of these are freshmen. [Marquez] Valdes is supposed to come out on a personnel group and doesn't look over and see it. That cost us a substitution penalty. They called Asa [Watson] for putting his hand out on a shift, which he didn't do.
A couple of other ones, like Tyson [Chandler] goes back and cuts a guy illegally when he knows he can't do that. Those are the ones that bother me. The ones the guys know the rule, but didn't have discipline. Those are the ones we need to get out of the.
The other ones are going to happen from time-to-time and you just have to hope they aren't in as many key situations, like Alex Barr jumping offsides on third and two, that was a killer.
On things to look for to make sure the team doesn't have a letdown against Central Michigan:
I've told our coaches all along, I don't care who we are playing, it is game on. It is the most important game that we have. Never allow a dip in our intensity as a coaching staff, regardless of the opponent. Players are always going to get up for big games. It's keeping them up for the ones that aren't as big that is key from a scheduling standpoint. From a big picture standpoint, this is the most important game we have right now.
Next Sunday, we need to be 3-1 and the only way to get to that point is to handle our business against Central Michigan.
I hope that through the message, we are going to talk a lot about self-discipline this week. It is going to be a key component of why I think we can win the game, each guy on the team is disciplined in his preparation, disciplined in his play, plays with great energy and executes the plan the way they can and are capable of than we will do what we are supposed to do.
It's when we have a lack of discipline that we have an issue with our football team. You can take it all the way through any teams daily lives. The players that are on academic lists are usually the guys making mistakes on game-days. We are going to continue to talk about doing the right things day-in-day-out and having that carry over to the football game this weekend.
The Central Michigan staff has been together for four years now. They know their systems; they know their players, their coaches. When you play a team like that, they have a lot of things they can add in schematically. We have got to be ready. They have nothing to lose against us.
We are going to have to get up for them. Hopefully, we can learn our lesson when we don't show up and turn the football over, we can lose. That is what happened in Week 2 against Richmond. We had a game where we went up and down the field and didn't get a lot of points, because of turnovers. We can't have that happen this week.
On growing as a family:
That is something we talked a lot about last week. We have grown as a family, an offense, defense and special teams are closer than they have ever been. Everyone is more on the same page on the goals of our program, the steps that we need to take as a program, how we should do things and why, and the accountability to each other. I think we have grown a lot.
You don't have four-quarter comebacks if you aren't a united team; you just don't. You don't get down 20 points, convert four fourth downs on a drive and go onsides and almost get it if you aren't. The guys believe in each other, they want to be good, and it is unfortunate that we are a little bit young. Going through a new offense, with a change at quarterback and three different lineups on the offensive line, it's been tough.
This week, hopefully we can start to get a little of that chemistry back. That's the one thing that everyone knew our O-line was going to be a question coming into the season. It hasn't been as good as it could be, because we have had a lot of injuries up front. They are getting healthier and hopefully that can help as we move forward.