“Really a complete game for us. I thought our special teams played well, I thought our defense played really well and gave us four extra possessions with the blocked field goal, two turnovers, and a fourth-down. That was huge, it was things we talked about all week. Offensively, we ran the ball really, really efficient and Mitch (Trubisky) threw the ball well as always.”
Was that a designed run for Mitch on his rushing touchdown?
“It was a run-pass option. A run-pass option. It’s one of those RPO’s that we have in the offense where he makes a decision on what he wants to do.”
What led to the effectiveness of the run game?
“Somebody asked me this week how Hood is and I said he’s as close to 100 percent as he’s been all year. That means going all the way back to camp. He’s really feeling good now, he’s feeling like he’s 100 percent. Offensive line did a heck of a job. I thought they all did. I thought they blocked on the perimeter well, it was an overall team effort.”
What’s the best part of having Elijah back to being this healthy?
“I think the biggest thing for him, it’s been frustrating for him mentally. He hasn’t been 100 percent so he hasn’t done the things that he’s wanted to do. For him it’s about contributing to the team, the success of the team. So I think he feels pretty good that he’s finally back and feels good about the way he’s running the football.”
When he’s healthy, how does that change the offense?
“Now you get into some third and mediums and know you can still run it. Some third-and-threes and things so you’re tendencies aren’t all passing. To be able to be over 50 percent on third down we’re going to have to be able to run the ball some and be effective that way. It also enables you to be in less third-and-longs because you’re effective running the football on first and second down.”
Three straight 100-yard receiving games for Bug (Howard). What’s been different for him?
“Well I can tell you, in this game they rolled a lot of things to Switzer’s side. No matter whether we put him in the boundary or the field, we were looking for ways to get him into some situations and they kept rolling that way and so that enables Bug to be in a lot of one-on-one situations, and he’s going to win those.”
Is that what happened on his long touchdown?
“We’ve been running a play into the boundary that we were having some success with and they were bringing the safety down so we decided to pop it and Bug came open.”
When you’re playing an offense like that how advantageous is it to get those first two scores and be up 10-0 and be able to trade scores the rest of the way?
“You never feel like you’re in a comfort range when you’re playing against them because you know they can score. So I’m proud of our defense. That’s why we talked about somehow besides the turnover that we create, we had to steal a couple possessions. We had to stop them on third-and-short or fourth-and-short, which we did once. We needed to block a field goal, and we did. I think that’s three games now that we’ve blocked field goals.”
Mitch was 9-of-11 on third down, and picked up seven first downs throwing the ball. He’s done that all year long. Is that unique in a quarterback?
“He’s really good, he’s good. I’ll put him up there against anybody in the country. He can do it. He’s pretty calm, the game has slowed down for him, he’s in great shape. I think he would tell you he had one throw that he wishes he had back because his feet weren’t in the right place, but he’s pretty sound. He makes really good decisions and he takes care of the football.”
Mikey Bart had a few big plays during the game. Does he infuse the other guys when he makes plays like that?
“What Mikey does is Mikey plays the same way every single play. That guy’s got a motor. He never slows down. When he’s on the field he goes as hard as he can every single play. I know you guys think, ‘Well doesn’t everybody do that’? No. Everybody does not do that. If we could get everybody to do that we would be incredible. That’s got to be easy to do, isn’t it? No it’s not. To go out there and play as hard as you can every single snap, a lot of people can’t do it. He just has that motor about him and he does it every time.”
If Elijah doesn’t have that big first quarter is Bug as wide open as he was for that long touchdown?
“Probably not. I mean obviously the more efficient we are running the ball the more plays we can make in the air. Our guys know, and that’s those receivers do such a great job of blocking on the perimeter. They know when they do that that they’re creating a situation for themselves that’s going to be good for them.”
Was there a different point of emphasis for the defense after halftime?
“Didn’t change one thing. Didn’t adjust anything. All we told them is to go out there and play pissed off.”
When you look at the progress the team’s made this year, how does it compare to last year?
“This team has a lot of grit, just like last year’s team. They don’t flinch in the face of adversity. They play for each other, they’ve got each other’s back, they play really hard together, they love each other. They’re something, they really are. A lot of these guys are the same guys. You’ve got guys like (Jeff) Schoettmer and Shak(eel) Rashad that were back and it’s good to see them, but they’re gone. Those young linebackers, Cole Holcomb and Andre Smith, they’ve really upped their game. They’re really starting to feel comfortable with what they’re doing. It’s all about preparation. When you watch these guys practice, they prepare really hard.
“I can say that I know exactly what practice is going to be like on Monday, I know what it’s going to be like on Tuesday, I know what it’s going to be like on Wednesday. I don’t have to wonder if they’re going to bring it today. I can’t tell you that I’ve walked off the practice field thinking, ‘Gosh that was a terrible practice.’ Now, I also don’t walk off the field and say, ‘Gosh that was sky high unbelievable,’ either. They just kind of stay right in this area. As long as they keep doing that, we’re going to be okay.”
Did any of those alumni come back and talk to some of the younger guys?
“Oh, all the time. Shak was in the locker room, and Schoett was in the defensive meeting the other day. They were in there. It’s always good to see those guys back. We have a lot of guys come back. There were a lot of guys here today.”
What’s the rest of your weekend like with the short week?
“When I finish here we’re going to go back in the office and start on Duke. We’re going to be in here tonight, all night with the coaching staff. We give the players off tomorrow because we’ve got to do 90 percent of the game plan tomorrow. We’ll practice on Monday, which we don’t usually do. It will be a short practice, about 15 periods. We’ll go with shorts and shoulder pads. We’ll come back Tuesday and have a 15 period practice and we’ll be in spiders. Wednesday we’ll do our drives and special teams and we’ll do that in helmets. That’s it. They key is making sure they’re fresh on Thursday and it is a big deal how much energy they use in a game. They’ll be beat up, bruised, all those things. The key is making sure they’re fresh on Thursday. As a coach, you want to make sure we gameplan and all those things, but we’ve really only got two days. It’s more about them being mentally fresh.”
Coaches always want to be peaking at this time of the year. Where do you think you are in terms of that?
“I think we’re playing our best football right now. I think we’re getting better and better. I tell you what, I’m really proud of these guys. To do that with the injuries we’ve had and the guys that we’ve lost, you know we lost Caleb Peterson, Mack Hollins, Jonathan Smith, we’ve lost some guys. Just for us to be playing our best football the second week of November, that’s a tribute to our coaching staff because they’ve done a great job of bringing those guys along.”
It’s got to be nice to see Dajaun Drennon out back there on the field playing.
“Very much so. It’s nice to get him back. I don’t know how he played, I’ll have to find out, but it’s nice to have No. 17 back out there.”